Books

Dolly Parton Likes to Read by the Fire in Her Pajamas

What books are on your night stand?

The Bible, of course; a daily devotional book; and a charming book called “The Midnight Library,” by Matt Haig.

What’s the last great book you read?

You know I am shameless and am always selling something so of course the answer is my new book, “Dolly Parton, Songteller,” in stores everywhere! LOL!

Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

I worked on a Christmas show last year so to get into the spirit of things I read Charles Dickens’s “A Christmas Carol” and last summer I read “The Grapes of Wrath.”

Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how).

My ideal reading experience is any minute I have free in my music room, but especially on a rainy day off with a fire blazing, wearing my PJs and sitting in a comfy chair.

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

Not enough folks know what a great book “Kindred,” by Octavia E. Butler, is. It’s kind of tricky to describe but somehow it all works — it’s about race relations and there’s time travel and romance. It’s powerful.

What book should everybody read before the age of 21?

“To Kill a Mockingbird.”

What book should nobody read until the age of 40?

Any of those AARP instruction manuals or any book about aches and pains!

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

I love Lee Smith, Rick Bragg and Diana Gabaldon. Also anybody deserves credit who can sit down and type thousands of pages. I don’t have that skill.

Have any books influenced your artistic development as a songwriter or a musician?

Everything I came in contact with influenced me as a songwriter. I have to keep my eyes and heart open to all of life, so in some way, all the books I have read have touched me in one way or another.

Who are your favorite musician-writers? Your favorite memoir by a musician?

Right now, it’s “Simple Dreams,” by Linda Ronstadt. She both writes and sings like an angel.

What are the best books about music you’ve read?

This will sound odd but the thesaurus! I’m always looking for new ways to rhyme and a good thesaurus has proven to be a great asset to me.

What moves you most in a work of literature?

I’m a total sap — love and romance, of course, and anything involving children gets me every time. I guess given the songs I’ve written, that answer is not a big surprise!

Which genres do you especially enjoy reading? And which do you avoid?

I love historical fiction with a touch of romance — writers like Lee Smith or Diana Gabaldon. I avoid horror.

How do you organize your books?

There is always one in my hand and I give the rest away to family and friends. I have book bags everywhere, shelves at every house, and I exchange books with friends and family all the time.

What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?

All of my friends know that I love to read so I am given every kind of book imaginable. I’m sure that if you looked, something would surprise you.

What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?

I was given my mother’s pocket Bible after she died, something I treasure. It’s the best book I ever got.

Who is your favorite fictional hero or heroine? Your favorite antihero or villain?

My favorite hero is the Little Engine That Could. My favorite villain would be the banker in “Auntie Mame,” by Patrick Dennis.

What kind of reader were you as a child? Which childhood books and authors stick with you most?

When I was a little kid, my dad didn’t want us to have library books around the house because the younger kids would ruin them and he couldn’t afford to replace them. I have always loved “The Little Engine That Could,” so I started my Imagination Library with it to show kids that they can do anything. I’m really proud that we’ve given away over 145,000,000 books to kids and have more than 1.7 million children registered around the world — in fact, last September was our highest enrollment of children yet. Books were a lifeline to me as a child — I know they make a difference.

What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

I don’t really embarrass very easily, so I can’t say that’s ever happened. But I am often surprised that something has not crossed my path. When you get to be a certain age, you feel like you’ve seen everything and I learn every day that I’m just starting this journey.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?

First would be James Patterson because, since we are both in entertainment, we could write it off as a business expense. (Ha!) Second would be Fannie Flagg — she’s a friend and a very funny author, so I know she would be a guaranteed good time. Third would be Maya Angelou because she would definitely have wonderful stories and spoke and wrote so poetically. As a bonus, I’d ask Charles Dickens to join us — for the street cred.

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