Q&A with Brett Benner of Brett’s Book Stack
1) I've known you for years as a Hancock Park neighbor, fellow dad, Casting Director, and a voracious reader... but now you preside over what is, to me, one of the great literature/book-related accounts on Instagram. How did Brett's Book Stack come to be?
First off, that’s incredibly flattering, so thanks! I had stumbled into this having randomly discovered some people whose reviews and content I loved, one in England and one here in the states. As I began to explore, I found this whole #bookstagram world of likeminded people who read, discussed, shared and began to amass a following for themselves around this central theme, and who were having direct lines to writers to help get the word out on their works. Then when lockdown happened it became a singular focus and a great and needed distraction.
2) I find your site to be the definitive go-to spot for great reviews and the latest on what books are coming down the line. How much time do you spend reading these days? It seems like you're on top of everything new in the literary world, yet still have your "day job" and are a husband/dad. How are you doing all of that?
I read a lot. I read more than I’ve ever read and admittedly sometimes now it’s simply to keep up with the sheer volume of books out there. Publishing had one of its best years ever this past year despite lockdowns and stores closing. But what it made me realize is the necessity and value of independent bookstores like our own Chevaliers vs Amazon, and how if you can afford it, that’s where your book buying should happen. I read mostly at night after everyone is in bed simply because I won’t be interrupted, and I find it a great way to relax.
3) It seems like you're having artistic fun with your "book stack." For example, sometimes all the books are a certain color, like they were on Election Day. How much fun are you having getting creative about sharing books you love with the world?
Well, I still feel like I’m finding my own consistent esthetic, but it is fun to play, and I have to keep reminding myself that the photos at the end of the day should highlight the books in the best possible way. Some people are amazing with props, or corresponding pies (yes pies), or drink parings. It’s really cool to watch.
4) What are three titles - fiction or non-fiction, that you'd currently call "must-reads?"
“Caste” by Isabel Wilkerson
“Homeland Elegies” by Ayad Akhtar
“Hamnet” by Maggie O’Farrell
5) Have you seen the pandemic find its way into any published works yet, or if not, what role do you think it will play in some of the published content we see over the next year or so?
The fantastic Zadie Smith published a volume of must-read essays called “Intimations” that covered both the pandemic and the reverberations following George Floyd, and certainly there are plenty of pandemic books that have taken on a frightful relevance with COVID-19, especially Lawrence Wright’s, “The End of October” which was strangely prescient seeing as it deals with a deadly virus and the global, political and fiscal impact, and was published last April as we were all in lockdown.
6) Several prolific authors live in Hancock Park and until recently there was a great writers' lab on Larchmont that was shuttered by the pandemic. With all the creative juice flowing through the neighborhood, is there a great novel or memoir percolating in you?
Hah! Not yet. My biggest issue is finding something wholly original, but that’s what makes a great writer, right? A lot of them are doing it and doing it very well.