WSIRN Ep 123: Books that will totally make you cry (with laughter)

Today’s guest is a reader who loves to laugh. Rissie Lundberg wrote in to the show and told me she’s been a listener from the very beginning, but has NEVER heard her favorite titles discussed on the air. I knew I had to have her on the show to remedy that situation as soon as possible. Rissie is a high school math teacher with a bookish bent – she even assigns English literature as math homework! Today, I’m investigating what titles Rissie discusses with her math students, plus we chat about the books that WON’T make you cry, books rooted in vocation, knockout audiobooks, and much more. Let’s get to it.


What Should I Read Next #123: Books that will totally make you cry (with laughter) with Rissie Lundberg

Connect with Rissie Lundberg: Instagram


Books mentioned in this episode:Some links are affiliate links. More details here.
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•  Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen  (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound)
•  The Calculus Story: A Mathematical Adventure, by David Acheson (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Barking to the Choir: The Power of Radical Kinship, by Gregory Boyle (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion, by Gregory Boyle (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Hidden Figures:The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Around My French Table: More than 300 Recipes from My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Smitten Kitchen Every Day: Triumphant and Unfussy New Favorites, by Deb Perelman (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxanne Gay (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, by Meik Wiking (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World’s Happiest People, by Meik Wiking (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin A. Abbott (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics, by Norton Juster (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Symbolic Logic and The Game of Logic, by Lewis Carroll (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  The Princess Diarist, by Carrie Fisher (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Emma: A Retelling, by Alexander McCall Smith (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  The Ladies No. 1 Detective Agency, by Alexander McCall Smith (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  A Damsel in Distress, by PG Wodehouse (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: Essays and Arguments, by David Foster Wallace (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Consider the Lobster and Other Essays, by David Foster Wallace (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Bossypants, by Tina Fey (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  In The Unlikely Event, by Judy Blume (Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound)
•  The Mother-Daughter Book Club, by Heather Vogel Frederick (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  The Mother-Daughter Book Camp, by Heather Vogel Frederick (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Wild Things: The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult, by Bruce Handy (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, by Gail Honeyman (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  The Wine Lover’s Daughter, by Anne Fadiman (Amazon | Barnes and Noble | IndieBound)
•  Sourdough, by Robin Sloan (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  At Large and At Small: Familiar Essays, by Anne Fadiman (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Snobs, by Julian Fellowes (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Happy All the Time, by Laurie Colwin (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker J. Palmer (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Father Melancholy’s Daughter, by Gail Godwin (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Evensong, by Gail Godwin (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Eats, Shoots and Leaves: The Zero-Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, by Lynne Truss (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)

What would YOU recommend Rissie read next? Tell us all about it in comments. 


Leave A Comment
  1. Amy says:

    Cold Sassy Tree and, though it’s for a younger audience, Where the Red Fern Grows. Classics. I also cried hard at one scene in Plainsong. It was only one scene, but it was so poignant and true. I love it when an author can take a moment, just one, to really draw out emotion like that without making the entire book one long pathos trip. Haruf was brilliant.

    • Rissie Lundberg says:

      I’ve had Cold Sassy Tree on my list for a while, but had forgotten about it! Thanks for the reminder … I’ll move it closer to the top of the list! Also, I’d never heard of Plainsong, but it sounds beautiful. I’ll share that recommendation with my mom, who grew up in that area. I’m sure she would love it!!

  2. Kelcey says:

    Diary of a Provincial Lady by E.M. Delafield (so funny), and A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles (charming, and also hits the “vocation” note in an interesting way).

    • Rissie says:

      I looked up “Diary of a Provincial Lady” and right on the cover Jilly Cooper declares that it’s “incredibley funny.” Perfect!! … Also, I’ve seen “A Gentleman in Moscow” but never knew anything about it, but it sounds really interesting (especially the part about vocation).

      Thanks for chiming in! I’m definitely adding these to the TBR list!

  3. Stacy says:

    I’m going to assume you’ve already read The Housekeeper and the Professor since it’s math related, but wanted to throw it out there just in case.

    So happy to hear someone share the love of P.G. Wodehouse. He’s definitely one of my go to authors when I need something fun.

    Have you read anything by Barbara Pym? Her books full of gentle character observations set in small English towns are always a delight to read.

    I would also recommend A Robot in the Garden by Deborah Install. It’s charming and funny and it would be fairly impossible not to fall in love with Tang the robot.

    Oh! One last recommendation. Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming is a great memoir and even better on audio since he does the narration.

    • Rissie says:

      Oh my goodness, so much great stuff!
      1. I have not read The Housekeeper and the Professor (or even heard of it)! I’ve requested it from the library already!
      2. Isn’t Wodehouse the best? He’s the one who said, “there’s no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship that a mutual taste in literature.”
      3. I haven’t read Barbara Pym or Alan Cumming, but I heard about both of them on a recent of the New York Times Book Review podcast and they are both on the list! Do you listen to that one? It’s wonderful! Anyway, I need another audiobook for any upcoming trip and the Alan Cumming one sounds perfect!
      4. I haven’t read A Robot in the Garden yet, but I remember seeing it. It sounds just right!
      Thanks for all the input! Rissie

  4. Manda says:

    Loved this week’s installment of the podcast! I’ve added Wild Things and Let Your Life Speak to my “To Read” list. Here’s my recommendation for Rissie: Jan Karon’s Mitford series. It’s got humor and a sense of community that I think she would appreciate.

    • Rissie says:

      I’m so glad to hear that you’re interested in reading Wild Things! It’s one of those books where you come away with a long list of books to read (or re-read).

      I read the Mitford series years ago and really enjoyed it. I might have to revisit those! Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Sarah says:

    I’m thrilled to hear a mention of James Herriot’s books! I’ve loved this series for years and it’s so nice to hear someone giving them credit! I related to this guest so much, her books are so much more “accessible” than most of the heavy literature mentioned on this show. Great episode!

    • Rissie says:

      I’m so glad you’re a James Herriot fan! I first read those books years ago in a book club, and have loved them ever since. Also, everyone that I have introduced to his writing has felt the same way. I gave the whole set to my sister for Christmas when she was in college and she scolded me because she couldn’t stop reading an wasn’t getting her school work done. 🙂

  6. Ann Mcphee says:

    So happy to have positive box recommended. Two of my favorite authors are Maeve Binchy and all her books. And almost as good Rosamond Pilcher.

  7. David Sedaris: Me Talk Pretty One Day. Stomach-ache-inducing laughter.
    Gerald Durrell: My Family and Other Animals.
    Cervantes: Don Quixote. I am not through it, but it is pretty slapstick.

    • Laura says:

      My Family and Other Animals is a favorite! I think I have similar taste to Rissie – the best books have a good dose of humor (even ones like Angela’s Ashes- which has terrible stories, but still is somehow funny). And I love PG Wodehouse too.

    • Rissie says:

      I love these! I recently (two months ago) started reading My Family and Other Animals, but I put it down *somewhere* and can’t find it! I might have to buy another copy! Have you seen then PBS series The Durrells in Corfu which is based (loosely) on those books? Very funny, but in a different style than the books. I really like both.

  8. Yes! to the Cold Sassy street recommendation. Also, The Bucolic Plague by Josh Kilmer-Purcell is a memoir about two NY men (the Beekman1802boys!) who become gentlemen farmers and grow into a small town New England community. I laughed, I cried!
    Great episode! I wrote down so many new-to-me titles and authors!

  9. I have the same problem with historical fiction! I can’t relax when I’m constantly wondering what’s true and what’s invented. It’s always nice to hear someone else articulate your specific feelings about something!

    There’s a lot of YA I don’t like, but I adore Becky Albertalli’s books and I think you might too. They remind me of being in high school, but not in a bad way like most do — more of a nostalgia and fondness for my younger self. In both Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and The Upside of Unrequited the parents are great people and involved in their kids’ lives. What a refreshing change!

    • Rissie says:

      It’s good to hear that others feel the same way! I used to feel bad about it, because so many people really enjoy historical fiction. But, when I heard Pamela Paul (editor of the NYT book review) say that she struggles with historical fiction for the same reasons, I figured I was in good company! 🙂

      Thanks for recommending Becky Albertalli. I’ll have to take a look at her stuff!

  10. Mae Hurtado-Thiele says:

    I really love how she talks about audio books being brought to life! You can find so much more emotion and pick up on details that might otherwise be missed. P.S. She’s the best math teacher ever!!!!!!

  11. Lilly Nation says:

    Rissie Lundberg’s commentary on the lack of complexity in sad novels and movies is very interesting. All of these sad films and novels win awards just for being sad, but there is no fault in creating comedic content!

    I also love reading memoirs about experiences other people live through. I just added “Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body” to my reading list! I appreciated Ms. Lundberg’s insight on not-as-popular genres, as I am quite interested in novels other than thrillers and emotional.

  12. Cami says:

    I loved this episode! I was starting to worry that I couldn’t be taken seriously as a reader because I don’t love dark, overwrought, dramatic novels. I’m glad you found books that bring both joy and substance to life. I added so many great titles to by TBR today. Thanks Rissie and Anne!

    • Rissie says:

      I’m so glad you heard some titles that interested you! I’m glad to know that there are other serious readers out there who like to read joyfully!

  13. Shawnna says:

    I definitely second the votes for anything by Rosamund Pilcher and The Mitford Series by Jan Karon. You just feel good after reading them.

  14. Lizzie Klingsporn says:

    I personally love a page turner if that means it has to be a darker more mysterious book. If I Stay is one of my favorites, except I don’t think I ever finished, so I don’t exactly know what happened…but it’s a great book – romantic, sad, and full of cliffhangers. Another book (as well as movie) full of joyful, sad, and romantic concepts is Everything, Everything.

    • Lizzie Klingsporn says:

      I’m also planning on reading My Life as Eva: The Struggle is Real. It’s a lifestyle and advice book by a popular YouTuber.

    • Rissie says:

      Lizzie, I agree with you. A good page turner is the best! Sounds like you have found some fun books! Happy reading. 🙂

  15. Kristen says:

    Rissie, I think you will LOVE ‘The Whistling Season’ by Ivan Doig… heartwarming but not schmaltzy, well-written, and funny… like Little House on the Prairie for grown-ups. It’s the story of a man recalling his boyhood in early 1900’s rural Montana. The substitute teacher at the one-room schoolhouse is one of my favorite characters of all time. You will be smiling ear to ear when you finish this one!

    • Shelby says:

      I always recommend The Last Bus to Wisdom by Ivan Doig. I read the Whistling Season and enjoyed it, but I LOVED The Last Bus to Wisdom. Great Audiobook too. I just loved listening to the narrator, with an outsider’s perspective. You are rooting for the kid the whole time and I kept thinking “NOW how is he going to get out of this mess?”.

  16. Anna Klempay says:

    I totally get what you mean when you discuss the difficulty in finding joyful books with great literary quality. I have two recommendations that are GOOD books without making you “ugly cry”. The first book isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s a heartwarming tale of girl-power, redemption, and growth. I’ve read it almost ten times, and every person I know who’s read it has fallen in love. The best part of all is that it’s set in Savannah, Georgia, and the imagery is breathtaking. It’s called Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman, and it is one of my favorite books of all time. The second book that I recommend sounds morbid but it is the only book that has made me literally laugh out loud. It’s called Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews and, don’t worry, it’s only KIND OF about a dying girl. The central plotline of the book is about a high school student named Greg who is dorky and awkward in nature but whose observations about society and other characters in the novel are those that one would only expect from a teenage boy. The book was written with the intention of being funny with only a HINT of sadness, and if you’re looking for a book to make you laugh, this book is a great read. Loved the podcast! 🙂

    • Rissie says:

      Anna, those sound so interesting! Also, “Saving CeeCee Honeycutt” is on audible and has a really good narrator! (I’ve added it to my wish list.) Thanks for the recommendations!

  17. Paige says:

    Referring to your remark about A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, the joyful outcome of the play makes me like it, despite the negativity throughout it. I also have to say I love your passion for books in a world full of Netflix bums:) p.s. favorite teacher for sure!

    • Rissie says:

      That exactly it! I love books where the character struggles throughout, but experiences growth and has a happy ending.

      p.s. Thanks for being a great student! 🙂

  18. Katie says:

    So wonderful to see such a wide variety of literature with a common thread of genuine joy! Personally, I loved the mention of Anne of Green Gables (a standout novel from my childhood) and Hidden Figures (an empowering must-read for women today)!

  19. Mary Kaupp says:

    My own Math teacher always talks about the books she reads too. I think it is interesting how Risse Lundberg connects math to literature. She is very well spoken!

  20. Cammy Tidwell says:

    I’m a high school math teacher in Tennessee and I also require my Honors Algebra 2 classes to read a novel called The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Agawa. The book is a translation from the Japanese author and often my students use it for their “Around the World” book in Honors English. The story hooks them right away – there’s a single mother, her son who is “different” and the Professor who only has 80 minutes of memory. It’s chock full of culture and honor and baseball! Didn’t see that coming did you?

  21. Emma Urban says:

    I also would rather read books that are joyful and don’t make me cry because it is more enjoyable. I love the movie Hidden Figures and I want to read the book!

  22. Nicole Szpila says:

    I’m in the middle of this episode but I wanted to recommend a couple of titles I think Rissie would enjoy.

    Letters to a Young Teacher by Jonathan Kozol is one of my favorite education-based books. Jonathan Kozol is writing to a new teacher in the New York City public school system, to encourage her but also to enlighten her to some of the biggest struggles in education today. Very compelling and hope-filled.

    I also kept thinking she would enjoy A Man Called Ove by Frederik Backman. It is just so charming and funny – you will fall in love with Ove!
    I also want to second the recommendation for A Gentleman in Moscow – I would describe it as just…delightfully pithy. :] Happy reading!

  23. Laura MIller says:

    Anne, I’ve just started listening to the podcast a few weeks ago, and I’m thrilled to have found today’s episode. I found myself identifying with Rissie’s preference to not “ugly cry,” “go dark,” or stay up half the night worrying about the fate of my character friends. I read to escape reality oftentimes, so I don’t want more stress or trauma from my reading life. I’m excited to pick up so many of the titles from today’s episode. Rissie, My recommendations would be Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist, which is a lovely collection of essays and recipes that sounds right up your alley, and The Phantom Tollbooth because it is incredibly witty, frolicking adventure and also slips in some mathematical concepts I think you would enjoy.

  24. Annette Juba says:

    I echo “A Gentleman in Moscow” — a charming book that was fun to read with just enough drama to keep me intrigued, but not so much that I was up nights.
    To all these lists, I would add:
    “Goodnight, Mr. Wodehouse” by Faith Sullivan, which I described this way in my book tracker: “reading is solace for an American woman in the early 20th Century”, and
    “An Enchanted April” by Elizabeth von Arnim, which I described as “4 British women on vacation in Italy; a fun, comforting read”

  25. Rose Parker says:

    I wonder if Rissie might enjoy some of Bill Bryson’s writing. His memoir is fantastically funny and uplifting, and his book about Australia is informative and side-splittingly funny. I would also recommend checking out A Girl Named Zippy, a memoir by Haven Kimmel that is heart-warming and sweet. In the cooking genre, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg is delightful.
    Thanks for the episode, Anne! I picked up some new authors to try, and I loved your recommendations.

    • Anu says:

      Seconding Bill Bryson! I think Rissie would like it too, based on the books she likes that I enjoy (I’m a huge Wodehouse and Anne of Green Gables fan too).

  26. K Phillips says:

    I wrote a lot of those down! I’ve thought about giving All Creatures Great and Small as a graduation gift to aspiring vets.
    On the British comedy theme, another great one is Three Men in a Boat. Written in the 1880’s!

  27. EG says:

    What a delightful podcast! Rissie Lundberg has such a refreshing perspective when it comes to books. I also find it interesting that she adds literature to her math classes–what a great way to show how the different branches of learning overlap! Both her literary knowledge and her math-teaching skills are top-notch! 🙂

  28. Helen Lilek says:

    I loved the Hidden Figures movie and now I want to read the book! It seems to tick off a lot of boxes of books I’m interested in, being empowering and informative.

  29. Jennifer says:

    When I heard Rissie say in the beginning that she likes cookbooks that have essays I immediately thought of Screen Doors and Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook by Martha Foose. I’m a BIG Martha Foose fan!

  30. Laila says:

    Very good episode! I agree, it can be challenging to find lighter books that aren’t insipid or badly written.

    I second an above commenter on recommending Barbara Pym’s novels. They’re absolutely delightful, slyly witty comedies of manners set in Britain in the 1950’s and 60’s. I adore them all.

    Have you (Anne or Rissie) read any Elinor Lipman? She’s a contemporary novelist who writes charming, funny, smart romantic comedies of manners as well. I think she’s highly underrated!

  31. Sarah says:

    I saw the title for today and sent it to my mom immediately! I was right to send it to her—my mom has been trying to get me to pick some PG Woodhouse for quite a long time. It wasn’t A Damsel In Distress, though. However, I want to pick that one up!!!

  32. Julia says:

    Great episode! I’d like to recommend any book by Fannie Flagg. Her most famous book is Fried Green Tomatoes, but my favorite is The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. Happy reading!

    • Krista says:

      I’m currently listening to Fannie Flagg’s “The Whole Town’s Talking” and I recommended it to Rissie. Seems to fit the joyful story she is going for.

  33. Grace brunner says:

    I totally agree! joyful reads are so much more engaging than “ugly cry” books. thanks for the great book suggestions!

  34. Heidi Benson says:

    “Cold Comfort Farm”, “Snobs”, and “Eats, Shoots and Leaves” are all on my shelf, all absolutely wonderful, and all books I’ve never heard mentioned before. Happy reading!

  35. Adrienne Southard says:

    I adore Cold Comfort Farm. It’s so funny – it really pokes at gothic novels, in particular, and has a real affection for its character. It has some of the same fondness for humanity as Tom Jones (another early novel, but one of my favorites).

    If you are willing to stretch a little to science fiction, I love the book To Say Nothing of the Dog, by Connie Willis. It’s the story of someone time-traveling back to Edwardian England: a world part P.G. Wodehouse novel and part Room With a View.

    Adding all your recs to my Goodreads!

  36. Suzanne Davis says:

    I also loved James Herriot’s books, and I wonder if you would like the Irish Country Doctor series by Patrick Taylor. These are novels, but in some ways the storytelling reminds me of the Herriot stories.

    I know that you mentioned not liking YA, but I wonder if you might like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon. The main character is an autistic teenager, and his favorite subject is math. In the book one of the ways he relates to the world and encounters conflict is through mathematical reasoning. He even includes an appendix with his proofs at the end. Also, while the story centers on how the boy handles his problems, the father in the story is engaged. The story is ultimately hopeful and positive. I read this as an adult and really loved it.

    For non-fiction, I really enjoyed Find the Good: Unexpected Life Lessons from a Small-Town Obituary Writer by Heather Lende. It’s a series of essays about how writing obituaries changed the writer’s perspective on life – in a good way. The audio version is less than three hours and often goes on sale at audible.

  37. Hi, Rissie! Thank you for a great episode!
    I relate to your struggle in many ways. I don’t mind going dark or having a good cry but I can’t do two of those books back to back or I get into a super funk. I have to have a “chaser” book to cleanse my mind/heart after a really tough read.
    I have several recs that I hope haven’t been duplicated in the comments yet.

    1. Anything by Maria Semple. She’s quirky, fun and has the wittiest (sometimes slightly odd) stories.

    2. Kelly Corrigan. ANYTHING Kelly Corrigan. The latest book (Tell Me More) is admittedly and justifiably a little morose, but The Middle Place and Glitter and Glue are the perfect combination of nostalgia, humor and what it means to be part of a large, complicated, beautiful family.

    3. Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle: This is very James Herriot and really taps into the vocation thing. You come to learn and love all the little families on this small isle. It’s quaint, charming and, for me, unputdownable.

    4. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less: Maybe one of my favorite books of all time. It just champions the women who overcome, while being funny, cute and not overly dramatic.

    5. The Uncommon Reader: Such a great book! It’s a very short novella, very quirky and just hilarious.

    6. To Dance With the White Dog: Okay, so this may land on the sadder end of the scale depending on how you look at it, but I’ve been recommending this book to everyone. It’s about a widower, who is fiercely independent, admirable and lovable. He is determined to navigate his new life without his wife in the best way possible. Shortly after his death, he begins seeing a stray white dog. His kids don’t see the dog and they think he’s going crazy — which he kinda delights in and feeds on for his own amusement. This is all I’ll say… I did sob my eyes out at the end of this book, but they were happy tears.

    7. As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride: This book actually compelled me to take pictures of some of its pages and post them on Facebook (something I DON’T do) because I just needed more people to appreciate how funny it was. I don’t think you have to be a superfan of the movie to appreciate the book. Also – total vocation book. You get a lot of a behind-the-scenes look at film making.

    8. Rabbit Cake: I’m reading this book now and can’t get enough of it. I don’t know what the ending will be, so it’s a risk to recommend, but I truly appreciate how it can take a serious problem (death of a parent – not a spoiler) and boil it down into something enjoyable and not at all heavy.

    • Rissie says:

      Hi, Holli! Thank YOU for all the great suggestions!

      1. You’re so right about Maria Semple! “Where’d You Go Bernadette” is a hoot!

      2. Thank for the Kelly Corrigan recommendation. I have only read Tell Me More and found it depressing (but really well written). Maybe I’ll try Glitter an Glue next, since the description says it’s about mothers and daughters. *heart*

      3. Call the Nurse sound great! It also reminds me of the Call the Midwife series. Have you read those?

      4. Love, love, love that one! You have really great taste. 🙂

      5. I’ve never read it, but it’s been on my list for a while. Thanks for the reminder!

      6. This one sounds a bit like “Lily and the Octopus” which I loved. Have you read it? Funny and sad and just right.

      7. The Princess Bride was on the short list of favorite books for WSIRN. I will *definitely* read this one!!

      8. Sounds interesting. I’m putting it on the list

  38. Krista says:

    I’m listening to “The Whole Town’s Talking” by Fannie Flagg. I also listen to audiobooks on my commute (40 minutes). I’ve laughed at a few parts out loud as I’ve been driving. It spans generations from Swedish settlers in 1889 and I’m up to the 1990s now. I loved the original settlers the best but the book is full of quirky small town characters.

  39. Kathleen says:


    I suggest that you listen to Still Foolin ‘Em by Billy Crystal. He is the reader of the audio – book. He performs it! I loved it and have suggested it to many friends who needed a mood elevating read/listen.

    Like Anne, I love the writings of Lorrie Colwin. My favorites are Home Cooking and More Home Cooking. Colwin wrote a column for Gourmet Magazine until her untimely death in 1992. Those essays are collected in the Home Cooking books.

    I also loved Ruth Reichl’s My Kitchen Year.

    Thank you for expressing your preference for “happy” reads. I sometimes feel that modern writers feel compelled to write darkly – as though there is no gravitas in happiness.

  40. Stevie M says:

    I personally love historical fiction as a genre, but I totally understand hesitation at the use and description of specific facts. I think it makes the book much more interesting when the author has done research into a topic and can convey a true story well without embellishing. It’s the same thing with historical movies. The truth is often more complex and interesting to me than complete fantasy, but I agree that it’s very hard to find well-written historical fiction that doesn’t make you constantly question its legitimacy. Also one book that I loved for its humor was The Martian – it had a great combination of science (and math!), plot, and wit. I absolutely fell in love with the characters and was laughing almost the whole time I read it. The movie was fantastic, but the book was much more engaging and inspiring for me. Thanks for sharing such awesome titles, I loved this episode of the podcast!

  41. Ashley says:

    Maybe a lover of Anne would have already read this but I think she’d love LM Montgomery’s “The Blue Castle.”

  42. sharon says:

    Want to suggest The Blue Castle by LM Montgomery (same author as Anne!) This was on a previous episode. I loved it. The language reminded me of Anne and the story was sweet.
    I second Maeve Binchy.

    I would also recommend Adriana Trigiani- espeically Very Valentine. My favorite!!!

  43. Jasmin says:

    I really enjoyed this episode, because your book preferences match mine. I have tons of new book recommendations to sort through now!

    Before finishing the episode, I wanted to recommend Sourdough and was a little disappointed you’ve already started it 🙂 Hope you enjoy it as much as I did! It’s one of the very few books I’m willing to reread.

  44. Elizabeth says:

    I also loved this episode and added so many books to my TBR list. So fun! I recommend any book by Philip Gulley. His books are Mitford-like about a small-town preacher, and they are so funny! P.G. Wodehouse and James Herriot are both some of my favorite authors. So fun to hear how others love them, too!

  45. Emily says:

    I loved this episode and share some of the same favorite books. When I heard you were a math teacher that uses literature in your class, I immediately thought of The Joy of X, by Steven Strogatz. I read it with my daughter who is in high school and we both loved it. It actually made math fun and relatable to everyday life. Thanks for the reminder that reading can be a purely enjoyable pastime ?

  46. Mary Ellen Gordon says:

    I think Rissie would love “The Lady Tasting Tea” (

    It’s about the history of statistics, but it’s written as an interesting and compelling narrative rather than a dry textbook. She might be able to share it with her students to help them see how some of the techniques they are learning about evolved.

  47. Kim says:

    I recommend News of the World by Paulette Jiles. The relationship that develops between the Captain and Johanna is so authentic and pure – something I rarely find. Please give this book a try! I also recommend I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith – a 1948 English classic that revolves around 17 year old Cassandra and her family living in a run down castle in the 1930s. Quirky, delightful, and different. Loved it!

  48. Anna W. says:

    I have been wanting to read the Princess Diarist for a while but I never got around to it and now I will for sure! Great recommendation!

  49. Julia Ann says:

    Have you read “Everything and More” by David Foster Wallace? As a math teacher and a fan of DFW, it is probably something that you would really enjoy. Happy reading!

  50. Julie says:

    Loved this week! My order from Amazon was quite large…I added 9 new books to the stack. One of my favorite series to listen to for humor and “feel good” is the 44 Scotland Street books by Alexander McCall Smith.

    • Rissie says:

      I love 44 Scotland Street! I’m pretty sure I first heard about it right here on WSIRN. 🙂

      I’m super curious too — what did you order?

  51. Rissie, I’m late listening to this podcast. I’m with you, the books I love best are ones where the characters learn something from the challenges they face in the book. Since you mentioned you loved Pride and Prejudice, I thought you might like Middlemarch by George Eliot. It’s a long book and in the first third of the book she sets up the relationships of the people in the town but once that’s done, the book gets very interesting. The main character is a woman named Dorothea. She and her sister were orphaned at an early age and have grown up living with their bachelor uncle who is a wealthy gentleman. She longs to be of use, rather than to be a society wife. So, she chooses to marry an older man who is working on a scholarly collection of books. She hopes to be his secretary, but he’s very old school and thinks a woman’s place is to keep the house, etc. Later she discovers what her husband thinks of as his life’s work has already been written by someone else. Needless to say that marriage doesn’t work out well, but along the way she meets her husband’s handsome nephew Will Ladislaw who is an artist. They fall in love but her husband’s will has a harsh stipulation in it, which I will not spoil for you in case you decide to read the book. There are other interesting characters and relationships in the book that I think you might find interesting as well. There are funny and poignant things that happen but the bottom line, the book has a feel good ending.

    Thanks for being on the side of books that make you think, but feel good in the end.

  52. MaryT says:

    I recommend Three Men in a Boat (to Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome Jerome! I would laugh out loud in the middle of the night!
    I second The Gentleman In Moscow and Cold Sassy Tree. I loved both and I think you would, too. TGIM is a thinking book, one to be savored. Cold Sassy Tree was one my best friend, my mother and I all loved at the same time.
    As a science and math teacher, I also assigned literature, and the students in turn would recommend to me. The students loved it! I am so glad to hear you are enjoying this activity, too.
    I gave The Dot and the Line to my grandson and granddaughter last fall! I am sure you read Phanthom Tollbooth by the same author. It was one, again, in which I laughed out loud.

    • Rissie says:

      Hi Mary, Thanks for the suggestions! “A Gentleman In Moscow” has been recommended a lot, so I think it really need to read that one. Soon!

      I’m glad to hear that anther STEM teacher reads with her students. I get many recommendations from them too. Most recently, “Ancient Rome on Five Denarii a Day” by Philip Matyszak. 🙂

  53. MaryT says:

    Might I add?
    Have you read Homer Hickam’s books. I think your students would enjoy also.
    The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict is an historical fiction that urged me to research more. Very interesting!

  54. Naomi says:

    First time commenter!
    Here are some recommendations:
    1. Anything by Mavis Cheek – start with either Sleaping Beatles or Janice Gentle Gets Sexy, and if you like those, then go wild!
    2. The Bridget Jones books are a lot of fun and better on the page than on the screen IMO
    3. The Crawford series – not laugh out loud funny, but lovely characters and joyful in a gentle way
    4. Anything by Barry Crump, a New Zealand writer, who writes in a very dry and sardonic way. Bastards I Have Met is still one of the funniest books I have ever read.
    5. If you like pop music then I recommend I Hate Myself and I Want To Die: The 52 Most Depressing Songs of All Time. I laughed out loud reading this in a book shop so had to buy it, it’s hilarious!

  55. Carrie says:

    Loved this episode! We share some similar favorite reads and I heard titles mentioned that I need to add to my list.

    For memoirs you might want to try Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew (one of my all time favorites). But if you do decide to add this one, do yourself a favor and listen to the audio version. Listening to that husky voice of hers is probably what pushed it into my favorites list.

    And I’m in Brookfield but Boswell Books is my favorite haunt. They do the best author events there.

  56. Emily says:

    I love the Mitford series, which I feel like is very well-written and so uplifting! It’s my favorite books series because it feels like going home- like the Andy Griffith show!

    Another great cookbook is Deep Run Roots- Vivian Howard is the bomb. Great storytelling!

  57. Diane says:

    Anne and Rissie,
    A great episode! Thank you.
    I am reading Little Women a modern retelling~Laura Schaefer. It is a delight and the book jacket adds so much.

  58. Maggie says:

    Anything at all by Pat McManus. He’s an outdoor humorist, but anyone can love him. He’s frequently made me cry with laughter. 🙂

  59. Nadean says:

    A Man Called Ove made me laugh out loud a lot! I also like Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging. Anything by David Sedaris is pure gold- I prefer to listen to his audio books though

  60. Rissie Lundberg says:

    Dear Anne,
    You have the BEST listeners and commenters! I have learned about so many new and wonderful books!! Thank you SO much for creating such a wonderful book loving community. ❤️

  61. BarbN says:

    Hi, Rissie, I don’t know how you feel about mystery novels, but it sounds like you enjoy British humor (so do I). I really enjoyed Sarah Caudwell’s mystery novels. Apparently they’re a love-them-or-hate-them proposition because they don’t always get very good reviews, but they’ve got that dry, witty style and occasionally would even have me laughing until I cried. Thanks for a great episode, I appreciated your perspective and got a lot of great recommendations.

  62. Shelby says:

    Yeah! Thank you Anne and Rissie. I recently heard Anne suggest we find someone with similar reading preferences and find out what they are reading. And my question remained “How do I do that??”. And the next podcast I listened to was THIS. I want read to learn or laugh. I do not “go dark”. If I want to go dark, I’ll read the news. I have a whole list of topics I avoid – the short list being death, abuse, and WWII. I read through all the suggestions on this podcast and in these comments and I am making my TBR list longer!

    My recommendations are:

    Zoobiquity by Barbara Natterson-Horowitz- a fascinating look at science (fascinating for me, the sociology major)

    The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester – if you think a book about how the Oxford English dictionary was created, then read this. If that sounds dull, skip it. Though the story is bizarro, not dull.

    Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographiesn by Alastair Bonnett – Reading the introduction made me feel like a freshman sitting in a graduate course. Totally over my head. But I pushed on, and I REALLY enjoyed the perspective on “place”.

    My favorite Kid Lit Authors:
    Kate DiCamillo
    Elizabeth Enright – The Melendy series was FABULOUS and Gone Away Lake was delightful
    Jeanne Birdsall – The Penderwicks are sweet

    Canada by Mike Myers – as he says, it’s a love letter to Canada. Fantastic audiobook.

  63. Kelly says:

    Yet another great episode Anne! I’m behind on the podcast because I was busy listening to the fabulous audiobook of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. What an amazing story & the audiobook really did it justice if Rissie’s looking for another audio recommendation.
    I confess I don’t read a lot of humourous books, but I have read a few starting with Ohio native (my home state) James Thurber. The Thurber Carnival is a whole collection of short, witty stories including the Secret Life of Walter Mitty, which honestly isn’t even my favorite.
    Someone already mentioned the Uncommon Reader which is also a fun, light read. My other British recommendation is A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon, author of Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. Spot of Bother is a humorous look at British family life – a collection of uniquely drawn characters centered by the father. A little angst in the middle with a hopeful satisfying conclusion seems right up Rissie’s alley. Enjoy!

  64. Faith Shinaver says:

    Ok, I was lazy and did not go through all of the comments to check if anyone else has recommended what I am about to recommend, so I am sorry if this is a repeat. I LOVE the Thursday Next series! I am only on book 2 and they are fantastic. They are about literature but there is science, inventions, time travel, alternate universes, literary characters brought to life and so much more! While terrible things happen to Thursday, our impetuous and intrepid strong female character, the tone is always light and humorous. There are fantastic plays on words and literary devices that make you chuckle out loud. (My boyfriend always asks why I am laughing and I have to tell him that I would need a half hour to explain it all to him…so he just lets me laugh and point to the book)

  65. Mary Ellen Gordon says:

    I love the Thursday Next series too Faith. And you’re not even to Something Rotten, which, in my view, is the best in the series so far. Here’s hoping there’s still more to come.

  66. Gini A says:

    For funny, light, hopeful= The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (and if you do audio, you get the Australian accent)! Sort of inside the brain of Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory; the protagonist is a genius, high-functioning autistic man trying to find himself a wife!

    For math mixed with literature, I’m reading Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing by Ben Blatt. I’m currently reading this so it’s a little risky to recommend, but so far it is very fun. It breaks classic literature, literary fiction, and current bestsellers down by the numbers. Can you look at a book and guess gender of an author based on word choice alone, are adverbs really as bad as they say, etc., but broken down and graphed! Graphs and tables everywhere! 🙂

    You gave me a page full of additions to my TBR list and am going to start Flatland as soon as I finish this comment!

  67. Molly says:

    If you are looking for a funny and smartly written story, you need to check out “Rosie Dunn” by Cecelia Ahern. All but the last chapter is written in the form of letters, emails, chatroom dialogue, etc. It is a quick read and one of my go-tos when I need a good laugh.

  68. Rissie,

    Great episode. You sound like a fun and interesting person. I’m so glad God gave us people who like math!
    Some books that came to mind:
    -Keeping the Feast by Paula Butterini (AP reporter whose news reporter husband gets shot during the Berlin Wall coming down days. They are in Rome and they use food and friends as a form of healing.
    -Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple (smart, quirky, satirical look at the people in tech culture)
    -Finding the Upside of Down – my 2nd book, which is based on posttraumatic growth. You said you like books about how people find their vocations.

  69. K says:

    Hey Rissie–
    As a kid my math teacher had us read THE NUMBER DEVIL, which was my favorite! You should definitely give it a try for your classroom!

  70. Eleen says:

    I just listened to this episode today, and kept thinking that you have to try, “The Kitchen Counter Cooking School” by Kathleen Flinn
    Because you mentioned that you like reading essays from cooking books and it’s actually an excellent book that I picked up because it was recommended on the podcast before! It really inspired me to get into the kitchen and start cooking from scratch (and I’m not the type to naturally want to do this).

  71. Sarah Olson says:

    I am catching up on back episodes and smiled when I heard you mention Flatland. In 9th grade Geometry many,many moons ago, everyone else did their year end project on a string picture but mine was a book report on Flatland. Math was never my favorite subject but I STILL remember that book and it’s been almost 30 years.

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