Many young readers would find it hard to imagine a world without Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid.” Kinney’s series of books about the hapless middle schooler Greg Heffley has sold more than 200 million copies and inspired four films. Now we get the other side of the story from Greg’s best friend, Rowley, in Kinney’s newest, “Diary of an Awesome and Friendly Kid.” The author and illustrator lives with his family in Plainville, where he owns An Unlikely Story Bookstore & Café.
BOOKS: Who are some of the authors you’ve discovered from your bookstore?
KINNEY: Henry Winkler was amazing. He writes these books for kids about a boy with dyslexia. I really enjoyed reading the books by the Sheffs. The father, David, wrote, “Beautiful Boy,” and his son Nic wrote the memoir, “Tweak.” I read Ann Patchett. I think my most favorite author we’ve had recently is Kwame Alexander. I wouldn’t pick up a book of poetry if he hadn’t come through. I also listen to a lot of audiobooks.
BOOKS: What kind of books do you listen to?
KINNEY: I listen to books while I’m drawing in the summer, so I tend to go through a book a day. I’m at my desk 13 to 16 hours drawing so I need something to be in my head besides CNN and MSNBC. The thicker the better. I like books by Malcolm Gladwell, Bill Bryson, or Charles Duhigg, people who challenge me to think in different and better ways. “Inside the Box” by Drew Boyd and Jacob Goldenberg, a book about creativity, was transformational for me.
BOOKS: How did you consume books before you started listening to them while you worked?
KINNEY: I started reading books for pleasure after college, books by Dennis Lehane and James Michener’s books. Then the Kindle came along, and that was a revelation. You could have these heavy books in the palm of your hand, but I actually went back to physical books. It’s obvious that we should give our kids books and not downloads. When kids hold a book in their hands it becomes a treasured object. If I were to hold the books that I treasured as a kid I’d still feel that spark of magic.
BOOKS: What advice do you have for the parents of kids who don’t like reading?
KINNEY: We need these bridge books that help kids feel successful. We give them these books that have beautiful drawings, full color, large pages, and kids think reading is great. Then we expect them to make this leap to chapter books without illustrations. Kids will look at those and think, “Reading isn’t for me.”
BOOKS: What books did you treasure as a kid?
KINNEY: My father introduced me to comics at a young age. His favorites were Bob Karp’s Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics from the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s. Those remain my favorite form of storytelling. Then I read everything my older sister brought home, so Beverly Cleary and Judy Blume. Eventually we got a bookstore in our town, and that’s when I started making my own discoveries. I loved the Xanth series by Piers Anthony and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” I also discovered books about cartooning and books about computers. Those made me into the person that I became.
BOOKS: What’s in your upcoming lineup of books?
KINNEY: Madeline Miller’s novel “Circe.” I’ll probably listen to “The Signal and the Noise” by Nate Silver. Bill Bryson has a book coming out about the body. I’m about halfway through “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari. I think he’s great, and I’ve already read “Sapiens” and “Homo Deus.” I just met Elizabeth Acevedo, who won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature for “The Poet X.” I wonder how that will come across as audio. Maybe I’ll give it a try.
BOOKS: Do you always plan ahead your week’s worth of books to listen to?
‘I listen to books while I’m drawing . . . so I tend to go through a book a day.’
KINNEY: I don’t think of it enough so I often end up racing through my drawings before my book runs out.
The Boston Globe may earn a portion of sales from products that are purchased through our site as part of our Affiliate Partnerships with retailers.Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland is the author, most recently, of “Rescuing Penny Jane’’ and she can be reached at email@example.com