Book Club / People

Hayley Magnus on savage characters and the books that resonate

Hayley Magnus is known as an Australian-born actor now living in L.A., but it was her short, snappy, relatable book reviews on Instagram that made us fall in love. She writes reviews as though she’s speaking them to friends, rather than writing them for an editor. See: “I read four books in a week and a half because I’m wonderful,” and The protagonists are often deeply petty and selfish in a way I wish I wasn’t but know I am.”

From the classics we should all read, short stories from new female authors to the texts so strange you can’t quite put your finger on why you love them. And as much as we wish we could say Simone de Beauvoir was our favourite author we too know that our Harry Potter’s are the most well-thumbed books on our shelf. Here Magnus shares the books to know, love, read over and over again and gift to the ones you hold closest.

I am currently reading …
The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

My favourite book …
Passion and Affect by Laurie Colwin

My actual favourite book …
There is a scone recipe in the Bi-Rite cookbook that I visit more often than necessary. It’s easy to find the page, as it’s buckled from use and flecked with dried scone.

The book that changed my life is …
I’m wary of placing that pressure on a single book but I would implore that all RUSSH readers pick up a copy of A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf. Still as relevant and inspiring ever.

The character I most identify with is …
Frances Price from Patrick DeWitt’s French Exit is a savage elderly socialite who insults most. It’s not so much an accurate description of me currently, but it’s the goal.

The last book I read …
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh.

You should read it because …
Ottessa writes female characters the way that they are not the way men would like them to be.

The best book I ever received is …
Years ago I was gifted Brideshead Revisited, which started me on a long and enduring love of Evelyn Waugh.

My childhood favourite book …
Roald Dahl is a perennial favourite and I may as well give in to the inevitable mention of Harry Potter.

The book I would give as a gift is …
I often give 10.04, by Ben Lerner. It’s hilarious and seems to resonate with many of my neurotic friends.

My favourite writer is …
Raymond Carver.

Because …
Each of his stories are so rich with detail that they seem so much bigger than their 15 pages. There is one about a man with hooks for hands who will for a small fee take a photo of your house. One where a man goes to watch his wife work at a diner and tries to elicit compliments about her from customers with disastrous results. But my favourite, A Small Good Thing, is a short story in his book Cathedral that I think about more than any other. I can’t seem to describe it without spoiling it, but it involves a very sad birthday cake.

The book everyone should read at least once is …
Mine. I haven’t written one yet, nor am I inspired to, but when I do I hope it’s a massive hit.

Shop The Shoot

Shop The Shoot Hayley Magnus on savage characters and the books that resonate

Sigrid Nunez, The Friend (RIVERHEAD BOOKS)

Shop The Shoot Hayley Magnus on savage characters and the books that resonate

Ottessa Moshfegh, My Year of Rest and Relaxation (PENGUIN PR)

Shop The Shoot Hayley Magnus on savage characters and the books that resonate

Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own (VINTAGE PUBLISHING)

Shop The Shoot Hayley Magnus on savage characters and the books that resonate

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited (PENGUIN CLASSICS)

Shop The Shoot Hayley Magnus on savage characters and the books that resonate

Patrick DeWitt, French Exit (BLOOMSBURY)