Pop Culture of My Life: Veronica Roth on Wayne's World, Harry Potter, and more
Divergent mastermind Veronica Roth is obsessed with Supernatural and can recite dialogue from Wayne’s World — but with her newest sci-fi novel, Carve the Mark, in stores now, she’s got her attention firmly focused on outer space. Check out her pop culture picks below.
My favorite book as a child
I read almost constantly — in the shower, at the breakfast table, at my sister’s volleyball games, everywhere — so it’s difficult to single out one book in particular. I loved the Animorphs series, the Babysitter’s Club books, pretty much anything Judy Blume, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle and all the companion books, the Abhorsen books by Garth Nix. Those are the books and series I remember best.
The book that really cemented me as a writer
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I wanted more than anything to write a story that transported other people as profoundly as that book transported me.
The classic I’m embarrassed to say I never read
I don’t think I had a very typical curriculum in high school, so I’ve missed out on quite a few classics in my time. I never had to read Catcher in the Rye, or Of Mice and Men, or anything by Faulkner, but I can’t say I’m particularly embarrassed. Just eager to read widely in the future.
A book I’ve pretended to have read
All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy. All the respect to McCarthy, who is a very talented writer, but our worldviews are so opposed that I struggle to get through his work, and I only got halfway through this one…but still had to participate in class discussion about it that week. (Apologies to my former English professor!)
The fictional places I’ve always dreamed of moving to
Hogwarts. Also, spaceships: Battlestar Galactica, or Serenity, or the Millennium Falcon. Arrakis (from Dune)! Ravka, from Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone. The Old Kingdom, from Garth Nix’s series. Middle-earth. The galaxy from Hitchhiker’s Guide. But really, someone please fly me into space. I swear I have useful skills.
An illicit book I had to read in secret as a kid
We didn’t have prohibitions on reading, really! But my stepfather, heeding the advice of a bookstore employee, once bought me a stack of fantasy and sci-fi novels for Christmas, and the first one I tried opened with a quite explicit sex scene that I was definitely not ready for at the time. I never mentioned it to him, as I’m sure he’d be sort of horrified, so I hope he doesn’t read this! I guess I also snuck up to my mom’s room to read Summer Girls by Judy Blume, which is definitely not a children’s book, but I self-selected that one, too — once it got too risqué, I put it down.
The TV shows and movies I’ve watched over and over again
I go through a few of the same TV shows every year: Community, Seinfeld, Veronica Mars, Firefly. I find them almost soothing at this point! And I think a lot of families have a movie they all love and quote and watch again and again. My family’s is Wayne’s World. (“I don’t own a gun, let alone many guns to necessitate an entire rack! What am I gonna do with a gun rack?”)
The song that always makes me feel better
“Lose Yourself to Dance” by Daft Punk. It’s happy, it’s easy to dance to, it both acknowledges your nonstop work and encourages you to set it aside for a while.
The book people might be surprised to learn that I love
Twilight! It’s become an easy target for people who love to hate YA, but I have never devoured a book so quickly in my life. And then I walked around in a strange fever dream for days. That series has its problematic elements — as most books do — but all the respect to Stephenie Meyer for writing something so compelling.
The last TV show I binged
Right now I’m binging Supernatural at the behest of an obsessed friend. Or at first it was at her behest, and now it’s just because I’m addicted and I can’t stop. I just want to watch codependent brothers fight demons together forever, okay?
The first album I bought with my own money
Britney Spears! My favorite track was “(You Drive Me) Crazy.” My mother, God bless her, let me listen to that CD on repeat while we repainted my childhood room together, so sometimes I think of it when I smell paint.
The TV show that is my guiltiest pleasure
I absolutely do not believe in guilty pleasures. I just try to find things I like and enjoy my leisure time, and anyone who wants to make me feel bad about it, that’s on them! But TV shows I’ve loved (without guilt!) lately are Stranger Things, Supernatural, Jessica Jones, and iZombie.
The actor who would play me in a movie
Evan Rachel Wood. Talented, versatile, can pull off a blond pixie cut better than I ever will.
My all-time favorite movie
HOW CAN I EVEN ANSWER THIS? Maybe it’s Wayne’s World. Or Uncle Buck. Or Clueless. I really, really love to laugh.
My literary crush
My first character crush was Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. And my most recent character crush was on Khalid from The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. Also, if I could be friends with Kady from Illuminae I definitely would. Actually, can I just assemble a girl gang from female characters of YA? Because there’s pretty much an awesome smorgasbord to choose from. We could go around shaming cat-callers and fighting injustice and eating french fries, or something.
A book I consider to be grossly overrated
Great Expectations. I got so bored. It uses 20 words where two (or none!) will do. I just can’t with that book. Sorry, Dickens fans! I’m sure you have your reasons.
The fictional character who is my hero
Harry Potter! I feel like he’s underestimated as a favorite because he’s an obvious choice, as the protagonist of the books. But despite his occasional petulance and impulsiveness, he loves deeply and freely, and is brave enough to do what’s necessary to protect the people he loves. Every time I reach the end of Deathly Hallows, I burst into tears when he’s summoned the people he loves — in the purest way possible — and has to continue to make his sacrifice: “…and their presence was his courage, and the reason he was able to keep putting one foot in front of the other.” I can’t help it — I just love him.
The last book I gave as a gift
Sideways Stories From Wayside School by Louis Sachar. I read that book as a child, and it entered my subconscious so deeply that I still remember things from it randomly today. The potato tattoo! The missing 13th floor! The smelly kid in a dozen raincoats who was actually a rat! It’s one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read, which means I’ll love it until I die.
The literary character I want on my side in the zombie apocalypse
Katniss Everdeen. She knows how to navigate dangerous places, she’s tough, she’s resilient, she knows how to shoot a bow and arrow.
The last book that made me laugh out loud, and the last one that made me cry
I laughed so hard I cried at Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson. She has a gift for being honest about her various struggles with mental illness and being hysterical at the same time. If you want a taste, check out her post “And that’s why you should learn to pick your battles” on The Bloggess. It’s incredible.
I cried at This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers. It’s an intense book about a girl who is on the verge of committing suicide…and then the zombie apocalypse happens and she has to fight to survive — or not? (That’s the question of the novel.) Summers has a gift for writing female characters that a lot of people would consider unlikable — and then making sure you have compassion for them. I was blown away by it.
The TV show I think doesn’t get its due
Wonderfalls! I don’t know how many episodes actually aired, but I think it’s half a dozen, and the rest were released later — that show is weird, clever, and lovable. And it lets its protagonist be really flawed — Jaye is a commitment-phobe, as well as a completely unwilling heroine — which I always love to see.
The book I’d use to squash a bug
My own, probably. Not out of disdain! But because I have so many copies of it just sitting around my house, it’s always in reach and that way I don’t feel bad about dirtying someone else’s work with bug guts. Plus, it’s pretty thick, and you want a book that can really do the job.
The last album I listened to
This Is All Yours by Alt-J. That is a really excellent album, and it only gets better the more you listen to it. I’m not the sort of music listener who goes through albums — I’m that person who puts on the shuffle and then keeps pressing “next” for far too long to find what I want — but I feel like that album is best experienced start to finish.
If I could only listen to one genre of music for the rest of my life
POP! For me, the time when music is most crucial is while exercising, because I really can’t continue otherwise — I like to work out, but not enough to do it in silence! And I listen to pop pretty much exclusively when I need to get my heart rate up. Plus, my life would be pretty sad without weird, bad kitchen dancing.
The song people would be surprised I know all the words to
I memorize rap lyrics when I’m in the car, often when I’m on the way to an event and I want to warm up my voice a little for speaking in front of people. So I know all the words to “Sum of Us” by Jurassic 5, though I can’t for the life of me rap fast enough to get them all out on time.
What I’m reading now
I’m finishing up I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, which will be out in May. It’s about a girl who uses the template of Korean TV dramas to manipulate a boy into falling for her, only it’s a little more complicated than she thought. I was lucky enough to get an early copy, and it is a goddamn delight.