WSIRN Ep 103: Accidental book theft and other bookworm crimes

Today I had the pleasure of chatting with Katherine Riling, a mom, math teacher, and new Alaska resident whose go-to genre is historical fiction—but she doesn’t want to read it ALL the time. As you’ll hear, her three favorites are seasonally appropriate, and have something strangely specific in common…

Today we also dig into libraries vs. used bookstores, copycat books that miss the mark, and the perfect climate for curling up with a thick book.  Let’s get to it!

What Should I Read Next #103: Accidental book theft and other bookworm crimes with Katherine Riling

Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links. More details here.

• The Snow Child, by Eowyn Ivey (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The One-in-a-Million Boy, by Monica Wood (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Dear America series (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Little House series, by Laura Ingalls Wilder (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• News of the World, by Paulette Jiles (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Flight of Gemma Hardy, by Margot Livesey (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Peony in Love, by Lisa See (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Dead Wake, by Erik Larson (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Gene: An Intimate History, by Siddhartha Mukherjee (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Team of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Wait Til Next Year, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• 11/22/63, by Stephen King (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• The Distant Hours, by Kate Morton (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
• A Bridge Across the Ocean, by Susan Meissner (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)

Also mentioned: 

• Bill Gates’ book blog, Gates Notes

What do YOU think Katherine should read next? Tell us all about it in comments. 


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  1. Laura says:

    Caddie Woodlawn was one of my favorite books as a kid! I can still picture where it was in the school library, and it’s worn, maroon hardcover binding. It was in rough shape when I checked it out (over and over), so I’m sure it’s long gone now, but I might have to find a copy to read it again.

  2. Stacy says:

    Loved this episode, especially since 2 of Katherine’s favorites are books that I really enjoyed. In fact, I just read News of the World and devoured it in one day it was so good.

    Katherine – if you are interested in trying more mysteries I would recommend Charles Finch’s series that starts with A Beautiful Blue Death. I read the first book last year and then promptly had to immediately read the rest in the series.

    A non-fiction book that I would recommend is Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919. It was incredibly fascinating.

  3. Emily says:

    I loved The Girls!! I’d also recommend The Risen by Ron Rash! Very atmospheric with interesting characters, and the author has an incredible sense of place!!

  4. Stacey says:

    I haven’t even finished the episode but just wanted to chime in and say I tried Lincoln In the Bardo on audio and HATED it. All the references and character names totally break the flow of the otherwise poetic language. But I had a feeling that I’d like it better if I read it. I just returned to it this weekend on my Kindle and I absolutely loved it. So I’d say to anyone who hasn’t read it, if the audio works for you, that’s great, but if it really doesn’t, don’t dismiss the book because of it!

      • Stacey says:

        I still haven’t finished the episode but it turns out I have a lot to say about this one (probably because Katherine and I clearly have similar taste in books)! I thought it was interesting that you (or maybe Anne?) considered your favorites to be historical fiction. To my mind, they are more literary fiction that happens to take place in historical settings. I think of authors like Philippa Gregory when I think historical fiction – enjoyable, sure, but much more straightforward than your favorites.

        The other comment I had was about the book you hate – my book group read this a few months ago, but I couldn’t make our meeting so I decided to skip the book. Everyone in the group raved about it though, so I put in back on my TBR list. However, now you are making me rethink that decision – I love an excuse to cross something off my unwieldy TBR!

  5. Rachael says:

    I have never talked back to a podcast episode as much as I did this one . . . I believe I’ve found my reading kindred spirit in Katherine. News of the World and Lincoln in the Bardo are both 5-stars for me – top of my lists for 2016 and 2017. For an alternative to The Flight of Gemma Hardy, I’d recommend Mr. Rochester by Sarah Shoemaker. Allowing the author a little license with Jane Eyre’s story, I really enjoyed it and found that it deepened my affection for and appreciation of the original story.

    Now . . . off to add about a dozen titles to my TBR list!

  6. If you want to continue with the creepy theme, try Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. It is really strange. I enjoyed The Time Traveler’s Wife so gave this a try and it creeped me out so much that I’m not sure I want to read any more books that she writes 🙂 .

  7. Helen says:

    I don’t usually have books come to mind during an episode, but while listening I thought of The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I think it’s a creepy family mystery with interesting characters you’d enjoy!

    • Katherine says:

      Thank you! Adding it to my list- I actually loved reading “The Scarlet Letter,” so I’ll look for this one too. 🙂

  8. Jamie says:

    If you haven’t read 11/22/63 by Stephen King, it may be right up your alley. It is LONG but it has historical fiction, a bit of spook (it is Stephen King, after all), and smidgen of fantasy/alternate reality. I’m not a King fan but I LOVED this book and it was definitely un-put-downable for me.

  9. Deanna Martin says:

    I scoured the listings and couldn’t find the cult book mentioned. It’s The Girls by Emma Cline (Goodreads link: ).
    I just finished watching Aquarius on Netflix which is woven around the Manson family and the LAPD and the Black Panther Party in the months leading up to July/August 1969. The series was cancelled right at that fateful day (two seasons) and I wish they would have at least gotten a chance to finish that story arc. Anyway, it really is fascinating looking back on it and I don’t know much about the 60’s (before my time, just), so I hope this novel will fill in some gaps even though it’s fiction and creepy. As an aside, the guy who plays Manson in the show is a Welsh or Scottish actor named Gethin. He’s fantastic in this role and I can totally see how so many girls and men were captivated by him if it’s an accurate portrayal of a young Charles Manson. All I know of Manson is the wild eyed, dirty old man photo we are accustomed to seeing.

  10. Em says:

    Katherine, have you read read The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova? Very creepy and lots of history. It’s not short but I finished it on an all-night flight because I was so engrossed and a little bit afraid to try to sleep. 😉

  11. Adrienne says:

    News of the World is waiting for me at the library, and I’m really can’t wait to read it after hearing this episode. I’ve read all three of the books Anne recommended for Katherine, and I think Distant Hours is a fabulous choice. Enjoy!

  12. Katherine, I don’t know if you’ll like this series, but Anne Perry writes mysteries set in 19th century London. The characters are Thomas and Charlotte Pitt. She’s from an upper class family and meets Thomas in the first book, THE CATER STREET HANGMAN, when he’s sent by Scotland Yard to investigate her sister’s murder. They fall in love and become a team to solve the series of murders, of which her sister is just one victim. I’ve not read all of the books in the series but I liked the ones I’ve read because of the issues of the difference in classes, and women’s roles in the society. Another series that combines historical elements with mystery is the BROTHER CADFAEL series by Ellis Peters. Cadfael is a 12th century monk and healer, who also solves murders.

    Anne, I’m with you, I don’t like Wuthering Heights either. It’s a story about obsession, not love.

  13. Eileen says:

    One of my favorite historical novels is The Brothers K by David James Duncan. It’s another big book, which can be intimidating, but with great characters that grab you right away. It’s a delight to read, and I was sad when it ended 645 pages later.

  14. Lindsay says:

    I appreciated this episode so much because Kristen’s tastes are SO DIFFERENT than my own. Spooky/creepy is not my thing. I am currently reading “Jane Unlimited” by Kristin Cashore and have been struggling with the gloomy, gothic moodiness of it. This podcast episode made me realize that some people really enjoy this specific type of writing. And so this makes me more keen to continue to read and see what I think about this genre and if I can see the appeal. Probably still won’t be my thing but it’s fun to see that there really is a book for every reader!

  15. Marion says:

    Nice episode. I would like to recommend The Golem and The Jinni by Helene Wecker. I just finished reading this one in the last couple of days. It’s an interesting novel about a Golem and Jinni living at the turn of the 20th century NYC. The novel is part fantasy, part historical fiction, and part religious (intersecting the big 3 faiths). The storytelling was excellent and the Golem and Jinni characters felt real. Highly recommended.

    • Katherine says:

      That sounds right up my alley. I read “The Adventures of Kavalier and Klay,” and it has the Golem in it. I feel like it is a familiar character now 🙂

  16. Stephanie says:

    If you want to add mystery to your TBR LIST, try Fiona Davis’ The Dollhouse. It is a mystery set in NYC’s Barbizon Women’s Hotel somewhere in the 50’s. Davis does an amazing job of allowing the history of a building set the tone for the novel. Her newest book The Address just came out. ENJOY!

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Katherine, I hope you will give Margot Livesey another try. I think a better book for you would be “Eva Moves the Furniture”. Its actually sort of a non-spooky ghost story. It’s the story of a young girl whose mother dies when she is a child, and shortly thereafter she is visited by two “companions” who are not visible to others and who continue to visit her and influence events in her life throughout her childhood and later as she becomes an adult. It is well written with some suspense and some poignant moments, and overall maybe just more suited to your tastes I think. And now, because I must defend Gemma Hardy just a little, I wonder if picking it up with no explanation was a disadvantage to you in this case. I loved it, but I also had the advantage of reading the NYT book review before picking up the book, so I already knew that Livesey intended it as “a kind of continued conversation, a recasting of both Jane Eyre and Livesey’s own childhood.” Since I already knew the book was essentially a retelling or reimagining of “Jane Eyre” I was pleasantly surprised to find that (to me) it was so much more. I enjoyed the setting (Scotland and Iceland in the 1950’s), and I thought it was interesting to see some of the themes of Brontë’s work still so applicable to another place and time.

    • Katherine says:

      I think you do a good job of pointing out the novel’s strengths. And that’s a good point- I wouldn’t have been as critical if I knew that was her intent!

  18. Jenifer says:

    Katherine, on the snow front, have you read Smilla’s Sense of Snow?

    It’s such a good thriller, and so snowy. The movie is only OK, so don’t judge the book by it.

  19. Beth says:

    Katherine I feel like you are my soul sister! I too just finished Lincoln in the Bardo, and I loved it, and The Girls and Caddie Woodlawn, and Laura Ingalls Wilder, and on and on. I want to second Anne’s recommendations for all things Doris Kearns Goodwin, and I want to add my recommendation of The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. Its about Vlad the Impaler and the modern world.

    • Katherine says:

      I loved “The Historian”! I’m reading Goodwin’s “Wait Till Next Year” now and it is delightful. I may have to try Team if Rivals finally!

  20. Katharine,

    I really loved this episode because I could totally relate to your taste!

    If you haven’t already, please check out The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes. I read it last year and LOVED it. It’s set on the coasts and islands of Washington – your old stomping ground – tells of a time in history I didn’t know much about, can be a bit gloomy/eerie at times, features an intriguing mystery and weaves in and out of different time periods effortlessly. I think you’ll enjoy it!

  21. Johnna says:

    I spent 15 months in Seattle and was able to make several trips to Alaska which totally made my life. Love, love, love it!! As I listened to the podcast, two books came to mind. If you would enjoy another book including a fabulous ghost, you might try Far Far Away by Tom McNeal. It was a book club book that I wasn’t very excited about, and it has become one of my favorites. I wanted to see how it was going to end but didn’t want it to end! Now that you’re living in AK, you might enjoy Looking for Alaska by Peter Jenkins. He and his family immerse themselves into living in AK and the stories are great. I re-read it regularly.

  22. Katie says:

    Caddie Woodlawn! Little House on the Prairie! All my favorite childhood books! A friend and I had an honest-to-goodness race through Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books when we were in second grade.
    I think you’ve also touched on a genre I always forget I like–creepy-ish tales that are more gothic than scary and definitely not gruesome. It’s tricky to find books that don’t cross that line. Someone recommended The Historian, which I haven’t read, but I really enjoyed The Swan Thieves, also by Elizabeth Kostova. It’s about art and history and theft and it’s fascinating!

  23. Nbsp says:

    News Of The World is a wonderful novel. I had thought that historical fiction had to be long and winding with lots of dates and a family tree or two. Apparently not! It should be noted that although NOTW does not contain quotation marks, it has not dispensed with all punctuation marks as was mentioned in the podcast. I am 2/3 through the book and had not noticed the absence of quotation marks.

  24. Michele says:

    I love Eowyn Iveys The Snow Child and her follow up Bright Edge of the World would be an excellent read for your guest

    Perhaps Kate grenvilles The Secret River (and the 2 books that follow it plus her book on the reserch behind the book/s)

    Anything by Edward Rutherferd

    And I recently read Sebastian Barry’s beautiful novel Days Without End and loved his writing so much am now looking through his other books to try and select one to read

  25. Britany Arnold says:

    Ok, I have to recommend my all time favorite “gothic” novel- Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. I recently read this book for the first time and it is SO good.

  26. christie Kline says:

    This episode brought to mind Irène Némirovsky, who was a successful Jewish novelist living in occupied France during World War II. She is an amazing writer writing the very best WWII fiction while living it. It is somehow very contemporary and Nemirovsky manages an insightful peek into the minds of all sorts of different types of humans. After I discovered “Suite Française,” I read all that I could find of hers. If you read the book, you should then look up its history. It was first published in 2004.

  27. Jill says:

    Ironically, I listened to this podcast while sitting in traffic in Lacey, WA on my way to work at JBLM. Maybe I should consider Anchorage for our next duty station! I’m assuming your packed book belongs to the Timberland Library…that’s a funny story!

  28. Meghan says:

    Hello! I just listened to this episode so I’m a little behind but I would also recommend Ghosttalkers by Mary Robinette Kowal- it’s a ghost story set in world war 1 era where there is an entire army unit built around people who can speak to ghosts and thus gather information to aid the war effort. I loved it and it sounds like it would be right up your alley!

    Also agree with the assessment of Wuthering heights- glad I read it, don’t need to ever read it again and tend towards excessive eye rolling when it comes up as a “great love story”

  29. Pookie says:

    Hi Katherine! Have you ever read Captain Underpants? its basically my favorite book.. He is a super hero that saves the day.. But also wears underwear while doing it. He is like a modern day folk hero for the middle aged men that sit around in our underwear, 5o clock shadow and arm chair quarterback any NFL or MLB game on.

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