At beloved Tartine, where the line sometimes stretches around the corner.

Reading The Inheritance of Loss, by Kiran Desai. Recently she read The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss, which she said was stunningly beautiful. She likes reading anything from sci fi to literature to formulaic pulp. She loves Ian Rankin, a detective writer from Scotland. In a book, it's important that it grabs her right at the beginning, which is difficult, she says. Something else she's read recently that's been good--Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore. Moore fills in the holes in the story of Christ's life by bringing in Eastern traditions and the what-if, if Christ had a madcap best friend.

When we read, she says, a lot of passive learning takes place. Good authors research well and well wrought characters can teach you a lot, too.

Another favorite author--Neil Gaiman, who has written American Gods and Good Omens. A lot of authors, she says, examine humanity, but are not original like Neil Gaiman.

She used to write herself, but is now a lawyer and the writing she does now takes from her creative energy. But, if she were to write a novel, she says it would be a long, boring family epic that would draw on her own family. It would be hard not to, she explained, and went on to describe them as a flamboyant, raucous puppy pile.