WSIRN Ep 128: When contemporary fiction feels like a crapshoot

If the word “biography” doesn’t fill you with excitement, maybe today’s guest Tracie Haddock’s enthusiasm can convince you to give them another shot. She even calls one famous biographer her “adopted grandfather”—although what she’s REALLY looking for are great biographies about amazing women, because she just hasn’t found enough on her own.

In this episode, we’re discussing books about extraordinary people living during fascinating times, whether or not to be stingy with star ratings, unreliable NON-fiction authors, books so engrossing they’ve made Tracie’s family fend for themselves at dinnertime, and much much more.

What Should I Read Next #128: When contemporary fiction feels like a crapshoot with Tracie Haddock


Books mentioned in this episode:
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•  The Nancy Drew series, by Carolyn Keene (Amazon | Barnes and Noble
•  Heidi, by Johanna Spyri (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Middlemarch, by George Eliot (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  author David McCullugh (try 1776: Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, by Anne Bogel (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Plainsong, by Kent Haruf (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Our Souls at Night, by Kent Haruf (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Tess of the d’Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Persuasion, by Jane Austen (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  author Malcom Gladwell (try Outliers: Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Dutch: A Memoir of Ronald Reagan, by Edmund Morris (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and MAdness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History, by Erik Larson (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  In the Garden of the Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin, by Erik Larson (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, by Jamie Ford (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Homegoing, by Yaa Gyasi (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Smarter Faster Better: The Transformative Power of Real Productivity, by Charles Duhigg (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  A Girl Named Zippy: Growing Up Small in Mooreland, by Haven Kimmel (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Cleopatra: A Life, by Stacy Schiff (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  author Bill Bryson (try A Short History of Nearly Everything: Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Turn Right at Machu Picchu: Rediscovering the Lost City One Step at a Time, by Mark Adams (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  News of the World, by Paulette Jiles (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Abigail Adams: A Life, by Woody Holton (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
  The Life of Charlotte Bronte, by Elizabeth Gaskell (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
  Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Dust Tracks on a Road: An Autiobiography, by Zora Neale Hurston (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  Wrapped in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Huston, by Valerie Boyd (Amazon | Barnes and Noble)
•  I Shall Be Near to You, by Erin Lindsay McCabe (Amazon | Barnes and Noble

Also mentioned: 

•  50 Contemporary Books Every Woman’s Gotta Read, via Modern Mrs Darcy

•  The 100 Best Nonfiction Books of All Time, via The GuardianReaders, we’re starting to add events to the calendar for summer and fall 2018, and when we’re ready to go public our newsletter subscribers will be the first ones to know Make sure you’re on the list so YOU stay in the know:

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


Leave A Comment
  1. Dawn says:

    I just finished Never Caught by Erica Armstrong Dunbar for an amazing biography of woman who was enslaved by George Washington. It’s short but so very good.

  2. Roseanne says:

    If you haven’t picked up the Eleanor Roosevelt biography by Blanche Wiesen Cook, then you should put it on your list. It is three volumes, so it’s a commitment, but we’ll worth it, especially the first two volumes. I will admit to being a little disappointed with volume three, but still glad I read it.

  3. Carynne says:

    Prairie Fires, by Caroline Fraser, is a fascinating new biography of Laura Ingalls Wilder and her daughter Rose–and it just won the Pulitzer! If you have read the Little House books, this provides really interesting context and nuance into how they came about. I rarely read biographies or nonfiction but couldn’t put this one down!

  4. Kelcey says:

    Sounds like we have very similar taste and my absolute favorite book is a memoir called Two in the Far North by Margaret E. Murie.

  5. Georgia says:

    Try The Peabody Sisters. It is huge but so so fascinating and I remember being compelled to turn the pages the whole way through. The sisters were part of or adjacent to so much New England history/literary history. I also loved Bury the Bones about Pearl S. Buck. Such great details and sentences.

  6. Rissie says:

    Great episode! I was going to recommend North To The Orient by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, but it sounds like you’re already familiar with a lot of her stuff. That particular book was on my short list of favorites.

    Instead, I’ll recommend “The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, and the Minimum Wage” by Kirstin Downey. She was the first woman to serve in the president’s cabinet and from the subtitle of the book, you can see that she accomplished a LOT!!

    Happy reading!

  7. Rachel Boers says:

    Self-professed biography lover, here. My absolute favorite woman biography is still: Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia.” It is riveting!

  8. Susan says:

    I absolutely loved this episode! I liked the guest and her book choices. My recommendation is A Greater Journey by David McCullough – a nonfiction about a place, Paris, and many of the American expatriates who lived there during the 19th century.

  9. Anna Rowe says:

    What a great episode. I would recommend Unbowed by Wangari Maathai and The Life of Elizabeth I by Alison Weir. Both are examples of fearless women. I would also try West with the Night by Beryl Markham. I haven’t read the Markham book myself yet but I do know that she was a woman way ahead of her time and I bet it is a fascinating story.

    • Lorrie says:

      Yes to these recommendations! I was going to say West With the Night – so wonderfully written and such an interesting life!! I also love Elizabeth Weir and her biography of Elizabeth I, but one of my favorite ever books is Innocent Traitor – her book about Lady Jane Grey, who was Queen of England for nine days when she was 16 years old.

  10. Katy Sammons says:

    Another biography lover here. I recently read “Victoria the Queen” by Julia Baird, and it is worth your time. More recommendations: “Joy: Poet, Seeker, and the Woman Who Captivated C.S. Lewis” and “Surprised by Oxford.”

  11. Tracie Haddock says:

    Oh my goodness, I am exploding with happiness here at all of these biography recommendations! My sincere thanks to each of you for your recommendations. Now please excuse me while I add every one of these titles to my Overdrive account, Goodreads “To Be Read Shelf”, Amazon wishlist, and last but not least, my handwritten “Books to Look For when Browsing a Bookstore” list. : )

    • Melyssa says:

      Same here! I love nonfiction and have been looking for more books about women. I’m adding so much from this thread and the show!

  12. Carol says:

    Wonderful guest!
    Because I’ve learned about “pairing”, I paired the book “Letters to Jackie” by Ellen Fitzpatrick, with the audio book of “Killing Kennedy” by Bill O’Reilly. Great information about the history of that time.

  13. LizC says:

    Oddly enough, this was the second time this was the second time this week that Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte Brontë has popped up for me. I’m currently reading A Secret Sisterhood: The Literary Friendships of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot, and Virginia Woolf by Emily Midorikawa and Emma Claire Sweeney (whew!), and the chapters about Brontë and her lifelong friend Mary Taylor includes a slightly different look at Gaskell and the writing of this biography. Rather interesting stuff.
    Tracie was lots of fun to listen to, btw – very well-spoken!

  14. Barbara S Atkins says:

    First(and I know it is to late now) I would not bother finishing “Lincoln in the Bardo”. I did not think it ever got better and it was vulgar in the worst way (IMHO). I do not shy away from using profanity myself, but I found it over the top. I did listen to it on audio.

    Gaskell’s biography of Bronte is available on-line as it is long out of copyright. I much preferred Juliet Baker’s ” The Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors…” and she also has a book of letters.

    Since “Little Women” is a favorite I really enjoyed “Eden’s Outcasts The Story of Louisa May Alcott and Her Father”. My goodness but he was a very odd duck and his family was in perpetual poverty due to his beliefs and practices. This book made a visit to Concord even better than it might have been.
    David McCullough as a grandfather is a wonderful thought.

    • Megan says:

      I came here to mention Eden’s Outcasts; glad to see it already recommended. It’s a Pulitzer winner, too! I came across this book in a bookstore in Concord while there to tour the Alcott house, and I’m so glad I picked it up.

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      Ah, I wish I had known about Eden’s Outcasts prior to visiting Concord three years ago. My husband and I wandered through the famous cemetery where many of the authors are buried, and he remarked, “Now this is my kind of cemetery. Please bury me here!” To which I replied, “That will work perfectly because I am completely charmed by the town and have decided we should move here.”

    • Laura says:

      I found Eden’s Outcasts to be utterly fascinating! It was almost a biography of all the Transcendentalists and I thought it was so interesting how rich the girls’ educational lives were (walking next door to borrow books from Emerson) while being near destitution much of the time. Highly recommend!

    • Adrienne Hudson says:

      I agree with you on ‘Lincoln in the Bardo’. I tried to listen to it on audio and just disliked it immensely. ‘Eden’s Outcasts’ sounds very interesting! I’ll look for that one.

    • I have to confess… my question was a ruse to determine whether or not you are Mormon. (Although, I do like Sheri Dew’s biographies!) I’m going to name Rissie as a co-conspirator. 😉

      If you read the comments from Jordan’s episode (, you’ll uncover a theme I’m noticing with Anne (or Anne fans!).

      But, I really did love your episode, which GREATLY expanded my TBR list! The minute you mentioned Zippy, I knew we were kindred bookish spirits. Have you read: She Got Up Off the Couch?

      • Tracie Haddock says:

        Ha, I kinda saw what you were doing there : ) And while listening to Jordan last week, I was thinking along the same lines! I also really loved Rissie’s episode–Wodehouse is a favorite of mine, so tons of the recommendations for her will go on my TBR list as well. And yes, I read She Got Up Off the Couch, and LOVED it.

  15. Kandi West says:

    I loved this episode! Biographies and history are a favorite plus I love Little Women and Persuasion. The first biography of a female that came to mind is A Personal History by Katharine Graham. She was the publisher of The Washington Post during Watergate and this is the story of her life. It’s one of my all time favorite books. Another book I read last year comes to mind- Marmee and Louisa. This is the story of Louisa May Alcott and her mother and goes into a lot of details about LMA’s life that I did not know. Finally, since you love David McCullough (so do I- my favorite is Truman), I think you would really like any of Doris Kearns Godwin’s books. My favorite is No Ordinary Time, the story of FDR during WW2. I also really liked her book about Lincoln bc it covered all the members of his cabinet during the Civil War. One random recommendation- Andre Agassi’s biography, Open, is one of the best I’ve read.

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      I’ve been meaning to read Doris Kearns Goodwin for years, and now I have got to get to it! Also, I have heard from several sources that Agassi’s book is not to be missed. Is there a reading camp that I can sign up for this summer, where we just read all day and night and then talk about our books at mealtimes in the lodge? Can someone start one of these?

  16. Kelsey says:

    I loved this episode! I have only started reading fiction within the last few years and love biographies. Some favorites include: “Dragon Fighter” by Rebiya Kadeer (autobiography about a political activist from a minority group in modern-day China), “Louisa” by Louisa Thomas (an excellent biography of Louisa Adams), “Trials of the Earth” by Mary Mann Hamilton (autobiography about a strong, pioneering woman). Happy Reading!

  17. Laura says:

    I also jump down the Goodreads rabbit hole for books I hate, including both Tess of the Durbervilles and The Alchemist! Hardy was trying to torture poor Tess after making us love her- you are right! Great episode. I think we have similar taste so I’d love to see a list of all your favorite biographies and memoirs!

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      Ok Laura, I’ve gone through my virtual shelves on Goodreads and my real shelves in my house and here is my list:
      1. James Madison: A Life Reconsidered, by Lynne Cheney (yes, THAT Lynne Cheney!) This is one of my very favorite biographies of all time (besides the three volume Teddy Roosevelt by Morris and anything by McCullough). And Madison became my second favorite founding father (next to George!) after reading this, as well.
      2. Cheaper By the Dozen, by Frank Gilbreth, Jr.–a hilarious and sweet tribute to the author’s father and very large family.
      3. Father and I Were Ranchers (Little Britches #1), by Ralph Moody–another father tribute that makes my heart so happy.
      4. The Color of Water, by James McBride–this one is about the author’s mother and is wonderful. I think Anne has mentioned it recently on WSIRN.
      5. Lindbergh, by Scott Berg. Pulitzer prize winning biography of Charles Lindbergh–totally fascinating, and quite unbelievable in parts.
      6. The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan–my admiration knows no bounds for this woman who kept her family running on next to nothing.
      7. Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power, by Jon Meacham–brilliantly written, but fair warning: if you currently revere Jefferson, you may not feel the same when you finish the book.
      8. Einstein: His Life and Universe, by Walter Isaacson–amazing book, but the physics chapters, while nicely explained for the layman, still made my brain hurt!
      9. Same Kind of Different As Me, by Ron Hall–the redemptive factor is off the charts on this one. I just loved it!
      10. Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant–in all fairness, I started this and then set it aside, but it is known to be, hands down, the best memoir written by a president. And he wrote it as he was dying of cancer so he could financially provide for his wife after his death. I WILL be getting back to it!
      11. The End of Your Life Book Club, by Will Schwalbe–author and his mom read books together as she is dying of cancer. So loving and bittersweet.
      12. Lincoln, by David Herbert Donald–I couldn’t call myself a real biography fan if I didn’t include one about our greatest president!
      Thank you for asking me about biographies and memoirs! Happy Reading!

  18. Elizabeth says:

    I absolutely loved this episode! All the Jane Austen talk makes my heart so happy ❤️ And I’ve actually read several excellent biographies on women in recent years! Here are my two favorites right now:
    -Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More— Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist. If you’re familiar with William Wiberforce’s work to end the slave trade in Britain, that’s the time period. Hannah More was a close contemporary of his!
    -The Woman Who Smashed Codes by Jason Fagone. This is about code breaking before the days of computers. I’m not a math person at all, but I stayed completely engrossed on every page. The woman the book is focused on got her start with cracking codes used by drug and alcohol smugglers and eventually infiltrated Nazi spy rings in South America during WWII. Absolutely fascinating!

    I also second the recommendation for Surprised by Oxford that’s already been mentioned. It’s a memoir but still totally worth it. It became one of my top three to five favorites of all time a few years ago!

  19. Libby says:

    Read Imperial Requiem by Justin Vovk! It’s about the last 4 empresses of Europe: Queen Mary of England, Empress Alexandra of Russia, Zita of Hungary, and I think the German Empress. It spans the time before, during, and right after WWI which was fascinating by itself, and relies primarily on correspondence to and from the subjects. It was such a page turner too, I was torn between having to read what happened next to these women, and not wanting the book to end.

  20. Kim says:

    I loved this episode! I’m inspired to delve into more non-fiction. Tracie mentioned, “he is a great author” referring to George Eliot’s Tess of D’urbervilles. I was wondering if her opinion of Tess would change knowing the author is a women, not a man? Thank you Tracie and Anne for a fantastic show.

  21. Susan says:

    I love the same kinds of books as you, so I thoroughly enjoyed this episode! Since you loved “News of the World”, you might be fascinated with “The Captured” by Scott Zesch. He traces his great-great uncle’s life as a child captured by Comanche Indians in Texas and the stories of several other child captives. I can’t stop thinking about this book!
    Also, “Ambition and Desire: the Dangerous Life of Josephine Bonaparte” by Kate Williams is a great read. Both are mind-boggling. Happy reading!

  22. Tracie Haddock says:

    Gosh, I don’t know how I would feel if Tess of the d’Urbervilles was written by a woman! But I believe it’s authored by Thomas Hardy, who is male, as far as I know. Maybe you were thinking of Middlemarch by George Eliot, which we discussed a bit on the episode?

    PS I finally finished Middlemarch, right around the middle of March, ha! It was absolutely worth the commitment!

  23. elizabeth says:

    Lovely episode! I was listening in the car on the way to the library and was pleased to find a copy of “The Power of Habit” which I promptly took home and am currently reading. Thanks for the recommendation!! :-).
    I am now really interested in biographies in a way that I’ve never been before. Can’t wait to dive into one or two mentioned in this podcast episode!

  24. Bookishlee says:

    I’d like to recommend a biography sampler, if you haven’t found it yet. It’s called _What She Ate_, by Laura Shapiro, and it’s six mini-biographies of remarkable women, with each woman’s relationship with food as a focal point. I was afraid it would be superficial, but was pleasantly surprised at how much interesting history was packed into this book. Food is a jumping-off point, not an obsession or a one-note sort of experience here. I learned so much, and it was fascinating reading.
    I also second the recommendation of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s _No Ordinary Time_, which is excellent.

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      Thanks very much! The six shorter narratives will be totally refreshing after a big, thick biographical tome. : )

  25. Kim says:

    Thank you for correcting me. I’m listening to “Mill on the Floss” and clearly wasn’t concentrating while writing.

  26. Tracy,
    I recommend a novel based on historical events, POPE JOAN by Donna Woolfolk Cross. It’s along the same lines as I SHALL BE NEAR YOU, in that it’s about a woman who assumes the identity of her brother and becomes first a priest and eventually Pope, but it begins in 814. Her drive to learn and direct her own life was what I found so fascinating. I loved it so much I read it twice.

    A biography I loved is THE DRESSMAKER OF KHAIR KHANA by Gayle Tezemach Lemmon. It begins in the 1980s the day the Taliban arrives in Kabul and ends the day they leave and centers around one family with five daughters at home. When their parents must leave, they must find a way to support themselves. They do that by becoming dressmakers, and they help other women do the same thing.

    The final one I want to recommend is FILAREE: A NOVEL OF AMERICAN LIFE by Marguerite Noble. It takes place in early 1900s Arizona. The author is the daughter of the main character and it details her difficult life but in the end she finds happiness.

    I love MIDDLEMARCH too. I hope you will consider these books.

  27. Megan says:

    I recommend Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space, by Linda Sherr. I listened to it on audio and found her life fascinating.

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      All of these great women’s biographies are just the best. I will evening out my male/female biography percentage for at least a year. Sally Ride is added to my TBR, thank you!

  28. Ginger says:

    I put a plug in for these biographies about women:
    -West with the Night by Beryl Markham (and the fictional adaptation Circling the Sun by Paula McLain)
    -Fierce Convictions by Karen Swallow Prior (bonus: it’s on sale for Kindle today!)
    -Read My Pins (also, Prague Winter) by Madeleine Albright (my, her life is fascinating)
    -And I’ve heard wonderful things about anything written by Claire Tomalin (she’s written one on Jane Austen and that I hear is excellent), but I haven’t read her yet, so I can’t vouch firsthand.

  29. Meg Miller says:

    This was such a wonderful episode! I loved The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Her bravery and resilience is outstanding. Shining Through by Susan Isaacs about female spies in World War 1. Lastly the Queen of Spies: Louise de Bettignies by Major Thomas Coulson.

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      I bought The Hiding Place at a used book sale and there it sits, waiting to be cried through, I mean, read. All kidding aside, the few stories I have heard about her are truly inspiring, and I look forward to reading her book.

  30. Jean says:

    Looking for good audio books to listen with my husband on a long road trip. I love historical fiction and he loves history. We both something to keep our interest like a mystery /thriller? I LOVE your podcast. I have so many books on my TBR list.

    • Erin McCabe says:

      My husband and I both recently read Darktown by Thomas Mullen and enjoyed it (we don’t typically have similar reading taste). It’s technically a crime novel, but it’s set in 1948 Atlanta, inspired by the first Black police officers there. It was fascinating (and eye-opening in terms of understanding segregation).

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      Well, I would guess that you would both enjoy anything by Erik Larson (except In the Garden of the Beasts). And believe it or not, 1776 by David McCullough is totally riveting, even though you know how it’s going to end. : )

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      I am currently reading Abigail Adams right now and I just LOVE it! Her life and her letters are surely one of history’s treasures.

      • Nancy says:

        I’m currently reading it as well, and I’ve also found a joint biography of she and her sisters called “Dear Abigail:The Intimate Lives and Revolutionary Ideas of Abigail Adams and Her Two Remarkable Sisters by Diane Jacobs. I can’t wait to read it, hopefully it will give me more information about her sisters, relationships that are hinted at in Woody Horton’s biography of Abigail. It has gotten some good reviews on Goodreads, so fingers crossed that it’s as wonderful as I hope it will be!

  31. Diane says:

    Great podcast!
    I am reading True Grit for a different book club and really enjoying it. Strong female protagonist; charming historical fiction.

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      I saw the recent movie remake and thought the main character was just the best–I’ve been thinking I need to see the older movie, and now I will add the book. 97% of the time, the book is even better than the movie!

  32. Erin McCabe says:

    Im not a big biography reader, but the one that instantly came to mind when I was listening is The Book of Ages by Jill Lepore. It’s focused on Benjamin Franklin’s sister Jane, but also on the ways in which women’s stories are so often absent from History. I thought was just gorgeously crafted and fascinating, though I did read (baffling!) reviews from readers who thought it was boring.

  33. Tracie Haddock says:

    Ooh, I am intrigued by this–adding it to my TBR. I’ve come to expect that there will always be a few “it was boring” reviews on any historical book (fiction or non). Some people want the past to read like a modern suspense novel, I guess!

  34. Angie says:

    This is my favourite of all your interviews. Tracie’s enthusiasm was a delight to listen to and I have many books now added to my to be read list. 🙂 Thank you!

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      I have not heard of this–I will add it to my Audible account! Right now my Audible downloads are ALL children’s lit. : )

  35. Rachel Hannah says:

    This was a wonderful, enjoyable episode. So many great suggestions! I simply want to second the recommendation for “I Shall Be Near To You” by Erin Lindsay McCabe. She is a top notch writer and the characters in this story will stay with you. Rosetta is one of my favorite fictional characters of all time!

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      I finished it a few weeks ago and loved it. So well done, and it was so cool to read about this historical situation of which I was totally unaware!

  36. Emily says:

    No biography book recommendations here, but I DO have a podcast for you: The History Chicks. It’s tied with Anne’s as my favorite. Each episode dives deeply into the life of a female historical figure in a conversational, yet informative way. The hosts are fun and I’ve learned SO much!

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      Thank you! I have listened to Stuff You Missed in History Class, and really enjoyed that one, but I will add The History Chicks to my podcast library, too. : ) Go history!

  37. BarbN says:

    I love, love, love WSIRN and have become a compulsive listener over the past few months. But it is love mixed with a *teeny-tiny* bit of hate because my TBR pile (metaphorical, it’s actually just a list on my phone) is already more than I can possibly read in this lifetime and it just keeps getting longer. Burdens we must carry…. Anyway, loved this episode, thank you Tracie for inspiring a great discussion about non-fiction books. I have totally gone down the Goodreads rabbit hole when I am looking for support for my unpopular opinion on popular books. (Little Fires Everywhere was the most recent, there are only three of us that disliked it, and one of them wrote the best review. feel totally validated now.) And also have made the same switch as Anne regarding stars on Goodreads– although for somewhat different reasons. I used to rarely give four stars and saved five stars for lifetime favorites, but I’ve lightened up recently after having listened to numerous authors (including Anne) talk about how difficult it is to get low and mediocre ratings. I want my favorite authors happy and inspired to write more books.

    • Barbara Atkins says:

      I so agree about “The Invention of Wings”. When I finished it I went through the list of recommended reading in the back. The story of the Grimke sisters was new to me & one of my degrees is in history. These comments are adding wonderful books to my TBR. I think this episode appealed to many people.

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      Oh yes, by Sue Monk Kidd. I read her other one, The Secret Life of Bees, I think? and quite liked it. So yep, I will certainly add this one. Thanks Cathy!

  38. Tory says:

    Count me as one of the highly skeptical listeners, I’ve never understood how anyone could read biographies – so boring! But Tracie convinced me to give the genre another try. Anne’s recommendation of Abigail Adams caught my attention since she is one of my favorite people (my 2yo is named after her) and when I saw the audiobook was read by Cassandra Campbell I had to buy it right away!

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      Thanks for the tip that Cassandra Campbell is a good narrator! I will have to tuck that piece of information into my brain for when I am looking for a good audio book.

  39. Sarah Roeder says:

    This one is about a marriage but, I found “Katharina and Martin Luther: The Radical Marriage of a Runaway Nun and a Renegade Monk” by Michelle DeRusha very interesting! Another one I enjoyed was “Upstairs at the White House: My Life with the First Ladies” by J.B. West who was the Chief Usher of the White House for 28 years, covering six FLOTUS.

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      Thank you, Sarah! These both sound pretty irresistible for me : ) I read the little blurb on the book by the White House usher and it reeled me in!

  40. Dave Kalach says:

    I’m a fellow history buff and a retired history teacher who loves well written biographies and memoirs. Two wonderful biographies on two accomplished women are Catherine the Great by Robert Maddie, and Eleanor Roosevelt Vol. 1 and 2 by Blanche Wiesenthal Cook. Both writers highlight how these women overcame obstacles and carved their own path to a life of accomplishment. The Eleanor Roosevelt biography has 4 volumes. If you haven’t read them, I think you willenjoy them.

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      Ok the writing is on the wall for me, I really must read the Cook volumes on Eleanor Roosevelt. And I have heard of that Catherine the Great biography, so now it’s on my TBR as well. Thank you Dave!

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      Oh my goodness, this is such good news. I have been dying to hear someone dissect Middlemarch for me! I want to hear all the stuff that went over my head, and this podcast will be PERFECT. Thank you a whole gob, Dymphie!

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      Claire, I just looked up those two titles on Goodreads and they both sound like exactly my type of book. Thank you!

  41. Elizabeth Brink says:

    I’m late to this episode, but I loved it. I also love biographies, though it’s a newer love for me, so all these suggestions in the comments are fantastic. The book that popped into my mind to recommend is Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley. It was just published last fall, and I really enjoyed it. 🙂

  42. laura shook says:

    Anne – love your show and am SO grateful for all your recommendations. Was very surprised, though, to hear you say the words: ” beach body on demand.” To me, the term ‘beach body’ is a way of body-shaming and I was surprised to hear that the company is a sponsor of yours.

  43. Lisa Kaplan says:

    Great episode and the closest my book taste and loves have ever lined up with a guest: Duhigg, history, biography, Zippy, and Persuasion (which is my favorite Austen but they are all great). But…I think you are the second guest to say that there isn’t a good movie version of Persuasion. I absolutely love the 1995 Amanda Root/Ciaran Hinds version and have watched it an embarrassing number of times. As for recommendations…all things Bill Bryson, starting with his memoir, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, then the books about England, then all the rest!

    • Tracie Haddock says:

      Hello Lisa, so glad to hear from a kindred book spirit! You’ve inspired me to give the Amanda Root Persuasion a second chance–I will watch it just as soon as I can distract my husband and three sons from the NBA basketball playoffs on tv by some outdoorsy activity. : ) And yes to all things Bill Bryson! Notes From a Small Island is one of my very favorites. I will add Thunderbolt Kid to my TBR, and that reminds me that I want to read the one about Australia as well–something about a sunburned country, I think.

  44. Debbie says:

    Warriors Don’t Cry by Melba Pattillo Beals is a memoir about integrating Central High in Little Rock. What Lips My Lips Have Kissed by Daniel Mark epstein is about Edna St. Vincent Millay.

  45. Holly C. says:

    Tracie was so fun to listen to! I have never in my life enjoyed a biography, or even wanted to read one, but Tracie got so excited talking about The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt that she made me want to read it!

  46. Catherine says:

    Just getting caught up on the podcast and I loved this episode! Tracie, I’m reading a biography of each President in the order of their presidencies and I, too, love David McCullough! I wanted to jump on here to tell you that I hope you finished Lincoln in the Bardo because it is one of my faves. I also wanted to recommend a biography to you . . . Catherine The Great: A Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie. I had to pick a biography for book club a few years ago and, since my name is Catherine and I’m apparently a bit of a narcissist, I picked that one. It was so great. I knew nothing about her and she was just fascinating. So check it out!!

  47. Hello! I have been binge listening for the past 5 weeks ever since a friend referred me to WSIRN. I enjoy hearing about all the books I’ve never heard of. My TBR list has doubled! As much as I love my paper books, I have fallen in love with Audio books traveling as much as I do. I just had to chime into this episode to say “Listen to Gaskell’s North and South on audio!” There is a one reader version by MaryAnn on Librivox that just made me fall deeper in love with the story even more than the movie! Ahhhh….

  48. Chrisrtie says:

    I just finished Plainsong. What a fantastic recommendation! I would not have in a million years have picked this one up. I loved the writing and characters. Hooray! I have a new backlist to discover. Thank you.

  49. Kelly Face says:

    If you liked Gaskell’s book you may enjoy The Bronte’s by Rebecca Frasier.
    A Woman of No Importance by Sonia Purnell. An absolutely riveting biography of Virginia Hall. This led me down a rabbit hole because Vera Atkins and Nancy Wake came up in the process of reading this.

    The Glass Universe and Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel. Both a bit dry, but fascinating.

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