WSIRN Ep 186: Finding the book that feels like it was written just for you

Today, author Lamar Giles is joining me to chat about his two great literary loves: children’s books, and… horror novelist Stephen King? If you don’t think those things go together, Lamar is prepared to talk you into changing your mind, and maybe about more than just that.

Get ready for a great chat about transcending stereotypes, how books can build up the self-worth of young readers, great novels where the setting becomes a character in its own right, and so so much more.

Let’s get to it!

What Should I Read Next #186: Finding the book that feels like it was written just for you with Lamar Giles
Photo: Hong Kong International Literature Festival

You can discover more about Lamar Giles’s books at, follow him on Twitter @LRGiles, and of course, check out that surprise Wikipedia page

Click here to read the full episode transcription (opens in a new tab).

Books mentioned in this episode:

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• Spin, by Lamar Giles
• The Last Last-Day-of-Summer, by Lamar Giles
• Fallen Angels, by Walter Dean Myers
• author Stephen Barns (try Twelve Days)
• author Tananarive Due (try The Good House)
• author Eric Jerome Dickey (try Bad Men and Wicked Women)
• The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
• Daisy Jones & the Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
• A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan
• House of Leaves, by Mark Z. Danielewski
• Experimental Film, by Gemma Files
• The Terror, by Dan Simmons
• 11/22/63, by Stephen King
• On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
• The Stand, by Stephen King
IT, by Stephen King
• The Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo
Horton Hears a Who, by Dr. Seuss
• Different Seasons, by Stephen King
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Alsberg
The Catcher in the Rye, by J. D. Salinger
• WitSec: Inside the Federal Witness Protection Program, by Pete Earley
• Fake ID, by Lamar Giles
• Jabari Jumps, by Gaia Cornwall
• Literally Disturbed #1: Tales to Keep You Up at Night, by Ben Winters
• Underground Airlines, by Ben Winters
• Golden State, by Ben Winters
• How it Went Down, by Kekla Magoon
• The Season of Styx Malone, by Kekla Magoon
• Cilla Lee Jenkins: Future Author Extraordinaire, by Susan Tan

Also mentioned:
• Lamar’s Wikipedia page
• We Need Diverse Books
• WSIRN Ep 176: Books in the freezer, & other horror stories w/Mallory O’Meara

What do YOU think Lamar should read next?


Leave A Comment
  1. Susan in TX says:

    I LOVED this episode! So much fun. Thanks, Anne, for continuing to provide a good variety in the What Should I Read Next episodes.

  2. Megan Nashel says:

    This episode was so great! So many good books discussed. I can’t wait to start on Lamar’s books! Fake ID is now on hold for me at the library. Anne, I love when you talk with authors about their own favorites. Funny you mentioned the episode with Mallory O’Meara, I just finished her book after hearing that one, and it was fascinating, loved it!

  3. Corinne says:

    This was one of my absolute favorite episodes of WSIRN. My writing teacher in middle school used Harris Burdick for creative writing prompts, such a fun memory. Thanks, Lamar. 🙂

  4. Brenda says:

    I loved his story about not getting a toy, but always getting a book if they asked mom. I was that mom and my kids knew it! I also loved Scholastic Book forms and would pour over them, probably ordering more for me than for the kids. Love the podcast, but not what it adds to my TBR list. Thanks for all the great content!

  5. Angelique says:

    Great episode! Lamar mentioned being interested in books about musicians, and then mentioned scary books and I immediately thought of Wylding Hall by Elizabeth Hand. I wonder if he’s read it already? I enjoyed it a lot, and I think I may be due for a reread soon!

  6. This was a great episode and yes i miss the Friday podcast but good to know it will be back. I like that the first book your guest mentioned was a dr. Seuss book that made me laugh so much. I actually will go to the library and wander around in the kid lit section and pull out some pictures books that look interesting. I still read with my 15 year but he not much for pigeon rides the bus or good night moon. I did recently see a good night ipad and laugh so hard i had to flip through it. I also a big fan of Stephen king grew up reading all his novels mostly cause i knew my mom cringed when she saw me reading them and some of the stories get pretty gruesome but it opened a whole new world of reading for me. My favorite is the gunslinger series and totally loved the movie they did recently. I read Stephen king tell the cows come home but it really hard for me to watch one of his movies. My son loved it but I yet to watch it the book is built so creepily in my head i scared the movies will ruin what i dreamed up in my head. Thanks for another wonderful show.

  7. Emily C says:

    This was a great episode! Lamar’s love of scary stories as a kid reminded me of the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series that were incredibly popular in the early 90s when I was in middle school. The illustrations alone are the stuff of nightmares. I would also recommend Clive Barker’s The Thief of Always for a throwback middle grade creepy-but-not-too-scary pick.
    Thanks also for the link to #WeNeedDiverseBooks, and the thoughtful discussion of windows vs mirrors, which I’m going to bring up for discussion with my kids when we talk about books we love and why.
    School vacation starts tomorrow here and I’m so happy to have some great summer reading picks for my kids. I just put The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, the Cilla Lee books, and Lamar’s The Last Last-Day-of-Summer on hold at our library for pick up!

  8. Marion says:

    This was one of my favorite episodes I have listened too over the years. I loved Lamar’s enthusiasm about reading and the need for diverse voices in fiction. As a fellow African-American author, I can relate to the same need for bringing characters from different backgrounds to light in my fiction. Thank you Anne for having diversity in your podcast episodes and showing the wide spectrum of reading across genres. Like Lamar, I read widely. Mostly in fantasy, science-fiction, mystery, and literary fiction. I will admit that I don’t read a lot of horror or childrens/YA fiction. But, I have read Bag of Bones by Stephen King and The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I enjoyed both books. I’m going to check out Lamar’s novels and hopefully expand my reading just a little bit wider. I do have a recommendation for Lamar. The Summer of Night by Dan Simmons is my recommendation. This book was recommended to me awhile back and is considered one of the best horror novels written since 1990. Also, I was told that it had a Stranger Things feel to it. I love Stranger Things and I thought I would try the Simmons novel. Great podcast.

  9. Keren says:

    I loved everything about this episode! My parents were also of the ‘forget toys, but we will always buy you a book’ mindset. And so good to know I wasn’t the only 11 year old out there who devoured “It” in a shockingly short time.
    I’ve adored Stephen King since my childhood and will also defend his writing to the ends of the earth! Though re-reading his books as an adult, I can’t believe I was allowed to read some of them at such a young age. But glad I was able to get away with it 🙂

  10. Marie says:

    Really loved hearing Lamar – great that he champions diversity in books and also love his quirky reading taste. I have two off-beat children’s book recommendations from the past that I think would be in his wheelhouse- both by writers more widely known for adult cartoons. One is a classic (from my childhood) – “Sylvester and the Magic Pebble”- Lamar might know about it, but I thought of him because I realized now that while I loved it as a kid but it’s also fairly dark in addition to being funny. A boy donkey is turned into a rock and can’t do anything about it with life going on around him (and his parents even picnicking on him) until he is turned back again.

    The other book is less well-known – “Climbing the Daddy Mountain” by Jules Feiffer. We discovered it at the library and it was much beloved by my daughter to the point that we had to stop bringing it home because it encouraged behavior that my husband found trying in the preschool years. It’s told from a little girl’s point of view as she spelunks up her daddy’s body part by part, like a mountain climber. Hilarious and surreal – it ends with the little girl triumphant on top of Daddy.

    I bet Lamar is going to write a really great picture book… and now I am eager to check out his YA titles.

  11. Derby Jones says:

    I really enjoyed this episode. I also enjoy Stephen King. When I was first living alone in a Boston studio apartment, my mother sent me a copy of Salem’s Lot to read while I was sick with a cold. It was days before I was able to sleep with the lights off. After that incident, my brother used to screen them for me and tell me if they were too disturbing. Nevertheless, Anne, I would recommend The Girl who loved Tom Gordon for a non-horror fan. It is a short novel about a nine year old girl who strays off the path when she and her family are walking the Appalachian Trail. I won’t give anything away, but it is a great story.

  12. Rhonda says:

    I think Lamar would like the recent books from Peter Clines. 14, the Fold, and Paradox Bound. Sort of mysteries, but with a horror flavor. Not like a whodunnit, but more like a WTF?

  13. Grace says:

    I loved this episode! Lamar’s comment about needing books that are windows and mirrors for all readers really resonated with me and, as a mom with a toddler, really spurs on my desire to find more books with diverse characters. I’m going to go check out we need diverse books right now!
    (Btw, the link for this episode’s podcast notes led me to episode 184 instead.)

  14. Laura says:

    I loved this episode!! Lamar’s loves and ‘not for me!’ books had me nodding me head in agreement. I know this is coming in a bit late but wanted to make a book suggestion for him – Paul Tremblay’s A Head Full of Ghosts is a horror story about a family that allows a TV film crew into their home to film the exorcism of their 14 year old daughter. Stephen King read it and said it scared the heck out of him. Great episode, Anne! and I look forward to reading some of Lamar’s work – I have Fake ID on hold at the library.

  15. Lauren D. says:

    I loved this episode so much! Lamar, “yes!” to “The Mysteries of Harris Burdock.” A friend introduced this to me in high school. We’d go hang out at the local bookstore (in Virginia!)- and in the children’s section to boot! I’m still in love with picture books 20 years later. And I also completely agree with your take on “Catcher in the Rye.” What a waste of good trees… Looking forward to picking up some of your own titles.

  16. Diana says:

    Long time listener and Patreon supporter, first time commenter. This episode was especially important thanks to you both for shining a light on the need for representing the broadest range folks often. So appreciated Lamar’s story. Now, I have a suggestion for him (and anyone who just doesn’t “get” Catcher in the Rye): King Dork by Frank Portman. This YA novel is narrated by a Tom, a high school sophomore, who can’t understand why every adult who wants to “relate” shoves a copy of Catcher in the Rye at him like a key to all teen frustration. Then he stumbles on his dead father’s copy and believes it’s annotations can answer the mystery behind his dad’s death, meanwhile he and his best friend spend their days making up awesome band names and trying to avoid the notice of aggressive students (at one point he observed that for all their faults, no one was ever beat up by a theater kid). Laugh out loud funny and written by a legit punk rocker (fronted the Mr. T Experience in the 1980’s), I cannot recommend this book too highly and champion it every chance I get!

  17. Becca says:

    I found this episode so enjoyable. Thanks for a great conversation. You might have convinced me to try a Stephen King book. 🙂

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