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Kelsey Keith

Farsighted hung out with Kelsey Keith—editor-in-chief at Curbed and formerly an editor at Dwell—in her warm and book-filled Bed-Stuy apartment. Her obvious love for reading affirmed that it's okay to judge a book by its cover and to mix pulpy mysteries with journalism memoirs. Discover Kelsey's most underrated (and overrated!) classics below.

What kind of reader are you? Where you read?

K: Voracious! I read everywhere and almost constantly. Kindle while traveling or commuting, books at home, magazines and internet at work. I’ve been known to read while walking if it’s absorbing enough.

Right time books: what you’re reading?

K: Vintage mysteries by real-life husband-and-wife authors Ross Macdonald and Margaret Millar

Are you in a book club? Have you been in a book club?

K: This is going to sound jerky, but I read too fast and too much to slow down for a monthly book club. I do have a group DM on Slack with a few colleagues who love to read, which is a great way to get suggestions and low-key talk about literature.

Do you feel intimidated by any books, subjects, or authors? Why?

K: I have tried to read and like Claire Messud’s work, and haven’t connected with it—at least until her most recent book, which I read (and liked) at the end of the year.

What book do you think most changed your worldview?

K: Candide by Voltaire

Do you prefer reading on a screen or on paper?

K: Kind of like the difference between print and digital journalism—both worthy, but express different aims and methods of achieving those aims—I like both. Kindle is great for traveling, especially if you read quickly and want to bring more than one book on a trip. I’ll never fully give up books-books, though. The covers and tactility are too irresistible.

Do you ever feel worried you are being judged for your book choice while in public? Do you make a conscious decision about what books you bring out of your home?

K: Ha! I don’t feel judged by what I’m actually reading, but I have such a complex about the Kindle ads that display in sleep mode. They’re usually for self-published romance novels and they, are, so, embarrassing.

Favorite book cover design?

K: The Mothers by Brit Bennett, Essays Against Everything by Mark Greif, the original cover for Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale (there have been a ton of great iterations, actually!). On the vintage tip, From Bauhaus to Our House by Tom Wolfe, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, and the typeface used for Valley of the Dolls. And I don’t hate the sans-serif-title-on-botanical-background trend from the last couple of years (Zinzi Clemmons, Celeste Ng, Lili Wright)

Has a book influenced any of your travel decisions?

K: No, though I usually end up bringing along a book that’s location-appropriate, like The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet on a trip to the Netherlands.

A book/series you feel you missed the boat on? (I never read Harry Potter as a kid!)

K: Twilight? Lol. I definitely read Harry Potter. And my youngest brother has apparently read the entire series ten times.

Your take on Most underrated classic // Most Overrated classic

Underrated: The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins

Overrated: To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee (sorry)

A genre you want to get into, but haven't yet.

K: I haven’t read a ton of autobiographies, but Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries: 1983-1992 is pretty near the top of my to-read list.

Name the book you keep trying to finish, but never quite get there.

K: This is awful, since I actually love Zadie Smith’s clarity of thinking, essays, persona, and her other books, but, White Teeth. I know I’m not alone in this!

Are you able to remember quotes or passages from books? Is there one that sticks out in your mind?

K: God, no. I’m shameless about underlining and notating, but recitation is not my forte.

Your #1 go-to recommendation:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt (fiction)

The House Book by Terence Conran (just essential)

Kelsey recommends

Beast in View by Margaret Millar

The House Book by Terence Conran

Feel Free by Zadie Smith

Candide by Voltaire

Past the Edge of Blue by Jamie Elliott Keith