WSIRN Ep 189: Our favorite genre is chapter books

WSIRN Ep 189: Our favorite genre is chapter books

Today’s guests Brenna Sherrill & Ryan Pait describe themselves as platonic soulmates, book-loving best friends who grew up together, went to school together, read together (sometimes out loud!) and even live together.

I had the pleasure of meeting them both when I hosted a conversation with Celeste Ng in at the Louisville Free Public Library recently. It was such a great night, and you should know there’s over an HOUR of audio from my live, sold-out conversation with Celeste on our Patreon audio feed as of yesterday, so you can sign up for instant access!

Back to Brenna and Ryan — today we’re chatting about a truly magical college class, Ryan’s most embarrassing moment meeting a literary icon, the book Ann Patchett thinks EVERYONE should read, and of course I’m recommending three books I think they’ll enjoy reading together and discussing to death, because that’s their style.

Before we get to the episode, a little more about Patreon. Becoming a patron means LOADS of additional audio content, including weekly bonus episodes of One Great Book, monthly behind-the-scenes episodes, audio of certain live events, like my conversation with Celeste Ng, and now we can add FREE AUDIOBOOKS to that list! For a limited time we’ve partnered with to give all Hardback-tier supporters a free audiobook! Summer is made for audiobook listening, so this is the perfect time for you to become a new patron.

And now… let’s get to it!

What Should I Read Next #189: Our favorite genre is chapter books with Brenna Sherrill and Ryan Pait

You can find Brenna Sherrill and Ryan Pait on Instagram, @ryanpait and @brennasherrill. You can find Ryan’s writing at The Houstonian and the Chautauquan Daily.

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

Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links. More details here. If you’d like to support your local indie, check out And by all means, go grab one of these from your local library!

• author Chelsea Handler (try Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me)
• An American Marriage, by Tayari Jones
• The Harry Potter series, by J. K. Rowling
• Ragtime, by E.L. Doctorow
• Dracula, by Bram Stoker
White Teeth, by Zadie Smith
The Kiss Quotient, by Helen Hoang
• The Bride Test, by Helen Hoang
Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
Song of Solomon, by Toni Morrison
If Beale Street Could Talk, by James Baldwin
Mrs. Fletcher, by Tom Perrotta
Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
Persuasion, by Jane Austen
♥♥ A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
♥♥ The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
♥♥ The Collected Poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay, by Edna St. Vincent Millay
▵▵ The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides
• She Would be King, by Wayétu Moore
• author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (try Purple Hibiscus)
• Red at the Bone, by Jacqueline Woodson
• Brown Girl Dreaming, by Jacqueline Woodson
• Another Brooklyn, by Jacqueline Woodson
• Harbor Me, by Jacqueline Woodson
• Five-Carat Soul, by James McBride
• The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, by James McBride

What do YOU think Brenna and Ryan should read together next?

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14 comments | Comment


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  1. I’m a fellow “Marriage Plot” hater, too. I read it back in the day when I kept every book I read (I’ve since become a minimalist and only hold onto books that I LOVED). I hated that book so much that I sold it back at a used bookstore because I did not want it on my shelf. I couldn’t stand that characters and all their wealthy white people problems! Makes me feel better to know that 2 people with advanced degrees in English literature felt the same way!

    • That’s hilarious, Lisa. I would also say I’m basically a book minimalist (though I do have a big stash of books I’ve read for school that I hope can live in an office some day) and regularly sell books at Half Priced Books. I can assure you that The Marriage Plot went straight into my selling bag after I finished it.

      • Ryan Pait says:

        Lisa—glad we’re not the only ones! If you’re doubtful of Eugenides after reading The Marriage Plot, definitely give Middlesex a try! It’s basically the polar opposite of The Marriage Plot in terms of how it makes you feel.

        Brenna and I definitely diverge on book minimalism and maximalism (I’m definitely a maximalist!), but there is nothing more satisfying than taking a big bag of books I didn’t quite love to Half Price Books and knowing that they’ll all end up with someone who ~will~ love them eventually!

  2. Emily C says:

    I have two recommendations for books I read this year that were character driven, fun and a little quirky. But both were reaching deeper than they first seemed. The first is My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. It takes place in Nigeria, and is a black comedy on the surface (the younger sister, Ayoola, does keep killing her boyfriends) but really it’s a study in family and identity.
    The other book is one I thought of immediately when Brenna named The Kiss Quotient as one of her favorite reads. Check out Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. The half-Latino son of the American president first feuds with, and then falls in love with, the Prince of England. It’s a very sweet contemporary romance, and very funny but also had something deeper to say about identity and how to be true to yourself in the current world we are living in. I was initially turned off by the “royal romance” angle but the LGBT spin on it made for a much richer story than it might seem on the surface.

    • Thanks for the recommendations, Emily! I actually have Red, White and Royal Blue on hold at the library now and should have it within a few weeks! 🙂 I like your idea of it being a richer story than you might have expected–that’s really all I’m looking for in a fun romance.

    • Ryan Pait says:

      Emily—I listened to My Sister The Serial Killer last year on audio and it’s so much fun! Audio definitely made it even more fun because it felt so confessional and hush hush!

  3. Sue S says:

    Hi Brenna & Ryan,
    What a treat to be part of your book salon! You both brought such great perspectives to what you like & don’t like.
    My rec’s –
    Fiction: Anna Burns “Milkman” This just won the Orwell Political fiction award, last year;s Man Booker. Northern Ireland. Experiments with form and narrative in a fascinating immersing way. (Not like Saunders “Bardo” which I agree with you on Brian)
    Since you mentioned poetry, have you read these contemporary poets?
    Terrance Hayes American “Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin”
    Brenda Shaughnessy “Our Andromeda”
    AE Stallings “Hapax”

  4. I really loved this episode! Nothing like bookish best friends to get the heart strings thrumming! 🙂

    So, I have a tip for Lincoln in the Bardo. I didn’t love it at first – but decided to read the audio and physical book in tandem and it was a TRANSCENDENT experience. But, in fairness, I’m a die hard fan of David Sedaris, so pretty much anything he reads is transcendent (and hilarious) to me. See if that might help you if you decide to give it another try.

    My recommendation for a buddy read would be Pavilion of Women by Pearl S. Buck. This book is definitely character driven and there are are layers upon layers of themes and symbolism. It would be fascinating to discuss with a friend!

  5. Rhonda Habel says:

    This may have been my favorite episode. I would like to have a Ryan to read with. What a great friendship!
    Also, I have Middlesex sitting on my nightstand with a library due date coming up soon.

  6. Such a great episode. If they are fans of Edna St. Vincent Millay, they should read FALLEN BEAUTY by Erika Robuck. It’s historical fiction but based on Edna’s life and I found it fascinating. I’ll link to my post about it from a few years ago. Robuck is super talented. Happy Reading!

  7. Jessie Weaver says:

    Loved this one! Fist bump for fellow haters of The Marriage Plot. That was going to be my hate book when I was on the Podcast! It’s one of the few books I’ve thrown across the room when I finished it. The beginning fools you into thinking it might have some good to it.

    If y’all haven’t read I Capture the Castle, it has a little bit of that lovely from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

  8. Sarah Irving says:

    Ryan – I am spending the summer at CHQ! What fun you must have had spending time working for the CHQ Daily. Smith Memorial is my hands down favorite library.

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