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Reading Room: Sarah Lazarovic’s top Substack reads
Reading Room is a mini series with writers sharing their favorite publications to read on Substack. Any Substack writer can now endorse their peers using recommendations.
Great writers are great readers first, as the maxim goes. In this feature, we explore what Substack writers are reading by asking them for a tour of their reading list.
This week, we spoke to Sarah Lazarovic, who writes and illustrates Minimum Viable Planet, a weekly publication that inspires readers to take actions—big and small—that positively impact the planet. Sarah is also an active reader and listener. Here, she offers a sampling of some of her favorite reads on Substack.
For more of Sarah’s finds, check out the full list of Substack publications she subscribes to in her profile.
Hi, Sarah! Can you start by describing your reading diet?
My reading diet is erratic: the only consistent thing is my inconsistency. For months I’ll read only behavioral-science nonfiction, only to suddenly get a Mitford craving and pivot to something like that for weeks on end. My pace is erratic too; sometimes I get through a bunch of books in a month, and other times it’ll take me a month to read a single book. I feel like I’ve been reading Annie Murphy Paul’s The Extended Mind for a month now, but I’m enjoying it and getting a lot out of it. For my day job, work on electrification at Rewiring America, I read a ton of climate, political, and economics newsletters. But I guess that’s also for personal interest, as these are the things I’m interested in anyway.
I subscribe to so many newsletters, both on Substack and other platforms. I open absolute favorites and newsy ones right away and save less-timely ones for weekends, when I try to catch up on all the words. As an OG blogger/RSS feed person, newsletters are the natural evolution: a daily curated collection of highly personal awesomeness that I engage with as my time permits.
And I still subscribe to way too many print publications, which I need to sit in a hammock and sift through on the weekend, from the Financial Times to The Happy Reader to all manner of random periodicals we cannot help but buy, being a household of two former journalists. I feel bad about all the paper, but the FT does make excellent gift wrap. Everyone loves a pink broadsheet.
Newsletters are the natural evolution: a daily curated collection of highly personal awesomeness that I engage with as my time permits.
Describe your ideal or actual reading room. What does it look like?
My family jokes about my consistent presence in one corner of our blue velvet couch. I don’t know why or how it became my spot, but it’s my morning and evening perch. I’m generally there with a Penguin coffee mug balanced precariously on a book, but I haven’t spilled it yet.
Do you remember the first writer or book that really captured your attention?
All my childhood reading comes at me in a Baby-Sitter’s Club blur of rapacious junk-food series, but I think the books that really grabbed my attention were the one-offs, especially urban adventure ones, like From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I recently read it to my kids and their friends, and it mostly holds up.
Sarah’s recommended reads:
Substack I’m most excited to open ASAP: Without a doubt, it’s Bill McKibben’s The Crucial Years. He’s the original climate writer, the most thoughtful and generous journalist, activist, and supporter. Worlds collided when he partnered with my workplace by writing about our climate plan for helping get Europe off Putin’s gas. Needless to say, he’s the best.
Substack most likely to make me laugh: I’m biased, but my husband Benjamin Errett’s Get Wit Quick is always a delight. My particular faves of late were his ode to the Hawksian woman and this one about the incredible Zora Neale Hurston. Since most of my reading is about climate, it’s lovely to fall into this world of wit and words and wonder on the weekly.
Substack most likely to make me think: David Roberts’s Volts. (He also wins for my fave Substack URL—“volts.wtf”!) David’s just an incredibly knowledgeable and thoughtful climate, energy, and democracy writer. He’s pretty dark on all of these subjects but relays complex ideas with a clarity and mirthfulness that make it go down a bit less painfully. I’m especially interested in the social science components of climate, which he gets into a lot. Whether writing or podcasting, which he’s done more of lately, his work is thoroughly golden. Here’s David being interviewed by fellow Substacker Noah Smith, who I also like a lot.
Substack I subscribed to most recently: I met Ani Castillo at a recent Substack party here in Toronto. I saw a cute girl in a perfect jumpsuit (really a field suit) across the bar, and when I finally got to chat with her, I learned that she had started her brilliant art-and-writing newsletter, Ani’s Secret Files, to learn English. And it’s an absolute weirdo charm bomb of words and pictures. I think Ani’s my first Substack-to-IRL friend—we went to get mango bubble tea a few weeks ago, and have plans for our daughters to become best friends.
First Substack I subscribed to: I’m not sure if it was the first, but one of the early ones I subscribed to was Edith Zimmerman’s Drawing Links. I like newsletters where people play with the freedom of the medium, combining words and pictures and generally creating looser content than you’d find in a standard publication. I love Edith’s rambly drawings and explorations, like a recent post about getting ID’d for buying yogurt.
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