WSIRN Ep 261: Huggable comfort reads for a cozy reading season

WSIRN Ep 261: Huggable comfort reads for a cozy reading season

I love asking readers what they want more of in their reading lives, and over the last several months, I’ve heard the answer “comfort reads” over and over again. “Comfort read” means something different to every reader, but if you’re looking for books that slow your heart rate, soothe your soul, and make you want to travel to a quiet English village, this episode is for you. 

Today’s guest appreciates cozy, comforting reads that feel like a warm hug. In fact, Gina House has been known to literally hug her books when she’s done reading. 

Gina adores cozy mysteries like Agatha Christie novels, but she could do without the murder. Today, I’m recommending charming books that pair well with a comfy chair and a cup of tea. 

Let’s get to it!


GINA: To me I always say, I’m trying to find a book that’s like Agatha Christie without the murder and mystery, and people are like, there’d be no story. [BOTH LAUGH]

[CHEERFUL INTRO MUSIC]

ANNE: Hey readers. I’m Anne Bogel, and this is What Should I Read Next? Episode 261.

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, we decorated the library Christmas tree here at home earlier than ever this year because I’ll take all the twinkle lights and holiday spirit I can get. I’ll also take ALL the book talk these days, which is why I can’t wait for our Winter Book Preview. This live event is our chance to geek out about this season’s new releases. I’ll share the books I’ve already read and loved and can’t wait for you to get your hands on as well as the ones *I* can’t wait to get my hands on and read this winter.

In our 90 minute live event, we’ll share over 42 titles, but you don’t need to write them all down. You’ll also get a beautiful digital magazine full of every title we mention and a few fun extras like 2020 reading highlights from the What Should I Read Next team.

The livestream, recorded video of the event, and digital magazine are exclusive to members of our What Should I Read Next patreon community and the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club. Become a member of our patreon community at patreon.com/whatshouldireadnext. That’s P-A-T-R-E-O-N.com/WhatShouldIReadNext

Put some bookish joy on your calendar and plan to join us December 8th to celebrate what’s on the horizon. I will see you next week!

I love asking readers what they want more of in their reading lives, and over the last several months, I’ve heard the answer “comfort reads” over and over again. “Comfort read” means something different to every reader, but if you’re looking for books that slow your heart rate, soothe your soul, and make you want to travel to a quiet English village, well this episode is for you.

Today’s guest appreciates cozy, comforting reads that feel like a warm hug. In fact, Gina House has been known to literally hug her books when she’s done reading them.

Gina adores cozy mysteries like Agatha Christie novels, but she could do without the murder. So today, I’m recommending charming books that pair well with a comfy chair and a big cup of tea.

Let’s get to it.

Gina, welcome to the show.

[00:02:32]

GINA: Hi, Anne, thanks so much for having me. I was going to say if I was an emoji, I would totally be a smiling face with starry eyes and pink heart with double sparkle. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: And then a couple stacks of books, right?

GINA: Oh, yes. [ANNE LAUGHS] At least - at least a couple.

ANNE: And you know what I think, this is a What Should I Read Next first, I think you’re our first New Hampshire guest.

GINA: That is so great. Hello, New Hampshire readers out there. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: Gina, we were really excited to get your guest submission because you said that you were on the hunt for more cozy and comforting reads, which I imagine sounds so good to so many readers right now.

GINA: This is like the perfect time I think to just sit in a cozy chair with your cup of tea and read a book that, like, makes you feel so happy and cozy.

[00:03:20]

ANNE: Is this what you’re always looking for in the season of your reading life, or is this a specific, here and now reading desire?

GINA: I think it’s an all the time reading desire. I feel like when I was younger I had certain other books and types of reading that I really enjoyed, but since I’ve been in my forties, I feel like what makes me most happy are books that make me feel warm, cozy, and just make me want to hug a book when I’m done.

ANNE: Like literally hug the book?

GINA: Oh yeah. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: I know that we talk about people literally flinging books across the room, do they get literal hugs as well?

GINA: Oh they do. I know the book is a five star, I mean, there are some five stars I haven’t hugged, but for the most part, if it makes me either cry in a good way at the end or I hug the book, I know that that is my five star huggable comfort book and I have to find more like that. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: Does this mean that you’re a hugger of physical books? Or are you an e-reader as well?

GINA: My husband did get me a Kindle, which I was against at first, but I do read a few books on Kindle. But mostly I have to, like to me, the experience of holding a book, smelling a book, deckled edges, all that is like part of the reason I really enjoy reading. So I think that having a physical book is my preferred reading method.

ANNE: Okay, Gina, you have a very special collection of books. Can you tell us a little about that?

GINA: Yes. Ah, so, my grandmother who turned 100 years old this year in April, my grandmother Catherine, she is also a huge reader and when I was growing up, I used to borrow a lot of her books and then she actually gave me her entire collection of Agatha Christie books and as soon as I started to read them, oh my goodness, I loved them so much. And it was not because of the mystery mostly, I mean, those were great, but it was because of the way she wrote that made them so wonderful and gave me that cozy feeling. So I read them. I can’t even tell you, I think I’ve read each one of those books ten times would be an understatement. I’ve actually listened to the audio versions of those at least ten times as well each. But then when I had her collection, I kept carrying them from place to place when my husband and I were starting our family, and then when we were moving from one house to another house, for some reason, we were in this like let’s get rid of as much as we can, and I had so many boxes of books. [LAUGHS]

[00:05:53]

ANNE: Oh, I have a bad feeling right now.

GINA: Oh my God... yes.

ANNE: Okay, what happened?

GINA: So we had a yard sale and I got … Not all of them, but most of the books I was like, oh someone else will enjoy them. Almost that night, I felt so much regret, like the most heartbreaking regret. So then I had only a few, maybe five books left of those collection that was from my grandmother. If you’re listening to this, don’t ever do that. Learn from my horrible mistake. But since then, that was like 15 years ago, I’ve been slowly buying the same editions of those books that I had from her, and now I think I’m only missing a few, but I want, like specific editions, so I’m almost done having my entire collection back.

ANNE: Well I would like to think that you got dozens of readers hooked on your grandmother’s Agatha Christie novels with your act of service back in your 20s.

GINA: Thank you for saying that ‘cause that is the only small comfort that I have from doing that yard sale, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve donated a book saying I was done with it, and then I’ve gone to like a thrift store and bought the same book. [ANNE LAUGHS] I’m telling you, a couple of times, they were actually my own book because my name was in it.

ANNE: Really?

GINA: Like that is not a joke. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: Oh, that’s so fun. Well if you put it into the universe and it ends up finding its way back to you, there’s something there, Gina.

GINA: I think so too, yeah, so, I have to be very careful now because as hard as I try to be a minimalist and also a book reader at the same time, it just doesn’t work out. I - I … It’s so hard to choose to keep or to not keep.

[00:07:33]

ANNE: Let’s go back and talk about your reading habits here. At least ten times each? That is a whole lot of rereading.

GINA: [LAUGHS] That is not an exaggeration. If you ask my husband, when I was telling him I was going to tell you that, he said to me, that’s - that’s - you’re really understating that, and I was like well, I never kept track. But I am serious. At least ten times, maybe more. More like 20 times each. Each … Like every single book.

ANNE: What keeps calling you back?

GINA: I think it’s because like I said the way that she writes is so soothing, like I love books that take place in English villages and with, like, quirky characters that are really lovable and for some reason, I love books that take place in like 1950s or before. I don’t know why. [LAUGHS] But all of those things kinda come together and make it feel really cozy to me.

ANNE: How disparate is that from your own background?

GINA: Ah, well, yes I definitely don’t live in England. I wish I did. I think that’s one of the reasons why I like cozy books is because I’ve really struggle with anxiety since I was little and also being in HSP, I feel like sometimes things get too overwhelming for me emotionally, so I think reading things where people are just sitting and having tea and having a conversation and what’s happening in the little village, it’s not overwhelming and it makes me feel like I’m part of this small community that everybody takes care of each other despite what happens in the plot or in the story. You know?

ANNE: [LAUGHS] Everybody sits around drinking tea, talking about the murder.

GINA: I know, and it’s so funny because like you know, people are like, but if you don’t like books about you know, suffering, there’s dead bodies like in this book, and I was like but that’s like on the side. It’s what the books are about, but to me not really. To me I always say I’m trying to find a book that’s like Agatha Christie without the murder and mystery, and people are like, there’d be no story, and I’d be like [ANNE LAUGHS] and I say to myself but that’s exactly what I want. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: So we are definitely going ot keep that in mind today and try to figure out how to give you that cozy Christie murder mystery feeling without the murder. And maybe without the mystery.

GINA: Right. I mean those things could be in it but I prefer them without.

[00:09:49]

ANNE: Okay. Gina, you’ve been a reader for a long, long time. Have you always gravitated toward those older books?

GINA: No. When I was in my 20s and even probably in my teens, I was, like, completely obsessed with Stephen King and Dean Koontz. I think Dean Koontz’s Lightning was the first book I read of his, and I was like oh my God, this is amazing. And I also love books about aliens. [LAUGHS] Anything like really thrilling. And I couldn’t get enough of them for so, so long. I think it’s after I graduated college and we had a baby, I think after that it completely stopped, and it was like I wanted the exact opposite. So my tastes are very different from when I was younger.

ANNE: Have you tried to analyze what happened? Are you just going with it?

GINA: I think it just makes sense to me how, like when you’re younger, you always want to have new adventures, new experiences, and then once you’ve had a lot of maybe stress or exciting experiences, then you kinda wanna have the opposite in your life where you’re feeling more soothed and someone’s taking care of you instead of you taking care of somebody else. [BOTH LAUGH] And I feel like books really do that. I feel like the books that I love are books that feel like they take care of me and the characters are friends that I think about later.

I was lucky because when I was little my mom would take, because she worked a lot, whenever she had free time, she would take me to the library and get me books. She was like my library angel and she would read to me and my sister at night and I think that really helped, made me love books so much more because it was spending time with her, and my sister, and also bringing my love of books so strongly into my life when I was young.

ANNE: Okay. So you said that you like reading about the relationships on the page, but books have been significant in your important relationships as well.

GINA: Oh definitely. Yeah.

ANNE: Interesting.

GINA: My sister used to constantly bug me because she’s … We’re only a year apart. But she’s very outdoorsy and she used to beg me to leave the house and my book to go ride bikes with her. [BOTH LAUGH] And like most of the time I was like no, sorry, Kim, I can’t do that, and she would be so sad. So sometimes I’d give in and put my book down. Mostly it was trying, her trying to tear me away from my book and getting out of the house when we were little. [LAUGHS]

[00:12:15]

ANNE: Several decades later, how much as changed?

GINA: I’m still the same I feel like. I still love being at home. I am so excited that I get to work from home now and I usually read at least three books at a time, a book in the morning, a book in the afternoon, a book at night. So books are definitely a huge part of my life still.

ANNE: Are those different books? Do you have different kinds of reading you do, morning, noon, and night?

GINA: Oh, yes, so in the morning, I start out with a spiritual or like meditation mindfulness type book, and then later morning or afternoon, I like to read either a middle grade book or children’s book, and then at night I like to read my main book. And then sometimes if I’m really ambitious, I also have a nonfiction book, like, about some new age type subject, like crystals or tarot or ghosts, or something like that. I’m always reading three books at a time at least.

ANNE: Crystals, tarot, or ghosts.

GINA: Yeah. [LAUGHS] Or energy medicine or you know, something like that.

ANNE: Yeah. Okay. And you think of the evening book as your main book?

GINA: Yes. Yeah, that’s the one that I give the most time to. If I’m lucky, I have about two hours of reading a day. I get up about 5:45, so at night I like to give at least an hour to read, and the other times during the day, it’ll be like 15 to 20 minutes, or half an hour if I’m really lucky.

ANNE: Okay. What happens if you miss one of your sessions?

GINA: Oh. I mean. I have, but it is sad and I feel like taking time to just sit down ‘cause I’m a huge goal-orientated person, so if I’m not productive, I sometimes don’t feel good about myself, so sitting down really helps me to be less frantic about like accomplishing my goals and so it’s a much needed thing for me to try to learn, is to try to slow down and enjoy the moment. So that’s what I’m trying to do.

[00:14:08]

ANNE: All right, well, we will see if we can find books that can help you toward those ends.

GINA: That’d be great.

***

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***

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***

ANNE: Well Gina, I’d love to hear more about your specific books. Are you ready to get into them?

[00:16:57]

GINA: I think so, yeah.

ANNE: Okay. Well 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 may enjoy reading next. Gina, how did you choose these favorites today?

[00:17:11]

GINA: It was very hard. I really wish you had a ten favorite sct... [BOTH LAUGH] Section because it was so hard to pick three, but I tried to pick three that were three different types of books that I generally like or ones that I reread a lot, that are not Agatha Christie because I feel like even though I read those all the time, I want something that was different just to show you other kinds of books that I do like.

ANNE: And what did you choose for book one?

GINA: Okay. So book one is The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge. So the story takes place in a cathedral city in the 1870s that is kinda ruled over by this formidable dean, his name is Adam Ayscough. Even though he really loves the parishioners and townspeople, he is really crippled by shyness and so this shyness makes him appear unapproachable and grumpy and really severe, which he is really not. One day he meets this timid little watchmaker named Isaac Peabody who is also a genius clockmaker and makes these beautiful things, they strike up this friendship, and the friendship helps to make them not only understand themselves more but also how to love and interact with other people and so it kinda reawakens a spiritual part of themselves that was lacking. So that transformation brings out more love and peace in the whole city. It’s just a beautiful book.

ANNE: What’s the comfort read factor on Elizabeth Goudge for you?

GINA: Oh my goodness, I would say definitely five. Well — if I was being very picky, I would say 4.75 because in her books, there does seem to be a high level of sacrifice and sometimes that’s a little bit frustrating for me because I’m like just don’t do that, like, you can relax your morals a tiny bit. If it didn’t have that, all of her books would be five stars for me. But I still give them five stars because they resonate so deeply with me, her beautiful writing is just amazing.

ANNE: And you care about the writing. I’m still trying to figure out what kind of writing we’re looking for, but you’ve said that about Christie, about Goudge

GINA: Yes, so this author has the most descriptive, gorgeous, like beautiful prose. It’s the kinda book where you want to keep a highlighter or pencil or book darts with you because you come upon these paragraphs or just single sentences that are so beautiful you can see them in your mind and you just want to reread that sentence over and over. I usually have notes so I can go back and read those passages over and over. They’re just so descriptive. The imagery is just really beautiful.

[00:19:54]

ANNE: Okay, that was The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge. Gina, what did you choose for book two?

GINA: For book two I chose Archangel by Sharon Shinn. It’s the first book in the Samaria series.

ANNE: This is a book that’s new to me. Tell me more about it.

GINA: I’ve only read like three fantasy series in my life and I don’t really gravitate toward fantasy, but for some reason, I don’t know how I picked this book up but it was just amazing. This is another reread and listen to on Audible that I frequently go back to. So it’s fantasy and it takes place on another planet that succeeds Earth in the future.

Every 20 years a new Archangel is chosen to govern this land called Samara. The new Archangel is introduced during, like, this beautiful celebration where they have music and singing of the angels and the people. And so, not only is this celebration of singing for all the people but the Archangel also has to have a new bride. So this book is about Gabriel, the angel chosen to become the next archangel and he has to not only find his bride, Rachel, who is not an angel, and also try to get a relationship going with her that is beneficial for both of them because they both don’t know each other. So this book is about them finding each other, trying to get along with each other, and this beautiful planet that also has a lot of undercurrents of strife and difficulties because the current Archangel does not want to give up his power to Gabriel, who is going to be the new Archangel.

ANNE: If this isn’t what you typically read, do you remember how you stumbled upon it?

GINA: I wish I did. I think it’s because I judge books by their cover, like literally, [LAUGHS] and I was at Barnes and Nobel and I saw this, and I was like wow, that’s beautiful. [LAUGHS] And I just, I think I just picked it up and it ended up being the most wonderful fantasy book that I’ve ever read and the story is just so … It just captivates you and it’s such an original idea.

I think it’s one of five books and all the books are amazing. The second one you find out some surprising things, so if you like the first one, definitely read the second. The series is just so original and unique, and the way that she writes is so enjoyable. She really captures your attention and the characters are so interesting and you really feel for them and you really want to know, oh my gosh, like what happens next with these people? I want to know. I don’t want to leave this book.

[00:22:31]

ANNE: That’s a great way to feel. That is Archangel by Sharon Shinn. Gina, what did you choose to round out your favorites list?

GINA: Okay, so this one was really hard. But I did choose Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. That one really shows my interest in Chinese culture because I’m half Chinese. My dad is Chinese and my mom is not, and so I really do love books that take place in China, especially long ago like in the 1800s and 1900s and also Pearl S. Buck, which I also love her books. Both of them write so deeply about China and the relationships between men and women and just like, just situations in general that were really important at like that time so that’s why I chose this book.

ANNE: I’ve read some Lisa See but not this one. Tell me more.

GINA: Okay. So this story takes place in, I believe, 19th century China with a country girl named Lily who I think is seven when the story starts, and her emotional matriarch companion which is called a lao tong named Snow Flower. So they introduce each other by writing on a silk fan with a special language written in a poetry style called nu shu, that’s generally just used by Chinese women to communicate in secret without men being able to understand, like, the messages. This story is generally about Lily and Snowflower and all the messages and stories they send to each other during their lifetime, their hopes and dreams, how they feel isolated at times. They have such a deep bond and they find a lot of comfort in their relationships. In the middle of the book, I don’t want to give it away, but there’s a misunderstanding that occurs between them that kinda threatens their friendship, so that’s generally what this book is about.

The descriptions of the homes, the clothing, the characters, all of it was really vivid to me. Once I began reading this book and getting to know the characters, I completely lost myself in this world, the girls every day experiences, their feelings, and how they handle joy and obstacles that came their way really made them feel more like dear friends than characters in this book. And of course it also made me think about how my grandmother’s life was not so much different from the women of that time, even though they were born in different decades.

ANNE: I have enjoyed what I’ve read by Lisa See. I would love to read more, and that one sounds intriguing. I love your personal connection to that book as well.

GINA: It really helps me ...like before I was younger because I was half Chinese, a lot of kids not made fun of me and my sister but we didn’t really fit in, and so I was kinda not interested in learning more about Chinese. I tried to distance myself from that part of my life and part of my culture until I became like an adult and in my 20s and then I started becoming really interested and unfortunately my Chinese grandparents had passed away, and so I couldn’t talk to them about it. But I really love books that take place in China, like long ago, and that really talk about relationships that happen between families and all … the culture is so different than here and so it’s just really great to be able to immerse myself in that way.

[00:25:47]

ANNE: Have you stumbled upon any other favorites that have the characteristics that you know you really enjoy reading about?

GINA: Like I said, all Pearl S. Buck books that take place in China, especially The Good Earth. There are so many … The Mother … There are so many of her books that I always go back to because it really gives me a sense of living in that time and her writing is also incredibly beautiful.

ANNE: Okay. I’m so glad to hear that. Now, to figure out what you may enjoy reading next, it’s helpful to hear what didn’t work for you. So could you tell me about a book that just was not right?

GINA: Yes I do, but I know people say that they’re hesitant to say it, and I definitely feel … It’s more that I feel sad about it because I had heard about this book on your podcast and I was so excited to read it because it sounded .... like everything about it sounded like it would be for me. So this book is The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan and I had such high hopes because it’s about books and it’s about having like, living in a tiny house/barn being in the beautiful Scottish countryside. I thought oh my god, this is my book. So I bought it, and I was really disappointed and I feel so bad about that.

I think it just came to me the wrong time in my life. I think that if I had read this book in my 20s, I would have liked it more. I think it’s because now that it felt like a YA book, but I didn’t feel sympathy for any of the characters. I felt like all the characters just annoyed me. I felt like Nina, although I thought she was brave to start a new life in another country and do something new, I felt like she wasn’t very sympathetic. Caring for her and what happened to her just kinda like eluded me and I didn’t really know why. And her friends, Sunrinder, I felt like not a very good friend and just bullied and nagged her all the time and her friend was not kind to her so I just wanted to, like, shake her friend, say just be nice to Nina for once!

And then I think the relationship with Lennox, the person whose farm that she was living on, I felt like it was just very predictable. He was just too much of a jerk for me to like [ANNE LAUGHS] and he kinda like, he kinda lets down his guard a little bit and kinda talks to her condescendingly but I just, I think my hopes were too high and it was just more of a light romance and I was just so let down.

[00:28:13]

ANNE: I wanna explore this a little bit because as you’re looking for cozy and comforting, I can see how absolutely on the surface this is a story about a young woman who wants to reinvent herself by moving to Scotland and opening a … Well, it’s called the bookshop, but really it’s a book van. Actually the British title is The Little Shop of Happy Ever After, which …

GINA: Oh!

ANNE: May make a little more sense.

GINA: That makes more sense.

ANNE: But I can see how on the surface this is great, like, woman loses her library job because I think there’s funding issues and then they basically wanna replace her with a computer. Is that what happened?

GINA: Yes.

ANNE: Okay. I think you read this more recently than me. She buys a van, and she turns it into a bookmobile and she takes books to this tiny village in Scotland. She gets the thrill of recommending the right book to the right person and she forms friendships and wins people over forever by saying you know what you would love? This one, and they do, and they love books and they become friends with her and she falls for a grumpy Scot who’s apparently a little too grumpy for you.

GINA: [LAUGHS] Yup.

ANNE: So I would think if you’re looking for a cozy read, this seems to like check some of those elements. I wanna make sure I understand like why it wasn’t good, so you felt like it was a little predictable.

GINA: Yes. And I feel like it was more like a light romance that had so many frustrating elements to it. I just wanted them to understand each other [ANNE LAUGHS] and get over their young person drama and just be an adult and say what you feel and say what you mean. Like I’m 47, so I think reading it now is maybe just I’m just so over it all that if I read this in my 20s, it might have been the opposite. I might not have felt bothered or frustrated, I might have been feeling very sympathetic and like yeah, he should have done this, or he should have done that, or you should have done this. But I think at this time in my life, it felt to me more like a YA book and those really frustrate me and teen angst is really hard for me right now, so I’m like I can’t go there. [LAUGHS]

[00:30:21]

ANNE: Okay. So, no YA for you right now. That’s an important takeaway from this. [GINA LAUGHS] With a book like this, you do know how the characters are going to end up. You know they’re going to end up happy. You know that the romantic leads are going to end up together. You know that the shop is going to, like, come out okay in the end, so as a reader, you have to enjoy the journey of getting there. It sounds like you didn’t.

GINA: No, and it’s strange because I usually really like things that are extremely predictable. I love planning everything, organizing everything, so that’s why I was just really surprised. I found such relief in finishing the book. I put it down, I was like thank goodness that’s over. I don’t really know why exactly because I usually do like books that have an uplifting and predictable ending. But I think it was because of the light romance part of it that made things really hard for me to enjoy as much as I wanted to.

ANNE: Well I’m glad we had this conversation because at the beginning of our talk, I had a book in mind for you that I thought might be great. It featured books. It was set in England that you like. There was a small village with smart relationships, and it really reminded me of this very title that didn’t work for you. So we’re not going there, Gina.

GINA: Oh no, I was going to say tell me anyway. [BOTH LAUGH] I want all the recommendations. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: Okay. I’ll let you know after we record. Maybe it’ll be a Patreon bonus episode.

GINA: Okay.

ANNE: All right, so that was The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan, or The Little Shop of Happy Ever After if you’re in the U.K. Not for you. Gina, what have you been reading lately?

GINA: I am part of a book club, the Elizabeth Goudge book club on Instagram. Love that book club so much, so I’m reading Green Dolphin Street this month and that one is also an amazing book, so it’s not, like, as high as The Dean’s Watch but very close and I’m enjoying every minute of that book. I’m also reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. That I’m listening to on audio and then I’m reading Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh and the last book I’m reading right now is Energy Medicine by Donna Eden.

[00:32:29]

ANNE: Okay. So that sounds like a nice sampling of morning, afternoon, and evening. We don’t have a middle grade though, so I’ll think about that as we move forward.

GINA: Oh, I actually just this morning I just finished Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin and oh my God, that one is another five star rating. I loved that book.

ANNE: Oh, I don’t know that one.

GINA: Oh, you have to read it, Anne! It is so beautiful. The illustrations are gorgeous. It is just such a wonderful, sweet fairytale type read, and usually I don’t like fairytales, but this one 100% worth reading. I loved it.

ANNE: Okay, Gina, something I’ve noticed from our conversation is you’ve said usually I don’t read fantasy, usually I don’t like fairytales [GINA LAUGHS] but I hear that you’re willing to try books even if they usually aren’t what you read.

GINA: Yes, I think it’s less the genre than the type of writing or how that author writes their books. So I think I’m pretty open minded when it comes to genre, but I think to me it has to be character driven and it has to have beautiful writing or else I’m not able to keep going with it.

ANNE: I mean you said beautiful writing, we want writing that’s really descriptive, makes it easy for you to picture the scene in front of you. Is that fair, is that how you put it?

GINA: Yes. Yes. Like sentences that not only you can see in your mind and have a lot of imagery, but like if you want to write down a quote later or to tell someone and to share with other people like, this is so gorgeous, you have to read this book.

ANNE: And I get the impression from some of the books you’ve said you loved that it doesn’t necessarily need to be like describing a sunset at this peak, emotional moment, but that it can be quippy and clever as well.

GINA: Oh definitely. I also love epistolary novels because it feels like each little section has so much in it before it goes to like the next letter, and I think that’s why short stories and epistolary novels because of that, because you get a lot of depth and description in one small little chunk.

***

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***

ANNE: All right, Gina, we got a lot to work with here. So the books you love, The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge, Archangel by Sharon Shinn, and Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See, which narrowly beat out three other books. Not for you The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan, and you’re looking for cozy and comforting books. So you told us on your submission, nothing thrilling, no heartache, no horrible illnesses, no great tragedy. You’re looking for books that bring happiness and joy and bring that hug the book when I’m done feeling.

[00:36:05]

GINA: Yes.

ANNE: Something that I’m wrestling through with is if we’re talking about fiction, at least in part, and fiction is driven by conflict, how much conflict or what kind of conflict can we handle?

GINA: Yeah, I think if the conflict is more of the undercurrent of the book and not the main focus of the book, then I’m okay with it because I think most of the books I’ve read have had some sort of conflict or you know, maybe small amounts of suffering or heartache but it’s not the main focus of the book. It’s more how the characters interact with each other and get past it, but it’s not the main focus. So I think - I think if it has some conflict it’s okay.

[00:36:45]

ANNE: And it seems like the tone is really important for you. The tone of all these books you enjoy is gentle, there’s kindness, there’s a general … It might be easier to say what these books are not, like they’re not satirical. They’re not snarky. They’re not mean spirited.

GINA: Yeah, I don’t like gossipy books or romantic comedies or teen angst. [LAUGHS] But I do like a book that’s hopeful.

ANNE: You’ve been open to picking up stuff that’s a little off your beaten path if it has some of the elements you think you’re looking for.

GINA: Yes definitely. I’m definitely open to something that’s not a type of book that I usually read as long as it gives me that cozy, comforting feeling.

ANNE: Okay. First book I have in mind is an epistolary novel.

GINA: Oh yay!

ANNE: First published in 1911. It seems perfect for you so I wonder of course if you’ve already read it.

GINA: Oh I love 1911. Keep going.

ANNE: The book I have in mind is by Jean Webster, it’s called Daddy-Long-Legs. Is this one you know?

GINA: No. Not at all. Oh I’m excited.

ANNE: Now first of all this book needs a major disclaimer. It came out in 1911 and if you look at the plot with modern eyes, it might feel a little wrong. Just remember. You’re in a time machine. You’re reading a book set in 1911. We’re just going to go with it.

GINA: Okay.

[00:38:01]

ANNE: So this is epistolary, that means of course it is a novel in letters and it’s about a young girl whose name is Jerusha Abbott. She does not like her name. We’ll get to that in a second. Her parents died. She was raised in an orphanage. That is the backdrop of the story. As she gets ready to graduate high school, she writes an essay and it catches the attention of the orphanage’s trustees when they come to visit. It’s a snarky essay, but it’s 1911 gently precocious young woman snarky. I think you’re going to be okay with it, Gina. So the management is appalled that she would entertain the trustees in this way. [GINA LAUGHS] But one of the trustees is quite amused. He loves her spirit and her smarts and he arranges for her to go to college and he is going to … Actually he may not tell her this, but he is going to be the one to pay for it and his only condition is that she has to write him regular letters. And something that’s really fun about this book is she illustrates these letters.

GINA: Oh my goodness. [GASPS]

ANNE: So there’s different pages that show ... they’re stick figure drawings, but they’re precious. They’re photos of her learning to skate with her friends and do gymnastics in gym class, or whatever they called it in 1911. Studying hard. In one illustration she receives two flunk notes and she sheds many tears. [GINA LAUGHS] It’s adorable. Jerusha goes to college, renames herself Judy, and we never hear from Jerusha.

But she writes these letters to Daddy-Long-Legs, and that’s where the name of the book comes from, and the reason is because she’s never met him. She’s never seen his face. She’s only seen his tall shadow on the ground, and you know if you’re standing outside, late afternoon, your shadows thirty feet long. Well that’s how he got the name. He never writes her back. It is just her sending letters to him, and everything goes through a secretary. She doesn’t know his mailing address. But she goes to college. She makes friends. She plays basketball [GINA LAUGHS] because apparently girls in 1911 played basketball which is kinda fun. She’s a regular girl but a really likable and charming one. She’s not perfect, and that’s good.

But she goes through college. She pushes back against Daddy-Long-Legs, who wants her to do certain things, paying for her to go to the country for the summer and she starts pushing back and meanwhile she starts falling in love, maybe, kinda, almost with someone, but it all ends well, it’s all very happy, I think you’ll find it sweet and cozy and charming and the right kind of old fashioned and everybody who deserves a happy ending needs a happy ending. How does that sound?

GINA: That sounds amazing. I love that it takes place in 1911 and that she has like very childish illustrations in it. The whole story sounds so sweet. It actually kinda reminds me of Anne of Green Gables in a spirit way where she’s got so much like enthusiasm and now I’m super excited to read this book.

[00:40:53]

ANNE: I can totally see the Anne of Green Gables thing. Marilla would call her plucky, or would that be Rachel Lynde who would call her plucky? And then if you liked this one, I mean, please read Daddy-Long-Legs first, but in 2013 Katherine Reay, I think this was actually her debut, wrote a novel called Dear Mr. Knightly and in this version, it’s the same set up, Mr. Knightly, that’s not his real name. I think that’s what Samantha dubs him because she’s a Jane Austen fan, and so is Katherine Reay. There’s a dash of Jane Austen in this book, but she writes her letters to Mr. Knightly, whose funding or maybe she thinks his organization is funding, I believe, it’s a journalism scholarship at Northwestern. So that story’s set in Chicago.

GINA: Ooh.

ANNE: So if you do like the 1911 one, maybe the 2013 one can be a fun follow up.

GINA: That sounds great. I love a twofer. Two for one in the same style. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: Exactly. Okay. Next up, have you read The Blue Castle?

GINA: No, it’s so funny you say that because I just bought it but I have not read it. You recommended it to someone else on the podcast and I was like that sounds amazing. So I did buy it, but I have not started.

ANNE: That’s right I did. I recommend it to Holli Petersen in episode 181, so readers if you want to hear what I say the first time, that episode is called “Taking your reading life from good to great.” I think you’d really like this one, Gina. So this is the story of Valancy, it’s a standalone, it’s not a series. She lives with her dower mother and aunt and when I pictured her growing up in their household, I just picture really dark, ugly curtains and no sunlight and no visitors.

GINA: Yikes.

ANNE: Which I don’t know if that’s from the book or if that’s the emotion of the circumstances coloring how I view their parlor, but this poor young woman has never had any independence or life of her own, but then she goes to the doctor and she’s told hey, you have a big deal heart condition, you only have a year to live. And Valancy is like you know what? Screw it, [GINA LAUGHS] and see ya. And she decides that she is going to do something else and just live a little bit before she dies. Which ends with her proposing marriage to a kind man who’s looked at kinda askance from the local community. You know, you’ve said several times that you don’t want, like, you didn’t like the little bit of romance in a book, this is a romance, but it’s a L.M. Montgomery, 1926 romance, and you like Anne of Green Gables.

[00:43:19]

GINA: Oh, yes.

ANNE: I mean, I assumed you don’t have objections to like Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley during what you said.

GINA: Oh, no.

ANNE: Okay.

GINA: No, it’s just when it turns into like a romantic comedy that I don’t go for as much, but this book sounds really great. It sounds just like everything that I like in one, especially because she’s like forget that, I’m just going to start doing exactly what I want now. I’ve been …

ANNE: [LAUGHS] Get off my back, I am out of here.

GINA: I know. I’ve been clustered in this house with a dark, horrible curtains for too long, like let me live my life.

ANNE: All right. I really think that you’re going to enjoy that. I love that it’s already on your shelves and that is The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery. Also for you, I think The Pat of Silver Bush series would be right up your alley. Not a lot happens, but it’s the writing that you have mentioned that you enjoy. Also Jane of Lantern Hill is a good one that is not nearly as well known as the Anne series and the Emily series, her best known ones. I think those are both finding or resurrecting from your shelves if they’re already around.

GINA: It’s so funny that you say that because I just went to a used bookstore in Massachusetts like a few weeks ago and I actually got all those books you just talked about.

ANNE: Oh, that’s so funny. Well I think they’re good ones for you. I’m glad they caught your eyes. Maybe it’s meant to be.

[00:44:31]

GINA: The covers are so vintage and so adorable that I’m like I’m just going to take all these, even though … because they were like a dollar a piece, and I was like I don’t know what they’re about, but I’m just going to grab them and I’m so glad I did because now they’re already there.

ANNE: That’s excellent. I’m glad to hear it. Oh, but we got more ground to cover, Gina.

GINA: Yes.

ANNE: Okay. How do you feel reading like contemporary middle grade?

GINA: I am definitely open to it. Like when someone says contemporary, I’m like ah, but um, but yeah. Let’s go for it.

ANNE: Okay. So the book I’m thinking of is by Kelly Yang. It’s called Front Desk. Is this one you know?

GINA: Oh, no, not at all.

ANNE: Well it’s fairly new. It just came out in 2018. The words Kelly Yang uses to describe it are that it’s emotional, honest, funny, important, and accessible. It’s called Front Desk because, you know, it’s a middle grade novel from the perspective of a 10 year old girl who lives in a motel. Her immigrant parents clean the rooms and she manages the front desk while they do it. Something else important about her setup and her parents' job is that her parents hide immigrants because they have the keys, and they’ve been letting immigrants stay in the empty rooms for free. But they’ve been doing this without the knowledge of the cranky motel owner. Cranky might not be the right word. He just might be plain old mean. She’s an essential part of her parents’ plan, and also she wants to be a writer, and that’s a dream she often indulges and works on while she’s sitting at the front desk.

GINA: Oh.

ANNE: My like oh my gosh, Gina, you have to read this column in my brain thinks this has so many factors that you enjoy in a book like it is middle grade, it could be that afternoon reading. Kelly Yang is phenomenally intelligent. I think she graduated from Harvard law like at age 20.

GINA: Wow.

[00:46:19]

ANNE: I know. Like her personal history is head spinning. She was born in China. She grew up in LA. She went to college at something like the age of 13 which is how she got out of law school at age 20.

GINA: Oh my goodness.

ANNE: She’s writing about issues that are hard, but she’s doing it from the perspective of a 10 year old so I think the way the hardship is addressed, that this could still be a feel good story for you. Like the family clearly has experienced a lot of hardship and the people they know are continuing to do so in really intense ways even while her family situation is not like all, you know, rainbows and unicorns and all that. Just watching Mia make friends with the patrons who come in and develop new relationships with her students at school, the love in her own family, I think could just make … I think it could be huggable.

GINA: It sounds like it could be and I love that she sits out front and talks to people and then she also writes in her spare time ‘cause I also eventually want to write a children’s book, so I love that this is like what she does while she helps her family out. Yeah, definitely a great choice for me. I can’t wait.

ANNE: Well the cover is precious. It’s a 10 year old girl in her sneakers and jeans on a telephone with an actual cord.

GINA: Oh my gosh. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: And a pen in her hand. You can see, like, the little brochure, you can see the brochure rack next to her. It’s adorable.

GINA: Oh my goodness. That sounds awesome. I especially like things that are vintage, like a phone with a cord. That brings back memories. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: That was Front Desk by Kelly Yang. And then I want to end with one that also has a fair share of hardship, but I think that the cheerful, witty, hopeful tone throughout may win the day for you. If I didn’t think so, we would not be talking about it. But the book I’m thinking of is The Women in Black by Madeleine St. John. She’s an Australian writer. Is this one you know?

GINA: No, not at all.

[00:48:12]

ANNE: This book first came out in 1993, but it was just reissued in the United States late winter, early spring in a special gift edition and the cover is really sweet and fun. Women in black dresses on a red background. You mentioned that you like reading books about people’s relationships. This has that in spades. So the women in black, they’re all employees at F.G. Goodes department store.

GINA: Oh. Yes.

ANNE: They work in the ladies cocktail frocks department and they have to wear their black dresses to go on their job. It first came out in ’93 but it’s set during the holiday season in 1950s Sydney. And every woman is dealing with her own stuff at home. Dating, marital issues, friendship issues, you know, everybody’s working with their stuff and then they come to work and they talk about it. It’s smart. It’s clever. And it just has this persistently, it’s not snarky. But it’s like a winky tone that I think you may enjoy. It’s got a wide cast of characters without overwhelming you. There’s a woman falling in love with a man. [LAUGHS] And there’s another moment where a woman is falling in love but it’s with a dress.

GINA: Ooh. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: So that’s kinda fun. And like we said in the beginning of our conversation talking about Daddy-Long-Legs, everybody who deserves one gets their happy ending. I imagine that this felt nostalgic even in 1993 when it first came out, but it does feel very much so right now. Listeners, I don’t know who watches the TV show, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but the book has been compared to this show I think because some of the episodes were set in a 1950s department store, but I think this has a clever kind of writing and just the right amount of whimsy that may make this one a fun one for you.

GINA: You know, as soon as you started talking and describing it, it brought me to think about the show The Paradise. I don’t know if you’ve seen that.

ANNE: No, I don’t know it.

GINA: Oh, it’s beautiful, and it’s also about all of these women and some men who work in a department store called The Paradise. I love that series so much that when you started talking about this book, I was like if it’s anything like this show, I’m going to love it so much because they talk about dresses and relationships and all the customs and rules that happened inside of the department store. Ah, I’m so excited to read this book.

[00:50:38]

ANNE: Oh, I’m so glad to hear it. That was The Women in Black by Madeline St. John. Okay, Gina, we covered a lot of ground I think.

GINA: Yeah.

ANNE: We talked about Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster, and also the 2013 update Dear Mr. Knightly by Katherine Reay, we talked about The Blue Castle and also the Pat books by L.M. Montgomery, Front Desk by Kelly Yang, and then finally The Women in Black by Madeline St. John, of those books, some of which I know you have in your house right now, what do you think you’ll read next?

GINA: I knew you were going to ask me that but I feel so torn because I wish I could read them all at the same time, [LAUGHS] but I think because I have The Blue Castle already on my shelf, I might start with that one, but I think I’ll go to the Daddy-Long-Legs and then Women in Black next. I am so excited to have these books to look forward to.

ANNE: Well I’m excited that you’re excited, and I can’t wait to hear what you think.

GINA: Thank you so much, Anne.

ANNE: Oh, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for talking books with me today.

GINA: Thank you. This was such a treat.

[CHEERFUL OUTRO MUSIC]

ANNE: Hey readers, I hope you enjoyed my discussion with Gina, and I’d love to hear what YOU think she should read next. That page is at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/261 and it’s where you’ll find the full list of titles we talked about today. Follow Gina on Instagram @ginahouse and @babsbelovedbooks, B-A-B-S, Babs beloved books.

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

If you’re on twitter, find me there @AnneBogel. That is Anne with an E, B as in books -O-G-E-L. Tag us on instagram to share what YOU are reading. Find me there at annebogel and at whatshouldireadnext.

Our newsletter subscribers are the first to be in the know; if you’re not on the list sign up now whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/newsletter

To tangibly support the show, thank you. Sign up for our Patreon member community at patreon.com/whatshouldireadnext or pick up a copy of my books, Don’t Overthink It or I’d Rather Be Reading. We would also appreciate it if you shared the book love by sharing the podcast with a friend or leaving a review on Apple podcasts.

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.

• Agatha Christie (try And Then There Were None)
• Stephen King (try The Shining)
Lightning by Dean Koontz
The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge
Archangel (Samaria #1) by Sharon Shinn
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan
Green Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge
Becoming by Michelle Obama
Peace is Every Step: The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life by Thich Nhat Hanh 
Energy Medicine: Balancing Your Body’s Energies for Optimal Health, Joy, and Vitality by Donna Eden
Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin
Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster
Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
The Women in Black by Madeleine St. John

Also mentioned:
WSIRN Ep 181: Taking your reading life from good to great, w/Holli Peterson
• TV show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
• TV show The Paradise

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143 comments | Comment

143 comments

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  1. Barb says:

    The Blue Castle is one of my all time favorites! I will definitely be checking out the other recommendations. I also like Jan Karon’s Mitford series for this kind of gentle, feel-good read.
    And for any Agatha Christie fan, the Miss Silver series by Patricia Wentworth would be good. Miss Silver is kind of a sterner Miss Marple. She was a governess and her intelligence and calm spirit help her solve crimes, mostly set in upper class British homes in the 1920s or 30s.

  2. Ellen Roberts Cole says:

    I second the Mitford series (wonderful narrator in the audiobooks!)! When I heard the likes/dislikes from this reader, my mind automatically went to Rosamunde Pilcher. I’m currently listening to Winter Solstice for the third advent season in a row. Another AWESOME narrator and such wonderful characters and story! It is tied for first place with Coming Home in my Rosamunde Pilcher favorites. Shell Seekers can then sit in second place, since the others are tied. 😉

    • Mary Kay Huck says:

      Yes – Rosamunde Pilcher is the best! And Winter Solstice is perfect for a cozy December read. Full of tea, coffee, wine, fires and conversation.

      • Gina House says:

        Hi Mary Kay! Oh, I agree! Rosamunde Pilcher is so cozy. I’ve only read 3 or 4 of her books so this author is a great suggestion. I’ll have to read more of her books. Besides Winter Solstice (my fav!), which would you suggest I read next? Thank you!

        • Anne says:

          I love that book, but I’ve never listened to the audio version. That sounds like a wonderful tradition and I hope you enjoy this year’s listen!

    • Jill W. says:

      I came here to recommend Rosamunde Pilcher, too. Winter a solstice is such a perfect read this time of year. I love everything I have read by her.

      • Carol Blunier says:

        As soon as I heard you like epistolary novels I thought that after the show I’d come here and recommend Daddy Long Legs, so I was so thrilled when Anne led with that. I think you’ll be hugging it at the end. I read this over and over in my teens.

        • Gina House says:

          Hi Carol! You are SO right! I actually read the book on my Kindle (so I could start reading it immediately) and I loved it so much that I bought 2 hard copies! lol. I found a 1912 hardcover version on ebay (so pretty!) and a paperback copy that’s pink. I literally hugged this book and smiled so much when I was done. I woke my husband up just to tell him how happy I was – lol! Do you have any other epistolary (or other) suggestions for me? Thank you so much! 😀

      • Gina House says:

        Hi Jill! I agree! I read ‘Winter Solstice’ for the first time last winter and I fell in love with it. I may listen to it this month on audio. Do you have a second favorite Rosamunde Pilcher book to recommend? I’ve also read ‘The Shell Seekers’ and one other, I think. Thank you so much 😀

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Ellen! I love Rosamunde Pilcher, too! I read Winter Solstice last year and loved it. I’m going to listen to it this month on audio, too. I’ve read the Shell Seekers (another good one!), but I haven’t read Coming Home yet. I bought it, though, so I’ll add it to the list. The Mitford series was wonderful, but I haven’t listened to it. I’ll add it to my audiobooks list. Thank you so much!

      • Pauline Wyss says:

        When John McDonough reads the Mitford series they absolutely come alive. Not only does he read but also sings the songs mentioned in the books. Lovely..you must try.

  3. Christina says:

    A book that I thought of while listening to this episode was Greenglass House by Kate Milford, which is a middle-grade novel set in a smuggler’s inn at Christmas time. When an assortment of strange guests is trapped there by a snowstorm, items start going missing. It’s up to 12-year-old Milo and his friend Meddy to discover the thief in their midst, and they also discover a lot of other secrets. The book is charming and cozy and not at all stressful, despite the mystery elements. Also, Milo is adopted; he’s of Chinese descent but his parents are not, so the book also explores Milo’s conflicted feelings about his family and heritage. I don’t have any personal experience with adoption, but I thought the issues were handled sensitively here.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Christina! It’s so funny that you mention ‘Greenglass House’. I’ve got it on my TBR list for this month because it’s Christmas-themed. Excellent suggestion – thank you!

  4. Mary Noel says:

    Also by Elizabeth Goudge, Linnets and Valerians, The Scent of Water and China Court. Also for comfort reading, any Betsy-Tacy book, all Louisa May Alcott.

    • Gina House says:

      Mary, you’ve definitely got some excellent suggestions here! My second favorite book is ‘Linnets and Valerians’ and ‘The Scent of Water’ was very good! Is China Court by Elizabeth Goudge, too? I’m in love with the Betsy-Tacy books (just found out about them this year and I’m up to the last two books!) and books by Louisa May Alcott (especially ‘Little Women’, ‘A Long Fatal Love Chase’ and ‘Modern Magic’). I should read more of her books, too. Thank you!

  5. Leslie Einhaus says:

    I adored the Cedar Cove Series by Debbie Macomber. Now it was published by the arm of a romance publication firm BUT it is not that kind of book at all. This follows a community and many of its members (different ones spotlighted each book) as they go about their daily lives of trials and tribulations. Now there is love but it is adult love (not teenage angst) in these pages and this author always handles it well among the characters she creates. I really felt like these characters were stepping off the page and I had my favorites and it was fun to see certain characters pop up in different books. There is even a mystery in one! I thought this solved your ‘no mystery, just everyday life’ book well. And you get a series to boot! The Hallmark Channel even adapted this series into a series. As per usual, the book(s) were better. Good luck reading! I really enjoyed this particular podcast! Thank you!

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Leslie! I’m so happy you liked my podcast episode – yay! I’ve read a number of Debbie Macomber books (I even talked to her on the phone with my book club once! She was so nice!), but I don’t think I’ve read this particular series. I’ll put it on my list. Thank you so much! 🙂

  6. Ginny Agnew says:

    I too love a book of more tea drinking less action. An all time favorite of mine is anything by Barbara Pym. When I discovered her back in the 1980’s it was a jacket cover blurb comparing her to Jane Austen that clued me in to her appeal. Vicars and jumble sales and villages of England. I reread Excellent Women especially often. But I love them all. She led me to Mary Wesley who writes a bit racier early 20th Century independent woman set of books. If you enjoy the Miss Fisher mysteries on Acorn you may like Wesley. And that makes me think of the Maisie Dobbs series of psychological/ spiritual mysteries centered around the World Wars. Read those in sequence as she ages as they go along.
    And finally I am always surprised that Alexander McCall Smith’s books are treated rather shabbily on this podcast as he has so many choices of sweet characters that could satisfy a wide range of readers looking for uplifting heartfelt stories. But I am probably prejudice as I’ve a huge crush on Isabel Dalhousie the protagonist in his Sunday Philosophy series.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Ginny! Super suggestions! This year was the first time I started reading Barbara Pym. I really liked ‘Excellent Women’, too! I have a couple more on my list, so I should get back to them. I think I’ve read most of the Maisie Dobbs (really entertaining!) and Alexander McCall Smith is one of my top 10 fav authors. I adore his #1 Ladies Detective Agency series and the Scotland Road series, too. Thank you so much 🙂

      • Ginny Agnew says:

        Gina
        I hope you enjoy a Daddy Long Legs as much as I did, too. There is a delightful movie based on it. But be sure and enjoy the book first. You were a delightful guest. Ginny

      • Rachel E. says:

        I just came here to suggest Alexander McCall Smith as I thought of him immediately as I was listening to the podcast. I’m so glad you’re already a fan!

      • Ruthie says:

        Gina, I want to second the motion for reading Barbara Pym, especially ‘Some Tame Gazelle’ (my favorite, read multiple times). It’s a peek into the life of 2 unmarried sisters of a certain age who live in a small English village. Vicars and jumble sales abound! Also, I strongly recommend the Miss Read series (plural) of books, both of which are centered in Cotswold villages — one called Fairacre, the other called Thrush Green. Author Jan Karon called Miss Read her inspiration for the Mitford series. Miss Read’s voice is more matter-of-fact, though, lacking the sometimes treacly (to me) religiosity of Jan Karon’s work, but also lacking the arch amusement of Barbara Pym. In some libraries, Miss Read’s books are listed as YAs; in others, they’re categorized as adult fiction. They’re suitable for anyone middle-school-aged or older. This is as relaxing and comforting as it gets, to my mind!
        Finally, I’ve greatly enjoyed the work of Susan Wittig Albert, which I discovered through this podcast. Albert has written several series; the China Bayles mystery series is set in current times in a small town in Texas hill country (the countryside between San Antonio / Austin / Waco). Think “Nancy Drew for YA to grownups.” (In fact, the author WAS the pseudonymnous “Carolyn Keene” in the 1980s!)
        The Darling Dahlias series is set in the small South Alabama town of Darling during the Depression years. The main characters are the members of the Dahlias Garden Club. If you have access to Hoopla through your local library, most books in both series are available as audiobooks, and they’re wonderfully voiced! Happy reading!

  7. Leslie says:

    At Home in Mitford and the rest of the series by Jan Karon are cozy and descriptive. I also think the Three Pines books by Louise Penny have the cozy village element although they are dramatic.

    • Gina House says:

      Thank you so much, Leslie! I’ve read almost all of the Jan Karon books and I loved them. Great suggestion! I haven’t read any Louise Penny yet, but I might have to now 🙂

  8. Crystal Pollard says:

    While listening to this episode I couldn’t help but thinking about how much Gina would enjoy Miss Read Village School. It is set in a cute english village back in the first half of the 1900s.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Crystal! Thank you so much! I’ve actually read both the Thrush Green and Fairacre series. You are so right on with my taste in books. Do you have any other similar suggestions for me?

  9. Pam says:

    Try E. M. Delafield, especially her Provincial Lady series. This is a fictional diary series so if you like epistolary novels I think you would like this. Also, D.E. Stevenson’s books. Start with Miss Buncle’s Book. She has another series featuring Mrs. Tim. The first one is called Mrs. Tim Christie. They were written in the 1930s. Another favorite comfort read for me is Mrs. Miniver by Jan Struther. I think our reading tastes are very similar. I too was disappointed by the Jenny Colgan novel. It just felt too juvenile to me. I didn’t even finish it.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Pam! Yay! Awesome book suggestions! I really liked ‘Diary of a Provincial Lady’ – I’ll have to read more of those. And D.E. Stevenson is a huge favorite of mine. I’ve read at least 7 of her books, but not the Mrs. Tim series. That’s definitely on my TBR list. And ‘Mrs. Miniver’ was amazing! This book is on my Top 20 favorite books of all time. So relieved to hear that you found Jenny Colgan’s book hard to finish. I thought it was only me! Thank you 😀

      • Meg L says:

        Hi Gina! I’ve read as many DE Stevenson as I can possibly get my hands on (and re-read!). And the Mrs Tim series is my fave! You have a treat ahead of you. It’s worth reading them in chronological order. Enjoy!!

  10. Beth R says:

    I enjoy episodes like this. I don’t consider my self a “comfort reader” but I love Archangel, Daddy-Long-Legs, and all things Lisa See so I may need to re-think what kind of reader I am. My suggestion is The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. 1960s south with a girl surrounded by strong women. It was warmth with a spiritual feel for me.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Beth! So glad you enjoyed my episode! I’m so excited to hear that you like the same books that I do! I have read ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ and it was lovely! Any of suggestions for me? Thank you so much 😀

      • Beth R says:

        Well sure! Bee Season by Myla Goldberg and Plainsong by Kent Haruf. Both of these books feature girls dealing with very different challenges but their families (birth family and found family) are a huge part of how they move through their challenges. I find that heartwarming and hopeful. Happy Reading!

      • Andrea Olynick says:

        Saving Cee Honeycott and The Dry august of August. And my favorite, The Truth According to us. Not stressful but southern novels.

  11. Kate says:

    Hi Gina! I’ve added so many books to my TBR from this episode and the comments and seen many more that are favorites of mine.

    I’d love to know if you have any favorite “new age-y” non-fiction books to recommend.

    Here’s to getting cozy this winter 🙂

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Kate! Yay! That makes me so happy! Anne had recommended even more books to me. I hope that she’ll add a bonus episode of those and my reviews of the books I read that she recommended on the show 😀

      Here are some favorite new age books:

      The Crystal Healer by Phillip Permutt
      Reiki with Gemstones by Ursual Klinger-Omenka
      The Crystal Healing Book by Judy Hall
      Numerology: Universal Vibration of Numbers by Barbara Bishop
      Tarot for Yourself by Mary K. Greer
      A Field Guide to Happiness by Linda Leaming
      Angels in My Hair by Lorna Byrne
      Peace is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hahn (my fav!)
      Hidden Messages in Water by Masaru Emoto
      The Tapping Solution Books by the Ortner Family (Nick and Jessica)
      Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui by Karen Kingston
      Heal Your Body by Louise Hay
      Mudras: Yoga In Your Hands by Gertrud Hirschi
      Get Grounded by Harmony Rose West

      (I could literally go on and on…lol…but these are books that I re-read and refer back to often.) Thanks so much, Kate! 😀

      • Kate says:

        What a great list 🙂 I use the Ortner’s Tapping app and it has been super helpful during this totally bananas year.
        Thank you for sharing!

  12. Julie says:

    Dear Gina ,
    If you want to go with a Miss Marple type character from the 70s , how about the Miss Pollifax mysteries , by Dorothy Gilman ? She’s older and is alone, but yet feels she could still do something good with her time , so she volunteers to be an Undercover CIA Agent. She has quite a few adventures and it’s an enjoyable series.
    Also, another author I thought you might enjoy that also wrote mystery/ suspense type books is Barbara Michaels/ Elizabeth Peters.
    Under her Barbara name , give the Georgetown trilogy a try. It starts with Ammie , Come Home.
    Under her Elizabeth name, she wrote a mystery series set in Egypt , with Amelia Peabody as the main character. There are several in this series.
    If you want to go even further back, these were hugely popular when I was a teen, back in the 70s. Try Victoria Holt or Phyllis Whitney. Our head librarian loved these books, so I read them all way back when.
    All the above are gentle reads without anything graphic .
    Good luck and happy reading. ♥️

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Julie! Wow – this is fantastic! I have read the first book in the Mrs. Pollifax series, but not anything else. Will add those.I have read Victoria Holt and Phyllis A. Whitney (I think I’ve read most of them!) and loved them. Great suggestion. Every time I visit a used book store and I see one, I grab it! I used to love Barbara Michaels, too, but I completely forgot about these books. I didn’t know she was also Elizabeth Peters. Maybe I’ll be able to find more of her books. Thank you so much! I really appreciate your suggestions. Many hugs! 😀

  13. Sarah says:

    Love Elizabeth Goudge…I had to look and see if anyone had mentioned Gene Stratton-Porter, and it doesn’t look like she has! Highly recommend all of her books, but especially Girl of the Limberlost.

  14. Aubree says:

    I just want to recommend the books of P.G. Wodehouse to you, Gina. His books really do remind me of the Agatha Christie vibe without the murder. I don’t recall you mentioning humor much on the show, so you should know these are definitely comedies. They are clever, silly fluff set in 1910s-1930s England. I just read “Leave it to Psmith” and it felt like taking a pleasant jaunt to the English countryside. I am partial to his Jeeves and Wooster stories, as I grew up watching the PBS version of those books (I also grew up watching Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries with my family!).

    • Annie says:

      Oh I didn’t notice this comment before posting mine! But yes, absolutely agree on the Wodehouse books being Agatha Christie without the murder. Just like a straight IV injection of comfy, cozy, hilarious English countryside hijinks! (I have Psmith on my TBR!)

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Aubree! Oh, thank you! I actually just bought 2 P.G. Wodehouse books, but I haven’t read them yet. Glad to know that you loved them because we seem to have similar taste. I love watching Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries 😀

  15. Annie says:

    My ultimate cozy reads are the Bertie and Jeeves novels/stories by PG Wodehouse! All the cozy tea-drinking, English country manor vibes without murder lol! My absolute favorite is The Inimitable Jeeves (technically a collection of short stories, so a good primer!), and Just Enough Jeeves is a good starting trio too!

    Louisa May Alcott wrote a couple of bodice-rippers that have recently been reprinted, I read A Long Fatal Love Chase and that was WILD in a fun, enjoyable way (so many crazy twists!).

    Also echoing everyone else who loved The Blue Castle. There’s one scene where Valancy reads in bed in the middle of the night while it’s snowing and it’s just **perfect winter vibes** I think about that scene around this time every year as the days get shorter!

    Jane of Lantern Hill is another wonderful one-off by LM Montgomery, if you’re feeling like a Montgomery marathon lol!

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Annie! So happy to get your recommendations! I also loved LMAlcott’s ‘A Long Fatal Love Chase’ – soo good! Just added ‘Jane of Lantern Hill’ to my list since I liked ‘The Blue Castle’. I have two P.G. Wodehouse books on my shelf, so I’ll start reading them as soon as my Christmas reads are done. So exciting! Thank you! 😀

  16. SO funny that I just finished The Bookshop on the Corner (the book Gina did NOT like) about ten minutes before I listened to this podcast. I agreed that it was a lightweight book, but the thing that caused me to rate it three stars instead of two was the narrator of the audiobook. She had a sweet little voice and accent, and I just enjoyed listening to her talk. I did a little bit fall in love with the Scottish countryside and the townspeople, but not so much the main characters!
    Also, the minute Anne mentioned Daddy Long Legs, I said (out loud), “You’ve recommended that one before” but of course I have forgotten about it. My library doesn’t have it in print, but Hoopla has it on audio. That means I will miss the drawings, but still looking forward to it.

    • Tanya says:

      I loved listening to this episode! Great suggestions in the comments as well. It’s been years since I read this but An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor was a cozy read that I enjoyed. My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell (as well as his other books) is another read that you might enjoy.

      • Gina House says:

        Hi Tanya! I love these suggestions! I’ve seen ‘An Irish Country Doctor’ a number of times at the used bookstore, but never picked it up. I’ll have to grab it next time I go. Thank you! 😀

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Teresa! It’s so funny how you finished the book just as my podcast episode was airing! Sorry you didn’t like the narrator’s voice. I’m pretty picky when it comes to that, too. I was actually able to read ‘Daddy Long Legs’ through Kindle. They had a very inexpensive version. After I read it and loved it, I bought a used copy on Abebooks.com. I couldn’t find it at my local library either 🙁 Thanks so much for sharing!

      • I did like the narrator. That’s what saved the book for me. I’m about halfway through the audio of D-L-L, and it also has a good narrator. Captures the youthful excited voice of the character (at least so far!).

  17. Ginger says:

    I’m so glad someone has already mentioned Mitford! And the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency (a little murder, but even less than Agatha).

    But I’m dismayed no one has (or delighted to be the one) come to suggest Elizabeth Berg. My favorites are A Year of Pleasures, the Arthur Truluv series, and Dream When You’re Feeling Blue.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Ginger! I don’t think I’ve ever read anything by Elizabeth Berg. I’ll have to check out her books! Thank you so much for sharing your favorites – that helps a lot! 😀

  18. Michelle says:

    Archangel is the best! I loved hearing it shared as a favorite. I had a visceral (in a good way) reaction to the use of music as communication in this novel. And, Daddy Long Legs is also amazing.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Michelle! I’ve never met anyone else (besides my husband) who has read Archangel – so happy! Glad to know that you liked ‘Daddy Long Legs’, too. What’s your favorite book? Would love to know! 😀

  19. Laura says:

    I was so excited to hear a fellow New Hampshire resident on the podcast! My mind went immediately to Laurie Colwin, both her novels and “Home Cooking,” for comfort reads.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Laura! Yay to a fellow New Hampshirian! lol. I’ve read ‘Home Cooking’ and really loved it. So comforting. I think she has a second book, too, so I’ll have to grab that. Thank you so much! 😀

  20. Brigette Hill says:

    Hi! I have very similar reading tastes to you. 🙂 I second a lot of Anne’s recommendations and the ones here in the comments (the rest of them I put on my own TBR list!) Have you read any Gene Stratton Porter, she wrote in the early 1900’s? I recommend starting with “Freckles”. Also the “Irish Country Doctor” series by Patrick Taylor is a modern book about an Irish country doctor in mid 1900’s. I also recommend “The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper” by Phaedra Patrick, it is so charming and surprising in the cast of characters. Also, “My Mrs. Brown” by William Norwich is a completely charming book. And for a sweet small town series check out “Lumby Lines” by Gail Fraser.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Brigette! Oh, these are fantastic suggestions! I feel so bad because everyone has given me awesome suggestions so far, but most of them I have read before. Another reader mentioned Gene Stratton Porter and Patrick Taylor, so I’ll be sure to add those to my TBR. I did read Phaedra Patricks’ book and I liked it a lot. The other two books you recommended are new to me, so I’m very excited to add those. Thank you so much! 😀

  21. Alison says:

    Really enjoyed this episode and the recommendations! Already placed an order of books after listening to it. Also, saw “Excellent Women” listed as a recommendation in the comment section. Since I already have it unread on my shelf, picked it up right away! Thank you so much!

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Alison! So happy that you enjoyed this episode! I do the same thing when I listen to Anne’s podcasts…so many book orders. lol! I’ve read ‘Excellent Women’ twice now and I think it gets better the more you read it. Not sure why! What is your favorite book? 😀

  22. Marisa says:

    My favorite book of all time is “I Capture the Castle,” which I was disappointed not to hear mentioned with all the talk of older books, cozy reads, charming English villages, and epistolary novels. It seems likely you’ve already read it, Gina, but if not, it’s right up your alley. I definitely wanted to hug the book after finishing it for the first time at age 16 and have read it just about every year since. The point of view and unique narrative voice is what draws you in more than any aspect of the plot, in my opinion.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Marisa! Oh, it’s so nice to know that other readers like to hug their books, too! I do love ‘I Capture the Castle’! Your suggestion was perfect. Do you have any other books you’d recommend for me? Thank you so much! 😀

      • Marisa says:

        Hmm, well if you haven’t read Dodie Smith’s other works besides ICTC and 101 Dalmatians, I also found The Town in Bloom (a coming-of-age story set in the theatre world of the 1920s) and Look Back with Love (Dodie’s childhood memoir) to be delightful. Another huggable favorite is The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant! I guess I really like coming of age stories and anything set in the first half of the 20th century, especially if narrated from a unique perspective like an older character looking back on their life–all these books have that in common. The more recent City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert overlaps with those themes too (kind of a raunchier cross between The Town in Bloom and The Boston Girl).

  23. Kate says:

    Hi Gina, have you read the Chinese classic novel Dream of the Red Chamber? I read it for a college class years ago and really enjoyed it. The women characters are interesting and IIRC, there’s a lot of detail about day to day life.
    I was also disappointed by The Bookshop on the Corner, especially after enjoying the author’s Little Beach Street Bakery books.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Kate! I’ve never heard of this book – yay! I’ll put this on my TBR right away. I’m so glad you suggested it. Thank you so much!:D P.S. It’s a relief to know that other readers also found ‘The Bookshop on the Corner’ a bit disappointing. I really wanted to like it…

  24. Christine says:

    Hi Gina. Another series you might enjoy is “Tales from Turnham Malpas” by Rebecca Shaw. It is set in an English village in the 1980s or 90s, so it is contemporary, but they are well-written, not too long, and the love stories tend to be more adult rather than teen-angsty. Also, right now the first book in the series, “The New Rector,” is $2.99 on Kindle.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Christine! Thank you for the great suggestion! English villages are definitely a favorite of mine. Even though I usually prefer backlist titles, I’ll give this series a shot. Really appreciate you sharing this with me! 😀

  25. Jan Cain says:

    D. E. Stevenson- bought them when I was first married 47 years ago and couldn’t let them go. Brought them out in the early days of “sheltering in place” this year when I couldn’t concentrate on anything else. My daughter and I both devoured them!

  26. Gina says:

    I enjoyed this podcast too and thought Anne might be talking to me as my name is also Gina and I have similar tastes! If you like Daddy Long Legs, the sequel is really good too. It’s called Dear Enemy and involves the orphanage that Judy grew up in. I also like the Isabel Dalhousie series that takes place in Edinburgh by Alexander McCall Smith–very cozy with a philosophical bend. I’ll second the recommendations for James Herriot which are great on audio.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Gina! Similar taste and names – woo! lol. A great idea to read the sequel to ‘Daddy Long Legs’! I was worried the sequel wouldn’t be as good as the first book, so I’m happy to know it’s worth reading. I’ve tried the Isabel series and I like it, but I definitely prefer AMS’s Ladies #1 Detective Agency and Scotland Street series a little more 🙂 I’m trying to listen to James Herriot’s first book on audio…and, even though I like the narrator so much, the descriptions of the surgeries on the animals is too much for me. Today, I kept fast forwarding through those parts over and over. It’s sad because I feel like I would really enjoy the book (and the narration) if it had less explicit animal surgery sections. It makes me a squeamish…but I’m going to keep going and hope there’s less of that as the story goes on. Thank you so much for your suggestions!! 😀

      • Sarah says:

        Gina, I also love James Herriot, and thought of these books when I heard your episode (just now because I’m behind). I’m a vet, so I never really noticed the surgical descriptions as being a lot, but if you are having trouble with one book, there are several different collections and while some characters recur, they do not need to be read in order. You mentioned liking picture and children’s books, and there is a beautifully illustrated collection of stories selected for children called James Herriot’s Treasury for Children, which you might enjoy.

  27. Jill D says:

    May I suggest Angela Thirkell. Her books take place in English villages and were written in the early midish 20th century. They are charming and fit the description of Agatha Christie without the murder. Also many are available inexpensively on Kindle (High Rising and Wild Strawberries are the first and second in the Barsetshire series… it is a voluminous series so a lot of happy reading if they are your cup of tea). They are comedic but in the comedy of manners sensibility not like a modern rom com. I think you may like them. There is a scene in her book High Rising which involves complete frustration with the technology of the day … a typewriter. Angela Thirkell’s writing executes the lovely balance of transporting you to a 1930ish English village while also being completely relatable.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Jill! Yes, I love Angela Thirkell. I’ve read at least 7 books and, especially High Rising! I had a tough time with August Folly, so I might have to give that re-read. Which of her books is your favorite? Thank you for the suggestion! 😀

      • Jill D says:

        Pomfret Towers is a favorite, English manor house party, couple in love, gentle satire etc…

        I am sure you are familiar with Persephone books but if not hop on the website and poke around. Lovely!!

        • Gina House says:

          I love Persephone books! I’ve asked for a year’s subscription for Christmas this year. I’ve only got about 20 in my collection and would love more 😀 Thank you for the Pomfret Towers suggestion!

  28. Lizzie says:

    Many of my favourites have already been suggested (Provincial Lady, DE Stevenson, Angela Thirkell) but you might like The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard (the first 4 books are wonderful; the 5th, written much later, less so I think); A Cotswold Family Life by Clare Mackintosh (memoir), Guard Your Daughters by Diana Tutton (I Capture the Castle-esque), Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson, The Darling Buds of May by H.E Bates, Notwithstanding by Louis de Bernieres (interlinked short stories about the quirky inhabitants of a village), The Pursuit of Love/Love in a Cold Climate by Nancy Mitford, and Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Lizzie! Wow! This is amazing! Many of your suggested books are on my TBR (Lark Rise to Candleford, The Cazalet Chronicles, The Pursuit of Love), some I’ve read and loved (Cold Comfort Farm, Darling Buds of May, D.E. Stevenson, Angela Thirkell, etc) and the rest are new to me. Yay! I’ll add the rest to my list. Thank you so, so much! 😀

    • Meg L says:

      Lizzie and Gina! So fun to hear what you like-so many of my favorites!!
      I don’t know if anyone has mentioned Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand.
      And My Friends the Miss Boyds (has one somewhat distressing incident but it’s an important part of the story).
      Also, do you know the British booksellers/publishers and their magazine Slightly Foxed (and the podcast)? I highly recommend!!

      • Gina House says:

        Hi Meg! I read Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand and liked it. I haven’t read ‘My Friends the Miss Boyds’ – thank you! I’m dying to read a Slightly Foxed book! Right now, I’m reading one of their quarterly newsletters and it’s really enjoyable. I’m saving up to buy one of the books – they’re the perfect size and so lovely! ;D

        • Meg says:

          Hi Gina! I’m glad you liked Major Pettigrew. Helen Simonson has a second book (I wish she had more!) called The Summer Before the War (World War I). I’ve read mixed reviews but I enjoyed it a lot and would recommend it.
          Also, if you haven’t listened to the Slightly Foxed podcast, I highly recommend it! So interesting and fun!

  29. Cameron says:

    When I was listening to Gina’s episode I immediately thought of The Inn at Lake Devine, by Elinor Lippman (which I think I heard about on WSIRN?). It really focuses on relationships of all sorts. It’s witty and kind hearted. The characters are adults! I read right after reading The Bookshop on the Corner (which I did enjoy as a cotton candy type read) and I was happy to step into the more adult but still cozy (most of the book takes place in various inns in New England and the main character is an aspiring chef) world of this book.

  30. Marie says:

    Hi Gina – I really related to you on multiple fronts and wanted to suggest some Asian-oriented titles. My husband’s father was from India and our daughter is Chinese. Foreign Babes in Beijing is a memoir by Rachel Dewoskin about being an America living in China in the 1990s – she ends up on a Chinese TV soap opera with the same title as the book. It’s very funny in parts but also really insightful into the very different Chinese culture. You didn’t mention Amy Tan – I know her books can be heavy, but I especially loved “The 100 Secret Senses” – it was a beautifully told book that had some darkness but had a positive closure that I think you would love. Finally, my late Indian father-in-law, a mystery fan, got me into the “Inspector Ghote” books written by HRF Keating, around the same time as Agatha C. Set in India, with the cozy-locked door air but immersed in Indian culture/scenery.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Marie! Wow – thank you so much for these titles!I have read 2 of Amy Tan’s books, but I think they’re too close to home in subject matter and (sadly) they cause me a little bit of stress. I’ll check out all of the books you recommended. I really appreciate it! Thank you 😀

  31. Angela says:

    Hi Gina,
    For middle grades, I highly recommend The Mother-Daughter Book Club series by Heather Vogel Frederick. The series starts in 6th grade when a group of girls and their mothers in Cambridge, MA, start a book club. The books touch on the modern-day girls’ lives as well as the classic they are reading. A bonus! In the third book in the series, Dear Pen Pal, the girls read Daddy-Long-Legs! So Dear Pen Pal would be a great pairing when you read Daddy-Long-Legs.

  32. Kae says:

    GREAT episode! I think Gina and I are kindred spirits in reading taste! I wanted to recommend the books of Miss Read (Dora Saint) for cosy English books. Fantastic character development and no murders that I remember. Jan Karon got the idea for Father Tim from Miss Read books. She has two main series: the Thrush Green books and the Fairacre books. Plus a couple of stand alones. LOTS of reading!
    I also want to recommend two books by Bo Caldwell: City of Tranquil Light, based on the life of the author’s grandparents who were missionaries to China in the early 20th century; and Distant Land of My Father, based on the life of the author’s uncle, who lived in China, also. Wonderful writing, unforgettable stories. City of Tranquil Light is my favorite novel of the last ten years or so.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Kae! Oh, it’s so nice to have a kindred spirit! I love all of the Miss Read books and really liked the Jan Karon series. I’ve only read it through once, so it might be time to give the entire series another read 😀 I’ve never heard of Bo Caldwell, but the books sounds lovely! Knowing that the ‘City of Tranquil Light’ has been your favorite novel for the last 10 years is amazing! I’ll put that high on my list. Thank you so much! 😀

  33. Pauline Wyss says:

    Thank you so much for mentioning the “Elizabeth Goudge Book Club” on Instagram! She is my very favorite author. I’m so excited to join in and read along with everone else. I’ve been collecting her books for almost 50 years. I wish they had some in audio format.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Pauline! Yes, I wish, wish there were some good (or any!) audio versions of her book. You should definitely join the group – everyone is always excited to read the next novel of the month and chat about it. The pictures of some of the books are amazing! Everyone has such interesting and beautiful copies. I also joined the Elizabeth Goudge facebook group, if that’s something you’re interested in, too. It’s not a very active group (like the one on IN), but they post really helpful things! Especially when there is a new reprint of a book coming out published through Girls Gone By. Hope to see you on IN or FB! 😀

  34. Ann Mcphee says:

    While listening I was so excited to share Mauve Binchey. Her many books about Irish townsfolks. Similar to Rosamond Pilcher but better for me. Enjoy!

  35. Kim Delfing says:

    Ann, You killed me with that teaser about a bookshop novel that you then didnt mention since Gina didnt like bookshop around the corner. I love those Jenny Colgan books! I dont need a constant diet of them, but as I write this we are in lockdown again as our community has terrible covid numbers and I was up all night as my daughter had an emergency C section and a very scary close call, and that book would be a welcome respite. would you share please????

    • Janis Wildy says:

      I thought Ann might be referring to “How to find Love in a bookshop” by Veronica Henry, which I found was a very good book! I have also read the lighter, “The bookish life of Nina Hill” by Abbi Waxman.

  36. Hi Gina from the Upper Valley of NH (NH represent)! Loved your episode. Have you listened to James Herriot’s memoirs? I think you’d love them, so cozy & funny & warm. Definitely an audio hug from the Yorkshire Dales!

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Carrie! Yay – New Hampshire friend! I’ve been trying to listen to the James Herriot books. The first one is read by an excellent narrator, but I just can’t get past all of the detailed pet surgery parts. They make me cringe and I have to fast forward through them. I’ve taken a break from it because I know so many people love the story and I like listening. Hoping to give it another shot. But, thank you so much for the suggestion! 😀

  37. Derby Jones says:

    I’m always looking for a chance to plug Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, a very cosy tale set in a small English village. Major Pettigrew is a very distinguished widower dealing with a son that he doesn’t understand and vice versa, the threat of gentrification to the village he lives in and a deep loneliness. When he develops a friendship with the Asian proprietor of the village store, with whom he shares a love of reading, among other things, the village reacts in ways he doesn’t expect and he is compelled to take uncharacteristic actions! I reread this book yearly, it is very funny in places, and has so much heart.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Derby! I read this book a couple of years ago and I did like it. Not sure I would re-read it, but it was enjoyable. Thank you so much for your suggestion, though! 😀

  38. Hattie May Whitman says:

    Gina – You are a kindred reading spirit. In the Rosamund Pilcher/Maeve Binchy vein, I think you would enjoy anything by British writer Marcia Willet. Many are on audio. They are set in the British countryside and there is much tea-drinking and walks with dogs in beautiful places, often by the sea. And have you encountered March Cost? She wrote in the early 20th century and her books remind me of Elizabeth Goudge -there is a spiritual element and certain peacefulness about them. I especially love A Key to Laurels. Happy reading to you!

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Hattie May! So grateful for your author and book suggestions! I haven’t heard of either and I’m so excited to have another author to delve into. Thank you so much! 😀

  39. Becky Lyon says:

    Hi Gina–I’m not sure if you knew this but you mentioned your love for The Paradise series–I too loved that show! I wanted to let you know that there is also a book! It’s called The Paradise (obviously) and it’s by Emilie Zola and Ernest Alfred Vizetelly. I haven’t yet read it but it’s in my Amazon wish list!

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Becky! I had no idea that that The Paradise was a book! Do you know if the movie was based on the book or the other way around? I’m really interested in looking into it. Thank you so much!! What a great suggestion 😀

  40. Tracey says:

    When you were talking about comfort reads I immediately thought of Cordelia Underwood by Van Reid. It’s set in late 19th century Maine and it was just so comforting and entertaining to me when I read it, I totally know what you mean. There was a little adventure (but gentle and entertaining), and it really put you in the place and time.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Tracey! Thank you for the book recommendation! I’ve never heard of this book or author and it sounds wonderful! Always happy to discover a new author or comforting book 😀

  41. Gina, I know this is a week late, and I haven’t read all the comments but for a fun cozy series, I recommend The Angela Marchmont series by Clara Benson. It takes place in the 1920s England, Angela is “maybe” a widow who has a head for money and solving mysteries. Over the course of the seven or eight books we discover more about her past, and her future. There is a love story in the book, but it burns slowly. I enjoyed them very much.

    I don’t know if anyone recommended “Miss Pedigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. It was a fun book and movie which takes place in London just as WW II is starting. That, however, is not the focus of the book. Miss Pettigrew has lost her job as a nanny and stumbles into a position as a personal assistant to a flighty actress.

    I hope you get this message, but to the What Should I Read Next staff, I recommend Clara Benson. Her books are fun.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Lucinda! Yes, I’ve read ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ and I loved it. Great suggestion! Clara Benson is new to me, though. Very excited to add her to the list of authors to check out. Thank you so much! 😀

  42. Diane Pedrosa says:

    Hi Gina and Anne
    So enjoyed this episode.
    The books Gina mentioned were some of my favorites, especially The Good Earth and The Mothers.
    I read The Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park and would like to recommend this book to Gina. It is a middle grade story; historical dealing with racism during the Western Expansion. Really a good read.
    Diane

  43. Julie says:

    I loved this episode. It was a cozy hug. I think I may own all of the L.M. Montgomery books since she was my favorite author as a teenager. Blue Castle has always been high on my list as well as A Tangled Web. I cheered out loud when Anne recommended Front Desk. This book is up for an award in my state and is wonderful. I put it down as my favorite children’s books of the year for our Christmas letter. I would say if you like Kelly Yang another author that is similar for middle grade is Pam Munoz Ryan. Esperanza Rising and Becoming Naomi Leon have similar themes and have been loved by my students. I would also recommend in middle grade The War That Saved My Life and the sequel The War I Finally Won by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. The Many Reflections of Jane Deming by J. Anderson Coats, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin (my son’s favorite author) and other books in this series, The Vanderbeeker series by Karina Yan Glaser, and Kate DiCamillo books. I love all of her books, but particularly like her new series about Raymie, Louisiana, and Beverly. I could go on and on about middle grade . . . .Gina and Anne thanks for a great episode. You have inspired me to get out the Agatha Christie.

  44. Charmaine says:

    I had just finished reading ‘Snow Flower and the Secret Fan’ before listening to this episode. You may enjoy ‘Firefly Lane’ by Kristin Hannah, which I was reading at the same time, and they both had similar themes of deep, life-long friendship between two women. Also recommend the ‘Daisy Dalrymple’ series by Carola Dunn, which is murder mystery along the lines of Agatha Christie.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Charmaine! Thank you for this series recommendation! I haven’t read anything by Kristin Hannah yet, but I’ll add her to the list. I don’t read much contemporary fiction, but I’ll give her a try. Thank you so much 😀

  45. I read Dear Mr. Knightley and found it quite enjoyable. Later I listen to Daddy Long Legs on audiobook and absolutely loved it! I will definitely have to check out the print book to see her drawings.

  46. Kelly Ma says:

    I loved this episode! Gina, have you read any of Grace Lin’s books? Dumpling Days, The Year of the Dog, The Year of the Rat, and Where the Mountain Meets the Moon are a few of my favorites. She also recently wrote a prequel to Mulan.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Kelly! I haven’t read any of her books yet, but thank you for the recommendation! Another reader suggested her, too, so she’s on the list to look into it. Awesome 😀

  47. Lynnell Christensen says:

    Gina might really enjoy the Beatrix Potter series by Susan Wittig Albert, although it’s a mystery series, the mysteries are not usually murders. The books are more about the interesting characters and their meaninful relationships.

    • Gina House says:

      Hi Lynnell! Thank you so much for this recommendation! I think I’ve seen those books on the shelf before, but never managed to read one. I’ll put those on the list. Thank you!:D

  48. Elizabeth says:

    If you love English village life and want a cozy story with wonderful characters, try the Miss Read books. They’re delightful!

  49. Liz says:

    If you enjoy Daddy Long Legs, I highly recommend ‘Dear Enemy’ by the same author. It has the same characters (but in a background role) and I enjoyed it even more than DDL!

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