WSIRN Ep 166: Just don’t call it a book club

Readers, I met today’s guest on an unconventional book tour stop for I’d Rather Be Reading this fall, in a small town, where I met some very special bookish people — and now it’s one of my favorite memories of my fall tour. My host was Tiffany Patterson, a Florida reader who has created a new kind of literary get-together that is convincing her friends to give books a shot, even if they didn’t consider themselves “readers” before Tiffany got a hold of them. If you steal her idea and start your own Tiffany-inspired group in the new year, I can’t blame you a bit— and I’m cheering you on.Today Tiffany is ready to break down her own reading barriers… she asked me to help ease her fiction-loving soul into NONfiction. I’m happy to oblige, although I’ll tell you now, the recommendation I love the most for her is a novel. You’ll hear all about it, so let’s get to the episode!


What Should I Read Next #166: Just don't call it a book club with Tiffany Patterson

You can follow Tiffany Patterson’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!

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
My Sister’s Keeper, by Jodi Picoult (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
The Trespasser, by Tana French (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
The Likeness, by Tana French (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
A Million Little Pieces, by James Frey (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
Meet Me At The Museum, by Anne Youngson (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
Salt to the Sea, by Ruta Sepetys (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by Laura Hillenbrand (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise, by Ruth Reichl (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, by Susannah Cahalan (AmazonBarnes and Noble)

Also mentioned:

• The Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance
Barrel of Books and Games in Mount Dora, FL
Harry Potter and the Sacred Text podcast
The Tollund Man


What books would YOU recommend to someone who wants to “feel smarter”? Tell us in the comments!


Leave A Comment
  1. Gayla Mazzuca says:

    Just started listening to this episode and heard Anne talk about a new class she is doing for six weeks starting mid-January. Do tell us more about that Anne as I don’t see anything in the MMD book club yet.

  2. Katy says:

    This was a great episode. Thanks! You may enjoy The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan as a non-fiction that reads like a novel. It follows several women’s lives working in Oak Ridge, TN during WWII. The author has done a lot of research and interviews. It was my first entrance to reading non-fiction. I really enjoyed it.

    Another epistulary novel I just finished is Last Christmas in Paris (I think I heard of it or saw it through MMD or WSIRN). It’s set in England and France during WWI and follows characters through those years beginning with one of them in 1967 looking back at their lives. Similar to Guernsey in that it has two authors but these two wrote the whole book together back and forth exchanging emails and editing shared documents. My version from the library had extras in the back about the writing process.

    I really enjoyed Garlic and Saphires! I put Meet Me at the Museum and Salt to the Sea on my TBR.

  3. Brigette says:

    I love books made up of letters or emails! Besides the ones already mentioned, I recommend:
    -84 Charing Cross Road, Helene Hanff
    -Attachments, Rainbow Rowell
    -Dear Mr. Knightly
    -Daddy Longlegs

    • Jill W. says:

      I was just popping on to say that anyone who loves books and letters must read 84 Charing Cross Road- its short and delightful. I also thoroughly enjoyed The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street which picks up where 84 Charing Cross left off. Helene Hanff’s voice is unforgettable.

      For nonfiction, I love everything by David Sedaris. Also, Katherine Graham’s autobiography is fascinating.

    • Heather Love says:

      I forgot about daddy long legs. I’m going to need to reread this one. I loved salt of the sea and can’t wait to read meet me at the library

  4. Kim says:

    For non-fiction that teaches history and let’s you get immersed in someone’s story like a novel try: The Zoo Keepers Wife by Diane Ackerman

  5. Kelly says:

    I love the idea of the Literary Society (LitSoc). I have been thinking this idea for some time. I don’t join Book Clubs, because I don’t want to read the chosen books. I’d rather have a group of book lovers together to talk about what we currently are reading, what they love about it, what they don’t, characters they love – or don’t, etc. After I graduate from my degree, I look forward to starting a LitSoc. Thanks for sharing about a current LitSoc to inspire listeners like me.

  6. Teri says:

    As a knitter and reader, I would love to know the name of the author of the ebooks mentioned at the beginning of this podcast episode. TIA!

  7. Marla Jensen says:

    I want to be in a Literary Society! So many good books in this episode! I’m not a big non fiction reader and ones I have really enjoyed are Here if you need me by Kate Braestrup, The Bad-ass librarians of Timbuktu by Joshua Hammer, Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann, and The Girl Who Smiled Beads by Clemantine Wamariya

  8. Lucinda says:

    Tiffany, Thanks for the fun episode. It would be fun to belong to your literary society. I feel the same way you do about book clubs. Also, I love that you allow for an audio-visual time during your literary society meetings. I often watch a movie or TV show based on a book, then read the book. I’ve found some fantastic authors, and classic books that way.

    I have two nonfiction suggestions for you. The first is, The Dressmaker of Khair Khana. It takes place when the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in the ’90s. It’s by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon and centers around one family made up mostly of girls. This makes life very difficult for them because women were not allowed to be out on the streets alone. The sisters were all in school or college when the Taliban arrives, except for the oldest who was a teacher. When the men in their family have to flee or be conscripted, the five young sister must find a way to survive. They become dressmakers and teach other young women in their neighborhood to do the same. Fortunately, their younger brother, I believe he was 13 when the book begins, is left behind to travel with them for shopping, etc. I couldn’t put the book down even on the days when I was sure the young seamstresses were going to get caught and tortured. It’s one I recommend a lot.

    The other book that reads like a novel and has a Harry Potter connection is, Juniper: The girl who was born too soon. by Kelley and Thomas French. They took a long time to conceive Juniper, and then she was born way too soon. Out of hope and desperation, Thomas reads the Harry Potter books to Juniper as she clings to life. When J. K. Rowling heard about Juniper, she sent her the set of books and inscribed them with, “To the girl who lived.” When I read that I knew I had to read the book. It’s a nail-biting, triumphant slice of life. I hope you enjoy my suggestions.

  9. Carey Hall says:

    If you’re looking for a gateway into nonFiction novels try out “We Were the Lucky Ones” by Georgia Hunter. It started as a true story based on her incredible family’s journey out of WW2 Poland. But because she was unable to gather all the data needed, she wrote it as fiction but it has so much history and you get so caught up in all the characters. I was so invested in the characters that I cried when they were happy/sad/celebrating. It was amazing and so well-written!

      • Carey Hall says:

        Yes!! Hearing her in the podcast describing the journey of how her book came to be is the reason I put all my others aside and bought this one to read next. I read it slower than I usually read because I wanted to savor it. I also cried like a baby. Such a great read. She did an amazing job.

  10. I love Guernsey and epistolary, too! Have you read The Last Christmas in Paris? My fav literary quote is from Guernsey: “Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones”!

    Two more Narrative NF that I’ve enjoyed are The Warmth of Other Suns and Killers of the Flower Moon.

  11. Diane says:

    A NF epistolary book you might enjoy: 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. A NF book about the 1936 US Olympic rowing team: The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. Both read like a novel and both give a glimpse into a persons life. You may feel smarter after reading ‘The Boys’ as it covers the political and economic environment of the 1930s as well as rowing. I didn’t think I would care about rowing but this book was exciting- even though we all know how things turn out! I will be adding Seabiscuit to my TBR list perhaps as the ‘backlist’ book for the 2019 reading challenge as I also enjoyed Unbroken. Great podcast today!

    • Lauren D. says:

      I agree! I thought Tiffany might like this one, too. Jahren is a fabulous storyteller who helped me understand trees just a bit and come love trees quite a lot!

  12. Terri says:

    The non-fiction book that **I** will be putting in everybody’s hands is “The Library Book” by Susan Orlean. A great read for anyone who loves books, libraries, history, art, or people. Well researched and beautifully written. Full of incredible stories. You might want to track down some of Orlean’s captivating podcast interviews for just a taste of how interesting this book is.

    • Michelle says:

      One hundred percent agree, Terri! I absolutely fell in love with this love letter reading and books. But moreso libraries and the culture and history that is both common and unique to each in their own communities. I was so immersed, something that rarely happens for me in nonfiction.

  13. wendy says:

    Since Tiffany mentioned that she loved Unbroken, I recommend The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown. It is non-fiction that reads like a novel and had me holding my breath as I was anxious to learn what would happen next.

  14. Jan Thullen says:

    Agree that The Library Book and Boys in the Boat would be great nonfiction choices. Bad Blood, about a startup that claimed to be able to produce 70+ blood tests results from a drop of blood using a new machine, reads like a thriller. You could find yourself shouting at execs throwing millions at the company: “No! Watch out!.” Into the Raging Sea, about a container ship lost in a hurricane in 2015, is also gripping nonfiction.

  15. Cindylou says:

    I have not heard of a Literary Society but I love the concept. I belong to a book group and the books that have been selected recently have been mediocre. I’ll see if I can find one near me.

    I have read about half of the books mentioned above. I loved The Boys in the Boat. Now I have some new titles to check out!

  16. Ariel says:

    I loved this episode. The serial killer e-book about the knitter that Tiffany talked about sounds awesome. Are you able to share the name? Would love to read it!

  17. Kateli says:

    For those of you wondering about the knitting mysteries, I found this on her Instagram: “Hilda Hopkins, Murder, She Knit” (Hilda Hopkins, Machine Knitting Serial Killer Book 1) by Vivienne Fagan. I hope this helps.

  18. Janet K says:

    I also would say The Boys in the Boat would is a terrific read. I know Salt to the Sea was mentioned in the episode, which I loved…. but I also loved the authors other book Between Shades of Gray.

  19. Shane says:

    I think she would love Evicted by Matthew Desmond. It’s nonfiction, a converted dissertation in fact, but completely engrossing. It’s not rainbows and unicorns but a really important policy issue.

  20. Julie says:

    Another epistolary to seek out that I haven’t seen mentioned here yet is Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. It’s set in a fictional town that has a statue of the author of the sentence that uses all the letters of the alphabet: “The quick brown fox. . .” The statue includes that sentence, but over time, as its letters fall off, those alphabet letters are banned from use–and thus, the words that use them and the letters that comprise the book’s narrative. So, it is really a story about censorship. It’s a quick read with a charming heroine (also charmingly named!) to root for.

  21. Lauren D. says:

    What a great episode! Thanks, Tiffany and Anne. While listening, I was thinking that Tiffany might really enjoy “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” by Katherine Boo. This was a book that I was on the edge of my seat for and that I could hardly believe was indeed non-fiction. I believe it is “creative non-fiction” at its best.

  22. Jamie says:

    Such a fun episode! Some non-fiction books that I enjoyed (which could also fall in the “slice of life” category) are Zeitoun by Dave Eggers; Nickle & Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich; True Story: Murder, Memoir, and Mea Culpa by Micheal Finkel; The Reading Promise by Alice Ozman. A short but fascinating book that touches on themes of mental illness is The Woman in the Strongbox by Maureen O’Hagan. It’s part of an e-book series on Amazon Kindle called The Missing Collection. It’s free for Prime members (yay!) and you can probably read it in a few hours.

  23. Diane says:

    I would like to suggest “THE STRANGER IN THE WOODS-The Extraordinary Story Of The Last True Hermit.”
    I think you will like this true story and when finished, you can go online and read much more about this person. Awesome‼️

  24. Abigail M. says:

    Great episode. Ruth Reichl’s two earlier books (Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples) are also both very good. They’re more straight memoirs.

  25. Ellen W says:

    I also hated 100 Years of Solitude – everyone had the same name and if I remember correctly the amount of sexual assault or incest made me quit it about a third of the way in. It was for a book club and I think the only time I didn’t finish a book because I could not stand it. Also one of the first times as an adult I realized I don’t have to finish books I don’t like.

  26. Amy Cloud says:

    After reading “Unbroken,” I was inspired to look for more readable non-fiction about WWII in the Pacific, and I found ” The Aviators: Eddie Rickenbacker, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, and the Epic Age of Flight” by Winston Groom — yes, the author of “Forrest Gump”! When I saw some reviews mention that it wasn’t scholarly enough, I knew that meant it was readable 😉
    And definitely made me feel smart–I happened to visit the WWI Museum in Kansas City after reading the book and enjoyed seeing examples of the planes mentioned in the book (which covers a time period longer than just WWII).
    Also, I’ve never read “Dead Wake” by Erik Larson, but I always recommend “The Devil in the White City” to folks looking for gripping non-fiction.

  27. Lydia says:

    Hi Tiffany, I was thinking you might like
    Becoming Mrs Lewis the improbably love story between C S lewis and Joy Davidman. I think it touches on a few of your favourite reading things. It is not a novel, but it is a novel about a real relationship between real people. It isn’t an epistolary novel (whoa, had to look up how to spell that word), but it is a relationship that first began in letters written between them. It is beautiful and sad and lovely just a lovely lovely love story between perhaps two unlikely people. I haven’t read Shadowlands, which is another book on the same people, but I have seen the movie and that is also wonderful.

  28. Dorothy says:

    For non-fiction that is compelling and reads like a story I would recommend Bill Bryson A Walk in the Woods and Jon Krakauer Into the Wild. Or any of their other books if the subject interests you more! I find myself similarly unable to get into non fiction and these are two authors I think do a great job with making it readable!

  29. Dani Nicholson says:

    Non-fiction favorite that I’m constantly recommending: “The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration” by Isabel Wilkerson. This is a book that continually is mentioned at my book club by non-non-fiction readers (2+ years later) as reading as though it was fiction while also educating our largely white, female, middle class group.

    If you haven’t read “The Hiding Place” by Corrie Ten Boom, put that on your list!

  30. Julie says:

    Wonderful episode and great recommendations that I just put on my to read list.
    I have noticed others have recommended this book, and I will join them. 84 Charring Cross Road by Helene Hanff is delightful.

  31. Jenny P says:

    I’m always intrigued by how different readers respond to the same book. I’m one who has read several Jodi Picoult books and set them aside because the twist just BUGS me. I liked the movie for My Sister’s Keeper (with Abigail Breslin) better than the book and I think that’s the ONLY time I’ve been able to say that. But it’s been a decade… I wonder if I’d feel the same way now.

  32. Anne says:

    As I listened, I thought Tiffany would enjoy “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” This non-fiction read like a novel for me. Plus the medical history was just fascinating.

  33. Marie says:

    Great episode and love the idea of Tiffany’s group! Had to share another nonfiction pick that reads like a novel – “The Concubine’s Children” about a Chinese family divided between China and the US. The adult daughter tracks down the family history and reunites with the other half of her family. Fascinating history of life in West Coast Chinatown as well as how Chinese politics affected the side of the family who stayed. I would also second Anne’s recommendation of “Seabiscuit” – I am not a horse person at all, but I couldn’t put it down and it’s one of my favorites.

  34. I was stuck in a reading rut when I listened to this podcast. When I heard you describe, Meet Me at the Museum, I knew you had saved me. I loved this book. I finished it over a week ago and I am still thinking about it. Keep those great suggestions coming!

  35. Lisa Stepsis says:

    This is my first comment, but I heard myself in this episode right down to the Harry Potter podcast. Here are two nonfiction books that I loved and wanted to pass along: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot and Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. Happy reading!

  36. Katie F says:

    For all the Guernsey lovers out there, if you’ve never listened to it on audio do yourselves a favor and have a listen! It’s so fun to hear all of the characters different voices!

    Also, I love A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I’ve been reading it once a year since my grandma gave it to me when I was 11 or 12…so about 20 years now!

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