“Goodwill Tour”: An Interview with Keith Maginn

In July 2011, Keith Maginn and his close friend, Emily, left Cincinnati, Ohio, for a 3,000-mile road-trip through the southeastern United States. Along the way, Keith and Emily had a simple goal: give away their own money to strangers, who then had to pay the money forward to someone else. Because of my abiding interest in travel, and because of the unique angle of this memoir, I asked Keith a few questions about his book, Goodwill Tour: Paying It Forward.

“The Handmaid’s Tale” by Margaret Atwood

When she was out in the world, the world as it had been Before, she hadn’t known how free she was. She was free to marry her lover, Luke, and they were free to have a daughter together. She was free to hold down a job, to have money of her own, to wear whatever she liked and go wherever she wanted whenever she pleased.

“Quiet” by Susan Cain

I was what you might call a high-reactive baby. The slightest disturbance would leave me wailing. I was picky about sound, about food, about the way fabric touched my skin. When I was a year or so old and still cried like it was my full-time job, my mom took me to the doctor and said, “There has to be something wrong with her.” My mother herself cried when she found out she was pregnant with the brother who arrived after me, and her best friend comforted her by saying, “Don’t worry. When God made Melody, he broke the mold.”

“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

Set in fictional Maycomb County in 1930s Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird is narrated by young Scout Finch, who is generally more interested in finding treasures and scrapping with her brother, Jem, than in the Great Depression or Jim Crow. But tension in the Deep South is unavoidable, especially when your dad is Mr. Renaissance Man himself. Atticus Finch is representing Tom Robinson, a black man accused of sexual assault by an impoverished white girl. Scout is young, but already she struggles with biases inherited from members of this insular community. As she observes the tumult caused by the trial, and as she deals with her own demons, Scout learns that people aren’t always as they appear.

“I Am Forbidden” by Anouk Markovits

There are some books that are so good, as soon as you finish reading you’re ready to tell the world exactly what you loved about it; the words have been forming in your mind the whole time.

I Am Forbidden may not be one of those books.

It’s a book that you read obsessively—it takes over your thoughts—and quickly—because you have to know what happens, you have to stay with these characters. Yet when you put it down, you don’t know how to explain the book, much less why you loved it.

“A Visit from the Goon Squad” by Jennifer Egan

Much is said about plot in writing. Without plot, you don’t have a book… right?

That’s why, at first glance, A Visit from the Goon Squad appears to be a series of interconnected short stories. There is no overarching plot, no event or circumstances that drive the characters through the narrative, which switches back on itself, going into the past and then the future over the course of four decades. In books like The Train of Small Mercies, the characters never meet. But the same event—the death of RFK—draws them together in theme and event if not in circumstance, and so their arcs mirror each other.