What Am I Reading: Bryan Young

STIR looks into the reading habits of leading creatives – American architect Bryan Young, founder of Young Projects, is perusing Circe by Madeline Miller.

by STIRworldPublished on : Oct 17, 2022

Name of the book you are currently reading.

Bryan Young: Circe.

Who is the author? 

Bryan: American novelist Madeline Miller.

What is the genre? 

Bryan: Fiction adapted from Greek mythology, especially The Odyssey, told through the witch, Circe's perspective.

Front cover of Circe by American novelist Madeline Miller | What Am I Reading: Bryan Young | STIRworld
Front cover of Circe by American novelist Madeline Miller Image: Courtesy of Bryan Young

Do you judge a book by its cover?

Bryan: I like going to actual bookstores where I am definitely influenced by the cover art. It can catch my eye, and guide me when I am picking up a book…Tactility is part of the whole experience. Reminds me of going to record stores to buy albums. I miss that!

What made you pick it up? Can you highlight any notable aspect of the book’s design aesthetics, typography, images…

Bryan: Circe had been recommended by several friends. I was travelling to the Greek islands of Milos and Paros this past summer so I figured this was the right time. Miller’s description of the island where Circe is banished is very vivid and it felt amazing reading this book while immersing myself in the incredible landscapes and seascapes of the Aegean.

Bryan shows us his current read, with his bookshelf in the background | What Am I Reading: Bryan Young | STIRworld
Bryan shows us his current read, with his bookshelf in the background Image: Courtesy of Bryan Young

Your most favourite part(s) of it? 

Bryan: Miller created an extremely complex and intricate character out of a lesser-known mythological figure. What I found most intriguing were the dynamic swings in Circe’s psyche throughout the novel. She can one moment be very bold and resilient and the next show her vulnerability.

Did you gain any insight or did it help you unwind? 

Bryan: The most powerful moments in the novel often occur while Circe is alone. She is isolated on a small island which at first I thought would lead her to despair. Instead, she becomes very sensitive to the landscape and its fauna which helps her develop a sense of mindfulness. I was able to create similar pockets of calm in solitary while reading the book in Greece.

Odysseus chasing Circe; Lower tier of an Attic red-figure calyx-krater (Greece, Circa 440 BC) | What Am I Reading: Bryan Young | STIRworld
Odysseus chasing Circe; Lower tier of an Attic red-figure calyx-krater (Greece, Circa 440 BC) Image: Courtesy of Marie-Lan Nguyen

Your favourite lines to quote from the book. 

Bryan:You would have touched the poison. That is enough.” —as uttered from a venomous sea creature to Circe within the deepest levels of the sea. It is Circe’s true willingness to sacrifice herself that is rewarded with compassion. No other God had demonstrated such bravery and selflessness upon encountering the creature. Again it speaks to her boldness and conviction. Interestingly this is a rare moment when the poison involved in the text is not Circe’s own creation.

At what time of the day do you read? 

Bryan:I usually read before bed if I can. It really helps me unwind and keeps me off my phone which is always a good thing.

Hard books, e-books or audio/video books?

Bryan: While I have completely and regrettably pivoted to digital music, I always choose to read hard books. So much of our lives is spent on screens so the moments when I can sit and read, I always prefer a physical book.

Circe offering the cup to Odysseus as painted by John William Waterhouse | What Am I Reading: Bryan Young | STIRworld
Circe offering the cup to Odysseus as painted by John William Waterhouse Image: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

One book or book adaptation as a film that you always want to go back to, and why?   

Bryan: A Gentlemen in Moscow by Amor Towles. Interestingly, this novel’s main character is also confined to a specific place (a hotel). Similarly to Circe bound to the island, the understanding and perception of the characters’ surroundings dramatically change throughout the narrative.

Look up more such interesting reads from the series ‘What Am I Reading’ and watch out for more.

What do you think?

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