My Reading Life: with Kelli Hansel (Haywood)

What are five books you loved? For one of them, why did you love it?

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
The Griffin & Sabine series by Nick Bantock
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
The Dollmaker by Harriette Arnow
Kinfolks by Gurney Norman

Honestly, why I like all of these books and many others is the familiarity and realness that is exhibited in their unglossed worlds.  Even in books with a fantastical element like Griffin & Sabine, I cannot keep reading if I there’s no way to ground myself.  I need a balance of lightness and dark.  Sometimes, an overabundance of dark feels ok too.  Too much lightness in any work feels like escapism and fakery, which isn’t what I am looking for when I read.

What is a book you didn’t like, and why?

I didn’t like The Coral Island by R.M. Ballantyne and this is probably more to do with the situation in which I read it than the book itself.  I tend to not make myself read books that don’t intrigue me to want to keep going.  If I get over halfway through, I can usually find a reason to finish it even if it isn’t great, but I can usually tell within a chapter or two and will stop.  However, in this case I had to read the book for a college class on adventure literature and my instructor insisted that we believe the book was homoerotica.  When my paper did not reflect this belief, as that is not what came to me through the book, I got a B instead of the A I felt it deserved. LOL  So, I was pissed.

What is a funny/interesting/unique anecdote about you as a reader?

I read fairly slow, so I cannot brag that I’ve read as much as others who call themselves readers, but I can say that I remember what I read for a very, very long time, if not forever.

How did you first fall in love with books?

I grew up in a home with books and my grandparents and parents always read to me.  I received Golden Books with pen-pal inscriptions as a child and that was like magic.  My great grandmother would order books that would have my name printed in them as a character, and the names of people I knew. But, I have to say that it was 4th grade that solidified me as a lifelong lover of books.  My teacher read to us every day after lunch and the way she read and the books she chose made my heart flutter with all sorts of emotion.  She will forever be my favorite teacher because of it.

What book or books are you planning to read soon?

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

What book do you always recommend?

I don’t have a book that I always recommend.  I try to recommend based on what people are looking for.  However, this year when people are asking for a novel I’m recommending Fire is Your Water by Jim Minick.  It’s an excellent book and will refreshingly surprise you.

What book/books changed the way you see the world and your place in it?

The Dollmaker by Hariette Arnow… It’s not so much that it changed how I see the world, but it affirmed a lot for me about what it means to be from the mountains and the way the bigger world sees us.

What was your favorite childhood book?

Bridge to Terabithia

Do you have any favorite literary journals?

Appalachian Heritage and Pine Mtn. Sand & Gravel

Have you ever read anything that made you think differently about fiction/nonfiction?


What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?

Maybe I should say Night Garden by Carrie Mullins

What authors did you dislike at first but grew into?

I need to give Don DeLillo another try.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like him, I don’t think I was old enough to appreciate what he was doing when I read him.  I’m curious to see what I’d think now.

What book have you read that has most influenced your life?

Honestly, there’s not one in particular.  I carry them all with me if they spoke to my heart at all.

Who are your favorite writers?

I don’t have a favorite writer.  I have a hard time not appreciating them as individuals for what they have shared with me.  To pick just a handful feels like a slight to me.    

What do you read on holiday?


Which author (living or dead) do you think is most underrated?

I think in the bigger picture many Appalachian writers are way underrated.  For example, I think Night Garden by Carrie Mullins is a book that should be getting way more attention during the times we are in.  A beautiful work.  I hope to see more from her.

Which author (living or dead) do you think is most overrated?

I don’t tend to read many famous authors or genre work.  I don’t pick up a lot of “best sellers”.  So, I don’t know among the famous folks.  Maya Angelou is definitely NOT overrated for example.

What is your favorite book published in the past twelve months?

Shoot… I don’t read that way.  I don’t scan new releases at all.  I just read what I’m drawn to.  So, I’d say Fire is Your Water might be the most recently published book I’ve read.

Did your parents read to you when you were young?

Yes, they are both readers themselves.

Which book have you given most frequently as a gift to others?

I don’t know many readers, so I don’t tend to gift books.  And, when I do, it’s never the same one twice.

Which fictional character would you most like to have a drink with, and why?

Probably the boring answer, but no one in particular comes to mind.  I don’t tend to fangirl enough to leave my introverted hole to have a drink with anyone. LOL

Where do you buy your books?

Sadly, Amazon because there are so few options of places to buy books here and those places specialize.  However, when I am out, I try to buy from a local store.

What impact can a book have on the reader?

It can blow everything they ever thought they knew out of the water.  I could write a book on it.

End of Interview

Kelli Hansel (Haywood) is a writer of lived experiences. She is the author of multiple published works, including long form journalism, radio journalism, creative nonfiction, fiction, and blogs. She is also a 200 hour registered yoga teacher with Yoga Alliance and a certified Buti Yoga instructor.

Follow Kelli on instagram


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