Books That Speak to Us: Announcing Morgan Anderson's New Book Review Series - CircusTalk

Circus News

Books That Speak to Us: Announcing Morgan Anderson’s New Book Review Series

Seeking new circus books to read and came up empty? Let writer-scholar-juggler Morgan Anderson help you build out your reading list this year through her book review series.

Diligent readers among us may already have completed the five books on Morgan Anderson’s back-to-circus-school essentials reading list… but, luckily, she has us covered! Even between finishing her Ph.D. in Theater and Performance Studies at York University, working with Cirkus Syd, and maintaining an active YouTube channel, Morgan always keeps an eye out for new reading material. Throughout the rest of 2023, she will pop onto video several times to share with us four more key titles for circus-hungry readers to sink their teeth into. Whether you’re an artist, scholar, or keen circus enthusiast, Morgan’s book picks will leave you feeling both satisfied and inspired, and her well-honed critical eye will teach you how to narrow in on the books that perfectly satiate all your reading tastes. But where to begin?

Morgan Anderson

To start us off, we recently caught up with Morgan to learn more about her and her upcoming series. What she had to share with us offers plenty of food for thought about finding that perfect book—not to mention a couple of can’t-miss titles to check out.

CircusTalk (CT): Introduce yourself as a reader, reviewer, and creator.

Morgan Anderson (MA): When the pandemic began, I— like many people, I’m sure—didn’t know what to do with myself. My academic productivity halted and I spent every day refreshing COVID case numbers in my country and around the world. To try to reduce stress in my life and make the best out of a difficult situation, I decided to get back into reading. I hadn’t read anything for pleasure in nearly a decade, and pandemic isolation seemed like the right time to revisit my old hobby.

Since the fall of 2020, I have read well over 100 books and have been creating video content on YouTube about the books I read. A number of those titles have been books about circus because, also at the beginning of the pandemic, I joined Cirkus Syd’s “Circus Thinkers” reading group; we have since spring of 2020 been reading and discussing circus texts, as well as creating our own. Books have become a way for me to relax when I am stressed, connect with other readers, and find ideas for research and creation. With this CircusTalk series, I hope to offer members of the circus community a space to find and discuss books that might affect their lives in similar ways.

CK: What, in your opinion, makes a good book good?

MA: A good book is not a static thing. A good book is a book that finds you when you need it. A good book is a book that speaks directly to its reader. A good book is a book that changes its reader in some way. A good book for me might not be a good book for you, and a good book for me today might not be a good book for me tomorrow.

How do I know when I am reading a good book? It usually has three qualities:

  1. Before reading, it calls out to me in a way that makes it impossible for me NOT to read it. For instance, I was intensely drawn to Christopher Paolini’s 800-page sci-fi novel To Sleep In A Sea of Stars from the moment I saw its strong female protagonist falling through a shiny blue haze on the front cover.
  2. While reading, time stops and the rest of the world fades away; I am seeing, hearing, feeling only the book. For instance, when reading Bruno Latour’s book Down to Earth, I was engrossed. I knew what I was reading was important and required my full, passionate attention, so I gave myself to it.
  3. After reading, it lingers in my mind. For instance, I read Born to Run by Christopher McDougall two years ago, and I don’t remember much of what happened in it. But I still feel the book in my body when I run, and especially when I eat after I run. Why? It was just a really good book. It found me, it spoke to me, and it changed me forever.

CK: What is your all-time favorite circus book, and what is it about it that speaks to you?

MA: My favourite circus book is probably Contemporary Circus, edited by Katie Lavers, Louis Patrick Leroux, and Jon Burtt. In this book, three circus scholars interview twenty-four circus creators with a focus on their approaches to circus apparatuses, politics, performers, and new work.

There are many reasons to love this book. Firstly, it’s an academic text that centres and honors the voices of artists in a big way. Lavers, Leroux, and Burtt employ critical theory to contextualize and guide each interview, but in this book, the artists and their work are the stars. This is supported by the many high-quality images throughout the text.

Secondly, the artists interviewed in this text are diverse, and their insights often contradict each other. Although I’m sure each interview was heavily edited and curated by the editors, it doesn’t feel like the interviewees were censored or filtered through a particularly academic vision of contemporary circus. It is rare to find an academic book that truly acknowledges the diversity of (often conflicting) approaches to a topic, and I appreciated the book’s expansive understanding of circus. Circus isn’t just one thing anymore. It is a distinct art form for every creator and I love that about it.

Thirdly, the book is just a good read! The academic context is kept brief and relevant. The interviewees are interesting people I’d want to sit down and chat with. The text is in a readable font that contrasts satisfyingly with the smooth white paper. The index is comprehensive. At 200 pages, it’s the perfect length. And the formatting of the interviews and sections guided me through the text seamlessly.

CK: Do you have a favorite circus fiction book?

Rothfuss The Name of the Wind

MA: As far as I remember, I have not read a fiction book specifically about circus. However, I am going to correct that this year, as one of my videos for this series will be dedicated to reading the most popular circus fiction of all time! My favourite fictional description of circus activity, though, is from Patrick Rothfuss’ fantasy novel Name of the Wind. The main character in this novel is an extremely powerful sorcerer telling his life story. As a boy, he was in a travelling performance troupe and was taught to juggle. Throughout the novel, his skills in the performing arts are what keep him alive and I really appreciated that circus, music, acting, and entertaining were the heroes of this tale.

CK: Lastly, what was your personal favourite book of 2022?

MA: My favourite book of 2022 was Daring Greatly by Brene Brown. As a scholar, I fall prey to shame triggers within academia, and I suspect the same happens to circus performers. Every field has built-in assumptions about how we should behave and what we should want—which is good when it gives us a sense of belonging, but not great when it makes us feel ashamed for being different. In Daring Greatly, Brown tells her readers how to cope with shame in order to live more fulfilling, joyful lives.


Are you an author who writes for circus professionals? Over in the new Career Lab, we’re currently seeking out books jam-packed with circus career tips to add to our recommended reading list. Reach out to us if you want your book to be considered!

Images of Morgan courtesy of Morgan Anderson
Thanks for reading CircusTalk.News.
Support us by registering and subscribing!

Learn more about PRO and PRO Casting

Do you have a story to share? Submit your news story, article or press release.