WSIRN Ep 199: The perils of public book recommendations

The intro I give every week of what we do on WSIRN sounds straightforward enough – I talk to a reader about books they love, books they hate, and books they could pick up next. Simple. But long-time listeners know this show was originally supposed to be a tight 20 minutes… and today, each episode is easily twice that long. It turns out, a person’s reading taste reveals a lot about who they are as individuals, and digging into those discussions is worth much more to me than hitting a timestamp.

Today’s guest is no stranger to seemingly-mundane belongings that hold deep meaning – Tara Anderson hosts the NPR show 5 Things, where she gets to know people by discussing five items that matter to them. A guest’s treasured items might be books, but they might also be a houseplant, a special coat, heirloom knitting needles, even something as practical as a rice cooker. There are no home appliances in this episode, but we are investigating what Tara’s 3 favorite titles say about what she wants out of life, and what new books will take her there.

Let’s get to it!

What Should I Read Next #199: The perils of public book recommendations with Tara Anderson

Follow Tara Anderson on Instagram and Twitter, and make sure to go check out her newest project at 

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!

The Novel Cure: From Abandonment to Zestlessness: 751 Books to Cure What Ails You, by Ella Berthoud
Just Kids, by Patti Smith
The House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton
Southernmost, by Silas House
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer, by Michelle McNamara
Born to Run, by Bruce Springsteen
Becoming, by Michelle Obama
How to Change Your Mind: What the New Science of Psychedelics Teaches Us About Consciousness, Dying, Addiction, Depression, and Transcendence, by Michael Pollan
The Power, by Naomi Alderman
Notes from a Young Black Chef, by Kamwe Onwuachi
Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef, by Gabrielle Hamilton
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
Tidelands, by Philippa Gregory
We Are All Good People Here, by Susan Rebecca White

What do YOU think Tara should read next?


Leave A Comment
  1. Kate says:

    Continuing the New York theme, Time and Again by Jack Finney is a fun time travel novel in which a contemporary man is sent back to 1880’s Manhattan and the details about daily life are really well done. I believe there is a sequel but I haven’t read it yet.

  2. Pam says:

    Other books with a bygone NYC theme: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith; Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk by Kathleen Rooney (which I first heard about on this podcast) and several of Helene Hanff’s books are set in New York.

  3. Gretchen S. says:

    One more NYC recommendation: Golden Hill by Francis Spufford. This book takes on New York in 1746, when vestiges of New Amsterdam still lingered quite strongly and slavery is a fact of live, with the arrival of a stranger with quite a bit of money and mysterious motives. The descriptions are quite vivid, making clear that the vast New World is outside this tiny city’s limits. The book has very funny set piece and keeps you guessing as to where the plot is going.

  4. Anne, there have been a lot of episodes of your podcast that I have loved(I’ve listened to them all) but this one is by FAR my favorite. I am an elementary school general music teacher. I also love books. I have a very large classroom library of children’s picture and non-fiction books all with a musical theme. I tell my students that my two favorite things are music, and books, so when I find a “musical book” I have to buy it.
    Thank you for introducing Tara to your listeners. I loved hearing from another musician who also loves books. And now I can’t wait to explore using The Music Box Podcast in my classroom.
    Tuesdays are always better with What Should I Read Next on my drive to work. Thank you!

  5. Anne and Tara,
    Sorry I’m late posting this, but I wanted you to know that this episode grasped me so much that I came up with my own five things to post on my blog this week. Is it too forward to say that the name of my blog is Sage Woman Chronicles on WordPress. Coming up with my five things was a fun exercise, though not all my choices were physical “things”.

    I have not read most of the books you two talked about. I’m more of a fantasy, cosy mystery, historical fiction fan, but one book I thought of is *Pope Joan* by Donna WoolFolk Cross. It takes place in the ninth century and is based on extensive research. It’s fascinating to think of all the women, like Joan, who have passed as men so they could claim their freedom.

    Tara, I’ve subscribed to your podcast. I’m looking forward to listening.

  6. Violeta says:

    Can I just say I so related to Tara’s comment about books providing quiet? 1 husband, 3 kids, 5 dogs = a lot of happy sound all day long…so a book is totally a refuge and reset from the audio input perspective for me too.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.