WSIRN Ep 191: When a great book wrecks your reading life

Readers, have you ever finished a GREAT book, then realized it left behind a hole no other book will ever be able to fill?

Today’s guest is Andy Serrato, a reader who fell into the arms of a mega-popular series with a welcoming fandom and enough pages to smother yourself in… and ever since, she’s struggled to break her obsession and pick up new books in different genres.

Now, I’m all here for knowing what you love and reveling in it, but Andy truly wants to expand her reading life… so I’m doing my best to get to the core of what delights her about this series, and open a portal to other reading worlds that will be just as satisfying in new and exciting ways. 

Let’s get to it!

What Should I Read Next #191: When a great book wrecks your reading life with Andy Serrato

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

Books mentioned in this episode:

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♥ The Outlander series, by Diana Gaboldon 
♥ The Red Queen series, by Victoria Aveyard
Every Day, by David Levithan
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë 
• The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
• The Song of Ice and Fire series, by George R. R. Martin
• The Into the Wilderness series, by Sara Donati
• The Passenger series, by Alexandra Bracken
• The Cormoran Strike series, by Robert Galbraith

What do YOU think Andy should read next?
Has a book series ever totally sidetracked your reading life?


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  1. LizC says:

    I’m not an Outlander reader, but I suspect that Andy might also enjoy Deborah Harkness’s A Discovery of Witches series – great world building, lots of historical details (Harkness is a history professor at USC) and some time traveling, fast-paced storytelling and engaging characters. I think I’ve read the first book at least once a year since 2012, it’s become a total comfort read for me!

  2. Carynne says:

    I am an Outlander fan and was also going to recommend Discovery of Witches! It is a different setting but also features a strong female character (with a scientist bent), immersive historical details, and an intense romance.

    Another series with a strong female scientist lead and historical romance elements is the Veronica Speedwell mysteries by Deanna Raybourn — the first one is A Curious Beginning.

    And for another atmospheric British Isles series, I just started Poldark by Winston Graham (the series that the BBC show is based on) and am really enjoying it! Slower and different in tone than Outlander but has a similar setting (18th C. Cornwall) and shares some themes about justice, strong independent leads, etc.

    • Mary Ellen Gordon says:

      I third the Discovery of Witches recommendation. It has that same compulsive quality as Outlander. I saw the TV series of the first book and immediately had to go and read the other two. And as soon as I thought of it listening to this podcast, I went to check when the next in that series is coming out, and was frustrated to see that there’s still no news on that!

    • Jane B says:

      Yes to the Poldark series. I’ve read all of them (11 or 12) and they are compelling and very cinematic – alternating the dramatic action with little comedy bits (Prudie! Jud!)

  3. Kate Myers says:

    Your comment on books “a little too long and a little too Russian” got me – My book I couldn’t get over for months last year was Anna K. Still haven’t read its equal in the last year. I may never. Isn’t it good to have books that are galaxies of their own?

  4. Lucinda says:

    Andy and Anne, I loved this episode. I know, I say that every time. Andy, I’m going to read The Fiery Cross this year too. I love the series too, but I find I need to take breaks in between because they are so dense and take the reader on a deep emotional ride.

    I’m not a book wizard like Anne, but I have a few suggestions based on your interview. I’ve only read one Octavia Butler book, The Parable of the Sower. It’s part of a sci-fi, dystopian series. I nearly put it down because it’s quite dark, but I’m glad I finished it because it ends on a hopeful note. And I’ve only read one Ursula Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness, but I plan to read more. This is a sci-fi book. And ambassador from a federation of planets goes on a first contact mission to a planet the federation hopes will join them. He makes friends with one official who then must protect him from assassination. I got so wrapped up in the characters from vastly different cultures and the way Le Guin describes the landscape. I felt like I was there on the wintery planet. I loved the way she developed the deep friendship between the two main characters.

    I’m also going to suggest the historical series by Octavia Randolph, the first book is The Circle of Ceridwen, who is the woman protagonist. It takes place in the late 800s, early 900s in England after the Danes have invaded and taken over the Northern part of the island. This series hooked me not only with the characters, but by the details of Medieval life, and the history of England before it became one country. I think there are six or seven books in the series. We’re waiting for the next book.

    And finally, I’m going to recommend The Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. There are 21 books in the series, but they are shorter than the Outlander books. They take place in England in the 12th century. Cadfael is an ex crusader turned Benedictine Monk who is the herbalist at his Abbey, but also best friend of the much younger Sheriff of Shropshire. Together they solve crimes. But the series is so much more than that. Each book gives historical information about the civil war between King Stephen and his cousin the Empress Maud. It’s also a fantastic study of human nature. I read the entire series at the end of last year, and am reading my favorites again this summer. I gave you a long list, but I hope you consider reading some of them. Whatever you choose, I’ll echo Anne and say, happy reading!

  5. Davina says:

    As a fellow Sassenach….Try out any book by Kate Morton….start with The Distant Hours or The House at Riverton. xo

  6. Ashley says:

    I’m wondering about Susanna Kearsley books. I read The Winter Sea and it sounds like it has similar themes to Outlander. It has historical romance that parallels one in present day an a small element of fantasy. Supposedly her other books are similar in themes so there would be a lot to check out.

    Also, I’ve heard good things about Ken Follett’s books as being good historical fiction.

  7. Deb says:

    First book I thought of was The Lost Queen by Signe Pike. Reminds me of a mix of Outlander and The Mists of Avolon. The narrator for the audio book is excellent. I loved this book and the next one comes out summer 2020. I also recommend a really fun, light sci-fi called The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. Very character driven and an easy read, perfect for summer.

  8. Keren F. says:

    So I’m not an Outlander reader, but if you like time travel and history and pretty fast-paced stories, I’d recommend any of the time-traveling historian books by Connie Willis. They are set in the near future where time travel has been discovered, but only historians utilize it to blend in and study the past. Each book has a different feel/theme, are set at various points in British history, and I absolutely adore them.
    The Doomsday Book (Medieval)
    To Say Nothing of the Dog (Victorian)
    Blackout/All Clear (WWII)
    I’ve listed them in order, but you don’t have to read them that way – it’s not a series so much as same universe (and some characters). But Blackout/All Clear are a duology and must be read together in order or nothing will make sense. 🙂

    • Libby says:

      Seconding Blackout and All Clear! I LOVED these books, and I think the time period difference will be enough to make them feel distinct from Outlander. I personally liked those better than the Doomsday Book, and haven’t read the Victorian Era one yet.

  9. Angela says:

    As a fellow Outlander fan (yes, I have read them all and have had the pleasure of hearing Diana Gabaldon speak at a book festival), I say read the Harry Potter. For historical fiction, I would definitely check out Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth series. For mystery, check out Louise Penny’s Inspector Gamache series. FYI – All three of those series need to be read in order to fully enjoy them.

  10. Erica says:

    Yes yes yes to A Discovery of Witches! I would also add Queen of the Tearling and that whole series, such wonderful for the character development and the dystopian setting (though you’re not sure at first quite how they’ve all gotten there). The Millennium Series (Girl with a Dragon Tattoo) since she likes mysteries and a world with a protagonist you can imagine. Speaking of which, my favorite escapist book ever is Shadow of the Wind. The author creates this world you fall into. Finally, my favorite trilogy is The Sevenwaters Trilogy. It has history, magic, a wonderful plot you fall into, and all of these characters that you are rooting for (or against).

  11. Libby says:

    My recommendation for Andy is The Way of Kings series by Brandon Sanderson. These are high fantasy, thousand page books. They have excellent character development and amazing world building, and even though only 3 of 10 are out right now, just that will keep you busy for a long time! If you’re looking for fantasy to pick up, I’d strongly recommend these before Game of Thrones, as I think Sanderson is a much better writer and the world building is more interesting than the medieval times GoT is set in. Sanderson is also a much more punctual writer than GRRM, so I feel confident this series is actually going to be finished within my lifetime! And the online community is so fun, especially because these works aren’t completed, so we talk about fan theories rather than fan griping for GoT.

  12. Molly says:

    I have not read any of the Outlander books, but after hearing Andy mention that she has read a couple Harry Potter books I want to make pitch for why she should continue the series. The first two books do sound like children’s fantasies. However the books get progressively darker and more sinister. J.K. Rowling has stated in many interviews that the HP universe is her response to the divisiveness and hatred that humans are capable of, specifically in the 1930’s-40’s. And don’t rely on the movies. They leave out a lot of key plot points, can’t dig into the characters’ psyches, and change stuff. The books are so much better.

  13. Sarah says:

    Oh, Andy, I really, really hope you’ll give Harry Potter a chance! I didn’t read the books until I was an adult and I’d already seen all the movies, and I adored the series so much more than I thought I would! I do enjoy the movies, but they can’t begin to touch the richness and complexity that are in the books. I’ve read the entire series three times now, and I love it more each time! (And the audio books are fantastic, too, by the way.) You might also like Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge and The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.

  14. Summer Smith says:

    The series that helped me and was recommended at many a Diana book-signing was The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons. 💕 If you try it, I hope you enjoy them! 💕

  15. Monica Meisenheimer says:

    I would recommend The League series by Sherilyn Kenyon. It has some similar threads of what you said you liked, and there’s tons of books in this series so you can get lost in the stories and the large family story lines.

  16. BarbN says:

    I just listened to this episode this morning so i’m late, apologies. I read the first Outlander and it wasn’t for me, even though I have a ton of friends who adore them. Just as a whim, though, I think Andy should try the Twilight books. I didn’t care for them for some of the same reasons I didn’t like Outlander, so weirdly that makes me think an Outlander lover might like them. 🙂 if that makes any sense. My solution to the book hangover problem is to read something entirely different – a non fiction memoir or something about a subject that interests you, or short stories— because they’re short you can get a taste of something different without committing yourself to hundreds of pages. Try How to Love a Jamaican or Stranger Things or Interpreter of Maladies.

  17. Laura Salles Schwartz says:

    Based on you liking Red Queen, I’d recommend Sarah J. Mass’s “Throne of Glass” series (there are 7 books, but the story is complete); Marion Zimmer Bradley’s “Mists of Avalon”; Marie Rutkoski’s “The Winner’s Curse” trilogy; and Mary E. Pearson’s “The Kiss of Deception” (Remnant Trilogy).

  18. Gabrielle says:

    A friend turned me onto Outlander probably 20 years ago, and I’ve been obsessed ever since so I especially love this episode! Before Andy had even finished talking about Outlander I was going to leave a comment suggesting Into the Wilderness, and then it was the first recommendation! It’s been many many years since I’ve read any of the books though and I don’t remember the cameo appearances of Outlander characters, so it’s back on my tbr list.
    Another book I would recommend is A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. It’s a retelling of Beauty and the Beast with a modern day twist. The protagonist is a strong female character that you can fully route for.

  19. broughps says:

    As a Outlander fan I suggest Jodi Taylor’s series The Chronicles of St. Mary’s. Time travel and hilarious. I couldn’t put them down once I started reading them.

  20. Sherry says:

    I ABSOLUTELY needed this episode! I am a fan of the “Outlander” books and as your guest says, no other series really compares (except HP). I am definitely going to read your recommendations.

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