WSIRN Ep 32: Literature as fun escape and daily companion with London expat Julie Smith

It’s Tuesday, which means a new episode of What Should I Read Next!

Today’s guest is Julie Smith, who you may know from her delightful travel blog Drive on the Left. Julie is an enthusiastic reader. She’s also an American expat living in London, and while this sounds awfully glamorous to me, I was surprised to hear that while her London life has its joys, it presents challenges to her reading life as well.

What Should I Read Next #32: Literature as fun escape and daily companion with London expat Julie Smith

If you’d love to travel the world and eat great food vicariously, you’ll want to connect with Julie on twitter, facebook, and especially instagram.

Books discussed in this episode: 

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The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney
H Is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
The Martian by Andy Weir
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Leftovers by Tom Perrotta
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes


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    • Anne says:

      You’re totally right. I didn’t realize it when Julie and I talked, but Cleave is based in London and EBIF actually came out in the U.K. BEFORE it came out in the States!

  1. Jennifer S says:

    Hi Julie (and Anne),
    I have a suggestion for you: forget that you’re not in the US. As a former American expat in London and a publishing professional of twenty years, I can assure you that you are in luck living in the UK where there is a publishing tradition even more venerable than the the US’s. Try turning your attention to publishers rather than titles or authors. You will never go wrong with books published by Picador, many of which get picked up for US publication and then knock our socks off here months later. Persephone Books and London Review Bookshops, both near the British Museum, are gems, and you will find nothing quite like them stateside. Strike relationships with booksellers and ask for their recommendations. Have fun reading and celebrating local!

  2. Lauren says:

    Really enjoyed this episode!

    Julie, regarding books not being available in the UK – try It’s a massive online book shop (based in the UK but ships worldwide) with affordable prices and would have all the books you can’t access elsewhere for sale. I understand if you prefer to use libraries rather than purchase but for those books you are happy to buy you no longer need to wait til you return to the US!

  3. Marie says:

    Wednesdays are becoming my favorite day of the week because of this podcast (I live in Lebanon, so the time difference means that I get them on Wednesday).
    Julie–I started laughing when you talked about Me Before You. I had the exact same reaction to it. I will say that I listened to After You as an audio book, and although it won’t go down as a favorite, I thought Anna Acton did an incredible job narrating. The way she brought the story to life helped me appreciate Jojo Moyes’ writing style, characters, and plot development.
    This podcast was delightful!

  4. Mary Kate says:

    Station Eleven has been on my TBR for soooo long. I need Hermione’s Time Turner so I can do hours over and just spent them curled in a ball reading books.

  5. Jess says:

    Finally glad to know I’m not alone in how I felt about “Me Before You”. Seems like everyone is crazy over that book, and I just didn’t get it. Love the podcast! It’s one of only small handful I faithfully listen to the day it comes out!

  6. Alisa Stanfield says:

    H is for Hawk has been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time, now I feel very motivated to start reading it. Thanks for another wonderful podcast!

  7. Deanna Martin says:

    Finally, someone articulated my exact words about Me Before You. It wasn’t the controversial content of the book that put me off The story was not well developed and I didn’t like or dislike the characters. I thought Julie said it best when she said she was just “meh” about it.
    I did not give up on Jojo Moyes. I did read One Plus One and found it very well written with a much better story line and interesting characters. That said, I am hesitant about any Jojo Moyes book.
    This episode was one of my favorites so far.

  8. Alex says:

    If you loved Cutting for Stone, I’d suggest Shantaram. And the sequel, The Mountain Shadow. Sweeping, beautiful books.

  9. This episode made me lovingly remember when I was in China for 6 weeks. I read the three books I brought (what was I thinking????) on the way there. English books were SO expensive that I bought the longest one I could find. It was Tara Road by Maeve Binchy, and she quickly became one of my favorite authors ever.

    I was afraid the book she hated was Anne of Green Gables. I am relieved to hear it was Me Before You. I didn’t hate it, but I can see how it could happen.

  10. Kelsi Messer says:

    I just now got to reading Me Before you (and I’m also listening to all of this podcast, so just now got to this episode). When I finished it I did cry because my emotions are extremely susceptible. I totally agree with Julie’s reaction to this though. I was really underwhelmed by it. I didn’t enjoy any character. I thought Will was a jerk. It took me a few weeks to grasp how I felt, but it was for sure a big, fat, “meh.”

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