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What Author Michael Cunningham Can’t Live Without

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair, but the hand sanitizer and the electric toothbrush. We asked Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours and The Snow Queen, about the decoupage tray, word game, and marshmallow candy he can’t live without.


I could of course have devoted my entire list to books, but that seems awfully predictable, not to mention the impossibility of narrowing it down to ten. Here, then, are the books and writers I can’t live without right now.
In alphabetical order..

Bananagrams is essentially a freeform version of Scrabble, in a little (yes, banana-shaped) pouch you can carry with you at all times. My friend Billy and I are obsessed. It’s not uncommon, at 3 a.m., for one of us to croak to the other, “Okay, just one more game?” To which the answer is almost always yes.

Every Easter, my sister and I exchange modified Peeps. There have been Xmas Peeps (with antlers and red noses) and Malibu Barbie Peeps (you can imagine), but the prizewinner to date is a Peep that my sister simply microwaved and sent to me in an envelope — a yellow disc with two dots for eyes.

I have seven or eight of John Derian’s decoupaged trays, plates, paperweights, etc. I’m particularly attached to a small tray, suitable for keys, that simply says ART. Whenever I get a new one, though, I make myself give an existing one to a friend, because it’s distinctly possible to have too much decoupage, no matter how good the decoupage in question is.

As with the list of books, this is the music I can’t live without right now

Long ago, a friend’s mother, who is Chinese, said, within my hearing, “But he’s got that bad Caucasian hair.” I, a Caucasian, knew what she meant. Fluffy. Dry. Just … bad. Although I don’t maintain strict brand loyalty, my favorite hair oils are …

Sharpies in various sizes. I try out other pens — like many, I’m in constant quest of the perfect pen — but I always seem to come back to the Sharpie, which makes it, I suppose, the perfect pen, by definition.

Among the books Printed Matter sells are odd, brilliant little handmade tomes, books someone probably made at home, possibly in editions of six or less; books that simply belong to no known category. I always leave there reminded of the almost infinite ways there are of producing minor miracles using only ink and paper.

On my friend James’s birthday every year I write a little book, only for him. It’s been a tradition for a long time. I’d been stitching and stapling them together as best I could until I learned about the bookmaking machine at McNally Jackson, which produces beautiful books that look exactly as I want them to (albeit in annual editions of one).

The best gelato. Anywhere. Well, anywhere outside of Italy, and as far as I know, it’s hard to find flavors like Thai-chili-chocolate and black-sesame in Italy. You can have it delivered. It somehow survives sitting on a front stoop in the sun all day.

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What Author Michael Cunningham Can’t Live Without