WSIRN Ep 239: The read-alike problem

WSIRN Ep 239: The read-alike problem

Today’s guest Chris Abi Zeid is counting down the days before a big life event that will significantly alter his reading life. But for a few more weeks he still has precious reading hours. All he needs is his next read — and listeners, he has one huge requirement. He needs a book with a big, beefy, juicy plot. Complicated characters are great, but they need to go somewhere and do something for Chris to be satisfied.

My challenge today is finding the three perfect titles that will carry Chris toward his next big adventure.

Let’s get to it!

Follow Chris on Instagram @chrisabzz.


CHRIS: Looked at it and was like, okay, this chapter’s only three pages long. I’m going to read one more. Then one more. And then the book is done. [BOTH LAUGH]

[CHEERFUL INTRO MUSIC]

ANNE: Hey, readers. I’m Anne Bogel, and this is What Should I Read Next? Episode 239.

Welcome to the show that’s dedicated to answering the question that plagues every reader: What should I read next?

We don’t get bossy on this show: What we WILL do here is give you the information you need to choose your next read. Every week we’ll talk all things books and reading, and do a little literary matchmaking with one guest.

Readers, after it seemed like the end of the school year was forever long I can’t believe how fast this summer is going by even without my beach vacation to look forward to. One thing I do have to look forward to is hanging out with you on our next livestream with our patreon community.

These are live, online events Brenna and I do quarterly with our community members that give you a chance to hear what’s happening around What Should I Read Next HQ, ask your questions of the two of us, and get your own book recommendations.

We’re trying something new and fun inspired by a recent episode for our upcoming next livestream. That is on Thursday July 2nd. If you aren’t yet a member of that community, now is a great time to join us. You’ll get access to previous quarterly livestreams, the Summer Reading Guide Unboxing event we did in May (which is so much fun even if you already have the guide), plus close to 50 What Should I Read Next bonus episodes.

And lately, if I do say so myself, they’ve been really good. And of course you’ll get to hop on live with Brenna and me, on July 2nd. Find out more about our bookish community at patreon.com/whatshouldireadnext.

Today’s guest Chris Abi Zeid is counting down the days before a big life event that will significantly alter his reading life. But for a few more weeks he still has precious reading hours. All he needs is his next read — and listeners, he has one huge requirement. Chris needs a book with a big, beefy, juicy plot. Complicated characters are great, but they need to go somewhere and do something for Chris to be satisfied. My challenge today is finding the three perfect titles that will carry Chris toward his next big adventure. Let’s get to it!

Chris, welcome to the show.

[00:02:17]

CHRIS: Hey, Anne. I’m so excited to be here.

ANNE: Oh, well, it’s a pleasure to talk to you. I’m excited to speak with you for numerous reasons. I was really excited to see your submission that you filed out at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/guest but also you’re our first guest from Lebanon.

CHRIS: Yup. I’m from Lebanon. Live from Lebanon right now. I was born there, and I live there.

ANNE: And tell me what you’re doing now. Where are you in your life in your work?

CHRIS: I’m a doctor. I’m 25. I graduated last year. So this year I took it as a research year. I took it to have some time off and, like, have some time for myself. And I’m starting residency in June.

ANNE: Mmhmm. What’s your residency going to focus on?

CHRIS: Oh, I’m doing otorhinolaryngology and head and neck surgery.

ANNE: Pre-med studies and then med school itself does not have a reputation for providing a lot of leisure time, what has your reading life been like this past decade?

[00:03:12]

CHRIS: Exactly. When I was young I used to read so much. You would find me everywhere with a book in my hand. But then medical school happened and pre-med happened. Everything related to reading became studying. So whenever I wanted to take a break, I would pick up a book and feel like I was still studying, so I just stopped. So I have been not reading for a very long time, and this year I decided no, I need to do that again. I could say this is my best reading year yet, so.

ANNE: What made you realize that it was time to come back to the books? Or you know, the kind of books that aren’t about anatomy and aren’t 900 pages.

CHRIS: [LAUGHS] Exactly. So I had time on my hands. I started thinking back to what I used to do that I stopped because of medical school. And the first thing that came to mind and the easiest thing that came to mind was just go to the bookstore and get started.

ANNE: Do you remember what book you picked up first?

CHRIS: Yes. I did. And it’s one of my favorites.

ANNE: What is it?

CHRIS: It’s my second favorite. It’s The Silent Patient, and it was such a bad first book to pick up. I was in such a hangover afterwards. I started quitting books afterwards, and ... [ANNE LAUGHS] Yup.

ANNE: And yet you clearly got over it because you said that you’ve had your best reading year yet.

CHRIS: Yes I did get over it. And all of my favorites, I have this year.

ANNE: Okay.

CHRIS: I have picked them up just because I have read them recently.

ANNE: Okay. So your best reading year yet, those are bold words. Can you tell me what it’s been like for you this year as a reader?

[00:04:48]

CHRIS: First of all because I decided that I was going to resume reading again, the first thing that came to mind was what do I like to read? I was still stuck with the idea that genre defines me and I was hung up on magic and fantasy. And whenever someone asks me what book I want to read, I would just say fantasy books. I kept on picking up books that I disliked and I couldn’t find well what was right for me?

And then I found your show, Anne, kinda changed my life. [ANNE LAUGHS] And I started picking up books from different genres and I fell in love with so many books because of your show. And if you look at my favorites right now, you would see that there are no fantasy books on there. It’s just been me looking for good books to escape into.

ANNE: So nowadays when people ask you what your favorite genre, Chris, what do you say?

CHRIS: I would say that I am not limited by genre anymore, and I just want a book with amazing characters and big, beefy, juicy plot. These are my … [ANNE LAUGHS] Yes. These are my two criterias now. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: I think that’s amazing that you branched out, and I’m honored that What Should I Read Next can have a part of that, although I gotta say, it sounds like it was the books that changed, but if we could be the impetus, that’s wonderful. So you mentioned a couple times that you don’t have a favorite genre anymore, but it sounds like for a long time fantasy was your home base.

CHRIS: It’s true.

ANNE: Tell me that origin.

CHRIS: One of my all-time favorites which is not in my top three is Harry Potter. It’s the only book I have ever re-read ever. I’m not a person that picks up a book and reads it again, or even watches a series twice or a movie twice except for Harry Potter. It has provided me with such a great escape, and I can just get lost in the books with the characters with great development over the years and over the books.

As I said before a big, juicy plot. So this was what got me into fantasy and I kept looking for my next favorite fantasy book to just stand beside Harry Potter. Right now I just want great books. I’m not comparing anymore. [LAUGHS]

[00:07:03]

ANNE: I think you’re hinting at something that is a common mistake. We talk a lot about this on the show that a lot of times when we have a wonderful reading experience, our natural inclination is to look for a similar book instead of looking for a similar reading experience. So I’m - I’m glad you had that breakthrough. I want to talk about the big, beefy, juicy plot. What do you have in mind? You pack a lot into those four words.

CHRIS: I just want to be engulfed in something that keeps on moving and the characters are evolving with the stuff that are happening around them.

ANNE: All right. I have a theory. The moments I really, really remember of Harry Potter that make me think this is a story that endures because it appeals to - to human nature. I mean, J.K. Rowling kills her characters. Like all the time.

CHRIS: Yup. She did. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: Not only did she kill them, but they often, like, sacrifice themselves for a noble cause. Ugh, it hurts, but it makes for really good reading.

CHRIS: Exactly. Especially that it hurts because if let’s say a book that portrays characters differently killed off someone and you just don’t care, you just wouldn’t be moved even if that character scarified themselves for the greater good.

ANNE: We are definitely going to keep Harry Potter in mind as we talk today. But also I can’t wait to hear about the rest of your books, especially knowing they’re going to be different.

CHRIS: Yes, they are going to be so different. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: Okay.

***

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***

ANNE: So, Chris, you know how this works. You’re going to tell me three books you love, one book you don’t, and what you’ve been reading lately and we’ll talk about what you should read next. How did you choose these? We know you’ve read them all in the past year.

[00:10:30]

CHRIS: Yes I have. I chose these books because these are my highlight books of the year. I keep on recommending them for friends. These are the books that took me out of my context and transported me elsewhere albeit in a location or into - into someone’s mind. So for my first favorite, I chose The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. Yes I have Googled his name before coming on the show.

[00:11:00]

ANNE: [LAUGHS] Well done.

CHRIS: [LAUGHS] Yes. This is the first book I read this year when I decided I wanted to get back to reading. This book talks about a girl named Alicia that was found over her husband’s body in her house. So it’s not a spoiler — this happens on page one. Throughout the whole trial and then afterwards when she’s admitted to a psychiatric hospital, she does not say a single word. And the story revolves around her psychotherapist who takes a very big interest in her case and wants to figure out what’s wrong with Alicia.

This book is so entertaining and so interesting. I couldn’t put it down. The insight into the characters was beautiful. I cared deeply for both of them. And oh my God, there’s a huge plot twist in the end, and I loved it. It just made me want to recommend this book for everyone. And I think this book was designed very cleverly. The chapters are so short. Whenever I finished a chapter, I just peered over at the next one, looked at it, and was like, okay, this chapter’s only three pages long. I’m going to read one more. Then one more. And then the book is done.

ANNE: [LAUGHS] Oh, I’ve totally done that.

CHRIS: Yes.

ANNE: Well I’ve had that on my shelf for a really long time but I’ve never read it. You make it sound really compelling.

CHRIS: You should pick it up soon. It’s a great psychological thriller.

ANNE: What did you choose for your next favorite, Chris?

CHRIS: Okay, so, for my next favorite I chose the series The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley. It’s a series of seven books and each book focuses on one of the sisters. This usually is not my type of book. But it was recommended to me by my librarian and she told me that these are flying off the shelves right now. And I loved it.

So it’s the story of six girls that were adopted by a single father who lived in a big mansion in Switzerland. In the beginning of the book, the father dies and the six sisters have to come back to the house for the funeral. The father has left letters and coordinates for each of the sisters. Each sister in each book goes to where she was born to figure out who her family was and her past and all about her own culture. And there’s a whole mystery about the seventh missing sister. What really happened to the father? What/who he really is?

So I was really transported to these different cities across the worlds, and I really enjoyed that. It was really fun getting to meet the whole family. It has so many different personalities and I really enjoyed trying to figure out which one of them I was most alike and how I would react in such - in such situations. I really enjoyed the series. I read all six books that are available right now.

[00:13:55]

ANNE: Did you like that it was a series or did it just happen to be a series?

CHRIS: It being a series is definitely a plus. Because I enjoy the books so much, I kept waiting for the story of the next sister and then the next sister after that. And then later when it was turn of a sister that I didn’t really like, I dove into her book and saw her own perspective and changed and changed my mind about her, and I really enjoyed that as well.

ANNE: Okay. And what did you choose to round out your favorites list?

CHRIS: For my third book. This book was featured on your podcast. One of your guests said that it was the book that she hated.

ANNE: [LAUGHS] I mean I love how that happens. That happens every week because just because a book isn’t for you, doesn’t mean that the description won’t sound wonderful and enticing to other readers. So keep talking.

CHRIS: Exactly. She did not like it for all the reasons that I loved it. And you jumped in and defended the book and just made me want to get it even more. It’s The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo. I was really interested to dig into a family drama and a family dynamic where things were described in such a new point of view. Usually when childhood’s gone wrong and there’s family dysfunction and drama, the parents usually are not on good terms or treat the children badly, but this story — it’s about the perfect couple raising their girls. And then the girls turn out with their different personalities that clash at times and there’s a lot of feelings. And I really enjoyed that.

But I do have one thing that I found missing in that book. It’s my famous big juicy plot. [ANNE LAUGHS] Yes. It was not there. I kept looking and I was like, come on, do something! Create something! But it was really enjoyable nonetheless and I really loved it.

[00:15:53]

ANNE: That’s so interesting. The guest who disliked that book was Mandy in our episode 229 “works of literary fabulous.” So, listeners, if you want to check out, that’s where to go. It’s so funny. Chris, I’ve talked to several book people, editors and agents, who’ve said oh my Gosh, I loved this book. Voice is amazing. The concept is great. The characters are wonderful. I would’ve cut 200 pages. I would have made it more a brisk read, but those are the things they said they loved about it. You’re on board with the industry people there. What about the book that wasn’t for you? Was it hard to choose this one?

CHRIS: It wasn’t really hard because I’m kinda a book quitter. I’m very strict with my ratings. It’s not because I’m judging anyone. No, it’s just because my tastes are kinda difficult and I don’t usually find books that become my favorites instantly. So it wasn’t that hard to pick, I’m sorry.

ANNE: You don’t have to be sorry! I was really excited when I saw that it wasn’t for you, and it really emphasizes the point that not every book is for every reader, and there’s a book that’s well done and a book that’s to your taste and those are different things. And I did love this book, but you don’t have to be sorry. Okay, now tell the readers.

CHRIS: The book that wasn’t for me — I’m not going to say hate because it’s someone’s baby — is The River by Peter Heller.

ANNE: And notice how I carefully phrased this question. Chris, why was it not right for you? Can you put your finger on it?

CHRIS: I felt that I was stuck on that river and [ANNE LAUGHS] yes - yes, and throughout every chapter and every page, we were still there. We were still doing the same thing. I just didn’t care anymore. I didn’t care about the characters. I just wanted to get out of that river.

[00:17:36]

ANNE: [LAUGHS] I mean. They do move. They go places, and yet it’s a very quiet kind of adventure. Like it’s almost meditative.

CHRIS: Yes.

ANNE: And I mean, I hear you. I get what you’re saying. And it really helps me know what kind of books might be right for you because the truth about your reading life emerges in contrast. Although I have to tell you, you just said that your tastes are kinda difficult and that makes me nervous to talk about what you may enjoy reading next.

CHRIS: No, no, it’s fine. [ANNE LAUGHS] I trust you completely, Anne.

ANNE: That’s what makes me nervous, Chris. [CHRIS LAUGHS] What are you reading right now?

CHRIS: So right now I just finished The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai. I was so excited to read that book. I kinda made the mistake to read the reviews before I picked it up and it hyped it up so much, it fell short honestly. I was disappointed.

ANNE: High expectations syndrome, like that’s a real thing. Maybe I shouldn’t invent syndromes when I’m talking to a doctor.

CHRIS: It’s fine. You can.

ANNE: [LAUGHS] Do you think it might have been a different experience if you had gone in with different expectations?

CHRIS: I don’t really think so because I did not like her portrayal of the whole LGBTQ community in that book. The way she portrayed them, I felt it was shallow and not really in depth. And this made me not care for the characters. And if I were to play the role of the publisher that we were talking about earlier, I would have cut out the whole parallel story that was happening in 2015 because I did not really understand why it was there.

ANNE: I’ve heard a lot of readers talk about that one but I haven’t read it myself yet. That’s interesting. Anything else you’ve been reading lately?

CHRIS: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. I know you hate that book. I know you did not finish it at 80-something percent.

[00:19:18]

ANNE: That doesn’t mean that I hated it. Did I say I hated it?

CHRIS: No, I think you said it wasn’t for you.

ANNE: Okay. There we go. That - that sounds more like I would expect.

CHRIS: Yup. But I think I’m enjoying that book so much because I feel like I picked it up at the right time. I had just finished The Great Believers which was let’s say, a bit dull for me. And before that I had read my first nonfiction which was Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker which I loved honestly. And before that I just finished The Complete Opposite of Everything by Nour Abou Fayad, which has great insight into mental health and stereotypes.

So I was reading very serious books if you want, and I needed a change of pace. And this book was perfect. It’s just so quirky and sarcastic and I love the characters. [ANNE LAUGHS] Even though I can’t really understand what’s happening right now or what the plot is really about, or where Rainbow’s going to go with it. But I can just say that I’m enjoying the fun, quirky dialogue and characters. I just laugh out loud sometimes and I think this is the book that I need to be reading right now.

ANNE: I would like to say that I think when I read it, it might have been the right book, it was not the right time. And that really is important.

CHRIS: Definitely.

ANNE: It’s still on my ereader. Maybe I’ll get back there. Sometimes I just need a nudge from another reader to remind you, like oh, I meant to go visit that book again. Chris, what do you want to be different in your reading life?

CHRIS: So since I’m nearing the end of my free time year, I have so many books on my to-be-read list, especially with the summer guide being out. I have so many more books that I want to read. But I need someone to tell me like this book is for you, and you’re going to love it. I just want to wrap up my reading year with that because I know that things are going to slow down when I go into residency. I’ll probably be listening to more audiobooks than reading physical books by then. So I really want to wrap it up with these great reads that should be coming my way soon.

ANNE: All right, Chris, that’s a tall order, but we’re going to give it a go. Are you ready?

[00:21:35]

CHRIS: Yup, I’m ready.

***

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***

ANNE: Okay, so the books you loved The Silent Patient, The Seven Sisters, and The Most Fun We Ever Had. Not for you was The River because you were stuck on the river forever.

[00:23:11]

CHRIS: That’s true.

ANNE: [LAUGHS[ And you recently finished The Great Believers, not a great fit, and Carry On, a good fit. And we’re looking for good books that are going to make you want to keep reading, regardless of genre. Although is it strange — I think it’s strange that my mind is drifting toward the fantasy spectrum. And we’re going to try to find you a good series too.

CHRIS: Okay.

ANNE: ‘Cause the nice thing about a series is it provides a little eternal momentum, not only are you turning over to the next book but there’s an obvious choice for what to read next if you're unsure. Let’s start with the fantasy. All right, let’s see if we can cross the series off the list. Have you read anything in The Legacy Orïsha Trilogy by Tomi Adeyemi?

CHRIS: No, I’ve never heard of that.

ANNE: The first book would be Children of Blood and Bone, does that ring any bells?

CHRIS: Oh, yes, I think I know it now.

ANNE: But you haven’t read them?

CHRIS: No, I haven’t.

ANNE: Excellent. She’s a Nigerian-American author. Two books are out right now. The author says the third is due out in 2021. These are young adult novels, and even if you hadn’t said that you read and loved Carry On, these are books that while written for young adults, found a wide crossover audience of adult readers. And I think the reason is these books deal with hard things that aren’t just unique to teens. Actually some of these issues these poor teens are dealing with in these books are probably too much for teenagers, but it’s supposed to be hard.

Also the author’s background is incredible. She graduated from Harvard with an honor’s degree in English. She received a fellowship that sent her to Salvador, Brazil to study West African mythology. That is what we see in these books that are set in a fantastical Nigeria.

What I like about this book for you, aside from it being a trilogy, is that as typical of so much young adult fiction, they are very fast paced. There’s lots of action. They’re always moving. They’re entertaining. You said you want books where things happen, things are happening here. They also feel very real. She said that a lot of the emotion she drew on in writing the story came from personal struggle, which was Black identity, marginalization, and police brutality. But of course these books are set in a fantastical world where she’s not writing about them in the current … She lives in San Diego now, so the current California-American experience, but she’s setting these issues in a fantasy world. And you know as a lover of fantasy how effective and powerful and absorbing that can be to read about.

So I want to say that I said she’s dealing with heavy issues, this is a heavy book. But there are moments that are light and fun and sweet, like people are falling in love and finding really satisfying friendships. There’s a sibling story in here, a relationship between a sister and a brother that I know lots of readers love to see those in fiction. The first book is really hefty, and I have to say I listened to this on audio and thought it was amazing in that format. So I know I’m not alone there. If you know that you’re going to be listening to more audiobooks, there’s two you can listen to now. One more on the way. But I think this is a series that can really provide that big, beefy, juicy plot that you’re looking for but also has the depth that needs you to go back and think about it. It’s addressing themes that are important, not just to this fantasy world that she’s created but to the here and now. I think it might be for you. How does that sound?

[00:26:32]

CHRIS: It sounds really, really, really nice. I’m very excited about the mythology part and the setting and Nigeria. And I really want to get to meet these siblings.

ANNE: Do you have siblings?

CHRIS: Yes, I have a sister, so sounds perfect.

ANNE: All right. Speaking of siblings, let’s go next in a completely different direction. What do you think about This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper? Are you familiar with this book?

CHRIS: I’ve never heard of it as well.

[00:27:02]

ANNE: He’s an author that is based in the United States. This story came out about ten years ago and it begins with the death of the narrator’s father. He’s had cancer. The first words of the story are “Dad’s dead.” But it’s not a sad story about, like, the death of the patriarch. I mean, it’s sad in plenty of ways but you also said you like books that are quirky and sarcastic and that is definitely what you’ll find here. And you may get a feel for it.

I’m just going to tell you about like the first big memorable scene, there’s a man who catches his wife and his boss in a compromising situation, it ends with this man taking a chocolate strawberry cheesecake with 33 burning candles plus one for good luck and jams it some place inappropriate [CHRIS LAUGHS] on the boss’s body and so, obviously what happens next is a big, fat mess, not just as far as the cheesecake is concerned.

So this man’s life has just fallen apart in at least one way. So with that as his backdrop, you know, everything’s a literal mess, the narrator finds out that his dad’s dying wish, he is Jewish and he was not a religious man, and he wants his family to observe the traditional Jewish mourning ritual. He wants them to sit shiva. And they’re like, what? And why? And they’re also thinking nobody gets along with each other. Like this is reminiscent a little bit of The Most Fun We Ever Had, and so this does not seem like a good idea. There’s lots of jokes like how it’s a wake, like, we’re going to be in close quarters with strangers coming through to pay their respects, except there’s not going to be alcohol. So this is just a terrible idea.

So what happens is you get a bunch of people who kinda hate each other but also haven’t seen each other in a long time trapped in a small room for you know, a week is both a short time and very long time if that’s your family situation. I was going to say it verges on the ridiculous, but it is ridiculous. The mom is a celebrity parenting book author. The daughter is a workaholic [CHRIS LAUGHS] and of course her kids are brats, like always running all over the place. Someone shows up at the funeral with a girlfriend who happens to be his life coach. I mean that’s just not good. Plenty of occasions for things just to go terribly, horribly wrong, and they do.

Trobber does manage to make this somewhat sweet at the end. He doesn’t tie it all neatly with a bow, but it’s definitely not gloom and doom and despair forever for all the characters. All that being said, how does that sound?

CHRIS: It sounds like such an exciting mess.

[00:29:42]

ANNE: [LAUGHS] That’s a great way to put it. And finally I gotta go back to fantasy because it’s just too good.

CHRIS: Okay. Let’s go.

ANNE: I feel like this is kinda mean but also hopefully it’ll give you something to look forward to. I read this book that’s coming out in the United States in the fall, in October. It’s just too good not to tell you about and I think it’s too perfect for you. It’s called The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue. It’s by V. E. Schwab. Do you know anything about this?

CHRIS: Yes I’ve read a book of hers. It was Vicious.

ANNE: Ooh, I want to read that series but I haven’t yet.

CHRIS: And I really did not like it. I really did not like the way that she set up the world and the characters. So I was not excited about that series, and I did not continue it. So hopefully she would redeem herself with this one.

ANNE: Okay. So, here’s the set up. This book starts in France in 1714. This young woman, Addie LaRue, is from a poor family. Her parents have set her up for a, you know, successful, promising marriage where her physical needs will be taken care of. But she thinks she’d just really rather die than marry this man. So instead of going through with the wedding, she runs off at the last minute just before sunset and she says a prayer to the Gods. Like save me from this marriage. I will give anything. Addie knows that you should never pray to Gods that answer after dark because bad things will happen, but she doesn’t realize that the sun has just slipped below the horizon and she said she’d do anything.

As it turns out, what she has sacrificed is the ability for anyone to remember her. Which obviously you know, like, we want to be remembered by those we love. You know, we want them to think fondly of us. But this is also really horrible on a practical level. You can’t rent a room in an inn if you need someplace safe to sleep at night because as soon as the innkeeper lets you into the room, they forget that they rented it and they’re going to try to give it to somebody else.

CHRIS: Oh my God.

[00:31:39]

ANNE: You can’t buy bread because when the baker turns around to grab the loaf from the shelf, you won’t be in his line of sight and he’ll turn back around and say, what can I get you? And give me the money again. [CHRIS LAUGHS] This is a very practical problem. And at one point in the book, Addie says it took her decades, and it might even have been centuries, to figure out exactly how her magic worked and what she could get away with.

This book has alternating timelines. So it starts in France in 1714 and you find out what happened at the very beginning, like why is she cursed? And how does it work? And how does she learn to deal with this … I mean restriction doesn’t seem strong enough. How does she learn to deal with this impossibility in her life? But you’re flashing back and forth between then and New York City in about 2010 where she’s still about the same age that she - she might exactly the same age that she was in France in 1714. But now she’s - she’s learned how to be in the world, and it’s so fascinating.

So what interrupts this journey one day in New York City after an encounter at a bookshop when she tries to steal a copy of a book and it’s in a foreign language, it’s in Greek? I think it’s in Greek. The bookstore owner’s like why are you stealing a book in Greek? You can’t even read it. And she’s like, ahh, oh, you’re right, you’re right, and doesn’t tell him that of course she learned Greek. She can speak like 47 languages. What else was she going to do with four centuries worth of life? [CHRIS LAUGHS] But something happens where she realizes she’s not the only one who’s made a deal with the devil. And that changes everything. And it’s so fascinating. I couldn’t wait to see what happens next, but the reason why I really loved this for you aside from it having a big, beefy, juicy plot aside from keeping things moving, ‘cause she’s always getting herself into mortal peril. I want to say scrapes, but I don’t think it’s a scrape if they’re about to kill you for it. [CHRIS LAUGHS]

Something I love about this is the way it speaks to human nature and humanity. She’s gotta make some big decisions and figure a way out of this box she’s locked herself into with her Faustian bargain. Chris, it’s good. I think you’re going to like it. It’s a nice hefty book but it keeps moving, it covers a lot of ground. It covers a lot of years. My advanced review copy is almost 600 pages but I did not want to put it down at any point. I mean you could really just read one more chapter, read one more chapter, just read one more short chapter and finish this in a couple days. How does that sound?

CHRIS: I’m so excited about that book now. I can’t wait for fall.

[00:34:03]

ANNE: I’m glad to hear it. So of the books we talked about today, Children of Blood and Bone and the entire trilogy by Tomi Adeyemi, This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Trobber, and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab, Chris, of those titles, what do you think you’ll read next?

CHRIS: I think I’m the most excited for The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue, but since it’s not coming out til Fall, I think I would first pick up This is Where I Leave You. It sounds like such a fun thing to read right now.

ANNE: Well I’m excited that you’re excited and I can’t wait to hear what you think. Chris, thanks so much for talking books with me today.

CHRIS: Thank you for having me, Anne. It was a great pleasure.

[CHEERFUL OUTRO MUSIC]

ANNE: Hey readers, I hope you enjoyed my discussion with Chris, and I’d love to hear what YOU think he should read next. That page is at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/239 and it’s where you’ll find the full list of titles we talked about today. Follow Chris on Instagram @chrisabzz. That’s Chris, C-H-R-I-S-A-B-Z-Z.

Subscribe now so you don’t miss next week’s episode in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and more. We’ll see you next week!

If you’re on twitter or Instagram I’d love to know what you’re reading or what you think Chris should read next. I’m @AnneBogel–that is Anne with an E, B as in books -O-G-E-L. The show is @ReadNextPodcast on Twitter and at whatshouldireadnext on Instagram. We share great content in all the places, so you can follow us at all the places.

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Thanks to the people who make this show happen! What Should I Read Next is produced by Brenna Frederick, with sound design by Kellen Pechacek.

Readers, that’s it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening.

And as Rainer Maria Rilke said, “ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.” Happy reading, everyone.

Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links. More details here.

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides
The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo
The River by Peter Heller
• The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
• Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
• Hidden Valley Road by Robert Kolker
• The Complete Opposite of Everything by Nour Abou Fayad
• Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi
• This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper
• The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab
• Vicious by V. E. Schwab

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32 comments | Comment

32 comments

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  1. I admit, I sometimes come here before listening in order to see which book are mentioned. I listen regardless, but I like to know what I’m in for. Seeing that Chris did not love The River makes me so excited to listen, because I often feel I’m the only one who really didn’t like it.

    • Terry says:

      I was disappointed in “The River” for some reason. Maybe the build-up was too much. I thought it was okay but found it predictable. I kept waiting for a big surprise…

    • Anne says:

      Sean, when it comes to anything at all in the reading life, it’s never just you—but that being said, I’m so glad that makes you excited to listen! (I loved that book and even so, I was excited to talk to Chris about why he didn’t enjoy this book, not just in spite of the fact that I personally loved it but because of it.)

    • Kate says:

      I wanted to like The River so much because I have a thing for outdoors fiction, but could not connect with the two protagonists and the ending left me cold. It didn’t feel earned.

      And finally, someone else who didn’t love a VE Schwab book! I haven’t read Vicious, but was so looking forward to A Darker Shade of Magic after all the raves. While the action was fun, Lila kept making stupid decisions and Kell seemed very one dimensional, so I wasn’t eager to read more. However, the new one sounds intriguing.

  2. Jen says:

    I didn’t like The River either and loved the Seven Sisters. I couldn’t wait to listen to Anne’s recommended choices so read the transcript. I am going to look for the V.E.Schwab book in the fall and order the Jonathan Trooper book.

  3. Amapola says:

    My problem with The River was not been able to understand all the technical and specific jargon of the sport. I have The Silent Patient on my TBR.

  4. Patricia Blaine says:

    For a book series that is satisfyingly similar to AND different from Harry Potter, I highly recommend the Septimus Heap series by Angie Sage. This is another 7-book children’s series centering around a boy’s wizard training, but with a more sophisticated (in my opinion) sense of humor and more nuance in terms of “good” and “bad” (the black and white quality of this in the Harry Potter books was always a detractor for me, even though I loved the series). This might be a good “escapist” read on audiobook for Chris when he gets busy again. The reader might even be the same as the reader for the Harry Potter books? Not a hundred percent sure on that but the voice is similar and the reading and characters are really well done.

  5. Emily says:

    My husband is a physician and often during his interviews for residency he was asked what is your favorite novel? He of course had no time to read but fortunately his wife (me) told him about my personal favorite book in great detail, Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese. Great plot, great setting, great characters. This one stuck with me. I hope Chris can pick this one up!

  6. Angela says:

    Woohoo for plot-driven fiction! I get so bored with “meditative” work, but I do want strong characters who do something. You may want to check out Half of a Yellow Sun by Adichie, The Thirteenth Tale by Setterfield, and Pachinko by Min Jin Lee.

  7. Susie says:

    I liked the story in The River, as did my sister and my brother, altho he nit-picked the fire details a little. What I didn’t appreciate was that those 2 college boys could not say one sentence without using the f word. I wish I’d known it before I picked it up.

  8. Rachel says:

    I did not love This is Where I Leave You but I absolutely loved Jonathan Tropper’s book The Book of Joe. Like Chris, I don’t reread but really want to pick this one up again and see if I feel the same as 17 years ago.

  9. Meg says:

    Plot-driven with complicated relationships for a doctor has to include A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. Set in Chechnya, it follows many characters (including the only doctor left in town) and like the Seven Sisters, it allows you to see their relationships in different light as it shifts focus from each character and reveals their pasts.

  10. Annie McCloskey says:

    I really think I have a great series to recommend for Chris! I am just starting the first book, The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. Not the kind of book that would ever end up in my hands if not for my 29 year old son who insists I read it. It’s part Harry Potter-ish, part Game of Thrones-ish and just a great juicy story. I will give the caveat that the first 40 pages are confusing and a little tough to understand, but once you go back in time, it’s an amazing book and story.

    • GlendaS. says:

      Re: your last sentence – thank you! I’ve started this book a couple times and never made it very many pages in. It’s still in my to-read list, so next time I borrow it I’ll go further in and let it hook me =).

  11. Jo Ristop says:

    Can we please have him on the show again!!!! I need to know what he will read next and I really enjoyed the conversation!! Would definitely love a bonus episode with him 😍

  12. Lyndsay Felten says:

    I really enjoyed this episode. Add me to the list of people who did not enjoy The River. I only made it about 40 pages before I quit (and quitting books is rare for me).
    After hearing Chris’ love for a big, juicy novel and his love for a family saga, I need to recommend Kane and Abel by Jeffrey Archer. A friend has been telling me to read this book for years. I finally did and WOW. I don’t know why I waited so long. It’s excellent!

  13. Helen H says:

    Favorite episode!! Love Chris and his books! Please more!!!! Would definitely like to know his opinion on “Nothing to see here”! Amazing characters!

  14. Bethany N Maxwell says:

    Great episode! Since you are open to middle grade, try the Gregor the Overlander series. The audio narration is amazing!

  15. Mia says:

    Would definitely recommend This is How it always is!!! Amazing characters and LGBT portrayal.
    Also station eleven for that beefy plot!
    Amazing episode! I wish Chris got more recommendations from Anne!

  16. Margo D. says:

    Early in the interview Chris also mentioned the novel “About the Author” by John Colapinto. From his and Anne’s comments about the book, I dowloaded the kindle version and am now thoroughly, losing-all-sense-of-time hopelessly engrossed in the story that Colapinto unfolds through his problematic narrator. Thanks for also mentioning this thrilling read!

  17. Wendy Curtis says:

    I know I’m a little behind on listening to this episode, but I just loved Chris!! His voice, his enthusiasm, and his life and book choices! Add me to the list of those waiting for a twist in The River that never came. I would love to hear Chris again in a follow up episode!

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