Hollywood’s Mark Duplass discusses his love for libraries, how he prefers to read and some recent favorite titles
By Adam Sockel, Staff Writer | April 2020
Mark Duplass is one of the most prolific humans in Hollywood. Working with his brother, Jay, Mark has worked tirelessly for decades writing, directing, acting and producing beloved films and television shows. He’s well known for his roles in “The League,” “Togetherness” and “Safety Not Guaranteed,” and also created one of the best indie horror films of all time in “Creep.”
Mark is a voracious reader and frequently shares his love of libraries to his nearly half a million Twitter followers. Perspectives on Reading connected with Mark to discuss his relationship with libraries, how he prefers to read books, what library programs excite him and some of the titles he’s enjoyed lately.
PoR: What made you want to shout out about how great public libraries are?
It’s kind of new for me! I think when you ask most people about their relationship with the public library, it goes back to their youth as a place of refuge. I was kind of a brat kid who thought libraries were for dorks and I liked watching HBO at home. So, for me, my deep appreciation for the library came in my early twenties when I was living in New York City. I was a musician at the time and undergoing a transition. I was like, “Well, I don’t know what I’m doing,” and I found myself going to the library to listen to every possible different kind of music that I could. I would check out albums and realized, “Oh my gosh, this is such an incredible resource.”
if you're bored there are public libraries and all the books
— Mark Duplass (@MarkDuplass) November 22, 2019
Then I parted ways with the library for a little bit, and my reemergence with it came when I joined a group here in Los Angeles called Young Literati, headed up by an amazing man named Ken Brecher (Library Foundation of Los Angeles president). His whole take on libraries is that they’re the last free, nonjudgmental, open public space and we need to protect them and protect their future. The short answer is that I’m less nostalgic about what the library has been for me in the past. I’m more excited about what the library is to me now and can be for me in the future, as our democratized public spaces and funding for our underserved are being diminished in every possible capacity. Also, the nature of where we’re at with technology right now and what we can use that for with libraries is so powerful and more promising than ever. It’s the wide-open future of libraries that gets me going.
PoR: In your book, Like Brothers, you talk about ways to save money as an up-and-coming artist, and to connect that to this conversation, libraries are a perfect tool when your budget is limited.
It’s so obvious to me that if you are in a location where you have access to a public library, which is most of the country at this point, that you need to be taking advantage of the ability to borrow either physical books at your branch, ebooks downloaded to your phone or the DVDs of movies you want to watch! I am all about what libraries can be, particularly for kids aged 18-24 looking to find their cultural and artistic touchstone.
PoR: You mentioned digital books; as someone who is so exceptionally busy, do you ever borrow audiobooks?
Absolutely. I’m super fascinated by how authors like Malcolm Gladwell can take their traditional books and use the audiobook format to expand the universe around it and how that crosses over with podcasts. I’m really excited by the fact that we’re all loving taking in content right now, and audiobooks are the type of content you can listen to anywhere – from sitting in traffic to at your day job. I think we’re in a prime time for audiobooks and getting super creative with that content. It’s such an easy way to take in more books. In their own right, audiobooks are such a great format that open up a whole new way to explore traditional stories.
PoR: What are some books you’ve enjoyed reading this year?
Yancey Strickler is the founder of Kickstarter and a friend of mine, and he wrote a book called This Could Be Our Future that he narrated and I loved. He’s such a great thinker and it’s such an important book, aimed at our next lost generation of millennial kids who don’t know what to do with themselves just yet. It’s a wonderful look at how to be a good person and how to function in a capitalist society.
As a narrative piece, I loved There There by Tommy Orange, which explored the Native American community in today’s world and in a metropolitan city, which you don’t often see. I loved Erin Lee Carr’s memoir All That You Leave Behind. As a dad of two young girls, I’m always trying to think about the best way to be a helpful mentor without coming on too strong and having them drown in all my ideologies, and Erin talks a lot about that.
Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe which is, essentially, the history of the IRA (Irish Republican Army) and Northern Ireland as told through the kidnapping of this one woman in the early 1970s. It was a really great microhistory. That book is a knockout – it’s so economical and so well told.
I also love narrative nonfiction like Evicted by Matthew Desmond. That book was incredible. It’s the profile of the books I want to be reading more of. I get personal stories and I get a massive and fair education on an element of society I know very little about. You can’t beat that.
I have a friendship with the owner of The Last Bookstore here in L.A., and it’s just so fun because he knows more about books than I will ever know. Every once in a while, he’ll take me in there and just grab books off the shelf and ask me if I’ve read them and, if not, tell me why I will love them. As always, we have gaps in our reading, and it’s so great to have someone who can help fill those with books you might have missed.
PoR: You’ve shared several supportive messages on Twitter about your love of libraries and what they offer. When you saw the countless responses from fellow library lovers, were there other resources and programs mentioned that libraries provide that surprised you?
libraries are great places to:
get lost/stumble upon books you've never heard of
check out dvd's for free
read new children's books to your kids
write (away from all the snacks in your kitchen)
get a high school diploma (yes, look into it)
learn a language.
— Mark Duplass (@MarkDuplass) November 12, 2019
I’m pretty up on a lot of what libraries offer thanks to Young Literati, but I was amazed to learn about the seed borrowing programs a number of libraries offer. I thought it would be (limited to) like one random library in Oregon, but people all over engage in this incredible program where you borrow seeds from the library, plant trees and such, and then bring seeds back to the library for others to use. What a perfect model of smart thinking and efficiency.
I was also heartened to see the programs that allow people to get their high school degree at a library. Not just study and get your GED, but actually get your high school degree from the library. It’s an amazing thing that is starting to pick up. That is so fascinating to me. I love that we could get organized and, instead of complaining about our school system, people are going to the library and getting a degree – potentially even earlier than they would from a school.
This interview has been condensed for length and lightly edited for clarity.