By the Book: Nellie Kenney '25
By the Book: Nellie Kenney '25

The New York Times has a weekly installment called "By the Book" which is a series of questions and answers about the reading habits of notable writers. Walker's fifth chapter features student Nellie Kenney '25.

Photo by Jenessa Lu '21


1. What books are on your nightstand?

The Caldera by John Flannagan, Darkness of Dragons by Tui T. Sutherland, Poirot Investigates by Agatha Christie, and Zahrah the Windseeker by Nnedi Okorafor-Mbachu.

2. What is your ideal reading experience?

There are two places in particular in which I love to read. The first is in an armchair surrounded by books. I love the quiet peace of libraries and spaces where you can feel as if you're alone with a story. My other favourite place for reading is under a tree on a warm day. Being outdoors always adds to an experience.

3. What genres do you enjoy reading, and which do you avoid?

My favourite genre is fantasy. I love the freedom that this genre gives the author- there are no rules to what they can write about, or how they can make their plot come together. Unfortunately, I cannot love all genres, and one that I often avoid is science fiction. While I love the story lines that often come up in science fiction books, I often find myself unable to get into them.

4. How do you organise your books?

The most honest answer to this question is that I don't. The shelves in my bedroom tend to be stacked with whatever books I could not bear to keep in a different room. These tend to be the ones that I rarely reread, but like to have immediately available, like Inkheart by Cornelia Funke and The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. The books stacked in high piles by my bed are the ones that I need to read at least every month in order to feel like myself. Among these, of course, are the Harry Potter books.

5. What kind of reader where you as a child? What should everyone read before age 10?

I was obsessed. Reading was (and is) my favourite pastime. I think that everyone should read the D'aulaires Book of Greek Myths and the Little House books.

6. What do you plan to read next?

I have just recently started to read The Dark is Rising, and I am planning on reading the rest of the series. My mom has wanted me to read them for a long time, and I have finally decided to give them a chance.

7. What moves you most in a work of literature?

The thing that moves me most in a work of literature is the idea of hope. I find myself feeling most sympathetic for characters who believe that no matter how tragic or dangerous their situation, they will find a way out.

8. Do you like being read to or reading aloud?

I like both. I probably like being read to better, but it depends on the story.

9. What books might we be surprised to find on your bookshelves?

Many people would be surprised to see several graphic novels on my shelf. I went through a graphic novel phase a little while ago, and I still keep some in my room just in case I want to read them.