Words to Live By features exclusive interviews with authors, artists, and community members.
July 1, 2022
Frank Bruni has been a prominent journalist for more than three decades, including more than twenty-five years at The New York Times, the last ten of them as a nationally renowned op-ed columnist. He was also a White House correspondent for the Times, its Rome bureau chief and, for five years, its chief restaurant critic. He is the author of four New York Times bestsellers, including “The Beauty of Dusk.” In July 2021, he became a professor at Duke University, teaching media-oriented classes in the Sanford School of Public Policy. He continues to write his popular weekly newsletter for the Times and to produce occasional essays. He lives in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Is there a book or genre that stands out in your memory from your youth?
“The Island of the Blue Dolphins,” by Scott O’Dell
What kind of reader were you as a child?
A very enthusiastic and then inappropriately precocious one. Around the age of 13, I began plucking Book-of-the-Month hardcovers from the shelves in the living room, and found my way to probably a bit too much Sidney Sheldon and Judith Krantz for a young teenager. But I mixed in more elevated — and less racy! — fare during high school.
What kind of books are on your bookshelf?
All kinds and a shocking number that I haven’t read. In my various journalism jobs, I ended up on the mailing lists of many publishers. They’d mostly send me nonfiction, so that’s overrepresented in terms of my own, actual reading habits.
What are you reading currently?
I’m just finishing, for fun, the novel “Ill Will,” by Dan Chaon, whose “Await Your Reply” I really enjoyed many years ago. But I’m simultaneously reading “Our Own Worst Enemy,” by Tom Nichols, a somber reflection on America’s political and social disfunction right now.
What is your favorite place to read? Pre- and/or during the pandemic?
In bed. On my iPad. So I can control the font and the lighting. And because: pillows.
Who is your favorite all-time character from a book?
Rachel Samstat in “Heartburn.” But I’m cheating. Rachel’s voice is the voice of Nora Ephron, the author of “Heartburn” and a good friend of mine before her death, and I read and reread “Heartburn” to be with Nora again. Also, it’s one of the funniest novels I know.
If you could have dinner with three authors from any period in time, who would you pick?
Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, David Sedaris. I’m configuring/curating a certain kind of table, with a certain drollness and maybe fireworks. Sort of like a Bravo reality show, but with erudition and an elevated vocabulary.
Do you have a favorite quote from literature? If so, what is it?
Does nonfiction count? If so, I’m going with “We tell ourselves stories in order to live,” via Joan Didion, “The White Album.”
We are grateful to Frank for taking the time to answer our questions! You can learn more about Frank (and his gorgeous dog, Regan) on his website frankbruni.com.