WSIRN Ep 155: When stolen Audible credits spur a beautiful bookish relationship

We have had a LOT of guests of the English major variety on WSIRN…. But today’s guests asked me to bridge the divide between an imaginative-fiction lover and a scientific-NONfiction lover. Ashley and Brent are a father-daughter reading duo who share an Audible account and a love for an untold story. Since we recorded this episode, I got to meet Ashley in person at The Story Shop, which was a delight! 

Today we’re covering everything from Ashley’s mega-popular most HATED book, how the two of them make reading a family affair, and the story of who stole whose Audible credits…

Let’s get to it!

What Should I Read Next #155: When stolen audible credits spur a beautiful bookish relationship with Ashley and Brent

You can follow Ashley’s reading life on Instagram.


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!

• The Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
Watership Down, by Richard Adams (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
House of the Seven Gables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
I Contain Multitudes: The Microbes Within Us and a Grander View of Life, by Ed Yong (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
The Glass Universe: How the Ladies of the Harvard Observatory Took the Measure of the Stars, by Dava Sobel (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, by John M. Barry (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
The Making of the Atomic Bomb, by Richard Rhodes (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
▵ The Tom Clancy series, by Mike Maden (try Line of Sight: AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, by Maryse Condé (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Tuxedo Park: A Wall Street Tycoon and the Secret Palace of Science That Changed the Course of World War II, by Jennet Conant (AmazonBarnes 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 (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women, by  Kate Moore (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Before the Fall-Out: From Marie Curie to Hiroshima, by Diana Preston (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• The Mercury 13: The True Story of Thirteen Women and the Dream of Space Flight, by Martha Ackmann (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars, by Nathalia Holt (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Code Girls: The Untold Story of the American Women Code Breakers of World War II, by Liza Mundy (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic—and How It Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World, by Steven Johnson (AmazonBarnes and Noble)


What do YOU think Ashley and Brent should read together next? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Lori A. Samilson says:

    I didn’t think I’d have any interest in the books mentioned in this episode, but now I want to read all of them! I currently live about 30 minutes from Vineland, NJ so I am particularly interested in Unsheltered!

  2. Jess says:

    So much fun! I like the kinds of books that dad likes and loved The Making of the Atomic Bomb, The Ghost Map, Henrietta Lacks and The Great Influenza. How about Oliver Sacks’ book, Uncle Tungsten? And I’ll bet he’d like Jennet Conant’s latest book, about her grandfather, James Conant, who was President of Harvard and a chemist who was involved in developing weapons in WWI and in the Manhattan Project in WWII (Man of the Hour: James Conant, Warrior-Scientist). In my view, it is better written than Tuxedo Park. (To be fair, I have a few bones to pick with her depictions in TP because I have a personal connection to it and know she’s got some things wrong, but her writing has improved from the Tuxedo to the latest.)

  3. Melanie says:

    I loved this episode! What a sweet pair. I bet Ashley would like A Piece of the World, for the Hawthorne connection and the New England historical angle.

  4. Karen says:

    I would recommend that they read The Wave by Susan Casey. It is a combination of almost memoir about big wave surfers and science regarding waves and weather. The other option would be Ship Of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea. This combines a fictional story of a shipwreck with a current story about the science of searching for treasure and sunken ships.

  5. Meg says:

    I’m not quite done listening but I am loving this episode! I really want to hear what’s on Ashley’s spooky fall reading list, as every year I seek out this kind of book in October but find myself lost in a sea of horror books that I’m not interested in…her taste is right up my alley so I’d love to hear her recommendations!

    • Ashley says:

      You’re not alone! I’ll be working on a full list to post to my instagram soon (@bigworld_books) but off the top of my head, some past favorites are: anything by Poe, Hawthorne, or Washington Irving, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, The Halloween Tree or Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and I love Stephen Fry’s narration of the COMPLETE Sherlock Holmes. Also try Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (it’s a graphic novel and so good!), Ghostland by Colin Dickey (it’s nonficion–a historical, literary, and social look at ghost stories and how they evolve over time), The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, and Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue (it’s classic fairytales retold with a feminist twist and the stories and structure of the book is SO GOOD).

  6. Sarah says:

    Was just coming to post a recommendation for Ship if Gold in the Deep Blue Sea. Also, maybe check out The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession and the Natural History Heist of the Century by Kirk W. Johnson as well as The Dinosaur Artist: Obsession, Betrayal and the Quest for the Earth’s Ultimate Trophy by Paige Williams. Also really liked The Big Ones: How Natural Disasters Have Shaped Us by Lucy Jones. Loved this episode!

    • Michelle K says:

      I recently read The Feather Thief and really enjoyed it. Have you read Orchid Fever: A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust, and Lunacy by Eric Hansen? It has a similar theme – the human drive to posses natural beauty – but the tone of the book felt a bit lighter. It made me laugh out loud a few times while reading it.

  7. Kacie says:

    I’m finishing up Code Girls today (loving it! Well-researched, also enjoying her focus on some of the women in a narrative…great book). Radium Girls is also on my Kindle waiting to be read. Looking forward to this episode!

    • Kacie says:

      Ok finished podcast! And Code Girls. I think they would enjoy Code Girls and I agree, I’m not crazy about “girls” in titles lately. Loving the books, though.

      I also looooved Watership Down and had similar feelings toward The Help.

      • Jennifer O. says:

        I hate the Girls in the title thing too, but enjoyed Code Girls. I also liked Girls of Atomic City (the non-fiction one, haven’t read the fiction version yet).

  8. BarbN says:

    As an English major living in a household of medical types, I loved this episode. I always give them books for Christmas and now I have some great new ideas. There’s a book missing from the above list, though- the title had the word spoon in it, he recommended it and she liked it but didn’t finish it- anybody know?? Other possible recommendations, from a dedicated fiction reader who is occasionally completely sucked in by science books (I loved Making of the Atomic Bomb and Henrietta Lacks): Bringing Columbia Home (first two-thirds, gets a little repetitive toward the end), Lost City of the Monkey God, Reality is Not What it Seems. And also Columbine by Dave Cullen. It’s a difficult read at certain places, but he does a good job of breaking up the difficult bits so you don’t have to read too much all at once- and the analysis of the causes, the media coverage, and how the public responded was fascinating. It was a much wider-ranging book than I expected. Thanks for a great episode.

    • Trish D says:

      I’m guessing The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements
      by Sam Kean

    • Ashley says:

      It was The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Keane. He has another one out, something with Violin in the title I think? It also looks good.

      Thanks for these other recommendations, too! I have Lost City of the Monkey God on my shelves, I need to bump it up my list!

    • Dave Cullen says:

      Thank you for appreciating that. (Someone just sent me to this site and I found you on a few threads. I had a complex spreadsheet helping me track of how many pages it had been since an uplifting scene, a violent scene, etc.) I tried to think of it as a musical score, but the numbers helped so I could see when I had too long of a gap.

  9. Kitty Skinner says:

    I would recommend a recent release, The Lives of Justine Johnstone: Follies Star. Research Scientist, Social Activist by Kathleen Vestuto, published by McFarland. She had an amazing life with feet in both the entertainment world and in science.

  10. Donna Cason says:

    I’m listening right now. I heard The Book Tavern and thought “It has to be another one,” then you said Augusta! Oh my! Shout out from Augusta/North Augusta! Now I can guess where your dad’s long commute goes. Probably the same commute my dad made for 30 years before retiring. Ashley, did you teach grad school at AU? I graduated with my BA and MAT there.

    Small world.

    • Ashley says:

      oh wow! Hey Donna!!! Small world, indeed! And yep–you’re probably right about where my dad works. 🙂 I went to Ole Miss for grad school, but got my BA in English Lit from AU (back when it was Augusta State!).

      • Donna Cason says:

        Yes! It was Augusta State when I went there too.

        I loved hearing the literary relationship between the 2 of you. My dad and I certainly have different tastes, and I can’t imagine getting him to read any of my books. Nevertheless, this episode gave me more books to add to my ever-growing TBR list, and on topics I probably wouldn’t otherwise even have considered.

  11. Kristin says:

    What a great episode! My dad’s has gifted me so many amazing books but he himself is nothing a reader so this was a delight to listen to!

    I wonder if both Ashley and Brent would enjoy The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf. It is about Alexan Von Humboldt who is a scientist history has forgotten but inspired so many scientist such as Darwin as well as philosopher and writers! He was very forward thinking which I think will greatly appeal to Ashley!

    • Ashley says:

      I haven’t heard of this book but I just recently learned of Von Humboldt from a TedEd video? Facebook? It was a totally random place. But I definintely want to learn more about him, and this books sounds perfect!

      • Kristin says:

        Awesome! I have fallen in love with Von Humboldt. It is a joy to see the world through his eyes. I really think you’re going to love it!

    • Ashley says:

      You’re not alone! I’ll be working on a full list to post to my instagram soon (@bigworld_books) but off the top of my head, some past favorites are: anything by Poe, Hawthorne, or Washington Irving, We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, The Halloween Tree or Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, and I love Stephen Fry’s narration of the COMPLETE Sherlock Holmes. Also try Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol (it’s a graphic novel and so good!), Ghostland by Colin Dickey (it’s nonficion–a historical, literary, and social look at ghost stories and how they evolve over time), The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert, and Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue (it’s classic fairytales retold with a feminist twist and the stories and structure of the book is SO GOOD).

  12. Amy S says:

    Some additional suggestions:
    The taking of K129: how the cia used Howard Hughes to steal a Russian sub by Josh dean
    Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson
    Rocket men: the daring odyssey of Apollo 8 by Robert Kurson
    Word by word: the secret life of dictionaries by kory stamper
    Damnation island: poor sick mad and criminal in 19th century New York by Stacy horn
    Get well soon: history’s worst plagues and the heroes who fought them by Jennifer Wright
    In harms way: the sinking of the uss Indianapolis and the extraordinary story of its survivors by Doug stanton

  13. Sarah says:

    I listened to this podcast on my way home from work tonight and actually screamed out loud when Anne described the new Kingsolver novel Unsheltered- I grew up in Vineland! I stopped at my local library and was able grab it off the shelf, and I can’t wait to get started!!

  14. Valerie says:

    Ashley’s hated book was “The Help”, since she viewed it as a white person writing poorly about black history (hope I am summing that up right). She mentioned there are other books that do this much better – I’m curious what they are. Ashley, Anne or readers, can you chime in? I’ve never read The Help but am critical about historical accuracy in my reading.

    Also, totally get the bug to read historical fiction set in New England in the fall – I can never seem to get the Salem Witch Trials out of my mind at this time of year and that bleeds over to my reading choices in the same way as Ashley mentioned!

    • Ashley says:

      I think the absolute best writer about black women’s experience is Toni Morrison–her books are almost all historical fiction that span the civil war up to the 1930s/40s. Thinking also of Zora Neale Hurston and Alice Walker, Maya Angelou. Jesmyn Ward is a more current author but I think her books have a more contemporary setting. Octavia Butler is a great science fiction writer but her book Kindred jumps (literally, as her main character time travels) from the 1970s to the 1840s.

      I just want to clarify that it’s not that I think white authors CAN’T write about black characters, I think they just have a higher responsibility to do it well and to really seriously consider their privilege and perspective when they do. And at the same time it’s really important to make sure white authors aren’t crowding out voices from people of color, ESPECIALLY when the books are about people of color and their experiences.

      Enjoy your Salem Witch Trials reading! It definitely hits me HARD this time of year, without fail!

  15. Kate says:

    Loved this episode and that photo above is priceless! My first thought was of course The Ghost Map, but on the speculative fiction side both Ashley and Brent might enjoy The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal, an alternate history novel about the space program. There’s a short story that introduces the main character on the author’s website. I also just read The Fifth Season by NK Jemison and *loved* it–a little bit geologic sci fi, a little bit magical fantasy. Hard to classify but so good!

  16. Karen Jeske says:

    Not for Ashley, but Brent might enjoy Diane Vaughan’s The Challenger Launch Decision which is a sociological look at how the decision came together to launch the Challenger. It’s a very interesting study of how organizations address problems and risks.

  17. Jess says:

    A few more for dad: The Invention that Changed the World by Robert Buderi, about the development of RADAR, and Blind Man’s Bluff: The untold story of Cold War submarine espionage by Christopher Drew.

  18. Julie says:

    Have either of you read On Inoculation? It is a beautifully written nonfiction book about the history of immunizations and she makes comparisons between immunology/virology and Bram Stoker’s Dracula and it is poetic and wonderful. It also deep dives into the science of vaccines, how misinformation was spread so rampantly, and why immunology is such a challenging thing to explain well. I think both of you would really enjoy it.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    What a great episode. I enjoyed hearing some readers from readers from Georgia since I live near Atlanta. Ashley, I know you are not a fan of books with “girl” in the title, but I think you moth might enjoy “Lab Girl” by Hope Jahren. It’s nonfiction, but Jahren is such a great writer it reads more like a novel. I think it’s the perfect blend of science and story telling to suit both of you.
    Also, just today I found out about a book that seems up your alley. I have not read it yet. It’s by Stephen L Carter, and it’s nonfiction (with a colon in the title naturally) “Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster” — doesn’t that sound intriguing? The author is doing a reading at the Atlanta History Center in November 13. Here’s the book description from their site, “Eunice Hunton Carter was black and a woman and a prosecutor, a graduate of Smith College and the granddaughter of slaves, as dazzlingly unlikely a combination as one could imagine in New York of the 1930s―and without the strategy she devised, Lucky Luciano, the most powerful Mafia boss in history, would never have been convicted. Moving and haunting, Invisible tells the true story of a woman who often found her path blocked by the social and political expectations of her time.

  20. Nancy says:

    What a fabulous episode! I couldn’t stop thinking how wonderful it must be to talk books with your father. Amy Stewart’s non-fiction kept popping up in my mind as you both were talking about what you like to read. These are small, fun, books, full of great lesser-known facts. A bit of lighter historical science.
    Wicked Plants: The Weed That Killed Lincoln’s Mother and Other Botanical Atrocities and Wicked Bugs: The Louse That Conquered Napoleon’s Army and Other Diabolical Insects.

  21. Nancy says:

    Oh gosh, just one more suggestion. The Poison Squad: One Chemist’s Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century by Deborah Blum.

  22. Mareike says:

    I think this book has not been mentioned yet:
    Measure of the Earth: The Enlightenment Expedition That Reshaped Our World by Larrie D. Ferreiro. A true story about the first pan-European expedition to south America to measure the circumfence of the earth by climbing on mountains in Chile and Peru and use triangulation for calculation. very impressive how some of these men devoted their entire life to this adventure.

  23. Sara Gentry says:

    This was a really fun episode for me. I’m a lit lover and a math nerd, so these suggestions will be great for my TBR list.

    The recommendations given in the comments here are already comprising a rather large list, but I’m going to throw one into the mix. I LOVED The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies by Jason Fagone. It’s the story of Elizabeth Smith Friedman and her work in the early years of modern cryptography. Married to William Friedman (credited as being the founder of the NSA), the two work together and separately to battle the mob in the 20s and then the Nazis in WWII.

    Though nonfiction, I found this book read like a novel (or rather 3 novels in one, since there are 3 main code-breaking eras in Elizabeth’s career). After reading it, my first thought was that they should make a TV series out of it. Happy reading!

  24. This was a fun episode. My father-in-law who was an aerospace engineer at one time would have loved it. I have only one book to recommend. We bought it on a recent visit to Los Alamos, New Mexico. Since you’ve already read TUXEDO PARK, you might like to read another of Jennet Conant’s books, 109 EAST PALACE. You may have already read it since I think she wrote it before TUXEDO PARK. Reading books with family members then discussing them is fun. Happy reading to you both.

  25. Gina says:

    Ashley, if you have time you should look up the song Rundown by Eric Peters. Inspired by Watership Down, it prompted me and my husband to read the book (We listened on Audible. Ralph Cosham. Such a good narrator!) Our kids listened as 8&10 year olds. Our whole family loves the book and the song warms my heart and makes me nod and smile, like…”somebody else gets it too.”

  26. Melissa W. says:

    I might use some of these for ideas for Christmas gifts for my family this coming Christmas. My mom read Hidden Figures and she really liked it.

    • Melissa W. says:

      Really recommend The Immortal Life; I read it a number of years ago and really quite enjoyed it. First heard about the book on Books on the Nightstand.

  27. Tina says:

    Anne – Thank you for Episode 155! I loved Dad and Ashley so much. Yesterday, after listening to the introduction, I had to pull to the side of the road to cry for a moment — their fun and loving banter made me miss my own dad so much! This afternoon, I was able to finish the episode. It was delightful! Like Ashley, I appreciate historical fiction and like Brent, I enjoy science. Perhaps, you may appreciate the Flavia de Luce Series by Alan Bradley. It’s historical fiction set in post war rural England with an eleven year old chemist/detective who uncovers a host of crimes right outside her laboratory window. LOVED THE PODCAST!!!! Ashley hug your dad extra tight!

  28. Barb says:

    Great episode…wonder if Brent and Ashley would enjoy Siddhartha Mukherjee. He writes so well and makes the science fascinating by surrounding it with a narrative. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer reminds me a bit of the books they liked that included an historical perspective. His next book The Gene: An Intimate History was more science than I usually tolerate, but was so glad to have read it. He weaves in the story of his own family genetics which pulls the reader along.

  29. Briana says:

    I don’t see Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook recommended and it’s another science book that I really liked – it’s about the first forensic pathologist in NYC, during Prohibition, and how he figured out how to solve poisoning cases. There’s also a PBS special by the same name that dramatizes the book.

    Mary Roach has some good science books, some better than others, but generally readable and entertaining.

    The Wild Trees by Richard Preston was an Anne recommendation many episodes ago – about the people who have climbed up to study the ecosystem in the tops of the redwoods and what they’ve found in those canopies. More about the climbers than the science, but maybe interesting?

  30. Linda Johansen says:

    What was the name of the book that was mentioned about the elements, and stories about each element? I think Ashley said she just read a little of it, but it sounds intriguing.

  31. RA says:

    Great episode! I LOVE science writing, so I’m just going to dump all of my favorites here for good measure. Happy buddy reading!

    Uncle Tungsten, by Oliver Sacks: a wonderful memoir about how the author grew up doing chemical experiments
    Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren: I assume you’ve read this memoir by a plant scientist? Ashley, I know that the “girl” in the title is problematic (eyeroll)
    The Poisoner’s Handbook, by Deborah Blum: the history of forensic science!
    The Emperor of All Maladies, by Siddhartha Mukherjee: this book about cancer is fascinating and VERY LONG (good for you, Brent?), and I loved that this science book won the Pulitzer! Pretty rare among lots of presidential biographies and the like.

    On the medical side, have you read anything by Atul Gawande? I especially recommend Being Mortal, as well as Better and The Checklist Manifesto. His writing in the Medical Annals column in The New Yorker is also excellent.

    Earlier this year, I read The Center Cannot Hold, a memoir by Elyn R. Saks, about her mental health journey with schizophrenia. It’s rough but so captivating, and it taught me a lot about the mental health care landscape.

    I also wonder if you would both like The Secret History of Wonder Woman, by Jill Lepore? This nonfiction account about the comic book talks about its BONKERS background, and the author reads the audio!

    And then, on the topic of the “girls” title thing, have you read this piece by Emily St. John Mandel on that phenomenon? ( So great and nerdy!

    • Lauren says:

      RA, I loved your WSIRN episode and was just now reading through the comments to see if anyone had recommended “Lab Girl” and “The Emperor of All Maladies.” Now that you have both on your list, I’m going to have to add all your other recommendations to my TBR list! Thanks!

      I’m also thinking that Brent and Ashley might enjoy “Do No Harm” by Henry Marsh. It’s a FABULOUS memoir by one of Britain’s top neurosurgeons. I’m looking forward to reading his new book, “Admissions”, also.

      • RA says:

        Thank you so much, Lauren! “Do No Harm” sounds GREAT. Based on that rec, I think you would really like “Uncle Tungsten”! RIP, Oliver Sacks.

  32. I’m so incredibly excited about this list — The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was my very first audiobook, and I distinctly remember adding an extra 30 miles to my drive home (no joke) so I could finish it. I also started laughing because I have a copy of The Making of the Atomic Bomb sitting next to my laptop, and that’s one that has only came up in conversation once … when I bought the book. I love science nonfiction but boy, it’s not an easy topic when someone asks what you’re reading and you get to say, “Well, it’s about the massive flu epidemic of 1918….”

    They’re not necessarily science-based (except when they are), but in the historical nonfiction category you might enjoy Erik Larson. He’s probably best known for Devil in the White City, but I really recommend Isaac’s Storm (about meteorology and the hurricane that destroyed Galveston in 1900) and Dead Wake (about the sinking of the Lusitania from both the English and German sides). I love the intertwined stories he tells, but mostly recommend them because they’re books my engineer dad and I have both read and enjoyed. 🙂

    Oh, and title aside (I’m with you on that one), definitely read The Radium Girls.

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