Books of My Life: Aidan Donnelley Rowley

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One of the first bloggers I discovered after diving into this wild and crazy world of blogging was Aidan Donnelley Rowley, from Ivy League Insecurities. I visited her site after reading an essay she penned for the Huffington Post series, “This is Childhood.” Aidan wrote a breathtakingly beautiful piece about her daughter. If you didn’t catch that series, Brain Child published all ten essays in a book, This is Childhood. Aidan’s blog hooked me on my first visit. Her writing style is unique and inspiring.  The honestly in her blogging gives Aidan the ability to connect to readers in a way that makes you feel like she’s talking to just you. She has no pretense, she writes from her heart and from her soul. I really like her and want to write like her!

Aidan also loves to read and she founded the literary salon, Happier Hours. Each month she hosts different authors in her living room to talk about writing and their books. The talks often organically evolve into big life discussions. How do I know this? Because Aidan generously shares details of these evenings with her readers.

After I became a devoted follower of her blog, I bought Aidan’s first novel, Life After Yes. I loved it and placed it on my shelf when I was done – only to discover I already owned the book (although hadn’t read it)! As most of you know, I have an Imelda Marcos-sized problem with buying books. It seems I was destined to be a Rowley fan. Needless to say, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the publication of her latest novel, The Ramblers – which is hitting the shelves tomorrow. I reached out to Aidan and asked her if she’d like to participate in my “The Books of My Life” series and I was delighted that she did! She has some very interesting answers. I hope you enjoy the interview. Leave a comment below and you’ll have a chance to win a copy of her book. I’ll pick a winner on Friday. Be sure to check back here tomorrow, to read my review of The Ramblers. Little preview, I loved it!

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What was my favorite book as a child?

So many favorites, but two that come to mind: Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown and Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White.

What was your favorite book that you read for school?

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville. I read it senior year of high school – and again in college – and it was tough and technical both times, but immensely rewarding.

What’s a book that really cemented you as a writer?

Two books later and I’m not sure I feel cemented as a writer (I think shakiness is a requisite part of the game), Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott is certainly a creative bible of sorts to me. Whenever I get snagged in my own writing, or need a reminder of why I’ve chosen to write, I turn to this book. So much wisdom in there.

Is there a book that you’ve read over and over again?

Here Is New York by E. B. White. My husband gave me this small book for Valentine’s Day several years ago and I read it for the first time in one gulp at a Manhattan coffee shop. In my mind, it’s the best, most timeless, New York City portrait I’ve ever encountered and I read it again and again and it served as a primary inspiration for my novel The Ramblers.

What’s a classic you’re embarrassed to say you’ve never read?

I’m laughing at this one because there are so many classics I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read. I was not a book worm until a bit later in life and I forever feel like I’m still catching up, but an example: I somehow didn’t read The Great Gatsby until my honeymoon in 2005. I read it pool-side with a cocktail in hand, which felt appropriate.

What’s a book you’ve pretended to read?

Connected to the above, I feel like I’ve given the impression over the years, intentionally or no, that I’ve read many books that I haven’t actually read. Not outright lies (I am a terrible liar), but more head-nods and omission. For some reason that probably has far more to do with deep-seated intellectual insecurity than reality, I believe that everyone but me has read everything.

What’s a book you consider grossly over-rated?

I really can’t answer this one! I’ve read tons over the last several years and have obviously enjoyed some books more than others, but I can’t pinpoint one that has seemed overrated to me. In my mind, if a book does really well, there is usually a reason.

What’s a recent book you wish you’d written?

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff is a book I read and thought, Wow. That’s pretty genius. Groff portrays a marriage from the husband’s point of view and then the wife’s and the overall effect is surprising and stunning.

The books I read to my children:

I love reading my girls picture books. Think: Mo Willems, Dr. Suess, David Shannon. The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak is a current favorite and makes us all laugh. And let’s not forget E. B. White.

What was an illicit book you had to read in secret as a child?

I didn’t read any books in secret! What does that say about me? For one, I was an inveterate rule-follower/ good girl. Also, I grew up with four sisters in a wonderfully chaotic-at-times home where we felt there was no real need to hide anything from anyone.

If there were only one genre that you could read for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Oh, I couldn’t pick. I read both fiction and non-fiction rather voraciously. At any given time, my bedside is stacked high with novels and memoirs and it will always be this way!

What was the last book that made you laugh out loud, and what was the last one that made you cry?

American Housewife, a recently-published selection of stories by Helen Ellis, made me laugh out loud over and over. When Breath Becomes Air, a gorgeous story written by Paul Kalanithi, a young doctor at the end of his life, one that he dedicated to his baby daughter, made me sob.

What are you reading now?

I just finished Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. Breathtakingly beautiful and makes me want to read everything he wrote. I’m now blazing through Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, which is at once wonderfully written and a true page-turner.

Books or eReader?

I’m partial to physical books. I love holding a book in my hands, folding up the bottoms of pages when I stumble on a line I love, seeing my books stacked in tower by my bed or lined up in my bookshelves. I do also read on my iPad Mini though, particularly when I’m traveling or on the subway, and enjoy this too.

Do you keep your books or pass them on?

I tend to hoard my books, but if there’s one I love, I will buy extras and give them as gifts. As a writer myself, I know how important it is to support authors and the best way to support authors I admire is by buying their books and sharing them!

Do you have a favorite place to read?

I am so happy to read anywhere, but my favorite place is on my big comfy couch, snuggled under a cozy throw blanket, with my three daughters orbiting me. This is how I spend my ideal weekend.

Do you have a favorite bookstore?

I love many bookstores, all bookstores, but my favorite is Book Culture, an independent bookstore right near me on the Upper West Side. It’s a beautiful shop and they curate books so thoughtfully. I love taking my girls there and am so excited to do a reading there for my novel The Ramblers.

I’ve never read Moby Dick, but my husband was reading it when I met him – and he loved it. Bird by Bird is one of my favorite books. An American Housewife is one my short list, ever since I read your Happier Hour post. I’ve read so many books based on those posts! I don’t think I’ll be reading When Breath Becomes Air, though. I just can’t go there – I think it would be too sad.

Also, I forgot to mention that Aidan wrote a fun post about her book last week. I love getting inside an author’s head and learning about the hows and whys of their novels. Check it out here.

Thank you Aidan! You can follow Aidan on social media by clicking the links below:

Aidan on FaceBook

Aidan  on Twitter

Aidan on Instagram

Aidan on Goodreads

Please share your comments and questions for Aidan, below.  If you’re interested in participating in “Books of My Life,” please email me.

Related Posts:

My Favorite Books of 2015

Books of My Life: Jane Porter

Books of My Life: Allie




25 thoughts on “Books of My Life: Aidan Donnelley Rowley”

  1. So very happy to see your interview of Aidan here today as I have The Ramblers on my list to read now and cannot wait for it to finally be released. Definitely, can relate to The Great Gatsby and actually read that the first year after I got married, too. Still can’t believe it took me all those years to read, but so glad I finally did. Thanks again for the awesome interview and like I said excited to read Aidan’s latest now again! :)

  2. I love Aidan Donnelly Rowley! She is one of my all-time favorite bloggers at Ivy League Insecurities, and I’ve already read Life After Yes. I cannot wait to read The Ramblers, especially since it’s set in New York, a city that I so love. Despite knowing that When Breath Becomes Air is going to be sad, I am so looking forward to reading it on the recommendation of Aidan and Lindsey Mead of A Design So Vast. And thanks to you and this fabulous interview, I have a couple of more books to add to my list that I want to read, like American Housewife and, maybe, Moby Dick (because that’s a book that I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never read). Thank you for a great interview with such a talented woman!

    1. You’re welcome Amy! I read Lindsey’s review if When Breath Becomes Air, too. I Just don’t think I can – I get sad just thinking about the book. I ordered American Housewife this week – I’m looking forward to some good laughs.

  3. I so enjoyed reading this interview! I just finished Here is New York for the second time. I take a group of college students to NYC every year over Spring Break and this is one of their assigned readings before we go. We chose it for exactly the reason Aidan stated — such a beautiful portrait of New York and a great way to get students excited about visiting (as if they aren’t already!). I look forward to the book review tomorrow.

    1. Thanks Caryn! I need to read Here is New York (and it’s mentioned in the book a few times). You are a brave woman to hit the big Apple with a group of college students. I bet you have some stories…

  4. I want to read The Ramblers! I’m not familiar with Aidan or her novels, so this post was like finding a treasure. Thank you Allie!

    Loved Fates and Furies, and now I have a few more to add to my list.

    1. Thanks Dana. It’s a great book! I gave Fates and Furies to a few friends this Christmas, based on all the buzz (including yours), but I’ve yet to read it. Need to get on that.

  5. To this day, I haven’t read Moby Dick. I have no idea why!
    Bird by Bird was a big deal to me at a time I really needed it. I think I need to try that – turning back to it when I need it. I think I always will.

  6. Lovely interview. I really enjoyed Everything I Never Told You and American Housewife is on my TBR list. I’m glad it is laugh-out-loud funny. The Ramblers sounds like a very good book and the cover is beautiful.

  7. Ok Bird by Bird was amazing ALTHOUGH I hated hated hated two parts of it — one was when she said that writers are like autistic people, and another when she said that special olympic people all look the same. BUT other than that, I loved it. Also On Writing by SK. Because swoon. With all of that said, I want to read this.

  8. How did I miss this? I have been coming around to see if you posted and didn’t see this one! ACK!

    I love learning more about new bloggers. I can’t wait to go follow Aidan and check her stuff out. It seems Bird By Bird is a book I need to read as well.

  9. Oh this was such a wonderful post!! I am so glad you shared this and Aidan seems so nice. The fact that she didn’t call out an over-rated book was so stellar (and made me feel like a total witch for going all in on that one). 😉 She sounds like someone who is supportive and loving, like someone I would want to be friends with!

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