WSIRN Ep 154: Books so inspiring you might be afraid to read them

book shelves

Today, RuthAnn Deveney and I dig into the world of special-interest reading, and how her passion for victim advocacy brought powerful literature into her life that she wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. We’re talking sensitive-reader self-care, how books are like spicy food, books that would be much better as the 10 minute TED Talks that inspired them… and so much more.

I’m excited to share this episode with RuthAnn, but before we dive in, you should be aware that today’s episode contains some conversation about human trafficking and physical abuse. If you know these topics are triggering for you, please take care of yourself by listening with caution, or simply setting this episode aside and tuning in next week.

Ready? Take a deep breath… and let’s get to it.

What Should I Read Next #154: Books so inspiring you might be afraid to read them with RuthAnn Deveney

Check out RuthAnn’s Dressember page or go a step further and join her team


Books mentioned in this episode:
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If you’d like to support your local indie, check out And by all means, go grab one of these from your local library!

• What Works: Gender Equality by Design, by Iris Bohnet (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Reading People: How Seeing the World through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything, by Anne Bogel (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
The Locust Effect: Why the End of Poverty Requires the End of Violence, by Gary A. Haugen (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
Refugee, by Alan Gratz (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
Impounded: Dorthea Lange and the Censored Images of Japanese American Internment, edited by Linda Gordon (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Born A Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, by Trevor Noah (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
What We Lose, by Zinzi Clemmons (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion, by Elizabeth L. Cline (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Run, by Ann Patchett (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Go Set A Watchman, by Harper Lee (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas D. Kristof (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Tell Me, by Joan Bauer (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• The Glass Hotel, by Emily St. John Mandel (available in 2019)
• The Singer’s Gun, by Emily St. John Mandel (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Trafficked, by Kim Purcell (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Traffick, by Ellen Hopkins (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Tricks, by Ellen Hopkins (AmazonBarnes and Noble)

Also mentioned:
• The Dressember Foundation
RuthAnn’s Dressember page and her team page.


What do YOU think RuthAnn should read next? Has a book ever pushed you to take action? Let us know in the comments!


Leave A Comment
  1. Krista says:

    I have to recommend “Echo” by Pam Munez Ryan! It is a middle grade novel and the audiobook is amazing! It is about a harmonica that gets 4 children through a tough time in their lives. In the audio you get to hear the harmonica played (and piano and string pieces as well). There is a Jewish boy in Germany before the war, an orphan in America, and Mexican-American girl that all face hard circumstances and but have a musical gift that helps them cope.

  2. Marla Jensen says:

    I would recommend The Leavers by Lisa Ko. I think it would be a loose companion to Refugee and Impounded. It’s about a modern day illegal Chinese immigrant, her deportation, and her left behind American Chinese son. It bounces back between the past and the present, the U.S. and China.

  3. Donna H. says:

    I loved this episode! I know books can be life-changing and it was interesting to see how they helped inspire RuthAnn and her advocacy work. I’d recommend Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi or for a very short but I think impactful children’s book (recommended for ages 7 and up) Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini.

    • RA says:

      Thanks, Donna! I read Homegoing and I was BLOWN AWAY when I found out how old (YOUNG) the author was when she wrote it. Insert doubt and moaning about what am I even doing with my liiife. And I just saw Sea Prayer in a bookstore recently! I had only seen the cover online, so I had no idea it was such a slim book and for kids, at that. Thanks for the rec!

  4. Loved this episode!

    I would recommend:
    1. Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson – This was the first book I ever read that addressed the Japanese internment. It was atmospheric, mysterious and a total wake up call.
    2. The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes – I find myself recommending this all the time. It’s a fictional story that will teach you a lot about history and the atrocities early Chinese immigrants faced.
    3. The Rent Collector by Camron Wright – this is another book I’m always recommending. It’s a very human story about the people of Cambodia who actually live in the municipal waste dump. It addresses many of the topics of today’s episode in a delicate, digestible – but still very profound – way.

    • RA says:

      Thanks for these recs, Holli! I read Snow Falling on Cedars in high school, and it was also the first book for me that talked about the internment. I haven’t read the other two, so those are going on my TBR, and I love that you find yourself recommending them a lot!

  5. Diana says:

    I recommend The Eleventh Trade by Alyssa Hollingsworth. It’s middle grade, just released this month, and deals with 12-year-old Afghan refugee Sami living in Boston. His grandfather’s traditional Afghan instrument is stolen, and Sami uses what he has (almost nothing) to trade in an attempt to get it back before Eid. Along the way, we hear the story of what happened to Sami’s parents and what led to leaving Afghanistan. It’s handled in a middle-grade appropriate way while at the same time making you understand the trauma he’s been through. The author’s note made me tear up–she has personal experience with the Taliban within her immediate family.

  6. Shei says:

    A few books that came to mind as I listened today:
    – Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston (true story, middle grade.)
    – Year of Impossible Goodbyes by Sook Nyul Choi (escape North Korea during the Japanese occupation, also middle grade)
    – Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan (her books are so good! also middle grade, set in India)
    – Nory Ryan’s Song by Patricia Riley Giff (set in Ireland during the potato famine.)

    Some of these books deal with refugees. Some are just about overcoming difficult situations, perseverance, survival.

    If you like the Joan Bauer book Ann recommends, you might like Hope Was Here and Rules of the Road. Different topics but same kind of writing.

    • RA says:

      Shei, I have borrowed Farewell to Manzanar from the library, but I didn’t get a chance to read it! Good to know that it comes recommended. I haven’t heard of the others, so I will definitely look into them. Thank you!

  7. Lauren says:

    Fabulous episode! I recently finished reading “Half the Sky” after it languished on my TBR list for far too long. I was so glad to hear it mentioned in this episode. Ruth Ann, have you read “Map of Salt and Stars”? It’s a BEAUTIFUL novel. The audiobook is a simply magnificent performance. Right after listening, I had to buy the hardcover because I wanted to go back to reread and savor so many parts. You might enjoy it, if you haven’t already.

    • RA says:

      Thank you, Lauren! Half the Sky is such a powerful, important book. Have you read A Path Appears? Very interesting and tactical follow-up. I have not read Map of Salt and Tears, but I’ve seen it around! I will check it out, thank you!

      • Lauren says:

        Hi RuthAnn! I have not read A Path Appears and hadn’t heard of it till you mentioned it. I will check my library now! Thank you! Also, I want to thank you for recommending The Locust Effect. I heard Gary Haugen speak at my church during my last semester in college (15 years ago – wow!). I have followed the work of IJM ever since, but I didn’t know he had published this book. How could I miss this?! Thank you so much!

  8. Mark Radke says:

    Hi Anne
    I am studying the topic of personalities. I’ve ready Gretchen Rubin – The Four Tendencies & your book – Reading People. Both were great books. Is there any other books on personalities you can recommend ?
    I want to find out more about myself and others and would like to learn to recognise different personalities in potential clients.

  9. Gina says:

    Hi Anne! I love this podcast so much! Just wanted to let you know that you have Joan Bauer’s name spelled Bower on the list of recommended titles for this episode. I was trying to find Tell Me on Goodreads to add to my TBR with no luck until I found the correct spelling of the author’s name. Looking forward to reading it! Just wanted to clarify the spelling in case anyone else was having difficulty finding it 🙂 Thanks for such a great podcast!

  10. Anne says:

    I had just started reading The Singer’s Gun just before I tuned into this podcast. It was really good. Next, I’m going to look into The Locust Effect. Great episode!

  11. Pam says:

    RA, good for you for leading your workplace business book club! I recommend “The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups” by Daniel Coyle for this group. The book uses examples of successful culture development in the fields of business, sports, military and — gasp! — crime. He also provides examples of failures which he then dissects as learning opportunities. You will probably recognize the names of many of the people he presents in the book. I was fascinated by the current events problem-solving he discusses.
    I first listened to the audiobook, and am now reading the Kindle version. Lots of food for thought.

    • RA says:

      Pam, our book club read The Culture Code, and we had a great discussion! I was really impressed with it, and it didn’t feel like more of the same. I wrote down LOTS of quotes and concepts as I read, so this wouldn’t have been a good audiobook for me! I think my biggest takeaway was that it wasn’t the group composition that made the difference, but instead the interactions that group members have.

  12. Cori says:

    Okay, I have several ideas that I think might be in your wheelhouse. While listening, I found myself doing my own analysis of your book reading preferences. What I think you are drawn to is that stories that help you understand the human condition, both past and present. Whether fiction or nonfiction, you need to be drawn into a story from a person’s POV that helps you better understand a point in history. So, with that said… here are my suggestions!
    Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann. Did you know that the Osage tribe in Oklahoma were once some of the richest people in world? And that they were also being mysteriously killed off? And that the investigation launched the FBI? One of my top nonfiction read recommendations!
    Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham. Completely unplanned but this YA book is also set in Oklahoma. It is a murder mystery that follows two story lines, modern times and 1921 Tulsa race riot.
    Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao. I have not read this, and there may be some trigger alerts for your HSP, so proceed cautiously. However, I think the themes described tie in well with your interests.
    The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley. Again, on my TBR, but not read yet. Might read some reviews to make sure there aren’t any unexpected triggers. This is a modern retelling of Bewoulf from the perspective Grendel’s mother who is a war veteran with PTSD. It sounds super intriguing with some potentially interesting commentary on American capitalism.

    • RA says:

      Thank you, Cori! I actually have ALL of these books on my radar, so thank you for adding to the reasons I need to get to them! They all sound so interesting and affecting.

  13. Caitlin says:

    Slightly late to this one but I would recommend “Trafficked” by Sophie Hayes – it’s the true story of a girl from Britain who was trafficked. I found it really helped me understand that this isn’t just a problem that happens somewhere else to other people – it happens to people from my country, people who are smart, who have family.

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