Shortform Reads: Framing the World Through Fantasy

What book did Mya judge by its cover and end up loving? Why does she hate books that include love triangles?

Mya is from New Jersey and is a book guide writer at Shortform. She’s always been passionate about reading anything she could get her hands on. This week, we interviewed Mya to learn a little bit more about her reading interests and habits.

Our Interview With Mya

Here’s why Mya is drawn towards fantasy, what her guilty reading pleasure is, and more.

What’s your favorite book?

Oh, this is a hard question. I really enjoy V.E. Schwab’s Darker Shade of Magic series. It was the first adult fantasy series I read, and I fell in love. Schwab is a wonderful worldbuilder, and she manages to make even minor side characters feel so alive!

A more fancy answer is The Heights of Macchu Picchu by Pablo Neruda. I read it for a college literature class, and our professor assigned a really beautiful translation. There’s so much emotion held in Neruda’s writing. Even when I’m not exactly sure what he means, I feel the emotional impact. I actually wrote my midterm paper on that book, and my professor published it in our school’s literary magazine!

What are you reading these days?

Right now, I’m reading Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn. I’m a big fan of Batman and all the other Gotham-based DC characters, and it’s fun to see how the author makes characters that have such long and complex histories accessible to new readers.

The next book on my reading list is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab. Schwab is one of my favorite authors, and she’s been working on this book for years, so I’m really excited to read it!

What’s your favorite genre?

I like fantasy. Worldbuilding is so much fun to read, and I love seeing how much thought an author put into this or that detail. I also love the escapism inherent in fantasy. All good stories deal with universal human issues, but sometimes contemporary books feel too real and close for comfort. Fantasy provides distance, so it’s easier to accept and think about those universal issues. As a writer, it’s fun to be on the other side of the equation and figure out how to translate universal human experiences through the lens of fantasy.

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

I avoid romance and dislike plots that rely heavily on love triangles. Love triangles feel lazy and overdone to me, and I’d much rather focus on the exciting events surrounding characters than who’s sleeping with whom.

What’s your favorite way to read a book?

I prefer physical books, but I do read a lot on my phone. It’s a lot more convenient, and I can snatch a few minutes of reading here and there without lugging around a massive bag. But there’s nothing like a real book, especially when it’s hardcover! I usually read on the couch or on my bed in the evening.

Who are your favorite authors?

V.E. Schwab, as I mentioned above. John Flanagan would probably be up there as well; the Ranger’s Apprentice series is so much fun and you can go back and reread them over and over, which is so important for a book. I think the proof of his awesome worldbuilding can be found in the fact that he’s written almost 30 books set in that world—and he’s still writing. Finally—this is a corny answer—but, ever since I took some intense Shakespeare classes in college, I really do appreciate Shakespeare. Paulina from The Winter’s Tale is an icon.

How have your reading tastes changed over the years?

As a kid, I read everything—anything I could get my hands on—at ridiculous speeds. My mom had to take me to the library to return my four or five books every three days. When I started on YA books, I started leaning more heavily toward fantasy—mostly because that genre had the least focus on romance—and I still have that heavy inclination today.

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

I honestly can’t remember. I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember and probably before, too. My proudest bragging point in like 7th grade was that I was reading at a 12th-grade level. Although, as I got older, I did fall out of reading a bit because school took up so much more time. In that sense, I guess you could say my love of reading was re-sparked by V.E. Schwab’s Darker Shade of Magic series.

Do you have any guilty pleasure books?

Not books so much, but my guilty reading pleasure is fanfiction. Sometimes I don’t feel up to entering a whole new world and having to find my bearings and learn a bunch of characters, and it’s lovely to be able to read new stories about my favorite characters instead. And there are some incredible fanfiction writers with publishable-level writing, so it’s a win-win all around.

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

I’ve been working on the book guide for The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli, and the interesting—and existential-crisis-causing—fact I learned is that our brains are wildly unpredictable. Like, your brain just rewrites your memories with no warning and no way to tell if it’s been done!

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

“When I say fantasy, I simply mean a story in which one foot—or heel, or toe—is not planted on firm, familiar ground. But my favorite fantasies are the ones where the other foot is, where the line between the known and the new, the observable reality and the strange fantastic, is dotted, blurred. … My favorite stories are the ones laid like gossamer over our own world. The ones that make magic feel close at hand, that promise us there is a door, even if we haven’t found it yet.” (V.E. Schwab)

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

If you like creepy, horror-adjacent books, I really enjoyed Slade House by David Mitchell. I stumbled upon it while wandering around in my library. It was a small, square, bright yellow book with a massive cut-out in the front cover, so I was intrigued—I do indeed judge the book by its cover. I’d never read any kind of horror book, and I hadn’t read the companion book, so I went in perfectly unprepared for the plot twists, which I think is the best way to read it.

  • The Darker Shade of Magic series by V.E. Schwab
  • The Heights of Macchu Picchu by Pablo Neruda
  • The Ranger’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan
  • Slade House by David Mitchell

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: Framing the World Through Fantasy

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.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *