WSIRN Episode 219: Required reading revisited

Readers, on today’s episode we’re talking about travel reading. Well I have my own travel coming up and I want to make sure you’re in the loop. My book tour for Don’t Overthink It is booked. Don’t Overthink It is out March 3rd and in-person events start that week. Get the details at I hope to see you live and in person at one of these book tour stops this spring!


Last week when Anna Mitler talked about her goal to read her way around the world, I mentioned a resource I thought might help her find books from or about different countries. We record months ahead of time, and out of order… so little did I know when I recorded with her that we’d have this episode ready for your ears the very next week.

You might remember way back in Ep 60, guest Mel Joulwan and I talked about her love for books with a “strong sense of place.” Mel realized she loves to travel in her literary life, and in the years since we chatted on WSIRN she’s made that the priority in big, delightful ways, along with her husband Dave Humphreys. Mel and Dave are joining us today to chat about their reading journey together, fulfilling their long-time dream to move across the Atlantic, and their new destination-reading podcast aptly named Strong Sense of Place. Plus, they’re recommending 3 books with great atmosphere they think I’ll enjoy.

Let’s get to it! 

What Should I Read Next #219: Required reading revisited with Mel Joulwan and Dave Humphreys

Hear more about Mel Joulwan and Dave Humphrey’s new project Strong Sense of Place on their podcast that debuted this week, or via their website, Instagram, and Twitter!

Connect with Mel: Website | Twitter | Instagram
Learn more about Dave’s comics on his Website, and connect with him on Twitter.

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

If you want more What Should I Read Next become a supporter on Patreon! Supporters get bonus episodes, behind the scenes looks at how the podcasts are made, and opportunities to help us make the show–like today’s title which was chosen by our Patreon supporters.

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!

Books mentioned:

Well-Fed Weeknights: Complete Palea Meals in 45 Minutes or Less, by Mel Joulwan
What We Talk About When We Talk About Books: The History and Future of Reading, by Leah Price
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Iliad, by Homer
The Song of Roland, by Doroth L. Sayers
A Street in Marrakech, by Elizabeth Warnock Fernea
Death Is Hard Work, by Khaled Khalifa
Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brönte
The Orphan of Salt Winds, by Elizabeth Brooks
Sea Wife, by Amity Gaige
Gold, by Chris Cleave
44 Scotland Street, by Alexander McCall Smith
The Unquiet Dead, by Ausma Zehanat Khan
Beartown, by Fredrik Backman
The Governesses, by Anne Serre
The Crofter and the Laird, by John McPhee
The Black House, by Peter May
Crescent, by Diana Abu-Jaber


What books with a strong sense of place do YOU recommend?

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Leave A Comment
  1. Susan says:

    John McPhee is misspelled in your book list…..I read Looking for a Ship ages ago and loved it! A subject that I was not particularly interested in was just fascinating in his hands. I’ve recommended it over and over.

  2. Barbara S Atkins says:

    The fates are sending me a message. Last week I received an email from Amazon telling me that “The Crofter and the Laird” was a book that I should read. It is now on my list. I visited Shetland for a week last summer and I long to return. Loved the Peter May books.

  3. Suzanne says:

    This episode hit all my sweet spots! I strongly second the Peter May Isle of Lewis series, plus Coffin Road which is a stand-alone but features one of the characters from the trilogy. Also, the Anna Pigeon series by Nevada Barr—set in national parks that are almost characters in their own right.

  4. Libby Barrios says:

    Mel- I have a new book to feed your manor house addiction! It’s called “The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle” by Stuart Turton. The main character is stuck at a country estate and can’t leave until they solve the murder – until then, they are stuck waking up every day as a new person, trying to figure out who did it. So atmospheric! I couldn’t put it down.

  5. Valerie says:

    “Burial Rites” by Hannah Kent is a great way to experience Iceland from afar. I especially recommend the audiobook version so you can hear the pronunciation of the Icelandic words…it definitely added to the sense of place!

  6. Crisanne Werner says:

    “Waiting for Monsieur Bellivier” by Britta Rostlund is a strong-sense-of-place-book-in-translation that I read and loved recently. It’s quirky and character-centric and a bit hard to follow at times, but so wonderfully atmospheric. It combines French and Tunisian cultures with an intriguing (and pleasingly unbelievable) mystery.

    I also appreciated the mention of Crescent! In 2006 my high school lit teacher had us read this novel because our hometown of Eugene, OR had chosen it as a community read. We also got to see Diana Abu-Jaber in person! I think I was too young to appreciate the novel’s culinary/cultural/atmospheric elements at the time, and now I want to revisit it as an adult and reap those benefits!

  7. TracyB says:

    Mel & Dave your podcast and website sound great! I agree with Mel about the Beartown example. It was a great book but I wouldn’t give it as a recommendation for a book set in Sweden, sounds like where I live in Canada. Often you see books recommended for a certain US city but other than mentioning a street or landmark you’d never know where it takes place. Sometimes you can luck out with historical fiction but so much that is WWII, there are other time periods.
    Anne, you should check out The Dishwasher by Stephane LaRue.

  8. Alice says:

    In 2017, I followed the link from Mel’s blog to WSIRN to hear your podcast for the first time. I promptly read Sleeping Giants, The Golem and the Jinni, and The Invisible Library, as you recommended for her. Listening to WSIRN was what jump-started my reading life, too. I used to struggle to keep at least one book on the library holds list (that as a New Year’s Resolution in 2016). Now, I have plenty to read and plenty on my TBR. Looking forward to keeping up with Strong Sense of Place, too. Best wishes to you both.

  9. I had to laugh when Mel said she wasn’t adventurous at one point during the episode… except she moved to Vermont so her husband could attend a cartoonist school… and then moved to Prague!!! That is very adventurous to me!!

  10. Courtney says:

    The 44 Scotland Street series on Audible is fantastic for an even deeper sense of place. I’m flying through it after visiting Edinburgh for the first time in 2019.

  11. Diane says:

    I loved this episode and its twist on Anne getting recommendations. And I love Dave’s laugh! I will be adding their podcast to my list!

  12. Donya says:

    Anne stated in this episode that we are a long way away from an Olympic year. That’s not true, there are the Summer Olympics this year in Tokyo. I am actually reading books all based around the Olympics in July in honor of this Olympic cycle.

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