Shortform Reads: Where Witchcraft, Ecology, and Psychology Collide

What book acts as a portal to another realm? What lesser-known book inspired some of the Harry Potter series?

Lauren is a Shortform guide writer from Colorado. She’ll read pretty much anything (unless it has to do with money).

Our Interview With Lauren

Recently, we interviewed one of our writers, Lauren, about her reading tastes and recommendations. Here’s what she had to share.

What’s your favorite book and why?

My favorite book is Clarice Lispector’s The Passion According to G.H. How can I describe this book? I’ll try, but I won’t come close.

As you’re reading it, it reads you. Lispector’s writing is a portal to other realms. Not higher, airy, translucent, ghostly realms—but closer, deeper, soiled, fleshy realms. Her writing takes you into an amniotic sac and abandons you there. The mind of her writing trickles into your mind until you can’t distinguish your own thoughts from hers. I’m far from the only one who experiences this weird pseudo-possession from her writing—it’s very strange and common! They say, “Be careful with Clarice. It’s not literature; it’s witchcraft.”

I can’t really explain what The Passion is about—it is about everything. And, specifically, it’s about a woman who eats a cockroach.

What’s on your reading list these days?

The most recent book I read was a book called Ecotherapy: Healing With Nature in Mind. It was for my school program in counseling. Right now I’m finishing up Chloe Cooper Jones’s memoir Easy Beauty. Next on my list is a revisit to Anne Rice’s Interview With a Vampire—I’m in need of a dark fantasy fix!

If you could have a dinner party with any three authors—dead or alive—who would they be and why?

Clarice Lispector, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Sophie Strand. Because the conversation between the three of them would be absolutely wild, beautiful, and more true than my little muggle brain could understand.

What’s your favorite genre?

This is a difficult question for me! I feel the same way about the question of what my favorite genre of music is. I love so many genres and forms, depending on what season of my life I’m in. But, forever my heart will be with myth, fantasy, sci-fi, and surrealist fiction. I love to be transported to new and unfamiliar worlds. I love the freedom and feeling of enchanted possibility in books that are beyond our current reality.

Are there any book genres or tropes that you dislike or refuse to read?

I don’t know if I refuse to read anything. If someone I trust recommends something I’ll try it! But I’m not a completionist—if I don’t like a book, I won’t finish it.

I don’t read books about money: how to make money, how to save money, how to invest it, or spend it, or what it is—no thanks.

What’s your favorite way to read a book?

I’m devoted to physical books forever, and I like to read them outside. I’m also very down to listen to an audiobook as long as the narrator has a voice that I like!

What book do you think everyone should read in their lifetime?

Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series! She’s a towering legend and master of high fantasy, though she isn’t celebrated in the same way as the likes of Tolkien. This pisses me off because Earthsea is foundational to the genre the same way The Lord of the Rings is. If you love Harry Potter, please read Earthsea and you’ll see where Rowling got a lot of the big ideas.

Who are your favorite authors?

If it isn’t obvious yet: Clarice Lispector and Ursula K. Le Guin. Also, the poets Alice Notley and Etel Adnan.

How have your reading tastes changed over the years?

I’ve opened up more and more to reading poetry as I’ve gotten older. I’ve always written poetry but had a weird chip on my shoulder about reading other poets when I was young and naive. Now I’m drowning in poets that I love to read, and it feels amazing.

Was there a specific book that sparked your love of reading?

If I think way, way back to where my first obsession with books started, I can see myself in the corner of the library with a waxy yellow Nancy Drew book.

Do you have any guilty pleasure books?

I love Harry Potter with all my heart—do people feel guilty about that?

What’s an interesting fact that you learned from a book recently?

The force with which mushrooms eject spores from their bodies is 10,000 times more than the force by which astronauts are propelled up and out of the gravitational pull of the Earth. I learned that from Sophie Strand’s The Flowering Wand: Rewilding the Sacred Masculine.

Have any books you’ve read caused you to make any life changes or to develop any habits?

David Abram’s book Becoming Animal made me look at every natural thing—all animals, plants, earth formations, bodies of water, collections of weather—as persons with voices and minds of their own.

What’s your favorite quote from a book or an author?

“Are the rockets shooting for the moon killing invisible animals on the way?” (Etel Adnan)

What are your favorite book adaptations and why?

I think they absolutely SLAYED House of the Dragon—pun intended!

Are there any lesser-known books that you’ve read that you want others to know exist?

Sophie Strand’s The Flowering Wand: Rewilding the Sacred Masculine, Lunar Kings, Trans-Species Magicians, and Rhizomatic Harpists. It stands in the center of the Venn diagram where botany, ecology, psychology, sociology, theology, medicine, mythology, magic, and history overlap. I think it must be the only book that stands exactly right there.

At Shortform, how do you go about working on a book that has viewpoints you don’t agree with?

I roll my eyes and say “wtf” under my breath a lot. And then I tell myself to get off my high horse and try to see it from other people’s perspectives. It’s not my opinion about the book that matters—or that’s even correct.

What are your favorite books in the Shortform library?

No Bad Parts by Richard Schwartz, because Internal Family Systems is—as far as theories and models in psychology—the most powerful, accurate, and life-changing that I’ve come across so far as a patient and a counseling student.

The Tao Te Ching by Lao Tzu, because this text has been a guide and a friend to me for most of my life.

And Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel, because I learned so much about the struggles people can encounter in monogamous, cohabitating relationships that I’ve encountered myself. And it opened my eyes to the tension between wanting novelty and adventure and needing familiarity and safety in our lives, not only in relationships.

  • The Passion According to G.H. by Clarice Lispector
  • Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • The Flowering Wand: Rewilding the Sacred Masculine by Sophie Strand
  • Becoming Animal by David Abram

About the Series

At Shortform, we want to give our employees names and faces so you can get to know the people who make the magic happen. That’s why we’re doing the Shortform Reads series, where we interview our employees and share their thoughts and opinions. You can check out more employee interviews here.

Shortform Reads: Where Witchcraft, Ecology, and Psychology Collide

Hannah Aster

Hannah graduated summa cum laude with a degree in English and double minors in Professional Writing and Creative Writing. She grew up reading books like Harry Potter and His Dark Materials and has always carried a passion for fiction. However, Hannah transitioned to non-fiction writing when she started her travel website in 2018 and now enjoys sharing travel guides and trying to inspire others to see the world.

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