WSIRN Ep 60: The last page can make it or break it (with Melissa Joulwan)

WSIRN Ep 60: The last page can make it or break it (with Melissa Joulwan)

Hello readers, it's the first Tuesday of 2017! What better way to kick off the new year than a new episode of What Should I Read Next? 

We're in for a treat because today’s guest is Melissa Joulwan. If you already know Melissa, and I hope you do, it’s probably as the author of her popular cookbooks and Bogel Family favorites Well Fed, Well Fed 2, and Well Fed Weeknights.  But that’s just the beginning of her bio, which is one of the most interesting I’ve ever read. She’s a retired Roller Girl. Prague is her favorite city. Duran Duran is her favorite band. And her life is also made better by her husband Dave, sports movies, leopard print, lousy truck stop (decaf) coffee, bear crawl, and Jane Eyre.  

Mel calls reading a constant in her life, and her love for books and reading shines through this episode. I think you’re gonna love it.  

(And that photo up top? It's Melissa's Jane Eyre collection. Pre-move, she owned 19 copies. Kindred spirit, anyone?) 

Make sure to check out Mel's website, Well Fed: Ingredients For A Happy Life, read about her books down below, and connect with her on Twitter and Instagram

Mel's cookbooks: 

Well Fed
Well Fed 2
Well Fed Weeknights

Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links, which means at no extra cost to you, you support what we do here on What Should I Read Next. More details here.

• Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
The Picture of Dorian Gray, by Oscar Wilde
• The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America, by Erik Larson
• Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania, by Erik Larson
• author Daniel Silva
• author Louise Penny
The Jack Reacher series, by Lee Child
• Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, by Anne Frank
• The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
• The Lost: The Search for Six of Six Million, by Daniel Mendelsohn
The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt
Lexicon, by Max Barry
• The Golem & the Jinni, by Helene Wecker
• Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel
• The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman
• author Neil Gaiman
• The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

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66 comments

    • Kim says:

      Do you mean Sleeping Giants? If so, I loved it. It was hard to put down! I liked the characters and the plot, but mostly I loved the unnamed narrator. He seems a bit like Red Reddington (played by James Spader) in The Blacklist, if you have seen that television program.

  1. Amy Dougherty says:

    For Mel: Have you read All But My Life by Gerda Weissmann Klein? The Hiding Place by Corie Ten Boom? They are each Holocaust survivor’s stories with endings that leave you hopeful

    • Mary Hunt says:

      The Hiding Place is really good. It holds a special place for me as Corrie ten Boom spoke at my graduation. She was so kind and thoughtful to a bunch of high school seniors.

      • Lori McKee says:

        The Hiding Place is one of my favorite books. I read it as a teenager back in the 70’s. The stories and lessons still come back to me all these many years later.

  2. Susan says:

    Good episode! Probably already read, but Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl (who was a psychiatrist and neurologist) about his time in a concentration camp is excellent. He talks about his time in the concentration camp from a personal but also psychological perspective and also talks about his life theory of logotherapy or seeking meaning in one’s life.

  3. Kimberly says:

    I loved this episode, and can’t wait to read The Invisible Library! Anne your description was fun and enticing! I can’t wait to dive in!

  4. Pam says:

    One of your best shows !!! Loved hearing the great rapport! Mel is a riot to listen to! You two need to go on the road! 😜😜😜😜

  5. Ellen says:

    Your guest said she likes (1) books about books, (2) stories told through correspondence and (3) Europe. The book “84,Charing Cross Road” by Helene Banff fits this criteria. I think you mentioned this book in a previous podcast.

  6. Loren says:

    Oh wow. I haven’t heard of any of the books your recommended and they all sound fabulous.

    And Jane Eyre is one of my most favorite friends of all time.

  7. Mary Hunt says:

    I have added The Invisible Library to my reading challenge. It sounds like all the things I like to read about rolled together. Thanks!

  8. Kate says:

    I love your podcasts. Some are liked more than others. The conversations make me want to read all of the sections. My lists of TBR has grown beyond reason. I keep rearranging my stack of books. And I love doing it.
    Thanks Anne with an “e”

  9. Jamie says:

    I’m in the middle of Irena’s Children by Tilar J. Mazzeo and it might be just what Melissa is looking for – WW2, history, Central Europe (Poland), heroes, love, loss. Also, can we fist bump across the interwebs for our dislike of The Goldfinch? Nice to find another kindred soul out there. 🙂

  10. Tina says:

    This podcast was wonderful for me because a lot of the reading is in my own wheelhouse. Drawback? MORE books to put on my to-read list, which already consists of enough books to last me years…..

  11. Andrea says:

    Mel should check out A Night Divided by Jennifer Nielsen. A children’s book about the Berlin Wall and one girl’s determination to reunite her family. So good, especially on audio!

  12. Susan says:

    Wow, first podcast where I think I have read nearly every item on the list including, unfortunately, all of the recommendations. Jane Eyre and The Historian would be 2 of my 3 favorites as well. I would recommend Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan, Uprooted by Naomi Novik, and The Professor and the Madman (Making of the Oxford English Dictionary) by Simon Winchester.

  13. Carla says:

    This was my favorite podcast so far. Every single book that was your favorite was my favorite too. I also hated the Goldfinch. I’m excited to read a few of the books you mentioned that I haven’t read! It was lovely meeting you. All the best with your adventure!

  14. Mareli says:

    I would recommend Mendelssohn Is on the Roof by Jiří Weil. It is a multi-perspective novel set in Prague during WW2.

  15. Lori McKee says:

    I, too, resonated with Mel’s love of books about Europe and the Holocaust (I agree, it’s so inspiring to read of the courage of those who went thru it). I just yesterday wrote Anne’s assistant to recommend to HER – Mary Stewart who wrote in the mid-20th century in the (per Wikipedia) “romantic mystery genre, featuring smart, adventurous heroines who could hold their own in dangerous situations” – I think they were mostly set in Europe in the 20th century.

    Now I’m thinking (for both Mel and Anne) of Helen MacInnes, who wrote a lot of espionage stories set in Europe during WWII and the Cold War.

    Both I think were excellent writers. I would say MacInnes gets more into the philosophy of the Cold War, etc. but her heroines are pretty great. Oh, just read this on Wikipedia, fascinating! “MacInnes’s second novel, Assignment in Brittany (1942), was required reading for Allied intelligence agents who were being sent to work with the French resistance against the Nazis. Her 1944 book, The Unconquerables, carries such an accurate portrayal of the Polish resistance that some thought she was using classified information given to her by her husband.”

    I’m curious if anyone else has read these authors.

    • Lori McKee says:

      I also thought of Claire Berlinski who wrote Loose Lips and Lion Eyes. I remember being intrigued by their premises, but I don’t think I enjoyed them as much as I wanted too. Worth checking out though – set in Europe. Spy stories.

      Also – The Expats by Chris Pavone. I see Anne rated it with 3 stars on Good Reads. If memory serves, I would give it about the same rating.

      • Lori McKee says:

        I keep thinking of more! A book club member recommended The Bronze Horseman series to me. Paullina Simons is the author. Set in Russia during WWII. The love story was a bit overwrought at times but still a pretty good story.

        Oh my, I’m reading Goodreads reviews on this series and they are ALL OVER THE PLACE – love or hate, doesn’t seem to be any in-between. You should try it and see what YOU think!

        • Lori McKee says:

          The Gift Shop by Charlotte Armstrong. Light and charming. I always thought it should have been made into a chick flick.

      • Anne says:

        I should maybe bump up my star rating on The Expats because it’s one of those books I still talk about and recommend all the time! Although that may be because of a talk I heard the author give, and not because of the book itself. 🙂 For what it’s worth, it’s one of my husband’s favorites of the past few years.

    • Lori McKee says:

      I just checked Download Destination to see if any Helen MacInnes books are on there and Ride a Pale Horse is! (I’m surprised! It was published in 1985).

      I also see that the story is set in Prague. Just sayin’ 😉

      OK, I’ll try to stop posting now.

    • Loren says:

      Lori, Mary Stewart is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve read a number of Helen MacInnes’ books and a couple sit on my shelf. Have you read any of M. M. Kaye’s mysteries? She’s best known for her epic The Far Pavilions (which is amazing), but her mysteries are well-written, too, and take place in all different countries.

  16. Kristen Knox says:

    Melissa should definitely read The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde. I don’t generally read much fantasy but this was a book lover’s dream. Fforde is imaginative and funny. His heroine, Thursday Next, is a literary detective and this first book in the series has her investigating trouble in Jane Eyre. Everything about this book is delightful.

  17. Jacelyn says:

    I’ve never read Jane Eyre. Years ago I bought a copy, but I got distracted and did not get far into the book. A couple of months ago I purchased the Audible version with Thandie Newton. It’s good, but I keep thinking maybe I should be reading this book and not listening. Thoughts?

  18. Renee says:

    I adore Jane Eyre, but the books I have a million copies of are A Wrinkle in Time (all English), and Harry Potter in English & French. Listening made me wish that we’d been able to go to a bookstore in Russia!
    I went to the library immediately after listening & got the Golem & the Jinni and the Lost, and I can’t wait for the others!
    I loved Salt to the Sea (WWII, but a lesser known story). I also love Jasper Fforde, kind of kooky, but a fun world. The 13th Tale is a good book about story kind of thing. And I immediately thought of A Night Divided about the Berlin Wall going up.
    Such a good episode. I felt like Mel was a kindered spirit in everything she said! And in the Czech Republic I highly reccomend a visit to Karlovy Vary, a lovely little hot springs town.

  19. Sheryl Esau says:

    I loved Mel’s description of The Goldfinch and why it didn’t work for her, but why she still finished it. I felt exactly the same. And was hoping for a satisfying ending and was so irritated. I think Anne really hated it too, since she even left it on the book list! LOL
    Great show and added more to my TBR list…again!

  20. Debi Morton says:

    I haven’t had time to really process all the books discussed and recommended yet because I just listened this afternoon, but I have to say this was definitely one of my favorite episodes yet, if not my all-time favorite. I agree with those who said your rapport was delightful! Such a fun listen!

  21. Natalie Gardiner says:

    One of my favorite episodes yet! A woman who loves Jane Eyre obviously has good taste in books! Super jealous of her collection…and she might have inspired me to expand my own! (My two copies hold NOTHING to hers!) Picking up all three of your suggestions from the library today! So excited! 🙂

  22. Margie says:

    Somehow I got out of order on listening, and I listened to the recommendation from episode 57 immediately before starting episode 60. When you were recommending the Olmsted book in episode 57, I was wondering how you could resist recommending “Devil in the White City” as a companion book because of the World’s Fair linkage. Was so glad to listen to this episode and hear it listed as a favorite.

  23. I am challenging myself to read 10 books I own in the first 3 months of 2017, and The Historian is at the top of my list. It’s been so long since I got it I didn’t even remember what it’s about, so I was excited to hear this recap. And now really excited to read it!

    • Laura says:

      I loved The Historian, I remember posting in the comments for another episode that the guest should read it, and I’m happy to see it on someone’s list!

  24. Jessica LaBello says:

    Mel has GOT TO READ “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” Novel by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer. Nazis. Letter correspondence. New love, lost love. And book club. It’s got everything! I can’t remember how I stumbled upon it, but this book became one of my favorites.

  25. Molly says:

    If Mel loves reading about WWII and the Holocaust, I strongly suggest she read The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer. I can’t remember how I stumbled upon this book, but I can’t stop thinking about it years after I first read it. It’s a unique look at the Holocaust that I hadn’t been aware of.

  26. Alisa Stanfield says:

    Loved this episode! Mel MUST read the All Souls Trilogy by Deborah Harkness!! These are literary “fantasy” books that are feel both modern and historical at the same time. Don’t let the premise of a witch and vampire falling in love scare you off. Harkness is a history professor at USC, and these books are filled with rich detail. They start in modern day times at Oxford University (so vividly described you’ll feel like your there), and then travel back in time to Elizabethan England, etc. The third and final novel is partially set in Prague!! and involves a golem!
    Start with book one A Discovery of Witches. These novels have everything Mel says she loves, and are extremely well written.

    • Alisa Stanfield says:

      Ugh, excuse the typos and misspellings above. Was so excited to write this I didn’t proofread before submitting.

  27. Cara Von Tress says:

    I was so excited to hear Mel speak about “The Lost.” I read it a couple of years ago, and it was incredibly fascinating/moving/thoughtful.

  28. Natalie Renick says:

    What was the version of Jane Eyre that Mel talked about? The version that had tons of footnotes? I’d love to read it.

  29. Laura says:

    This episode was EVERYTHING to me! Not only did it come out on my birthday but I connected with Melissa!

    My favorites are not her favorites but her favorites are also some of my beloved books and her “also” highly adored books are also some of my highly adored books!
    So of course, the books you recommended her go straight to mt TBR as if they had been recommended for me!

    I’ve been meaning to read Jane Eyre forever, its on my wish list at the library. I absolutely LOVED The Historian, so I’m wondering if Melissa has tried her other book The Swan Thieves, which is also on my TBR. She also mentioned Shadow of the Wind (love love love), Anne Frank (who doesn’t like this?) and The Book Thief (which I must say, I do remember enjoying immensely but having some trouble with the heavy use metaphors in this one.

    The Goldfinch is on my TBR and after listening to this episode I’m now probably gonna push it further and further back, as I’m very hesitant to read it now.

    Louise Penny is on my TBR, and now I feel I need to add Lee Child and Daniel Silva to my TBR as well.

  30. JoLene says:

    Loved this episode as I’ve been a fan of Melissa for a long time — we use her recipes on a regular basis.

    Thanks for the recommendation of Sleeping Giants. I just finished it — at about 1 am — it was a lot of fun in a creepy way.

    One recommendation that I would have would be the series by Alan Furst. You don’t have to read in order, but there are some re-occurring characters. The setting is Europe just prior to break out of WWII (some may go into the beginning of the war) and focus on the spies and resistance activities going on. They are very atomospheric and immersive reads.

  31. JoLene says:

    I thought of another book….the Club Dumas by Arturo Perez-Revertez. It’s a mystery about books with a dual story line. I would also recommend The Eight by Katherine Neville.

  32. Diane says:

    Hi. Great podcast.
    On Mystery/Detective genre I just finished Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear. Just before WW1 in Britain. There are at least 5 books in the series. Extremely interesting and well-written.
    Enjoy Prague!

  33. Shelly says:

    I just discovered this amazing podcast through a recommendation from a member of my book club. I loved all the books in Mel’s favorites. I would recommend City of Dark Magic by Magnus Flyte. It takes place in Prague!It has time travel (of sorts), history, a mystery, and a supernatural slant. I’d also recommend The People of the Book. A book about a book that takes place across centuries and cultures.

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