My best friends are fictional characters

What Should I Read Next episode 335: finding overlooked titles that deliver an immersive reading experience in two languages

Today’s guest enjoys reading books in both English and her native Spanish, as long as they’re stories that will stick with her and give her characters to root for!

Andrea Medina joins me from Mexico, where as a young adult, she discovered the power of a riveting story and fell in love with reading. And perhaps because of the wide range of options before her, Andrea’s looking for overlooked titles that might not be popular on BookTok or on the front tables at her local bookstore, but will deliver the fulfilling stories she’s seeking.

Like so many of us, Andrea’s reading life was impacted by the pandemic, but after relying on what she’s called “easier” reads in the past few years, she’s ready to bring back more of the complex, convoluted stories she loves. Of course, I have some suggestions to share, and I can’t wait to see what Andrea decides to read next.

Listen to What Should I Read Next? on Apple PodcastsSpotify, or your preferred podcast app—or scroll down to press play and listen right in your web browser.


What Should I Read Next #335: My best friends are fictional characters, with Andrea Medina

See what Andrea’s reading lately on Instagram.

ANDREA: So I started with A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks because I have watched the movie probably a hundred times, [ANNE LAUGHS] so I knew the story pretty well.

[CHEERFUL INTRO MUSIC]

ANNE: Hey, readers, I'm Anne Bogel and this is What Should I Read Next? Episode 335.

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.

[MUSIC]

ANNE: Readers, if you haven't ordered your What Should I Read Next? reading gear, be sure to check out our new collection. We've got a good-looking, cozy t-shirt, a tote bag perfect for your library haul. And let me tell you, Will and I obsessed over finding a great tote for you. And also my beloved book darts to mark your favorite passages. Check it out and place your order at modernmrsdarcy.com/store. That's modernmrsdarcy.com/store.

Readers, so many of us struggle with too many books we want to read. But today's guest actually started reading in two languages to give her more options to choose from. Andrea Medina joins me from Mexico, where as a young adult, she decided to get accustomed to reading in English as well as her native Spanish so she could read more books that she knew were never going to be translated.

These days, Andrea loves books that linger in her mind, macabre stories that speak to real life, and fictional characters that feel like friends. Perhaps because she has so many options to choose from, Andrea is looking for overlooked titles that might not be on the front shelf of her bookstore, but offer the authentic scenarios and engaging writing she loves so much.

Like so many of us, Andrea's reading life was impacted by the pandemic, but after relying on simpler stories with straightforward prose over the past few years, she's ready to step back into reading the complex books she finds herself drawn to most.

My goal today is to leave Andrea with recommendations for the evocative tales that she wants more of in her reading life right now. Let's get to it.

[00:02:19]

ANNE: Andrea, welcome to the show.

ANDREA: Oh, thank you for having me.

ANNE: Tell me a little bit about where you are.

ANDREA: Yes, I'm in Chihuahua, just like the dog. It's a small city at the north of Mexico.

ANNE: Andrea, what are you up to when you're not reading?

ANDREA: Well, I studied physics engineer in the university, but I work as a quality engineer in an aerospace company. I studied physics because I have always been fascinated by space. I had my first telescope at 10 years old, and I was fascinated by documentaries about galaxies and stars and black holes, but I ended up working on an aerospace company. We built helicopters. And I really love my job. It's a really interesting one.

ANNE: Do you even remember what first got you interested in space?

ANDREA: I don't. I just remember since I was little I loved looking at the moon. My mom saw that and said, "You know what, I'm going to buy you a telescope so you can watch it better." And I started watching eclipses. So yes, it was on since really, really little that I started getting interested in space.

ANNE: Is that an interest that we will hear pops up in your reading life?

ANDREA: Actually, no, because like so many people in the show says that study literature made them don't like reading that much. When I studied physics, I kind of stepped away from books about space. It's a weird stuff that happened, but it did. I have read some space-related books, but I'm not really a big fan of them.

ANNE: You have plenty else to be interested in.

ANDREA: Yeah. [CHUCKLES]

ANNE: Andrea, tell me a little bit about your reading life.

ANDREA: I started reading at middle school. One of my dearest teachers gave us a book each Friday so we can read it on the weekend.

ANNE: Oh.

ANDREA: And one day I got some Tales by Edgar Allan Poe. So I was 12, and I was terrified. [ANNE LAUGHS] I also didn't knew that reading could be this exciting. I haven't had this experience before. So after that I couldn't stop.

So there is no one in my family that was a reader, but my mom knew how much I loved it. So she took me to a small bookshop that had really cheap editions of classics. And I remember that I took Romeo and Juliet and Around the World in 80 Days. That was how I started.

[00:04:39]

ANNE: Oh, I love that. I had a very similar experience. It was in seventh grade that we read the Telltale Hearts and The Cask of Amontillado. And part of me thinks, why were we reading that in seventh grade? [ANDREA CHUCKLES] And yet I don't remember having nightmares and I can very clearly remember those classroom discussions.

And also I didn't read scary stuff as a kid and I didn't know when author could do something like that on the page, especially an author had been around for a couple hundred years because I thought about those as being like, you know, boring and dusty. And that's not how anybody describes Edgar Allan Poe.

ANDREA: Yes, exactly. I remember that I was terrified [ANNE LAUGHS] but I couldn't stop reading. I was fascinated by how he builds tension, the mystery. The only thing that I knew was similar was movies. But the thing that this could happen in my brain, in my mind, it was fascinating.

ANNE: That's so funny. I was just reading a book that doesn't have to do with Poe at all. I think it was Abby Jimenez's new one, Part of Your World, but one of the characters describes audiobooks as a movie for your brain. And that's what I'm thinking of now as you're talking about the excitement you had with encountering these news stories as a child.

ANDREA: Yes, I was really exciting.

ANNE: So that was how it all started. Now, Andrea, so tell me what happened next as you get older as a reader?

ANDREA: Oh, well, after that, I start reading everything I could, but as I said, Chihuahua is a really small town, so we had a very little options. So I started watching YouTube videos about books, but they were recommending books that were not translated in Spanish. So I thought, "You know what, if I can watch YouTube videos in English, and I took years of English in middle school and high school, I bet I can read a whole book."

So I started with A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks, because I have watched the movie probably a hundred times, [ANNE LAUGHS] so I knew this story pretty well. And another reason that I started reading in English was because we only have like three big bookstores and one small public library. So I needed to buy most of my books on internet, so it was easy for me to find them in English.

ANNE: How long ago did you read A Walk to Remember?

ANDREA: A long time ago. Probably starting high school, maybe.

ANNE: So it's easier to find books in English.

ANDREA: At first, it was quite difficult because I only am really good at hearing English, I'm not that great speaking it, I think. But I wanted to step up the game and start reading it. And like I said, I started with books that I knew the story, and then I found it more easy to read nonfiction books. I don't know why. The language is more easy or is more day-to-day kind of language. So it was easy for me to understand it. And after that, I started reading more novels and more fiction.

When I finished school, I stopped taking English classes. So I think reading in English has helped me to keep learning and to keep increasing my vocabulary and learning.

[00:07:41]

ANNE: Andrea, tell me a little more about what your reading life is like right now.

ANDREA: Well, the pandemic kind of change my reading life a little bit. Last year, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder, and I started taking meds. While they changed my life completely for the good, I found it more difficult to concentrate. I think it was because I was used to read with all my thoughts and worries and anxieties always at the back of my head. So in a way, they kept me alert and awake.

But when I started taking meds, my head kind of cleared up. So when I tried to read those first months after taking meds, I was falling asleep while reading and I could not concentrate because I was so relaxed [ANDREA CHUCKLES] [ANNE LAUGHS] and at peace that I couldn't concentrate.

ANNE: I mean, that's a wonderful problem to have but I see how it made reading very difficult.

ANDREA: Also, in the past I was used to read three or four books at a time, and now I cannot do it. I can't. I have to read one book and finish it and then start a new one, but I can keep up with more than one book.

ANNE: I'm wondering if that's something that you noticed right away, or it took you some time to figure out. Like I know in my own reading life and talking to other readers, sometimes we know there's a problem, but we can't put our finger on why for a really long time. And I'm wondering what that process of realization looked like for you.

[00:09:04]

ANDREA: It took me I will say a month or two to understand what was happening. At first I thought it was just meds, but after that I realized that I was using reading as an escape also for my anxiety, also for learning and relaxing. And because I love reading and it is my hobby, but I was also using it as an escape for the anxiety. So when the anxiety stopped, I have to discover or rediscover my life as a reader.

ANNE: Well, thank you for letting me be a part of that rediscovery process. How has what you have enjoyed reading or found yourself drawn to reading changed since going on anxiety meds?

ANDREA: I had to start reading more... I don't want to say easier books, more fast-paced kinds of books. I like to read books that made me think and stop and process the information, look at myself at the word. But after taking meds I have to go a little bit easy on me and start reading more comfortable books.

ANNE: That has less complex prose.

ANDREA: Yes, exactly.

ANNE: Okay, so more straightforward text. Like you talked about how the nonfiction is easier for you to understand. And we don't think that that's like being mean to the books to call them easy; [ANDREA LAUGHS] it's just about the difficulty of interpreting it.

ANDREA: Exactly.

ANNE: Excellent. You mentioned that now that you're more used to the medication you're interested in going back to more complex books. Do you think you're ready for that now?

ANDREA: I think I am. I slowly started reading more complex books, and I think I'm getting used to the medication. So I would like to go back to that kind of books.

ANNE: Have you had any successes or struggles recently in your movement towards reading more like what you used to read, I imagine, just books with more complexity?

ANDREA: One of the latest books that I started is Human Acts by Han Kang. I found it difficult, but not impossible. [BOTH LAUGHS]

[00:11:13]

ANNE: Was that good or was that a little too much?

ANDREA: No, it was great.

ANNE: Oh, okay.

ANDREA: I have really been enjoying it. It's complex in a sense of the topic that he's talking about, and the fact that it's translated from Korean is also a challenge. It's translated from Korea and I'm reading it in English, it adds a little bit of complexity to it.

ANNE: Andrea, I can't wait to hear more about the specifics of what you've been enjoying. Are you ready to talk about your favorites?

ANDREA: I'm ready.

ANNE: Wonderful. Well, you know how this works. You're going to tell me three books you loved, one book you don't, and what you've been reading lately, and we'll talk about what you may enjoy reading next. How did you choose these titles today?

ANDREA: I tried to choose one of my favorite genre, one of the book that I cannot stop thinking about it, and one book that it's my absolutely favorite. So it can represent my reading life at its best.

ANNE: What are we starting with?

ANDREA: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It's set in Paris in a World War II. It's about a blind girl who learns to move around the neighborhood, thanks to a model that her father builds her, and an old friend that becomes an expert in fixing and building radios and how their lives interweave.

I had to pick this one because historical fiction is one of my favorite genres. It's the one that I always go to when I'm in a reader's block. I have always been bad at history classes in middle school and in high school. In my head, all the historical events get always mixed up. And after the test, I will always forgot almost everything. [ANNE LAUGHS]

But with this kind of books, I discovered that I really enjoy learning about places and people and how life was during the occupation and what happened to ordinary people. That kind of stuff. So I really, really enjoy historical fiction.

ANNE: That sounds incredible. So historical fiction is your favorite?

ANDREA: Yes, it is.

[00:13:15]

ANNE: Okay, we will keep that in mind. Andrea, tell me about another book you love.

ANDREA: The second book that I choose is Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor. It starts when a group of children find a corpse of the witch of the town. The story is told through the voice of different narrators. They are either suspects of the crime or they just knew that witch. It is told in a very interesting way.

But the reason that I choose this book is because it is by far the most terrifying book that I have ever read. Not because it's horror, but in the sense that it made me feel so uncomfortable. It's really brutal. It's violent. There were moments that I wanted to start reading it because it was too much, but what kept me going was that I knew it wasn't far from reality. Maybe not my reality, but someone's.

And I remember you just said in an episode that the reason that we read is because we're never going to experience every experience possible in the world, but books can teach us or takes us somewhere similar and expand our vision of the world. So that is why I love this book because it made me think of how different life can be.

It is a great book and the characters are most tangible. I had to remind myself that it was fiction because sometimes I feel like I was reading the news. So it is beautifully reading.

ANNE: [SIGN] Oh, okay, that is a tough one that goes, I think, straight back to your 12-year-old introduction to Edgar Allan Poe. That is a hard, hard book and yet you really love it.

ANDREA: When I finished it, I was like, "I'm glad I finished it. I don't want to hear again about it," because it's really brutal. It's a difficult book. But weeks passed and I couldn't stop thinking about it and I couldn't stop recommending it to other people and reflecting about the lives of the people on the book. So that's why I had to add it in my favorite books.

ANNE: Andrea, did you read this one in the original Spanish or in translation?

ANDREA: In Spanish.

ANNE: Okay. Andrea, what did you choose to complete your favorites?

[00:15:23]

ANDREA: My third book, and I think I would say this is my favorite book by far is The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green. This is his first nonfiction book. It's a collection of essays in which he review, rate different facets of human life in a five-star scale. It goes from reviewing the best hot dog he has ever eaten, and Madagascar the movie, all the way through sunsets and his favorite song.

But what I love so much about this book is that he made me feel like my experiences were not much different from other people. I think that sometimes, especially because of the anxiety, I feel like I'm the only one struggling with my thoughts or with everything, the circumstances.

This is going to sound dramatic, but while talking about everyday things, John Green made me feel my humanity and made me feel part of something bigger. I'm not the kind of person that cries with books but this made me cry a couple of times. I felt seen, and because John is an expert in writing about ordinary stuff in the most poetic way that I have ever read.

ANNE: Andrea, the way you described this, you just said he's reviewing things like hot dogs. It's a hot dog eating contest, I think and sunsets, which sounds comical, almost. But having read this recently myself I was really surprised at how tender and poignant so many of these essays were, even when he's writing about something like wintry mix, the Midwestern terrible weather phenomenon that I think he gave four stars, because of the love he has for his wife and his family, not about the horrid Midwestern weather. I wasn't expecting that.

ANDREA: Yes, that's what I love because he takes the most random things, translate them into something he loves, or something that makes us more humans. I don't know, I really enjoyed every single essay in this book.

[00:17:22]

ANNE: Andrea, tell me about a book that wasn't right for you.

ANDREA: Okay, the book that wasn't for me is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Where do I start? [LAUGHS]

ANNE: Well, I know you love historical fiction, and that's what this is. So I imagine that this has to do with style and tone. And I'm so curious.

ANDREA: I think I couldn't enjoy this book because Evelyn’s kind of plain to me. I know we're supposed to see her as a very complex character that was very decisive about what she wanted to accomplish in life, but still very profound feelings. But I couldn't see that.

I think that character is really important for me while reading a book. I did not felt empathy through any character, or did I not get what happened to her. So I just couldn't see them as real people. And I think that is very important to me. I also felt it very repetitive with each husband and very predictable. So I just finished it because I don't like to give up on books, but I could have left it after the first chapter.

ANNE: Well, something I'm noticing is that the tone of this book is very different than all the books you've said that you've loved or been reading lately. And I'm also wondering, I don't think this is an impenetrable barrier for readers, but I'm noticing the difference between this book and All the Light We Cannot See.

So in All the Light We Cannot See you are completely immersed in the story world in the setting of pre-World War II and World War II France and Germany. But The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo goes back and forth in time. You have a contemporary storyline, and then you keep visiting the past but then you pop back into the present day.

And I'm wondering if you might have felt like you got to know Evelyn better if you gotten to go to the past and stay in the past? I'm just working at a theory. What do you think?

ANDREA: That sounds quite great. That's probably why I didn't like her that much.

ANNE: I don't think you would need a book that only has one timeline to get to know the characters. But what I do hear you saying is you do want a book where you feel like you do really get to know the characters.

[00:19:37]

ANDREA: Yes, I think that's really important for me while reading. When I finish the book, I want to feel like I lost a friend who’s in the book. I want to feel that I know what is happening to them after that last line. So I want to feel like they are real people. That's what I love the most about the characters in books.

ANNE: And I think that level of believability is also important, not for all of your books, obviously because, you know, you love whoa, and it sounds like you're really drawn to some books in the horror genre. But when you were talking about Hurricane Season, you said that you felt like you were reading the news. Like it was that immersive and it felt possible.

ANDREA: Exactly.

ANNE: What have you been reading lately, Andrea?

ANDREA: Lately, I started A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. This is a second book of him that I read. And again, I am really enjoying it because the characters feel so personal and so well built. I have really liked it.

ANNE: Are you reading that in Spanish or in English?

ANDREA: In Spanish. And I just finish Know My Name by Chanel Miller. I really loved the way she writes. The way she describes her experiences made us part of what happened to her. I really enjoyed it.

ANNE: Andrea, what are you looking for in your reading life right now?

ANDREA: Like I said, I want to go back to more complex kinds of books, but I also would like to start reading something that is not on everyone's radar. I usually look for books on Instagram or Tiktok or Goodreads even. But I will like to give an opportunity to books that I know... I know there are books out there that are great but they are not receiving the attention that they deserved.

For example, Hurricane Season, I think it's not on everyone's radar, but it was a great book. So I will like something like that.

[00:21:40]

ANNE: Okay, we'll see what we can do. Andrea, the books you loved: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor, and The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green.

Not right for you was The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. You really want to get to know the characters, the protagonist deeply in your books. So we'll keep that in mind moving forward.

And lately you've been reading... You mentioned Human Acts by Han Kang, Know My Name by Chanel Miller, and A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

And we're looking for more complex books, then the faster-paced books that you were reading earlier in the pandemic when you were adapting to new meds. And we're looking for books that are not on everyone's radar, and we're definitely keeping in mind your preferences for what kinds of books you'd like to read in which language. I have some ideas. [BOTH CHUCKLES]

ANDREA: Okay.

[00:22:45]

ANNE: Okay. So first of all, I'm thinking about a nonfiction book that you may enjoy reading in English and just really thinking about what you enjoyed specifically about The Anthropocene Reviewed and the kind of books that you mentioned that you've read and English recently.

So having read The Anthropocene Reviewed, both because you enjoyed that book and also because John Green frequently mentions his friend, Amy Krouse Rosenthal in the pages and cites her directly, it might be in the very beginning. I know he says in it The Anthropocene Reviewed is his attempt to follow the advice of his friend Amy Krouse Rosenthal. And what she said was pay attention to what you pay attention to. So I'm thinking about a work by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Have you read anything by her?

ANDREA: No, I have not.

ANNE: Okay, good. I'm excited. There's two specifically that come to mind. The first is called Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. And I think it's the one that most closely resembles The Anthropocene Reviewed in structure.

But the one I think I want to point you to first is called Textbook, which is kind of a play on words. So a textbook is the thing you get in school that takes you through a subject, often boring chapter by boring chapter. But she kind of plays with that idea and says, "This is also a book of texts from my life specifically."

The format of this book is really fun. Like you feel like you're getting a textbook or almost like a high school or college syllabus. It opens with suggested reading that then says, "This book, you know, keep going." And the contents are introduced in a way that looks like a curriculum for a class, like you take in high school. You have your pre-assessment, and then your units are geography and social studies and art and science and romance, languages and history.

She works in a midterm essay, and a final review, but with that structure, she tells stories about her life, talking about small moments that meant a lot to her, amusing on various coincidences that have happened in her life that made her feel like maybe the world was on her side and there's a little bit of magic in the air. And she talks about her dreams, and she talks about special relationships. And it's all laid out in a very interesting forum with lots of whitespace.

And something else she does is send you out in to the world for an experiential component. Like this is going to sound so strange out of context. But something she does is she directs you towards a recording of the sound of a humming wineglass—like the noise it makes when somebody runs their finger around the rim. And she talks about technology a lot in this book, which I think is why she's bringing in that experimental elements.

But I think these stories of human experience, human connection that are told in a relatable, really life affirming way, I think might hit the same notes that the John Green nonfiction did for you. How does that sound?

ANDREA: It sounds great.

[00:25:49]

ANNE: Good. I hope so. It's not a short book, but it's one you could read quickly because there is so much whitespace. I hope if you enjoy it you'll go back and read more of her nonfiction.

ANDREA: I'll probably add it to my list right now.

ANNE: Okay, good, good, good. I'm happy to hear it. Okay. That was Textbook by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. Next, I'm thinking of a short story collection that has serious vibes of Edgar Allan Poe, Shirley Jackson.

Now, I have a little bit of hesitation about a short story collection because you really like to get to know your protagonist. And I think you might feel wrenched away from them many times throughout the book because that's how short story collections work.

On the other hand, you're so deeply immersed in the world, because I think again, you could almost feel like you were reading the news that it could be a really good fit for you. This is a collection by the Argentinian writer, Mariana Enriquez, and it's called Things We Lost in the Fire. Is this a book you know?

ANDREA: It's a book I know. It's on my wish list. But it has-

ANNE: Is it really?

ANDREA: Yes, it is, but I haven't read it.

ANNE: I think it's promising that this is already on your wishlist. So Enriquez is an Argentinian writer. She's written for decades I think at this point, but this is her first book to be published in English, which, Andrea, I imagine you're going to be picking this up in Spanish. Was that your intention with this book? I'd be interested in knowing.

[00:27:12]

ANDREA: Yes, I was going to read it in Spanish.

ANNE: Okay. She grew up in Argentina. She was there during the years of what was known as the Dirty War, which ended when she was 10. But that was a horrific war that had deep effects on her and like, definitely, you can see the reflections of those experiences in her stories.

And also writing-wise, she's often described as being in the tradition of Argentinian Babbel lists, including like Jorge Luis Borges, is the best known. These writers really loved a good macabre story.

So her collection blends horror, crime, a little bit of fantasy while feeling very realistic. These are hard stories. They're a little bit or maybe a lot gruesome. Also, they're very much akin to Hurricane Season, I think, in tone and description and content. So I'm not worried about this being too much for you.

But listeners, I want you to hear that these are hard stories, and some of the visuals in this book are very intentionally grim. But oh, the content is so fascinating and so difficult and human at the same time. Like one reviewer described these stories as spookily clear-eyed which I just love that description.

But there's a story called Under the Black Water, which is about a district attorney who's chasing a witness, but she can't go any further because the cab driver won't enter the slum. So she gets out and she makes her way on foot to try to pursue the witness and comes upon what is considered to be the most polluted river in the world.

The atmosphere and visuals and symbolism in this story as she like wades into the actual dirtiest river in the world, I think you're really going to... I don't know if enjoy is the right word for story like that, but I think you're going to have a wonderful reading experience in that story.

There's another one called The Dirty Kid. It's the opener, and I think it's going to grab you right from the beginning. You mentioned that you could have stopped the book that you didn't care for after the first chapter, I think the first story and this is going to draw you in because you feel like you were right there watching this dirty kid in the subway trying to shake hands with people who don't want to shake hands with him, and the story of how he got there and what he's doing. I think this could be for you. How does that sound?

ANDREA: Sounds fantastic. I like as it is in my DVR since a long time ago, and maybe it's time to pick it up.

[00:29:36]

ANNE: I hope so. Andrea, there's something I want to take a chance on, but I'm not sure if it's going to work. I'm going to describe it to you and you can tell me what you think.

ANDREA: Okay.

ANNE: My hesitation is with the language. And the book that I think could be perfect for you or also could be all wrong is The Governesses by Anne Serre. This is a French novel. She's been writing again for decades. It's not new, but it wasn't translated into English until 2018, almost 20 years after it was written.

Now listeners, if you're thinking, "This is ringing a bell," it means you've been listening to What Should I Read Next? for a long time. My friend Mel Joulwan of Strong Sense of Place Podcast convinced me to read this super short French novel—I think it would barely be called a novella—in Episode 219. That one's called Required Reading Revisited.

She described it as a naughty fairy tale. It is a lush story with gothic vibes about three mysterious sisters. These are the governesses who dwell in an isolated mansion behind the Golden Gate. They are ever watchful that an unsuspecting man will stumble upon the garden path, that they may force the witch and then their word devour him. I thought this was a lot more gruesome than fairy tale makes it sound.

But the reason I like this for you, is I think it has a lot of elements that you really enjoy. It's got that unexpected macabre elements. It does really interesting. This does not feel like watching the news, but it does feel like a fable in the same way that the stories we just discussed do. I like it because it's so different than almost anything else.

I remember one reviewer described it as being just completely different than anything else that exists. Like, where does the story come from? There is no derivative. That it's prim and racy, seriously weird and seriously excellent, a John Waters sex farce told with the tact and formality of a classic French fairy tale. And I think that could be exciting for you. I'm thinking of you reading Poe for the first time at age 12 and how that just felt like literary excitement. And I think this could be the same.

Okay, but we're talking about a French novel translated into English, it's short, but also this is not what you typically pick up in English. I want to know how that sounds for you.

[00:32:01]

ANDREA: It sounds like a challenge but it also sounds really interesting. So I think I could give it a shot, probably with a dictionary next to me. [BOTH LAUGHS]

ANNE: Our conversation has bring back memories of me reading Bridget Jones's Diary in German because that's what I studied in school. In German, all the nouns are capitalized, and I didn't know any of the British names, but of course, the names would be capitalized along with the nouns and I kept looking up words in the dictionary and not finding them.

And I wasn't sure if it was because my dictionary was too small or if because you can't find a definition for like "Andrea" in the dictionary, because they're proper names and that's not how dictionaries work. Your English is a lot better than my German was. I'm not too worried about you.

ANDREA: Okay. [CHUCKLES]

ANNE: Okay. Well, I'm interested in hearing how that goes for you. Of the books we talked about today, we talked about Textbook by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Things We Lost in the Fire, the story collection by Mariana Enriquez, and The Governesses by Anne Serre. Of those books, what do you think you'll pick up next?

[00:33:04]

ANDREA: Oh, I don't know how people can choose just on the show. It's quite difficult. But I think I'm going with Textbook by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. You described it very beautifully, so I really want to try it out and see how it goes.

ANNE: I'm so excited to hear what you think. Thank you so much for talking books with me today and thanks so much for sharing the story about how books and literary discussion led you to learn English. My daughter really wants my Spanish to get better, and I think after we hang up, we're gonna go have a conversation about watching... We've been watching a little bit of The Good Place in Spanish, but maybe we can add some book videos to our repertoire, too, because I'm more familiar with that language I think.

[00:33:49]

ANDREA: It's something that I will recommend to someone that is learning a new language to read in a book in the language you're learning. That really helps a lot. And I think it helped me improve my English a little bit.

ANNE: And also watching some content that you really care about.

ANDREA: Yes.

ANNE: Awesome. Thanks so much for coming on, Andrea.

ANDREA: Thank you for having me. It was a delight.

[CHEERFUL OUTRO MUSIC]

ANNE: Hey readers! I hope you enjoyed my discussion with Andrea, and I'd love to hear what you think she should read next. Visit our show notes page to connect with Andrea on Instagram and find the full list of titles we talked about today. That's at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/335.

If you love our show, thank you, and thanks for listening. To get even more bookish delight in your life, sign up for our weekly email. Each Tuesday I'll show up in your inbox to share three things I'm loving, one thing I'm not, and a quick note on what I've been reading lately, plus a peek of what's happening on the show. Sign up today at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/newsletter.

And be sure you're following us on Instagram @whatshouldireadnext. I'm on there with my personal account @annebogel. We always enjoy connecting with other readers on social media and I'd love to see you there. Make sure you're following in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, wherever you get your podcasts.

Tune in next week when I'll be talking with a dedicated audiobook listener who's eager to fill her earbuds with summer listening recommendations.

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:

The Essential Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
Part of Your World by Abby Jimenez
A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks
Cultish: The Language of Fanaticism by Amanda Montell
The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John M. Barry 
Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall
Conversations on Love: Lovers, Strangers, Parents, Friends, Endings, Beginnings by Natasha Lunn
Human Acts by Han Kang 
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor
The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini 
Know My Name by Chanel Miller
Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Textbook by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enriquez
• Jorge Luis Borges (try Ficciones)
The Governesses by Anne Serre
Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding 

Also Mentioned:

WSIRN Episode 219: Required reading revisited with Mel Joulwan

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8 comments

Leave A Comment
  1. Lauren says:

    I completely agree about The Seven Husbands! Andrea articulated why I haven’t been able to care about the characters. I am 75% through and will finish, but honestly haven’t understood the hype…

  2. Paula White says:

    All the Light You Cannot See is one of my favorite books of all time. I have a couple of suggestions along those lines. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini. These are two very different books but I think they are worth a try.

  3. Kae says:

    I haven’t been able to get this to play at all. It just won’t start. I listen via the Show Notes page every week, and it always has worked previously….

  4. Mariandrea says:

    Hi Andrea! I’m from MTY NL…my first language is Spanish and I like to read in English, Spanish and Portuguese. I don’t have Instagram but if you ever want to connect to talk books you can email me [email protected]. I live on the border in S.TX.

  5. Libby says:

    Hi Andrea! Here are some historical fiction titles that I have loved:
    Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave; We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter; Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See; and As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner. Happy reading!

  6. Abby says:

    Hi Andrea! I think you would really like The Murmur of Bees by Sofia Segovia. It’s historical fiction with a bit of magical realism set in Mexico and you will definitely get attached to the characters. I read the English translation but it’s originally written in Spanish. Connect with me on Instagram @internationalreads to let me know what you think!

  7. Guadalupe Lopez says:

    I’m from Argentina and I read Mariana Enriquez’ Las cosas que perdimos en el fuego and I think it has very little reference to the 70’s (as we call that time). It’s more about the transition. Sometimes foreigners reduce our history to that period of time, and I can’t understand why, but we are not just that.
    Love the podcast!

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