WSIRN Ep 198: Reading for the FUN of it

Ever since I visited today’s guest, Annie F. Downs, on her podcast That Sounds Fun a little while ago to talk about Summer Reading, I’ve been wanting to talk all things books and reading with her HERE, on What Should I Read Next. I wasn’t sure what direction our conversation would go in, but I KNEW it would be fun. It IS that—and we also wandered in directions I did not expect today.

We’re chatting about the author who made Annie a better storyteller, her surprising love for reading what she calls “Dead Men’s writing”, we take a detour to totally fangirl about all the literary good Dolly Parton has done in the world, and then I recommend a few books I didn’t expect to recommend at the beginning of our conversation (but felt absolutely perfect by the end.) 

What Should I Read Next #198: Reading for the FUN of it with Annie F. Downs

Learn more about Annie F. Downs’s work on her website, and connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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!

Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You, by Dolly Parton
Christy, by Catherine Marshall
Maggie, by Charles Martin
When Crickets Cry, by Charles Martin
Something Needs to Change: A Call to Make Your Life Count in a World of Urgent Need, by David Platt
Where Mercy is Shown, Mercy is Given, by Duane Dog Chapman
Revolution of Values: Reclaiming Public Faith for the Common Good, by Jonathan Wilson Hargrove
The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek, by Kim Michele Richardson
Never Have I Ever, by Joshilyn Jackson

What do YOU think Annie should read next?

more posts you might enjoy


Leave A Comment
  1. Tiffany Beverly says:

    Really enjoyed this episode.

    One small note: Unlike the media, people from Appalachia (of which I’m one) pronounce it Appa-latch-uh, not Appa-lay-shuh.

    • Lynette says:

      I was wondering about the pronunciation just last night. I’m listening to an audiobook (Gray Mountain by John Grisham- thanks for the reminder of his books on One Great Read, Anne), and heard the pronunciation of Appalachia as you say. I’m not sure as a Canadian I’ve ever said it out loud before, just read or heard it. Now I know! (Also as a Canadian it felt strange to use “gray” instead of “grey!” And my spell-checker is marking “gray” as incorrect!)

  2. Jennifer S says:

    Hi Anne. As always, I enjoyed your most recent podcast, and I had to laugh when you admitted to misusing the word “resonate.” From one woman of words to another, and with all good intention: An easy way to remember how to use the word correctly is that things resonate *with* you (rather than *you* resonating with something.) For example, “the message resonates with me” is correct. “I resonate with the message” is not. Cheers!

  3. Alison says:

    Annie, I am with you on reading the “dead guys” who have finished well for spiritual guidance. My favorite is probably Andrew Murray.

  4. Sarah says:

    The first book with a heart is misspelled – it should be Christy (y instead of ie). (That’s the spelling on the book cover on Amazon’s site). 🙂 Great episode!

  5. B. Friedman says:

    Anne, I just thought you might appreciate knowing that the word schmuck is actually Yiddish for penis. In fact, a thousand years ago I called my brother a schmuck(without knowing the literal meaning)and my mother washed my mouth out with soap.

  6. Susan V says:

    Christy was one of my favorite books when I was a teenager – I think I need to read it again! We were on vacation in the Smokies in Tennessee with our teenaged daughters in 1994, and we stayed in out of the way Townsend (didn’t want to be in the midst of touristy stuff). We found out that the TV show Christy was being filmed nearby! Our girls had all read the book and we were watching the show, and someone kind of secretly told us where the “set” was located. So we managed to get really close. We still talk about it today, after 25 years! We also watched OJ’s attempt to flee from justice in his white Bronco on TV in our motel room during that trip!

    I LOVED this episode and I love Annie F Downs!

    • Debbie Stevens says:

      What a cool story! I stayed in Townsend last fall – seems like a perfect spot to film such a lovely novel.

  7. Abigail M. says:

    I haven’t read Christy, but hearing about it made me think of “Tisha”, by Anne Hobbs as told to Robert Sprecht. It’s about a young teacher in the Alaskan bush in the 1920’s. Well written and very memorable; I read it in junior high school and the characters are still very vivid in my mind. (I have reread it since, and was surprised by how much I remember.)

    A large part of it is about relationships between Native Alaskans and whites. I think this was handled well, and retrospectively does not ring any alarm bells, but this is not my bailiwick.

  8. Amy S says:

    A great discussion…I really agreed with Annie about people writing books with little experience. I get frustrated when I pick up a parenting book and find out the author’s oldest child is five! I want to say to them, you can’t give parenting advice of all ages until you have survived teen years!

  9. Megan Nashel says:

    Loved this conversation!! I worked with the Appalachian Service Project as a teenager and the people I met over those summers had a lasting impact I my life. I loved the books recs, am excited to check out the new one by JWH, he is so wise, I enjoyed hearing him when he spoke at my church here in N.C. last year. Annie F Downs, have you read The Princess Academy by Shannon Hale? I just finished this juvenile fiction book and absolutely loved it. It’s not a typical princess story at all, it actually about people who live in a mountain community and the girls in it are clever, tough, and so loyal to one another. Also, another one that you may like is one I found out about from this pod, I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

  10. Jonell Ziola says:

    Christy is one of my all time favorite books. I still have my original copy that I received as a young teenager. I have no recollection how this book came into my life, but it has stayed with me for almost 40 years. I was so excited to hear Annie list it as one of her favorites too! Great episode!

  11. Terri Burnell says:

    Hi Anne!
    Much to my delight, I recently discovered your podcast…and then of course I proceeded to devour every single episode in basically every spare moment of my time. Now I encourage all my book-loving friends to subscribe and start listening, just as I anxiously await Tuesdays when the new episodes are released!
    I want to thank you for sharing your gifts with the multitude of readers out there, near and far. In a short time, you have already enhanced my reading life on so many different levels. What a wonderful contribution your podcast is to the bookish community!
    I was especially moved by this week’s episode…or should I say it really resonated with me? (hehe) Seriously though, I was quite excited to be introduced to Annie F. Downs through your show, who I felt at once to be a kindred spirit. Of course, the next logical step for me will be to also binge-listen to her podcast ‘That Sounds Fun’ because well, that sounds fun!
    I don’t typically post to these types of forums, but I felt the need to get the name of this author out there for anyone who may be reading the comment section looking for book ideas along the same lines as those discussed on this week’s show. I’m sure Annie F. Downs must know of her, but I still feel compelled to give her name to as many people as this small forum reaches (whether that’s one or thousands), especially since tragically, this young author and incredible human being recently passed away from a sudden, unexpected illness. Her name… Rachel Held Evans.
    I’ve only read one of her four books so far, entitled ‘Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church,’ but it literally spoke to my soul. As an ICU nurse by trade, my ability to provide any type of literary description is sorely lacking and rather than share my own detailed personal feelings about the book, I encourage everyone to read the actual book description via Good Reads or Amazon, or any other book review outlet you trust. I will say, for me, this book made me question, understand, forgive, grow in faith, question more, laugh, cry, pray, accept, wonder, confess, question some more, hope, and most of all LOVE (and love unconditionally).
    I think Rachel Held Evans said it best when she wrote, “This is what God’s kingdom is like: a bunch of outcasts and oddballs gathered at a table, not because they are rich or worthy or good, but because they are hungry, because they said yes. And there’s always room for more”
    Thank you, Anne and Annie, for reminding me why I loved this book so much, why I loved the woman behind the words so much. I pray that her courage will live on and that she may she rest in peace.

    • Anne says:

      Terri, thanks for listening, and for commenting here. I just wanted to say YES to remembering Rachel. I was lucky to know her, and still miss her every day.

  12. Leigh says:

    I was so glad Annie had a Charles Martin novel as one of her favorites. I have been reading him for many years and I think he is one of the best novelists writing today. His episode on Annie’s podcast is very worth the listen. I was initially drawn to his early works because of their Southern settings. Like Annie said, his attention to detail is exceptional. His characters are multidimensional. The stories may not always end with happily ever after but there is always redemption. Very few novels are as complete as Martin’s in that there are compelling characters, settings and story telling. And not all are set in the South now. My favorites are Water From My Heart, Wrapped in Rain, and Unwritten. However, every book is a really good read. So happy he is getting more recognition.

  13. Rhonda McGee says:

    What a wonderful episode. I can’t wait to order the book you recommended for Annie, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. Thanks for always having such great recommendations and interesting guests.

  14. Emily Murphy says:

    Can you share the dead man author (ha!) that she mentioned prior to David Platt’s new book? I’m struggling to find him on Goodreads and that could be because I’m spelling it wrong.

  15. JiEun Lee says:

    Thank you for another great episode! This episode especially grabbed me because I really wanted to know what it is like to read just for the fun of it. I admit that I don’t know what it is like to read something just for the fun of it. That goes for anything else for me. I guess that’s another reason I keep listening to book recommendation podcasts because when I hear people’s excitement and enthusiasm for talking about books (and other medias, but I think books are cooler) and I want to be on the same wavelength as theirs (since the word “resonate” is on the topic 😉 I still haven’t found what it feels like for reading something for fun or joy. Still looking

  16. Diane says:

    Anne and Annie,
    Thank you for this great episode. Anne, One of the book recommendations for Annie, THE BOOK WOMAN, ( one of Brandy’s picks for me from Page 1) made me tear up. Having read extensively about the traveling Librarians, one sticks out. Pictures included that will touch any heart is the book called DOWN CUT SHIN CREEK: The Pack Horse Libriarians Of Kentucky by Kathi Appelt.
    Precious time ladies, thank you💕

  17. Hey Anne,
    First I want to say how much I love your podcast. I want to suggest a book for Annie, “One Good Mama Bone.” The author, Bren McClain, tells the story, set in 1950’s, of Sarah Creamer’s quest to find her “mama bone” after she’s left to care for a boy who isn’t her own. Mama Bone was published by Pat Conroy’s, Story River Books. This book is grouped together with “When the Crawdads Sing” and “Book Woman of Troublesome Creek.”

  18. Bonnie says:

    I just finished Never Have I Ever and found it so tedious. I was disappointed because I loved Almost Sisters. The description sounds great, but I felt like it was only enough story for a book half the length. Endless repetition, especially of what the heroine is thinking. Unpleasant characters, in fact women, in general, do not fair well in this book.

  19. Heather Clements says:

    There was another book that Annie Downs mentioned — a children’s book that she used to read to her class every year. I was driving when I listened and could not write it down and now cannot seem to find the place in the podcast where she mentioned it. Do you know which title that was?

    • Lyndsay says:

      I looked it up.
      Surviving the Applewhites by Stephanie S Tolan is the Book she would read to her kids in class.
      She liked Harriet the spy and a Judy Blume book when she was a kid.

  20. Sarah says:

    Pretty much every book mentioned is now on my TBR list on goodreads. I enjoyed this episode so much and can’t wait to read some of these books!

  21. Elisabeth says:

    I loved this episode. As an avid listener of this podcast, I have no idea how I missed this one! Christy is my favorite book and last month I finished The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. It was a recommended book on my cloud library app. I had never heard of it. So when you recommended this book to Annie I got so nerdy excited! I think it’s my new favorite of all time. I love Appalachian fiction. I have some recommendations if anyone comes scrolling.
    Long Man – Amy Greene
    The Giver of the Stars- Jojo Moyes
    Wonderland Creek- Lynn Austin
    If the Creek Don’t Rise- Leah Weiss
    Miller’s Valley- Anna Quindlen
    Baker Towers- Jennifer Haigh

  22. Debbie Stevens says:

    On a recent WSIRN episode, the guest mentioned a book she had loved as a teenager. Christy, by Catherine Marshall, popped into my mind [for the first time in decades!] as THE book that had captured both my own teenaged heart and soul, and eventually led me into teaching. Just a few weeks later, I happened upon this episode, where Christy was mentioned as one of Annie’s favorites and for the same reasons. I found it on audio and have begun rereading it, and am happily surprised at how much I remember already. This will be a treat!

  23. Tara says:

    LOVED this episode! You all talked about Dolly’s Imagination Library, and I just wanted to add that is is in all the states, not just Tennessee. We are in Virginia, and multiple of my children have benefitted from the program!

  24. Jennifer L says:

    For DECADES Christy has made my all-time-top-3 list, and many of Annie’s other picks were also right up my alley. I came back to this page to see if any commenters had other recommendations, as Annie seems like my kind of reader.

    Here are a few similar type books I’ve loved:
    These Is My Words: The Diary of Sarah Agnes Prine, 1881-1901 by Nancy E. Turner (I think perhaps recommended on this podcast?) — A woman facing challenges for sure, but with such a positive outlook on life.
    Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani — It’s about life in a small town near Appalachia. It’s about family and love. It’s about friendship and learning more about yourself.
    Velma Still Cooks in Leeway by Vinita Hampton Wright
    Mrs. Mike by Benedict Freedman, Nancy Freedman

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.