WSIRN Episode 220: The books that keep pulling me back

WSIRN Episode 220: The books that keep pulling me back

Every week, I promise to give you the information you need to choose your next read. Sometimes, that means information about a specific title (like the premise, interesting backstory, or a sense of the atmosphere.) But other times, the information you need is only discovered through thoughtful reflection on your reading patterns, and developing personalized adjustments.

Today’s guest Erin Schlesener spent a looooong time experimenting before she found a reading routine that fit her needs. Once she had the how locked in, the question shifted to what she should read. Those of you who consider yourselves “slow” readers, you know this struggle — you know you’ll only get through about a dozen books this year, how do you narrow them down to what will be most enjoyable to you? Well, Erin and I are tackling that problem today, and I’m recommending 3 titles that won’t frustrate or disappoint. 

Let’s get to it! 

What Should I Read Next #220: The books that keep pulling me back

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

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Books mentioned in this episode:

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Books mentioned:

A Series of Unfortunate Events, by Lemony Snicket
Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen (Erin recommends the audio version narrated by Rosemund Pike)
Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery (Erin recommends the audio version narrated by Rachel McAdams)
Anne’s Alphabet, by Kelly Hill
Anne’s Feelings, by Kelly Hill
Anne’s Numbers, by Kelly Hill
Tell the Wolves I’m Home, by Carol Rifka Brunt
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brönte (Erin recommends the audio version narrated by Thandie Newton)
The Look of Love, by Sarah Jio
Edenbrooke, by Julianne Donaldson
Blackmoor, by Julianne Donaldson
The Storied Life of A. J. Fickry, by Gabrielle Zevin
Okay for Now, by Gary D. Schmidt
The Last Time I Lied, by Riley Sager
The Way Men Act, by Elinor Lipman
The Family Man, by Elinor Lipman
The Accident, by Chris Pavone
The Lost Book of the Grail, by Charlie Lovett
The Bookman’s Tale: A Novel of Obsession, by Charlie Lovett
The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt

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What do YOU think Erin should read next?

24 comments | Comment


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  1. Kathy says:

    Erin – you never indicate if you discovered why you struggled. There were a couple of things you mentioned that made me think of my granddaughter who has a diagnosis. I hesitate to discuss it here but would be glad to share by email if you want.

    • Erin Schlesener says:

      Kathy! I never had an official diagnosis, but I think when I started realizing I had a problem was when I was being tested on reading in school. I never tested as well as I thought I would. The pressure I felt to read faster (or how I thought everyone else did in my grade) developed bad reading habits in me. I would skip pages or chapters to keep up or I would read at my own pace but not retain the information. Does that somewhat answer your question?

  2. Robin says:

    Terrific episode! I literally finished Lovett’s The Lost Book of the Grail yesterday & enjoyed it immensely, as I have his other bookish books. However, I still think The Bookman’s Tale is his best book. I will admit that I was very skeptical of Arthur in the beginning; I understand being analog, but to be 40 years old in 2016 & think Twitter was about birds was just a little much for me. However, Arthur & his merry band of bibliophiles grew on me. And of course, now I long to live in a village with an ancient cathedral. I hope Erin enjoys it! I also think Erin might enjoy LM Montgomery’s The Blue Castle.

    • Erin Schlesener says:

      I have not yet read The Blue Castle! I have seen it recommended for me on amazon and goodreads. I will have to give it a try! Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Rachel says:

    If you enjoy Gary D. Schmidt, his newest book “Pay Attention, Carter Jones” is really interesting and unique. It has a Mary Poppins quality to it but much deeper. It has a unique male mentor who gives a grieving boy perspective on how to live in a family in crisis and how to feel your feelings while caring for others and keeping on. The cricket element was fun and the ending was not what I expected, in a good way.

  4. Holli Petersen says:

    I love these kinds of discussions! Readers don’t all look the same. Readers don’t all read the same. Although I read a lot of books, I don’t read as fast as some of my bookish peers and sometimes forget entire plots of books a week after I read it — even though others can recall every detail years later! I also find that for difficult plots, lyrical writing or translated books with names I can’t even begin to pronounce, I do better reading a physical book in tandem with an audiobook. I can keep the thread of the story going without getting lost in the visual words on the page. It’s all reading and it ALL counts! We’re all different and I love the inclusion that this episode represents. Great job sharing, Erin!

    As a fellow Anne addict, I would recommend The Blue Castle if you haven’t already read it. It is about a misfit in society who likes to live in her own world and do things her own way discovering another misfit to make a life with. Lots of Anne-ish vibes and filled with her signature style of delicious Canadian settings. 🙂

    I also thought you might like books by James Herriot for a strong male protagonist. It is a memoir but reads like fiction. It’s funny, wholesome, character-driven and filled with lovely stories about a country UK vet. I loved it in audio, as well.

    You might also like some Pride & Prejudice retellings, like Unmarriageable. It’s a leeeeeetle on the nose, but I loved hearing the author’s accent on the audiobook! It definitely delivers on the coyish, back-and-forth romance mastered by Austen.

    • Erin Schlesener says:

      Holli, I am so glad you enjoyed the episode. I was happy to share! The Blue Castle sounds very promising! I may pick that one up sooner than later.

  5. Debi Morton says:

    This was an especially interesting episode for me, because Erin’s issues with reading sound very much like my youngest son who is now in his 40’s. He was also a slow reader, and had comprehension problems as a child in spite of the face that he had a very large vocabulary. Finally, in mid-elementary school the school tested him and said he appeared to have an auditory difference, a type of reading difference, but it was not severe enough for him to receive services. I did some research and found a therapist who specialized in auditory differences. At first, she told him to read out loud to himself so he could hear the words. Once he’d somewhat mastered that, she taught him how to read silently, but “hear” every word in his head. He still read somewhat slowly, but now he began to comprehend. And eventually he was able to get faster at it. It’s interesting because it came up recently in a conversation, and he was surprised that his wife and I don’t hear every word as we read; he’s done it for so long he thought it was how everyone read.
    A fun thing about today’s episode, after I listened to it I listened to the Sarah’s Bookshelves Patreon episode that came out today. One of her guests (Catherine of Gilmore Girls) mentioned really liking Tell the Wolves I’m Home. I’d never heard of the book until I heard it twice today. Hmmm…

    • Sarah says:

      Interesting, now I’m confused, or never thought about how I read in this way. I’m a fairly fast reader but I would say I do hear every word in my head as I read. I thought everyone did.

  6. Nancy Jacobs says:

    I loved this episode! Thanks to Erin for being so thoughtful about her experiences. I’ve come away with so many things to think about and to apply! I definitely share in her favorites. I’ve seen an arc in my own reading life over the years. I think Erin is a great example of successfully navigating this and helps me to embrace my own reading life and journey. I really appreciated her ability to recognize how certain books are needed for different seasons and circumstances that invariably come in and out of our lives.

    I finally discovered many of the classics by watching TV adaptations of them first and then taking to the written page. My brain needed to be settled with all of the plot points with some solid visual before immersing myself in the “older language” of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell and even, Victor Hugo.

    Thanks for the great episode!

    • Erin Schlesener says:

      Nancy! I am so glad you enjoyed it! I would definitely agree with you that TV adaptions are a good “warm up” before fully diving into a classic.

  7. Ruth says:

    Interesting to read Debi’s comments about her son—I also hear the words as I read and only recently learned this isn’t true for everyone. Do I need to mention that this makes me a slower reader than some of my friends?

    I try to place the quality of the reading experience over the quantity of books read each year. It also helps to give the books I want to read (but can’t fall into) a try in a different format. Some are better for me in print. Some are more enjoyable in audio.

  8. BarbN says:

    Loved this episode. I read lots, but I could still relate to some of her experiences with needing to find a different way “in” to certain books. For some reason An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green popped into my head as something she might enjoy. The narrator is someone I didn’t necessarily like—which is usually a hard no for me—but it worked in this book, maybe because even though I didn’t always agree with her decisions I could understand them. It’s the story of a young woman who is the first to discover an enormous statue in the middle of the night. Her spontaneous kooky video goes viral when it turns out similar statues have showed up all over the world. There’s a lot of thought-provoking ideas about social media and sudden celebrity and figuring out who your friends are. Really enjoyed it.

    • Erin Schlesener says:

      The Hank Green book sounds very interesting. Kind of reminds me of Young Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (in regards to the main character making disagreeable decisions and social media); however, I really enjoyed it! I think An Absolutely Remarkable Thing is a great suggestion. Thank you!

  9. Jennifer says:

    Thank you Erin for sharing your reading experience. I can relate to much of what you described. I have loved PBS and BBC adaptations of classics but so struggled with reading it in school both with speed and comprehension. I recently discovered that audiobooks are the tool I can use to revisit these and actually loved Les Mis and Count of Monte Cristo! This episode and comments helped me pull these pieces together. I need to comprehend large volumes of written word for my career and I think I taught myself how to do this not until my twenties by hearing what I read as commenters described here.

  10. Candy says:

    I just listened to your episode on my way to work this morning, Erin, and you had me in tears. I work as a literacy liaison through our regional library for PreK and Kindergarten students which basically means that I go into the schools and am the alphabet readiness/story time lady. Everything you shared was so helpful to me because I know there are children I see weekly who will have a similar experience as yours and I hope they will persevere as you did. I always try to stress that everyone learns to read at a different pace. I love the idea of listening to an audio book while reading along in the physical book. I never thought to suggest that to older students. You see that a lot with beginning readers but that’s a great idea for anyone.
    I wanted to recommend a book I listened to I think you will like….with a male protagonist! It’s The Music Shop by Rachel Joyce, narrated by Steven Hartley. There is a lot of music mentioned in this book and you can even find a playlist online of the music, which I was very excited about. In the beginning I tried to keep a written list of the songs as I was reading and gave up. Then I found the playlist and couldn’t believe someone had done the work for me!

  11. Amanda says:

    Hey just listened to this podcast and I highly recommend The Dutch House by Ann Patchett! It was my first ever audio listen; Tom Hanks narrates! Obviously, he’s fabulous. I struggle with books that have a male perspective. But this was great, and drew me in so well. This particular book is so thoughtful and enjoyable. Plenty of times I stopped and wrote down a quote I wanted to keep. Happy Reading!

  12. Angie says:

    You should get the picture book ‘Goodnight Anne’ by Kallie George and Genvieve Godbout. I have it and love it…and I don’t have children. 🙂 They also have another one coming out this spring called ‘If I Couldn’t be Anne’.

  13. Darcy says:

    If you’re a lover of Anne, here is my recommendation: Daddy Long Legs by Jean Webster. Jerusha Abbott is an absolutely delightful, enthusiastic, quirky heroine. Its a quick read and is almost entirely comprised of letters from Judy to her mysterious benefactor. I laughed so much. While I could have easily read it in one sitting, the epistolary style makes it easy to pick up and put down, which is handy if you’re busy or just looking for a light read.

  14. Brandyn Keithley says:

    It’s been awhile since a podcast guest’s favorites were all books I’d read (and loved)! I haven’t read The Look of Love, but I probably won’t now.
    Erin – my immediate recommendation for you when you were looking for something lighter would have been Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I’ve read it several times, but I’ve also listened to the audio as well and I think Rebecca Lowman does an excellent job on the narration.
    Side note – I’m one of the few people who doesn’t love Julia Whelan’s narration. I find her voices for men distracting.

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