This episode is Overdue

What Should I Read Next episode 338: A bookish conversation with the creators of Overdue

a stack of paperback books in a bookstore surrounded by other books

Readers, today’s show is a collaboration many of you have asked for, and I’ve long had on my wish list. I’m thrilled to be chatting with Craig Getting and Andrew Cunningham, hosts of the show Overdue–a podcast about the books you’ve been meaning to read.

On their podcast, Craig and Andrew take fun and irreverent deep dives into backlist titles many readers feel like they “should” have read by now. Whether these titles are also on your to-be-read list, or you’ve already enjoyed reading them, Craig and Andrew’s discussions are a bundle of bookish fun.

Craig, Andrew, and I have a delightful conversation today, talking about the perks of having a built-in reading buddy, the titles they would never have read if not for the show and ended up LOVING, and how much their reading lives have changed for the better by reading books they don’t like. I wrap up our chat by recommending a few books I think they’ll love.

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 #338: This episode is Overdue, with Craig and Andrew from Overdue

Tune in to Overdue Podcast at their website, and connect with Craig and Andrew on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

CRAIG: Peter Pan, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe both like kind of strike me as episodes where we had a lot of fun responding to it.

ANDREW: Yeah, we ate Turkish Delight on mic and [ANDREW, ANNE LAUGHS] responded to it in real-time.

CRAIG: That stuff's bad.

ANDREW: In terms of candy that you would sell out your entire family for, this would not be on the list for me, I don't think. [ANDREW, CRAIG LAUGHS]

[CHEERFUL INTRO MUSIC]

ANNE: Hey, readers, I'm Anne Bogel and this is What Should I Read Next? Episode 338.

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 yet, we've got good news. The wait is over. It's shipping now. So you can place your order for our sturdy tote, our What Should I Read Next? t-shirt, or our delightful book darts and your order will ship out right away. Now's a good time to say thank you. If you preordered, your wait is also over.

Whether you're excited about starting or reading conversation or simply stocking up for your own library, this gear is designed to be a delight and a practical addition to your collection of reading accessories. I'm also going on the road a tiny bit this fall. When you wear your t-shirt or carry your tote, you'll get to connect with your fellow book lovers and listeners. Order your gear today at modernmrsdarcy.com/store. That's modernmrsdarcy.com/store.

Readers, you could say today's conversation is overdue. It's a collaboration many of you have asked for and a conversation I've been eager to have myself for many years. Today, it's my pleasure to introduce Craig Getting and Andrew Cunningham, host of the show Overdue, a podcast about the books you've been meaning to read.

Craig and Andrew are known for their fun and irreverent deep dives into backless titles a whole lot of readers feel like they should have read by now. These conversations also serve as a delightful invitation to explore books that might feel overdue on your own reading list or to revisit books you've already read with a fresh perspective.

In our conversation today, we cover a lot of literary ground, which isn't a surprise. That's what happens when you get three book podcasters together. I especially enjoyed chatting with Craig and Andrew about the perks of having a built-in reading buddy, the title they would never have read if not for the show and ended up loving, and how much their reading lives have changed for the better by reading books they don't enjoy.

But today, I don't want to recommend books they won't like. I want to recommend books they'll love. So let's get to it.

ANNE: Craig and Andrew, welcome to the show.

CRAIG: Thanks for having us.

ANDREW: Hi.

CRAIG: Andrew, I'm in charge.

ANDREW: I was waiting for you to go first because you usually go first in our show. [ALL LAUGHS]

[00:03:01]

CRAIG: And then I was like, "Well, I should be nice and let Andrew go first." But then I was like, "Well, Anne said my name first so maybe I should go. [ANDREW, ANNE CHUCKLES] And now we're both like stuck in the door to the 7-11. Like kind of just crammed in the automatic door together.

ANDREW: Like I'm waiting for you to come out and you're waiting for me to come in, and we're just standing here looking at each other. [CHUCKLES]

CRAIG: We've never done this before. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: I threw off your rhythm that you've carefully honed over 500 episodes by saying your names in the wrong order.

ANDREW: Oh, wow.

CRAIG: No, you said them in the right order. Oh boy. It's great to be here. [ANNE LAUGHS]

ANDREW: Hi. Well, thanks for having us. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: Welcome to the show. And listeners, this is a collaboration that so many of y'all have been asking for for so so long. Together the two of you are the Overdue Podcast. I said "the." Is that how you say it?

ANDREW: I like it. There are other podcasts named Overdue that have come up since we started recording, and it makes me feel silly about how hard we tried to find a name that no one else had taken on honestly.

CRAIG: When people are like, "Oh, you do a podcast?" I'd say, "It's called Overdue." And sometimes I say the tagline: a podcast about the books you've been meaning to read.

ANDREW: I like The Overdue Podcast because it gives me The Ohio State University vibes. [ANNE LAUGHS]

ANNE: It feels like it should be in all capital letters.

ANDREW: Yeah, right.

ANNE: Well, together, the two of you are Overdue. And you talked about how you went to great pains to find a name that didn't exist. I mean, what year was that when you all were conceptualizing this? I have to say we've told the What Should I Read Next? origin story several times over the years on this show. Like a podcast truly begins long before it ever airs. So I'd love to hear when you started podcasting, but also the journey that led up to them.

[00:04:39]

ANDREW: I think the name discussions were happening in like late 2012. Is that right, Craig?

CRAIG: Yeah.

ANDREW: Because the first episodes of the show went up in early 2013. We'd worked together on some like little independent bloggy stuff, wanted to keep working together on something in some form, like both to keep in touch and because we like working with each other. We think we have a good working relationship. I think, Craig, the idea for the show was yours.

CRAIG: Yeah. I had recently moved into my own place for the first time with, you know, few roommates. I had moved all my books and had a bunch of them laying around and certainly was thinking that I should be doing more reading of them. And I will also give credit to a now defunct podcast in the McElroy family of podcasts. There was a Tyra Banks novel that Sydnee McElroy read and then like recounted to Justin, and his responses were just absurd.

I really enjoyed whatever that was, and thought that someone did the reading and then shared it with someone that they know pretty well and have a good rapport with my work as a good format. And yeah, Andrew and I were like on the hunt for a project that might have legs. And I was starting my career in theater at the time and trying to just like cast and net of consuming works from different time periods and different eras and different styles. And so it seemed like a good way to tap into that and hold myself accountable to that project.

[00:06:11]

ANDREW: You're just never more aware of your books than when you're moving.

CRAIG: Oh, my gosh!

ANDREW: I think part of it is just like the boxes are so heavy. Everybody does that thing where they over-pack a box that's too big full of books and they can't lift it up. And you have to break it apart and unpack it into two different little boxes. [LAUGHS] Yeah, everyone does-

ANNE: And the whole time you're asking yourself, "Is this book worth it? Is this book worth it?"

ANDREW: Yeah.

ANNE: So it sounds like reading has been important to you for a long time and has been something that you've approached with intention.

CRAIG: I would say that rings true to me. I have fond memories of reading as a kid, reading Matt Christopher books about sports. [ANNE, ANDREW LAUGHS]

ANNE: We have so many of those in my house.

CRAIG: I have a very powerful memory of Frankenstein that I had assigned myself for like a book report in middle school, but I didn't do the reading, but my mom had read the book once. I kind of had like a "I gotta get this done," came clean to my mom that I had not done the work. She helped me just power through the story and figure out what I was going to do.

I have now referenced two or three times just the academic implications of reading. But I did do it for fun a lot. I got my Pizza Hut free pizzas over the summer. [ANNE, ANDREW LAUGHS]

ANNE: Yeah, you did.

CRAIG: I'm interested in way too many books than I have time to read them is really what it boils down to, as I'm sure a lot of people who come on this show say.

ANNE: Yes. And everyone nodded their heads in unison. You know, the irony of a show called What Should I Read Next? is you come because you already have too much to read and you want more ideas.

ANNE: Andrew, what's your background with your reading life?

ANDREW: So I read a ton as a kid. I think my mom started getting me into the fantasy stuff that she had read when she was growing up. So copies of the Chronicles of Narnia like from when it was still numbered in publication order and not chronological order. [ANNE LAUGHS]

ANNE: That says a lot about you right there.

ANDREW: Yeah, right. [LAUGHS] And then later, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, which I have very clear memories of reading in fourth or fifth grade, being very careful to position the cover out so everybody can see the big, cool book I was reading. [LAUGHS] And The Redwall series and just tons of like series fiction.

And then went to college and had to do tons of reading for class. And it sort of soured it for me for a little while. Like I don't know what it was about the combination of classes I was taking and... You know, some of it I was into, some of it I was not. It all felt like homework to me. And so for a few years after that, trying to read anything felt like homework. And the couple of times I tried to get into fiction, I just bounced off it really, really hard.

So like part of why I wanted to do the show was to sort of rekindle my childhood love of reading and get back into it. And 500 episodes later, I think we can say mission accomplished. [ANDREW, CRAIG LAUGHS]

[00:09:07]

ANNE: Oh, I'm so relieved to hear that it has worked out. So tell me about the initial concept. Has it changed over the years?

ANDREW: The main addition that we made to the concept maybe like a year or so in was for a while we really were not doing much prep at all. Like we would read the book, but we would not do like... We were not doing much research on the author or much research on the publication history or the context, you know, that the book was written in? I think we hit a stride when we started doing that.

You know, I know there are lots of schools of thought about whether you should consider context and the author's life when you're reading and when you're reacting to a piece of art. But I think we find that the two are pretty inextricably linked for us. So yeah, knowing more about the person who wrote it, and the time it was written in gives us more to connect with in the book itself, I think.

ANNE: So Overdue has broadened your Reading Horizons too?

CRAIG: Oh, utterly.

ANDREW: Oh, for sure. Yes.

ANNE: I mean, I know that you started a podcast because you wanted to make some changes in your personal lives and you wanted to use the phrase "catch up" on the books that you've been meaning to read. And you've been able to do that. But I'd love to hear some of the unintended consequences—I was going to say positive, but they could be negative as well—of hosting a show like this.

CRAIG: The one thing, I don't read as much nonfiction as I'd like to. And that is a function of a few things. One is that I have not really much time at all to read a book that isn't for the show. That's just tough to squeeze in. And I find it hard to do. So then types of books get pushed aside that I might otherwise enjoy.

And then I remember I was, you know, in an interesting reading spot before the show started. You know, I said I wanted to get back into reading more regularly and more broadly, which was what led to the show. But I was working backstage in theater at the time. And some shows were busier than others. And so for some shows, I was able to like kind of grind through a book during a lull in a show or something like that.

I remember reading a few, you know, interesting works of nonfiction and essay collections and things like that. And that has just kind of fallen by the wayside entirely because so much of my reading schedule now is, Okay, I have this much time to make sure I have it done for the show. Also, I am researching another book that Andrew is reading is like living in my head for, you know, [ANDREW CHUCKLES] a few hours in a week just to make sure that I can come into that conversation ready to go.

So I have read a lot of books, I have forgotten a lot of books, [ANDREW CHUCKLES] and there are plenty of types of reading that I just don't do as often as I used to it.

ANNE: Tell me about some of the nonfiction that you love but don't read as much as you'd like to. I'm interested in hearing what you're drawn to.

CRAIG: So the two books that I remember from that era in my life, one is... I think it's called This Is Your Brain on Music. It's like a neuroscience deep dive into how music functions. There's a section in that book where he's talking about how the ear processes sound and how remarkable it is. That you can listen to a recording and like hear the room that it was recorded in. And I'm sitting on the subway with your pods listening to music while I'm reading this book and my 23-year-old brain is exploding because it's so cool. Stuff like that.

There's an essay collection called The Rest Is Noise by Alex Ross, I think, American music critic. It's like a chronicle of 20th-century music. And so that's an interesting blend of history and musicology. I'm very interested in that stuff and definitely do not have time to read it.

ANNE: And that's the kind of book that you wouldn't read for the show?

CRAIG: It would be tough to. We've done some nonfiction for the show. It is tougher because it is harder to get a back and forth conversation, it is harder... We have found... At least I have found kind of creating a throughline for the episode because you don't have plot events to hang your hat on or character arcs to hang your hat on in the same way.

ANDREW: We've made nonfiction work. I think memoir is almost impossible to do.

ANNE: Really?

ANDREW: It's very hard to do it well. I think we read the first post-presidential Obama memoir, and that went okay. But I think that's because pretty much everybody has at least some context for some of the things that were going on in life at that time. And so that makes it a little bit easier to find stuff to hang our hat on. But we read the Tina Fey book-

CRAIG: Bossypants, yeah.

[00:13:41]

ANDREW: ...years and years ago and had a rare... You know, obviously, it was cut out of the recording that we published. But a rare like mid-episode breakdown where we just had to stop for like five minutes and talk about what we were doing just because the episode was not going anywhere. [LAUGHS]

CRAIG: That might have also been because it was comedic memoir essays too. With comedy, we have sometimes struggled too of, Okay, well, let me just tell you the jokes in this book, and I'm not going to be as good at the jokes as the book is. And I think with that Obama book, we are able to do a bit more. Obviously, there's a lot of things to draw from. So there was more context to talk about. And maybe we would continue to do a better job at that with more practice. But it did kind of short circuit us in a way that we are very wary to dive into it regularly.

ANNE: What are some of your favorite episodes you've done over the years?

ANDREW: We read the entire Twilight series. When we get to like milestone episodes, you know, like an episode that ends in 50 or 00. We will take an opportunity to do like a big-name book that most people will have heard of as opposed to our normal selection is a little more eclectic than that, I think.

We read all of those and it was our first exposure to it. And I think we had a really fun time with the conversations actually. We were removed from like the height of those book's popularity and we're also like not the demographic at all. [DREW, ANNE LAUGHS] And I think people enjoyed hearing us kind of losing our minds like a decade after about all the stuff that's going on in these books.

I read Infinite Jest, which was a major accomplishment. That's one I absolutely would never have read if I had not been doing a podcast. I just don't think I had the stamina for it. [CHUCKLES] But I thought the episode turned out really well. The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell was a book that a lot of people knew about that I did not know about that I really enjoyed talking about. Craig, what are some of yours that you go back to?

CRAIG: The one I go back to a lot in terms of, you know, it's one of the earliest ones in the catalog that I'll recommend to people was Jennifer Egan's Visit from the Goon Squad. Interestingly structured book about contemporary life with like a very specific voice and a very specific set of characters. And that was also where I kind of felt we were hitting our stride in what the show was. So I really enjoyed that episode.

Looking at some of them that I know we had some fun making, Peter Pan, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe both like kind of strike me as episodes where we had a lot of fun responding to it. [ANDREW CHUCKLES]

[00:16:23]

ANDREW: Yeah, we ate Turkish Delight on mic [ANNE, ANDREW LAUGHS] and responded to it real-time.

CRAIG: That stuff's bad.

ANDREW: In terms of candy that would sell out your entire family for, this would not be on the list for me I don't think. [LAUGHS]

CRAIG: Our first long reads project is kind of what we call them where we've started doing a monthly installment of a longer work or a longer series. We've done a few of them now. But the first one we did for Emily Wilson's translation of The Odyssey. That was a really fun ride.

Like the story that we were covering for each episode was really digestible, which allowed us to dive into smaller bits of it or react to individual lines and characters in a way that we don't always get to do. And just need to re-encounter that story that I read in high school very quickly so that I could write the paper that was due at the beginning of the year [ANDREW CHUCKLES] because I was supposed to read it over the summer.

And then Andrew studied classics in college. I think you had a different grounding in what other works reference to that thing and stuff like that.

ANDREW: Yeah. And I just read it like three times and had all the big beats and moments of it sort of drilled into my head. I mean, my favorite part of that project was that Emily Wilson is local to us in Philadelphia. And so we got to go and have like a 40-minute conversation with her. And she's lovely. And it was a really great time.

And I think she was really, really chuffed that... I think we were probably the only interview she had done up to that point where the first question was not "what's it like to be a woman? [ANNE LAUGHS] What's it like to be a woman in a male-dominated space?" I think she was just tired of that question. [LAUGHS]

CRAIG: And she's a theater kid. I was having a lot of fun with that text given its meter and stuff like that. There was just a lot of different avenues into the work in our conversation with her that was really, really cool. And we are both still humbled by the experience I think. [LAUGHS]

ANDREW: Yeah. And her Iliad comes out next year, I think, and we're both pretty pumped for that.

CRAIG: Putting it on the calendar. I think it's September 23, I think.

ANNE: Craig and Andrew, I'd love to hear what you would say to readers who are interested in reading more backlist, but maybe aren't sure where to start or always find themselves drawn to the shiny and new instead. That's something we hear a lot from our listeners these days. They have all these books they've been meaning to read, but like, "Oops, here's a new release. Oh, here's Bookstagram. Oh, you know, the lucky day shelf at my library." I'd love to hear what you've learned and maybe some words of encouragement for readers interested and going further down the journey of catching up.

ANDREW: I think it's been really... And I'm not saying go out and start podcasts. We did that already. That's our idea, and you can't have it. So just like back up a little bit. [CHUCKLES] But it's been really helpful for both of us, I think, to have a reading partner, like somebody to be accountable to. Maybe that's just how my brain works. I need to have somebody who would be disappointed in me if I didn't do a thing to really motivate me to do a thing sometimes. [LAUGHS]

But yeah, just having another person you are either like reading along with or, you know, maybe you're both reading a similar book in parallel and you just like pause to share your thoughts with each other sometimes. Like finding somebody to do it with has been really, really helpful for me.

[00:19:46]

CRAIG: For some people, like a traditional book club doesn't work or doesn't fit into their lives. Whatever version of a reading community that you can. I think there's something really interesting happening right now with the Dracula Daily stuff.

ANDREW: Oh, yeah.

CRAIG: I'm putting a timestamp on this podcast by mentioning that but like a lot of folks are experiencing Dracula for the first time in these email installments that are coming out because the book is an epistolary novel, you know, with all the letters being dated and stuff like that. I think it actually is shuffling up some of the text in the book as it is like published because I think some of the other characters' letters don't occur in chronological sequence relative to Parkers.

There's like an online community even in our Overdue community of people kind of reading it together. Not like, Oh, I'm gonna sit down and read Dracula over two weeks for my book club this month. It is, "I'm going to dip in and out of this text and I'm going to think about the character a little differently and over a longer span of time than I might usually." So maybe it's about changing up folks rhythms for reading.

I certainly know that our experience of The Odyssey, our experience of Dante's Inferno and all that stuff, the rest of those pieces of that poem, and even though I barely remember the third one, would have been different if I tried to read it all in one go.

And it's certainly something worth thinking about for the podcast, how can we tackle some of these bigger books? Maybe it's figuring out how you want to investigate a book on your backlist that isn't just "Oh, well, that will be the next book I read and stop." Like what is a different way you can engage with your reading schedule, so that you still can go to your local bookshop, see something on the staff recommendation that came out last month, buy it, read it that weekend because you're excited about the author, and then still have that thing that you're kind of working on in the background because you have a friend that you're going to talk to it about next week? Something like that.

ANDREW: I mean, the other thing though is like it is okay not to finish stuff. It is okay to want to read what you're excited about and to maybe skip over stuff that you want to have read it [LAUGHS] but it maybe feels a little more homeworky to you or you're just not enjoying yourself as much.

CRAIG: If you were interested enough to start the book and then you don't finish it, something you can take from our show is then just go like read about the book and read a few articles why people think it is interesting or important to them or whatever and then you can decide if you want to go back or not. But then you've at least kind of digested part of it as a cultural object, which may be why you were interested to start it in the first place.

I think that's kind of the core of our show for me is like I just want to know about all these books that people think are interesting or worthwhile or spoke to them at some point in their lives. And if I don't have time to read them all, at least want to have read about them.

ANNE: I'm really glad you said that about not feeling like you have to read every word of every book that you've thought that you wanted to read for a long time. I mean, sometimes the taste is what you need to really get what you wanted to out of that book.

There are some books that I'm really glad that I finished that I wanted to read once and I never want to read again. Like Wuthering Heights comes to mind immediately.

ANDREW: Oh, yes, yeah. [CHUCKLES]

CRAIG: Sure.

ANNE: But there are some books I'm like, "You know what, I don't actually need to read all 800 pages of this to feel like I know what's happening here enough to satisfy me right now.

CRAIG: Something I definitely don't do, and I don't know that I ever did it even before the podcast, is I'm not a big re-reader. I'm not typically someone who goes back to a book once I've read it. And I know that can be a very important and meaningful experience for people. It's just not something I've ever done and certainly doesn't feel like it's lost now that we're doing a show where that would really not be as feasible.

[00:23:34]

ANNE: I mean, I am a big craft nerd. I love to see how anything is put together and made. And you got to come back to a book to really get it because the first time you get to experience it for the first time as the story. But to see what the author is really up to, you got to read it again. Which I enjoy and not everyone does. And that is fine. [CRAIG LAUGHS] Also, not everyone has 40 books that are on deck to, you know, get the podcast treatment on Overdue. So to each their own.

Okay, well, I would love to hear some specifics about the books that you all have really loved and have bummed over the years on your show. We talked about how it'd be fun to leave you with some books that may be good for the podcast, that may be good for your own personal reading moments. And to do that, like I'd love to hear some specifics about your reading tastes.

So every week on the show... Well, almost every week on the show, a guest shares three books they've loved, one book they didn't, and then what they've been reading lately, and we talk about what they may enjoy reading next. So we've talked about what y'all have been reading lately. Now I'd love to hear about the books that really did and didn't work for you. Craig, what's a book that you've loved lately?

CRAIG: I am still finding myself thinking about Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell. I read it for the show in 2020. As I referenced earlier, I worked in theater for a good long time, taught a bunch of Shakespeare, worked on a number of Shakespeare productions. So it's interesting to dive into that material but from a completely different lens.

The book really works I think even if you explicitly dislike Shakespeare, let alone whether or not you're kind of ambivalent about it, because he is relegated to this mostly off-stage presence that, you know, Ania has to live in the shadow of and kind of navigate her own life and her family's life almost despite him for most of the book.

It winds up being this really moving portrait of a family and grief that I found very cathartic. And still there's a lot of the, you know, stuff of the time period. Allusions to his work are in there. But it's really hyper focused on these characters in a way that like liking Shakespeare or liking Hamlet, specifically the play, is not a prerequisite for really enjoying that book.

ANNE: Yeah, she's one of my favorite living authors. I'm not sad you mentioned her today. [ANDREW CHUCKLES] [CRAIG LAUGHS] Actually, if you don't like Shakespeare, you may especially want to pick this up because he is not portrayed as like a good guy in this book. [ANDREW LAUGHS] Andrew, I'd love to hear about a book that you've really loved.

ANDREW: You know, when you asked this question of us originally when we were prepping for the show, I thought about The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North, which is a time travel book. I don't know if it's my love of Star Trek that like predisposes me to this sort of thing, but I do love a time loop, time travel situation. [CHUCKLES]

CRAIG: Yeah.

[00:26:30]

ANDREW: Like you know, your groundhog days or another book that dabbles in this space is Replay by Ken Brimwood, which we read a long time ago for the show. But yeah, the thing I like about this is there are people who live their lives over and over again and they remember all of their lives like cumulatively. And there are, you know, a few people in the world who experience time in this way and then everybody else who they just like a meet over and over again and they do not have any memories of the last time that they met this person in a previous like life or previous time loop.

And then it becomes this big, you know, intrigue because it's time travel. Somebody's doing something in the past. You know, stepping on a butterfly can have big outsized impacts on the world and on the other time travelers. And it becomes kind of a, you know, you're dealing with this guy in his own relationship to his time traveling and the people in his life. But then also it becomes this intrigue, you know, figure out the mystery story.

It's an interesting exploration of, like, even if you're a time traveler, even if you have infinite time, people still start to think about or worry about or experience the same sort of things. Like, is this all there is melancholy? Like, what is our purpose? What are we put here to do? [CHUCKLES] And I think it uses time travel as a backdrop to explore those ideas in really interesting ways.

ANNE: I've read how there are an increasing number of time travel books that are being written in the pandemic for reasons that are both obvious and not. [ANDREW CHUCKLES] This one was way back from like 2014. I'm with you on the appeal of time travel stories. I've never read this though. So thank you for the recommendation.

Is there a book that you all both really enjoyed?

ANDREW: So yeah. Every October, for most of the life of the show, we have turned it into a big Halloween-themed [CHUCKLES] spooky month where we tried to read not all horror, not all like classic, you know, monstered fiction, but you know, books with a little bit of spook to them. Maybe a ghost, maybe there's a haunted house, maybe there's just like a creepy animal somewhere. [LAUGHS]

But for one of them recently, we read Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It plays in a lot of horror tropes but it also goes so off the wall at the end that this is a book that we both think about all the time, but it's also one that I think we've heard about from listeners, you know, "I read this book because of your podcast and I cannot believe how wild it is." [ANDREW, ANNE LAUGHS]

CRAIG: That episode was really fun. Andrew read it for the show. And it reminds me of way back when you read Life of Pi, Andrew. This doesn't always happen, but there are books that have like a big twist at the end. And sometimes we share them and sometimes we don't.

And I do think, you know, we go into the Mexican Gothic one on this one. Similar to how we talk about the end of Life of Pi. And both of those I recall very strongly Andrew just saying like, "Okay, let me drop the truth on you," [ANDREW CHUCKLES] and just blowing my mind. Like, those moments don't happen with every book. And not every book needs those moments, but they make for really fun recordings. And I do think that they kind of help someone who is maybe like thinking about reading that book or had heard their friend talk about that book, like kind of go and give it a chance if they hadn't already. It's really fun.

ANNE: Oh, that sounds fun. I do love a good book I can only describe as completely bonkers. [ANDREW LAUGHS]

CRAIG: Yeah. Uh-huh.

ANNE: Okay, now I want to hear about the books that aren't right for you. So, Craig, I want to hear about this book that a listener suggested that was just... You take it from here.

CRAIG: Okay, someone suggested that we read the book The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum.

ANNE: And we should probably interject here. Like somebody suggested it because they loved it?

CRAIG: I don't remember if they said they loved it. I honestly don't. I think they may have said like, "I thought that was interesting," or "that book is out of control. I would love to hear you talk about it." [ANNE LAUGHS] That is back in the era of the show where I think we were maybe vetting these suggestions a little less than we do now.

ANDREW: Craig found the email from this person in our inbox from 2015.

CRAIG: What did it say?

ANDREW: "The book that I would like you to read is The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum. This is not my favorite book. In fact, it is a book that I wish I could unread because it's so horrifying. You'll see what I mean. Don't hate me. Godspeed." [ANNE, ANDREW LAUGHS]

[00:30:55]

CRAIG: It is this novel based on this really grisly, real-life murder from the 60s that is full of like all sorts of things that if I were to describe them we would need like a lot more, you know, warnings of what is in the book. And I think I just was not prepared for the amount of detail in that work for how just like dark it was.

And I'm happy to read a book with a twisted sense of humor, or I can engage with fiction that is twisted and is, you know, messed up. But this book was just... I don't know. Something about how blunt the awfulness was and like what happens to the characters in the book was so graphic that I really kind of regret reading it in the first place. And I don't think I've read a book that made me feel ill in the way that book made me feel.

And now I'm transported back to 2015 in my mind right now [ANDREW CHUCKLES] thinking about this book. There's one version of history where I read that book and then like never talk about it again, because I don't want people to hear about it, like Streisand effect style. And I'm telling you right now, don't read this book. It's harmful to you, the reader. I think Ketchum was like, "Let me share this awful story because it is based on a thing that did happen," and I understand the mind that gets you to that point, but boy howdy, I didn't enjoy it.

ANDREW: Boy howdy

ANNE: Boy howdy, I'm struggling to understand. The number of people on Goodreads who say pretty much exactly as you said. [CRAIG, ANDREW CHUCKLES] And give it five stars. I don't get it.

CRAIG: I've never been like into like hostile movies or like that type of horror has never really done it for me. And I understand that there are people who get a lot out of it. I've certainly enjoyed scary movies and read scary books. I think maybe this book is too successful at what it's doing. In a version where I give this book credit, it is too effective getting you into the heads of the protagonists that you're supposed to care about, so that when this bad stuff is happening it doesn't just feel like a slasher story, it actually is really disturbing.

And to some people that is exactly what they want. They want to go to that dark place and then they can kind of purge it out of their system maybe. But for me and our Patreon recommender, it did not do that for us.

ANNE: Did this book get the overdue treatment?

CRAIG: It did. It sounded a lot like the last two minutes of me talking. [ANNE, ANDREW LAUGHS] I went back and looked at, you know, the episode description. We put a big content warning and we also talked about how much I just didn't want to talk about the book. And in retrospect, I don't love that. But it did feel like an honest document of my experience with it.

ANNE: Okay, Girl Next Door aside. I'm interested in hearing if you found any like real benefits to reading books that were not for you.

CRAIG: Mmm.

ANNE: You didn't like it, but. Like is there a "but" there?

[00:33:59]

CRAIG: I'm trying to think of one so that I can try and ground my response. But yeah, I don't know that I love Michel Faber's work. Like I've read two of his novels: Under the Skin and The Crimson Petal and the White. I thought they were fine, I didn't really connect to them. The Crimson Petal one is like historical fiction, so I was able to kind of ground my experience in that. Under the Skin was like made into that movie with Scarlett Johansson and so there was at least something to talk about there.

So I think what I get out of books that I don't connect to is just I can start mapping out other works that draw from that, or, you know, other reference points that maybe I didn't know where those things came from, or, you know, mapping out a genre that maybe I don't spend a lot of time in.

When we did the Twilight books, Andrew, and we did have a good time reading them, it certainly was also like an education in a whole era and genre of fiction that I did not spend time in. And so feels useful even when I'm not like perfectly loving the book.

ANDREW: Yeah. I sort of feel that way about the Austin and Brontë Sisters books that I've read for the show. Each of us has picked up sort of subgenres that we primarily handle, and that era of fiction has been mine. And it's not one that I was like innately drawn to but it's one that I've through repeated exposure and like really intentional research, like trying to understand the appeal of the books, and why they have this sort of intense fandom and like the body of scholarship around them, it's made me appreciate them and enjoy them more. And Brontë is my favorite of the three of them, which might be a weird opinion for me to have. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: Oh, I like it. We're here for everything.

ANDREW: Like Craig said, sometimes you run into a book that you dislike so much that you just like bounce off of it, and it scars you for the rest of your life. [CHUCKLES] But sometimes it is an opportunity to at least try to put yourself in someone else's shoes, like in terms of their like literary tastes, or just to explore a genre you wouldn't have explored for yourself. And even if you don't come away loving those books, like you can at least understand it a little bit better.

And then when you do read other books that sort of draw on that era as inspiration, then you have the more of a background to like pull on when you're talking about this more modern word.

CRAIG: We recently did the first Bridgerton novel, and I think it really helped Andrew that you had been grounded in reading a lot of that, you know, regency era stuff just because we were able then to talk about how that book was referencing those books or not.

ANNE: Sometimes I'm glad I read a book that I didn't enjoy just because I wanted to know how it would be, and now I know. And sometimes I learn when I read a book that was not for me, it really helps me to think through like okay, "Why? Well, what does that say about the books I'm drawn to? Like what does it mean for what I do and don't want to read?" So I like to think that it's not a loss. But oh, that experience sounds painful, Craig.

ANDREW: It builds character.

CRAIG: The other one that's like less scarring is like I really did not connect with Gravity's Rainbow at all by Thomas Pynchon.

ANNE: I haven't read that.

CRAIG: I think I came away from that episode just thinking like, "I really enjoyed Infinite Jest when I read it. Maybe I only have room in my life for one of those big honkin things." There are a lot of people who really respond to that one and what it's up to. And I just encountered the other one first and at a different spot in my life. But maybe it's more nuanced than that. It probably is. But that was one where I was like, "Okay, I'm glad I at least have a frame of reference for this really like quote and... You know, not even quote-unquote. Just a big author in the last century that has informed a lot of authors I do like also. So that's always helpful.

[00:37:54]

ANNE: Andrew, what about you? Tell me about a book that wasn't right for you.

ANDREW: So the one that came to mind immediately that I'd read recently was As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner.

CRAIG: Oh. [ANDREW CHUCKLES, CRAIG LAUGHS]

ANNE: Yes, I feel this so much. I've just read it in the past five years. Okay, tell me.

ANDREW: Oh, geez. No, it's just such a miserable little book. Like everybody in it is horrible. They all hate each other. They hate living their lives. They all make stupid decisions over and over again. It was just such a frustrating, unpleasant book to read. And I don't like have more to expound upon about it than that… except it was just like... [ANNE LAUGHS] It just didn't feel good to read it.

I'm not saying every book needs to be like an entertaining thrill ride. Like, that's certainly not the case. But there was just nothing to hang my hat on in this one. [LAUGHS] And it's like over the life of the show, I feel like I, in particular, have built up this antipathy to books and to authors that are like trying to dabble in the Great American Novel space.

So you know, Faulkner is a good example, but I'm also thinking of like Jonathan Safran Foer. Dave Eggers... did not like the books of his I have read. I don't know. There's just something about like the self-seriousness of it that turns me off.

ANNE: And Faulkner, meanwhile, you know, while you're over here not enjoying the literary experience, he's like, "Here's my masterpiece that I wrote in like a month without changing a word. You're welcome."

ANDREW: "I got it right the first time, don't worry about it." [CHUCKLES]

ANNE: "It's perfect. That's all you need to know."

ANDREW: I mean, just go through Faulkner's entire canon, like there are some things like The Sound and the Fury and whatever that it would be nice to have read because they did inform like the literary canon for many years. And then less so now, thankfully, that, [CRAIG LAUGHS] you know, it was something that a lot of people who were studying this field were just like familiar with for a long time. And I'm just not interested. [LAUGHS]

I wish I was more game for it but I'm just not. And so it's this whole like genre of fiction that whenever it pops up in our inbox or something I just kind of internally groan because I know it's gonna be... It is just more work to record an hour-long podcast about a book that you didn't like, but that you want to be gracious to if that makes sense.

ANNE: Yeah.

[00:40:21]

CRAIG: Yeah. I found Andrew easier to be like incredibly gracious to books I've never heard of because then it's like I get to do some spelunking into a cave I've never been into before. But if I know it's in the cave, I don't always want to go in there. [ANDREW CHUCKLES]

ANNE: Craig and Andrew, as we think about leaving you with recommendations today, what do you want to be different in your reading life right now? What are you on the hunt for?

ANDREW: I want a big, fantasy series, or you know, just like a book with a map at the front of it. That makes me feel like I'm in high school algebra again just kind of stealing these five minutes before class starts to just get a little bit further. I want a book that makes me feel like that.

ANNE: Oh, my gosh, I love the way you said that. Craig, what about you?

CRAIG: I'm always happy to read a book that is like very catharsis-focused kind of in that Hamnett or Station Eleven space. But I could also really use something in the thriller territory. I tend to really enjoy stuff like a ton of French, but I don't make enough time for them. Because those are the books that are like pure plot, just give me nothing but plot. Let's go. And then you come out of it going, "Oh, those were like two really interesting characters I spent time with." So yeah, that's where I want to be. I want to be on a thrill ride, and I don't want to get off. [ANDREW LAUGHS]

ANNE: All right. I love it. Let's do this. Andrew, I really have you in mind for this.

ANDREW: Okay.

ANNE: Have you read anything by Marlon James?

ANDREW: I have not.

CRAIG: I don't think.

ANNE: The Jamaican fantasy novelist? Well, not just fantasy novelist. He wrote A Brief History of Seven Killings, I think won a bunch of awards for historical fiction. Now, I don't know if this counts as what you put in writing was a big, stupid fantasy series. [ANDREW LAUGHS] I loved that description. So this is a duo that's on its way to being a trilogy, but there's no date yet on the third. And they're not as big as Wheel of Time. Like I think the first book in this series is only like 500-ish pages. [CRAIG LAUGHS]

ANDREW: Wow. A breezy read. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: So Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the first book in, and it's called the Dark Star trilogy. We're in Overdue territory here. This came out in 2019. He has this podcast with his editor called Marlon and Jake Read Dead People. And a podcast guest Jackie Branz described this to me as basically the opposite of What Should I Read Next? because they're reading authors who are deceased in part so that they can just like be brutally honest.

CRAIG: I love that.

ANDREW: I see the appeal of that, Anne.

ANNE: If you're interested, they have an episode on epic fantasy and they have one on memoir and autobiography. They have one on short novels and novellas because I know you all are always looking for short reads. But he says this is inspired by narratives like The Odyssey. It's set in a mythical Africa. So playing with reality. Not just playing, this is high fantasy.

But it's about a bunch of mercenaries on a quest to find a missing child, and they do find the child and then lots of terrible things happen. But the big themes here, I mean, you know what a fantasy novel can do. So it's myth, fantasy history. I really liked the way that he explores like the slipperiness of truth and memory and even history.

And there's a lot of pages here to keep you happy. It might be a little long for an Overdue episode. But I think on your own time, or you know, maybe... You all can decide what you're going to do with this. [ANDREW, CRAIG CHUCKLES] I think that could be a lot of fun.

As you keep going, the second book in the series kind of turns the first on its head and comes with a similar story from a very different perspective. And then many readers find that a lot, a lot of fun.

ANDREW: Okay.

ANNE: Like, don't jump in on the second book in this series.

[00:44:01]

ANDREW: I think my goal would be to take just long enough to read both of these that the third one is about to come out by the time I'm done with them.

ANNE: I do find the gap between finishing a book in a series and then waiting for the next one to be written. I don't enjoy that process.

ANDREW: Well, because then by the time it comes out, like, maybe it's been long enough since you read the first one that you have to commit to a reread. Yeah, I understand. It is more appealing to come at a finish thing. But I'm also... you know, there's expectations. You can Google like every three months for news to see if there is any and get disappointed when there isn't. There's fun to it.

ANNE: Okay, now let's go... I have this show in mind now. And again, y'all can read what you want. But I'm thinking about one of those short, classic novels that a lot of readers genuinely may be thinking like, "I have some catching up to do." This is short, like almost novella length. It's less than 200 pages. It actually went out of print and then was brought back into print through the championship of a bookseller. And something else I have in mind for this story is I think it might have that cathartic element. And the book I'm thinking of is The All of It by Jeannette Haien.

CRAIG: Never heard of this.

ANNE: Well, it was published in 1986 and it went out of print. But then Ann Patchett fell in love with it, and like she's got some power in the literary world and she lobbied for its republication. The premise of this book is it's set in Ireland on his deathbed, an Irish man like known by everybody in this tiny community where you know everyone's business, but he confesses to his priest that he and his longtime wife that everyone knew, there are quotes there, were never married.

But before he dies, because the priest’s like really want to know the details, and the man really wants to share the details and get it off his chest before he passes on... But he dies before that can happen. But over the course of the next several days in the wake of his death, the wife lays out their whole story to the priest, and the implications that has for the woman and the deceased man and the priest are huge. Like your whole life and understanding of reality in the world and what you do with this information, ah, it just changes in a minute. And also changes in... Okay, it's 162 pages. Exactly. How does that sound?

CRAIG: No, this sounds interesting. And I do like a small-town vibe and like the interconnectedness. Like one person's life affects, you know, 10 other people's lives and then there's only 30 people in the town. So it's a large hit rate interval. You know, one revelation causing things to change. That sounds neat.

[00:46:40]

ANNE: Yeah, small impacts, massive devastation. [ANDREW CHUCKLES] If you Go with it, I want to like do a three-book blitz for mystery thriller territory.

CRAIG: Please.

ANNE: Can we do it?

ANDREW: Yes.

CRAIG: Yeah.

ANNE: Okay. So first we're going to start with a book that is just bonkers wild out of control. It is 241 pages. This is so, so fast. There's also a lot of whitespace just because of the way the chapters are laid out. But this is called Unmissing, a thriller by Minka Kent. We have a happily married couple... Wow. I just made a huge assumption. That phrase just rolled out of my tongue. [CRAIG LAUGHS]

Let's just say we have a married couple living their dream life during the Pacific Northwest, got a toddler, and a baby on the way. And then one night, in the dark, I don't think there's a storm but something creepy is happening outside and somebody knocks at the door. And it is the man's first wife who disappeared without a trace 10 years prior and she'd been presumed dead for forever and ever.

So she'd been presumed that after a kidnapping. Nobody was looking for her because she was gone. Everybody had moved on. The wife answers the door and the husband is out of town and she's like, "Oh, no!" What happens next is twist after twist after twist after twist. It is completely bonkers out of control. I think this would make such a fun episode.

CRAIG: Okay.

ANNE: I really struggled to talk about this because I'm tempted to use phrases like "literary merit" and "well crafted." But also if an author can make you go like, "Holy smokes! What just happened?" That takes some skill too." You know what I'm talking about?

CRAIG: Mm-hmm.

ANDREW: Yeah.

ANNE: But I do want to move into more literary direction and put like a... This is for an older book. I'm thinking about an outdoorsy literary thriller by Tim Johnston. He has a couple books I think, especially you Craig may enjoy.

CRAIG: Okay.

ANNE: But Descent I think is the one I choose. The current is his more recent book. Neither are new. This one is about 10 years old. Is this a title you know?

CRAIG: No. His name sounds like he's wearing flannel and swinging an ax like outside. [ANNE, ANDREW CHUCKLES] which is exciting to me.

ANNE: I'm not sure I know what he looks like but now I'm very curious.

CRAIG: He smells like a campfire. Tim Johnston does. [LAUGHS]

ANDREW: Exceeder.

[00:48:51]

ANNE: Well, the cover looks like that campfire is just out of sight. You've got your low fog hanging over the mountain and your giant evergreens. This is a book about a vacation gone terribly, horribly wrong. There's this family on vacation, they're taking a wilderness escape in the Rocky Mountains. They have a kid who's about to be in college. They have a son who's a little younger. And the daughter's runner. She runs through her college and she's like, "Yes, elevation, this is going to be great for me."

So one morning, she and her younger brother go off on a hike together but only one of them comes back. This is about what happened after to everyone in the family. Like, "what could they have done? How do we search? When do we give up? Do we even leave the Rocky Mountains and go try to...? You know, what happens next?"

The prose is so like you feel like you're right there. I will say that I think this is done with a lot more emotional intelligence and empathy than The Girl Next Door, which was just... Of course, it's a hard book, but it's not that kind of book.

CRAIG: Sure.

ANNE: And I thought that could be for you, Craig.

CRAIG: Okay. You said you had one more.

[00:50:00]

ANNE: I do. The first episode of Overdue I may ever have listened to was about The Likeness by Tana French, which is funny. I liked what you said about that episode. Like, "Okay, here are the things you just kind of have to accept and go with if you're going to enjoy this story." And they also like how you talked about her... Oh, I won't use any adjectives because that might be spoilery. But you talked about her ending of In the Woods, and I really enjoyed that conversation as well. But Andrew, do you enjoy her too? Or is this a Craig thing?

ANDREW: Yeah, no, I like her for sure. I think I've only read one of hers.

CRAIG: I think you read The Likeness, and I read In the Woods. I think-

ANDREW: Yeah, yeah. But we've done a couple for the show. And I think the door is always open to return. [LAUGHS]

ANNE: We're talking about a book that delivers Tana French vibes. And this is by Canadian, Ausma Zehanat Khan. The series begins, and again, this is going back almost 10 years now, with a book called The Unquiet Dead. And right now there's five books in this series. But this is also set very much in the realm of the investigators of the crimes.

You get to know the different people on the investigative team, but at the core is a detective and his assistant who are often called to investigate crimes in the Muslim community of Toronto. So there's lots of portraying them navigating cultural and political and social divides.

And in this book, the pair is called to investigate the seemingly accidental death of a wealthy local man, another pillar of the community with a few side eyes. [CRAIG, ANDREW LAUGHS] But pretty quickly, they realized that the crime has roots go way deeper than they ever could have dreamed. And the way that's unfolded and the themes that touches upon and the characters that get pulled in and the history that's pertinent to the crime is really interesting, and also I think perhaps a bit cathartic to see how it all comes about. That is certainly something that some of the involved parties are seeking.

ANDREW: I do like a crime that rocks a small community to its core, you know? That's a good genre for me. [CHUCKLES]

CRAIG: Tried and true.

[00:51:58]

ANNE: You were saying that like a good mystery, or the kind of mystery you're looking for is a really plot?

CRAIG: Yeah.

ANNE: Like you want to move forward and see what happens. And yet these are books in which the really meaningful themes are deeply embedded in the story. So they don't slow you down at all, but you're taking so much. And I think it really adds a lot of depth and texture to the reading experience. Wow, that sounded really nerdy, [CRAIG LAUGHS] but we’re talking about books, so we'll just go ahead.

ANDREW: I think that's a-

CRAIG: It's what we signed up for.

ANNE: Four recommendations. We talked about the Dark Star trilogy, starting with Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James, The All of It by Jeannette Haien. And then I hit you with the trio of the bunkers book Unmissing by Minka Kent, Descent by Tim Johnston, and The Unquiet Dead, the first miniseries by Ausma Zehanat Khan. I'd love to hear what stands out to you from those selections.

ANDREW: I mean, the Marlon James books. I think we're definitely going to have to add to the schedule at some point. [ANNE LAUGHS]

ANNE: Okay, good. Because those are aimed squarely at you.

CRAIG: I'm like torn between the Unmixing and The Unquiet Dead because The Unquiet Dead sounds like it's doing a thing I already have. Like I can see how that ride might go and I'm excited to get on it. It sounds like, you know, to use the roller coaster metaphor I used earlier, like, I can see the entire coaster of The Unquiet Dead from out here, and I like what the loops look like.

The Unmissing looks like it goes into a building and I don't know what's happening in there. And I'm not sure what it's going to what... I don't know how like twisted I'm going to get in there. And that sounds exciting as well.

ANNE: I love the way you put that. Listeners, go check out Overdue today. Listen to the most recent episode. It'll be a lot of fun. But you also have like a huge anniversary coming up. Almost right around the corner. It's going to be 10 years on the show. How are you thinking of marking this? Because I know you do things for milestones.

ANDREW: This would be our first time-based milestone, right? Usually, we do an episode number milestone.

[00:53:57]

CRAIG: We recently celebrated 500 by kicking off the Dragon Tattoo series. And that was an interest like the Millennium trilogy. And so that was interesting because we were trying to find something that was similar.

ANDREW: There's this idea that we keep coming back to and then not doing, which like in my head I call it due overdue, [ANDREW, ANNE LAUGHS] where we go back to some of the books that we read really, really early on before we had figured out the format of the show, before we really had the brain muscles for analyzing books the way that we do now.

Like I think there are some books that we could do better by, both in terms of the quality of our chat and literally the audio quality of the episode [ALL LAUGHS] that I would like to go back to. So maybe there's something in there.

CRAIG: We are literally figuring this out live. So your listeners are getting really special moment here.

[00:54:50]

ANNE: It's an honor and a privilege. Craig and Andrew, thank you so much for talking books with me today.

CRAIG: Thanks for having us.

ANDREW: Thanks for having us.

[CHEERFUL OUTRO MUSIC]

ANNE: Hey, readers, I hope you enjoy my discussion with Craig and Andrew, and I'd love to hear what you think they should read next. Let us know at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/338. And that's where you will find the full and long list of titles we talked about today.

Connect with Overdue wherever you listen to your podcasts. And on social media, they're there at Overduepod. Be sure to check out their website, overduepodcast.com, to see the books they've explored lately, what's coming up next, and to read their show notes. You can also check out their new listener page where they link directly to some of their most popular episodes.

And be sure you're following us on Instagram. We're at @whatshouldireadnext. My personal account is @annebogel. We love connecting with fellow readers on social. And it's so fun to see what you're reading when you tag us in your posts.

Reviews are our podcasting love language. Leave us a review on Apple podcasts or star your favorite episode on Overcast and you will bring big smiles to our faces and help other listeners find the show.

Keep up to date with our weekly newsletters where we share updates on the show and things I'm loving lately in the world of books and reading, as well as what I'm reading right then. Sign up at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/newsletter.

Follow along in Apple Podcast, Spotify, Overcast and more. And tune in next week when I'll be talking with a reader who wants to recapture the childhood magic of summer reading now as a grownup.

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:

• Matt Christopher (try Soccer Hero)
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
• The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (#1: The Fellowship of the Ring)
• The Redwall series by Brian Jacques  (#1: Redwall)
This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin
The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century by Alex Ross
Bossypants by Tina Fey 
• The Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (#1: Twilight)
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson
The Iliad by Homer
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
Replay by Ken Brimwood
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Life of Pi by Yann Martel
The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum
Under the Skin by Michel Faber
The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber
• The Bridgerton series by Julia Quinn (#1: The Duke and I)
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
• Jonathan Safran Foer (try Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close)
• Dave Eggers (try The Circle)
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
• Tana French (try In The Woods)
A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James
• The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan (#1: The Eye of the World)
Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
The All of It by Jeannette Haien
• The Named Series by Clare Bell (#1: Ratha’s Creature
Unmissing by Minka Kent 
Descent by Tim Johnston 
The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
• The Millenium series by Stieg Larsson (#1: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Also Mentioned:

Overdue Podcast
Dracula Daily
Marlon & Jake Read Dead People
WSIRN Episode 336: Find your audiobook formula with Jackie Branz



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  1. Helene Watt says:

    This is the first time I have seen ” The First 15 Lives Of Harry August” on a TBR.
    What a fun read it was.

  2. Adrienne says:

    This episode was fun and covered so much ground. Congrats to Craig and Andrew on 500 podcast episodes! That’s quite an achievement. No recommendations spring to my mind, but I will completely avoid The Girl Next Door. A book that someone wishes they could “unread” just sounds awful…

  3. Sandlynn says:

    I think they might want to try The Deptford Trilogy by Robertson Davies, which, as you can guess, are three books which tell one story three different ways based upon the viewpoints of a different protagonist in each one.

  4. Emily says:

    I’m so excited for this episode! I just remembered their podcast (had listened to a few episodes years ago) and have been going through the archives of the books I’ve read – and have several saved for the books I plan to read.

  5. Megan says:

    What a fun episode this was! I am a Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and Chronicles of Narnia fan myself. I think I really need to buckle down and read some Bronte and Austen. I’ve attempted it multiple times.

    • Elise says:

      Lewis and Tolkien were the writers who launched me on my reading journey — still among my favorites. Definitely give Austen and the Brontes another try! I read Jane Eyre for the first time a few years ago and couldn’t believe I’d waited till my mid-thirties to dive into this book. It is so accessible and engaging. Now I’ve read it 3 times in the past 5 years!

  6. Jean says:

    I got super excited this episode when the McElroy Tyra Banks podcast was mentioned. I haven’t listened to THAT podcast, BUT I do listen to Bad Author Book Club where Claribel Ortega (Ghost Squad, Witchlings) and Ryan La Sala (Reverie, The Honeys) talk about bizarre fiction, and yes, they are reading Modelland by Tyra Banks. I highly recommend the podcast to anyone who was like “what, Tyra Banks wrote a book??”

  7. Jessica says:

    The Overdue podcast sounds so great! I want to give it a listen as there are several episodes about books I want to read. But should I wait to listen to the podcast until AFTER I’ve read the book? I don’t want too much given away! Please advise!

    • Emily says:

      Late reply but I would say yes – I have only listened to the episodes of books I’ve already read. Then I have saved all the ones for books I want to read (and will listen to once I’ve gotten to them)!

  8. Halle says:

    If you are also looking for a “big, stupid fantasy series” I would recommend Brandon Sanderson’s works! He’s massively prolific and his books are intricately woven together. Details which seem meaningless on the first page become key plot points two books later. I loved the Mistborn series (though the 3rd book was a little too bloody for my taste). I will definitely check out their podcast – it sounds fun!

  9. Laura says:

    I love their podcast! Glad you got to talk to them. I appreciate their humor when discussing the books and the background info about each one. They are really entertaining and can make some books I didn’t particularly enjoy more comprehensible (ie Woolf’s To the Lighthouse).

  10. Kate says:

    I am so glad that I listened to this podcast! I enjoy reading about time travel so was delighted to get the recommendation of Ken Brimwood’s book “Replay”. Impossible to put down!

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