Our team’s favorite summer reads

What Should I Read Next episode 344: What we're loving this season

a bunch of open books laying in the grass

Readers, it’s become a tradition to bring our team onto the podcast in the summer to share our favorite reading experiences of the season. We spend a LOT of time talking books around here, and today, we’re inviting you to listen in on the conversation!

In today’s episode, we’re sharing three different bookish conversations from members of the WSIRN Team. In addition to telling you all about some of our favorite summer reads, we explore what summer reading means to us, and what we’re looking for this time of year when it comes to choosing our next read. Plus, you’ll hear some fun stories about how our team came to be, and the work we do behind the scenes.

Our conversations today cover a lot of literary ground, so you’ll hear about everything from doorstopper fantasy to short story collections, classic novellas to nonfiction favorites, and so much more. We hope you’ll discover a title that appeals to your reading tastes today, whether it’s entirely new to you or one you’ll rediscover on your to-be-read list.

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.

If you’re looking for our Kids’ Gifting Episode Recommendation request form, it’s right here. Remember to submit your requests by September 10th!


[CHEERFUL INTRO MUSIC]

ANNE: Hey, readers, I'm Anne Bogel and this is What Should I Read Next? Episode 344.

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.

This week we have a special episode for you. We're sharing summer reading favorites from our team here at What Should I Read Next?.

[MUSIC]

ANNE: Before we dive into our summer reading episode, we have a request for you listeners. While the holiday season feels so far away right now we've already begun readying our annual holiday gift recommendation episodes.

Every year I invite a fellow book professional or two join me on the show to solve your gifting dilemmas for the readers in your life. This year we are also producing a special conversation focused on gift-giving four bookish for kids. And we're pumped. We want to hear all your questions about what to give your favorite young readers.

To submit your recommendation requests for the bookish kids in your life, visit our show notes page at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/344. We've got a submission link right there ready and waiting.

If you are wanting recommendations for adult readers, hold on, we've got you. We'll be sharing a separate request in the upcoming weeks.

Be sure to send us your young reader recommendation requests before September 10th. We can't wait to hear who you're shopping for and make stellar recommendations for your holiday season. That's whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/344 before September 10th.

[00:01:39]

Readers, we had so much fun last summer sharing readerly conversations between our What Should I Read Next? team members, we decided to do it again.

It should come as no surprise that our team is a bookish bunch. In between producing this podcast, curating book club and Patreon programming, and managing the range of projects in the What Should I Read Next? – Modern Mrs. Darcy universe, we managed to talk a lot about what we're reading and what we should read next.

In today's episode, we're sharing three different bookish conversations between an assortment of our team members. We talk about what summer reading means to us, the types of books we're looking for this time of the year, and we each share few books we have loved this summer.

Our conversations take us in unexpected and enjoyable directions. For example, you'll hear about the one job at What Should I Read Next? that three of our current team members applied for. And I'm so glad they did.

Our conversations are all over the literary map today: your stopper fantasy, classic novella, nonfiction tomes to teach you something new, and more.

We mentioned a ton of titles. So rest assured that as always you'll find the full list at our show notes page at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/344.

To kick off today's show, I'm chatting with our production assistant Holly Wielkoszewski and our spreadsheet whisper, Donna Hetchler. From mysteries to classics to travelogs, the three of us had a blast talking about what's on our summer reading shelves. Let's get to it.

Okay, here we go. Hello, Donna and Holly. I'm so excited to talk about summer reading favorites with you all. I love this combination. The trio of us hasn't done this before, I don't think.

DONNA: Hi, Anne and Holly. Yeah, I don't think the three of us have ever talked about books together. So I'm excited for this as well.

ANNE: I mean, we've talked books together. Don't you worry, listeners. We have talked books together but maybe not when the recording was running.

HOLLY: I think mostly in Slack. [ANNE, HOLLY LAUGHS]

ANNE: Donna, introduce yourself, tell the people what you do.

DONNA: Hi, I'm Donna Hetchler, and I do some metrics and some reporting for Anne. So I just call myself the spreadsheet queen. You might remember my episode 83, and I talked about my big birthday bookstore road trip, and I'm ready to go on another one. All right, Holly, what about you?

HOLLY: Hey, I'm Holly Wielkoszewski. I'm the media production assistant. So I help get the podcast out into your ears every week. And I'm also a big part of our Patreon community. So you might have heard me recently on one of our bonus episodes over there. And I would love to join you on a bookstore road trip, Donna.

[00:04:11]

ANNE: And it really has been a while because that episode aired on June 13th, 2017. And that was the planning stage. I mean, Donna, we support you in your endeavors to hit the road again and do this.

DONNA: Thank you.

ANNE: I really want to ask you a lot of questions about that, but today, it's also all summer reading all the time. And let's start by talking about what we think of when we think summer reading because I realized, in getting ready to talk to you all, that it's not a one thing for me.

Like I have two distinct summer reading vibes. One is the kind of reading where I'm sitting on the patio in the backyard when it's not 110 degrees, reading 100 pages at a time of something I can really sink into. Or you know, sitting in my yellow IKEA chair you've probably seen on Instagram with a nice cold drink and air conditioning and just really being able to focus on a book. So I think of that as my attention span of reading.

But also, we're on the go a lot in the summertime. And I also need books that are really easy to read, that don't require a ton of concentrated attention that I can jump in and out of. And it's, you know, find books that are maybe a little faster, a little looser, or a little more poppy. And those are not the same books.

So when I thought about what books I wanted to bring as my favorites this summer, I was looking for books that fit both of those categories. Donna, what's summer reading like for you?

DONNA: Well, I live in the desert in Palm Springs and it's regularly over 100 degrees every day here, which I mean, in some ways is good. It means I stay inside in the air conditioning and I have plenty of time to read. But I tend to read more escapist type of books during the summer. How about you, Holly?

HOLLY: Kind of like you had said, Anne. I tend to have two vibes for summer reading. I'm either reading like door stoppers that will keep me up until 3 a.m. happily. Or I tend to lean into short story collections also in the summer because they're just perfect for reading in between dips in the pool or going out for a hike or whatever other outdoor adventures I have on my list for that day.

ANNE: I love that you clarified that you were happy to be awake at 3 a.m sometimes.

HOLLY: It doesn't happen as much as it did when I was younger, I'll be honest. [ANNE LAUGHS] But when it does, it's pretty great. [CHUCKLES]

ANNE: Okay, well, I want to know how many books do you have in mind to share with us because I might have jotted down like 11 books as options on my legal pad here that I'm looking at.

[00:06:31]

DONNA: I am limiting myself to two.

ANNE: Wow.

HOLLY: I've got two books and an honorable mention.

ANNE: I wanted to choose a book for each vibe. I feel like this might be... No it's not cheating. I read it in the summer, but this book does not come out till fall. And readers, this is a preview of our fall book preview. How do you like that?

But one of my favorite books this summer that I keep thinking about is Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout. I was really surprised to find out that she was writing about Lucy Barton again. I knew that the pandemic featured in the novel but I had no idea that this is a pandemic story.

And some of you haven't read Elizabeth Strout, and you don't know what I'm talking about. So let me just say this. I jumped in with these characters on I think a Saturday afternoon and I sat down and I read the entire thing because I didn't want to put it down.

I felt just like completely transported to pre-pandemic... Well, dawning pandemic, New York City. And then I escaped with Lucy, and I don't want to give any spoilers, up the coast of Maine. So they could like stake out their place for the pandemic away from the city because her traveling companion is extremely freaked out because of his profession. He knows things about viruses and he's like, "We are leaving. Let's go."

But the conversations in this book about the pandemic, yes, but also the fragility of life, what it means to be in relationship with people and being unwelcome as an outsider in Maine as they really are is New Yorkers who are seeking temporary refuge there.

But also I'm very aware that this is not like a point of interest for everyone by any means. But they talk so much in this book about parenting adults children. They're helping their kids as they navigate crises in their lives and their marriages.

And the way they have these discussions was just so poignant and thoughtful, and just really got me thinking about my own life. And I love when a writer of literary fiction can really do that really well. I don't have adult children, though I'm awfully close. My oldest is 19 and my youngest is 12.

But just getting to listen in on these fictional, I guess, conversations between people further down the road for me was so touching and somehow it's really sad, but also really life-affirming, and encouraging. And I'm not doing this book justice. So we'll see how my description is different in the fall book preview. We'll definitely be talking about this.

But the important thing is I sat down on my patio and I did not get up any more than I had to until I read from page one until page the end. And it's not a long book. It's just over 200 pages. And I loved it. So you can guess which mood that fulfills. That's my attention span reading.

[00:09:11]

My lack of attention span reading is a book that really surprised me. I don't know, favorite can mean many things, you know? And is this like the best book I've read so far this summer? I don't know. But it was exactly the right book for the right time for me and that's The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston.

I almost didn't pick this up, but it's a book about books set in the world of publishing. And I really enjoy reading stories like this. But this book is weird and wonderful.

It's about a ghostwriter whose life is completely up ended when she has a terrible breakup for reasons that are kind of spoilery, but oh gosh, are really juicy to read about on the page. And it has to do with books and reading and the writing of them.

So she doesn't believe in love anymore, but she's on the hook for a bunch of novels that she is supposed to go straight. And also she has this satisfying/opposite relationship with ghostwriting because she feels like her family's like, "Oh, you know, you just work as a personal assistant not doing important work." But she's writing these books that everybody in the country reads and loves. So that's the fun little backdrop.

She can also see ghosts, which is an important part of this story, because this is a paranormal, literary romance. And I don't mean literary like Elizabeth Strout's literary fiction. I mean, literary like books and reading world.

But her dad dies unexpectedly, she goes home to tend to everything in the family home which is next door to the town's funeral home because her family has run that with great care and love and dedication to their vocation for many, many years.

And next thing she knows, her editor who she just had an unpleasant conversation with just a few hours before shows up as a ghost himself on her doorstep, because he got into a car wreck. And now he's come back to hunt her because he has unfinished business. But he's confused and he's vulnerable.

And she's seen ghosts before. So she's like, "I know what you're doing here, but let's do this thing together." And it's just a lot of fun. They develop a friendship and she pops around the town seeing her family members, and her old friends.

And I made the perhaps mistake of reading the review on Smart Bitches, Trashy Books of this book before we hopped on to talk and they were like, "Oh, my gosh, I have so many problems. I give this thing a C. Did nobody think about this? What is happening?" And so I was kind of questioning if I had good taste.

But you know what? I love this book. When I was reading it, I read it super fast as I was packing, I read it in the airplane terminal, which is high praise for a book or maybe perfectly indicative of my no attention span reading. I thought it was a delight for the time I was in. I don't sound defensive at all, right?

HOLLY: No.

DONNA: No, not at all. [ANNE, DONNA, HOLLY LAUGHS]

[00:11:48]

ANNE: Donna, have you been reading this summer?

DONNA: All right. So I have two very different books that I want to talk about. So the first is called Nora Goes Off Script. It's by Annabel Monaghan. Oh my gosh, I love this book so much. Okay, so this is a... maybe call it a rom-com.

Nora is the screenwriter, and they are filming one of her movies at her house, and she ends up getting into a relationship with the lead actor. I'm trying to put my finger on what made this book stand out. I mean, it's very sweet, funny, smart. But there was something just so soothing about it, and I just wanted to like live in this book.

It reminded me of... You know, if you like Nancy Meyers movies like The Holiday, the feeling I have when I'm watching one of her movies is the feeling I had when I was reading this book. So just the perfect escapist read.

Okay, left turn. The second book that I want to recommend is Madame de Treymes. It's by Edith Wharton. And this was a novella that was published in 1907. I don't want to say too much about the plot. It's basically about an American who's living in Europe. He has some complicated conversations with the family of a woman he is with. I'll just leave it at that.

But there's some really interesting twists and turns in this story, but here's why I'm really recommending it. I am actually in a buddy-read ongoing project with my friend Annette where we read a novella each month and then talk about it.

I just want to recommend this to everybody. It is so wonderful because first of all, we could read such a wide range of things, obviously classics, we read contemporary, we read science fiction. I mean, we're kind of all over the map. But it doesn't take up a lot of our reading time because I'd never met a buddy read I didn't like and so I overextend myself and then I have too much-assigned reading but a novella is the way to go.

And if you want a place to start, I suggest Madame de Treymes. Or you could just go with Edith Wharton's classic Ethan Frome was another one we read that was great. So what about you, Holly?

HOLLY: Oh, so fun. Okay, so I am leaning into the short and accessible category of my summer reading with my two picks. And I'll touch on my door stopper briefly with my honorable mention. So I've got two very different collections.

The first one is called New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color. And it was edited by Nisi Shawl. I bought this a couple of years ago at my favorite bookstore in Missoula, Montana Shakespeare Company, but it had been lingering on my shelf for a while. Reached for it this summer, and man, it's just such a delightful collection of stories by some authors I knew, some that are new to me, a good variety of shorter and longer short stories, but again, just those perfect bite-size invitations to set aside the heat or the summer stress, whatever that might look like and just dive into a story that is truly escapist—one of the things I love about speculative fiction.

But there are a couple of things I particularly liked about this collection and just reading speculative fiction in general for short stories. It really gave me an opportunity to discover some new authors and get an idea of what to expect. And I feel like this is especially helpful for me in the realm of science fiction and fantasy of knowing what sort of a world-building load do I expect from a certain author.

Is this author writing in more of a dystopian or more of a utopian voice? Is this happening in outer space? Or is this, you know, an alternate timeline of US history? It's just a great way to get a feel for the author, decide if I want to read more by them. This collection included some pieces by Rebecca Roanhorse. I know, I've spoken up before of my undying love for her.

And I found a couple of new authors. One author Minsoo Kang had this incredibly clever story called The Virtue of Unfaithful Translations. I think speaking to our word nerd community, anyone would enjoy that particular story so, so much. I was just chuckling on the couch the whole way through and my husband kind of kept looking over at me going like, "Are you okay?" Like, "Yes, I'm great. Thank you."

A couple of other stories that really stood out to me were Bumb House by Andrea Hairston and Burn the Ships by Alberto Yáñez has. So again, a great collection, a great way to kind of dip your toes into the water of speculative fiction if you're new to that genre, and a great way to sink into it a little bit more deeply if you know it's something you already love. So that was a big hit for me this summer.

[00:16:26]

And then the other collection also of stories is called Nobody Gets Out Alive by Leigh Newman. So this is a newer release. It just came out in April of 2022. I completely bought it on a whim at my local indie bookstore because it's set in Alaska. Listeners, too my Patreon bonus not too long ago, might know that I haven't Alaska shelf and pretty much read anything that set in or about Alaska.

But some things I really enjoyed about this, first of all, Leigh's writing is just incredibly immersive. Very enjoyable reading experience. It makes you feel like you're right there along with the characters. And the stories were interwoven. So you kind of come back to a few of the characters and see them at different parts in their lives.

It was also told from a point of view of female protagonists. This was really something I enjoyed a lot about this collection because so many Alaskans' stories are either told by men or about men or from that perspective. So I really enjoyed the perspectives in this collection.

I'll give just a very brief mention to my honorable mention which is in my door stopper fantasy category. And the reason why it's an honorable mention is because this is actually one of Leigh's selections from our summer team reads episode last year. Guessing that's how it ended up on my list to begin with.

And this is The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri. I'm not going to say a lot about it. Go back and listen to Leigh because she totally sold it to me last year. But it's an epic fantasy with some of the most incredible world building that I've encountered in my recent reads. I can't wait for the sequel. It's coming out in August and that's The Oleander Sword.

[00:17:51]

ANNE: Those all sound amazing. I have so much I still want to read this summer catching my backlist. I want to read another Doris Kearns Goodwin book before the summer's over for my ongoing completist project. But two books that I'm really looking forward to are first of all, the new Gabrielle Allon spy novel from Daniel Silva, it's called Portrait of an Unknown Woman and some of these books that Daniel Silva write. So Allon and his background in the art world.

I really love these spy thrillers and I think they're perfect summertime reading for me. So I love they come out in the summer. I often end up reading the new one on summer vacation and that's probably what I'm going to do this year. That one was out July 19th. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

The next one is Perish by Latoya Watkins. And I know that this book also deals with some harder topics, but I can't wait to read it. It's been on my list since it was first announced because something I learned in putting together this year's summer reading guide is that I really liked the way that Dutton's new tiny reparations imprints, that's Phoebe Robinson imprints, is shaping up.

I've loved What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris and Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li. Both summer reading apex. So when they announced the new book by Latoya Watkins, I just added it to my list. Yes, I'm going to read that and I'm really looking forward to it. It's out August 23rd. I hope to read it before then. But I'm excited to read it whenever it happens. Donna, what's on your list?

DONNA: Well, the two that I'm really looking forward to... Actually, I'm going to continue your spy theme here.

ANNE: I love it.

DONNA: The first one is called Alias Emma. It's by Eva Glass. It comes out August 2nd. She is a British spy new to the job and she has to deliver her asset across London in 12 hours and killers are in pursuit. So that sounds like the perfect page-turner for me.

The second one I'm really interested in is Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn. I absolutely love her Veronica Speedwell mystery series. Those are going to continue thankfully. And actually I'm not sure if this one is a standalone or if it'll be a new series.

But the description is there are four women, I think they're all 60 or in their 60s and they are retired assassins, but they have to come out of retirement because someone is hunting them down. I just cannot even imagine what Deanna Raybourn is going to do with this story, but she just has such a great sense of humor in her books. So I just think this is going to be a great mix of action and humor, and I can't wait to read it. That one is out September 6th, Killers of a Certain Age. What about you, Holly?

[00:20:35]

HOLLY: Well, first of all, I have to thank you for reminding me about Killers of a Certain Age because I also love Deanna Raybourn and I forgot that that book was coming out. So now I've got a third book on my list here. [ANNE LAUGHS]

So I've got two picks that are next up on my stack. The first is called The Great North Road: London to Edinburgh – 11 Days, 2 Wheels and 1 Ancient Highway by Steve Silk. So Steve Silk is a journalist and a cyclist. And basically he decides to ride his bike along this road across Britain, across England and Scotland, and it's essentially Britain's version of Route 66.

So he's looking into, you know, all the small towns going to old inns and coffee shops getting a glimpse of the past along this kind of iconic road. This is a really fun book. I actually got this through a membership I have to a book subscription called Adventurous Inc. They send you an adventure or outdoor themed book every month or so. This one arrived and I thought it looks perfect for the summer. So looking forward to that one.

And then the other one that's been kind of on my radar and just moved up is Spear by Nicola Griffith. This is a novella, so I'm walking in your shoes a little bit here, Donna. I love that idea.

It's a retelling of Arthurian mythology. It's a woman who dresses up as a man, goes off to become a knight and adventures ensue. I saw recently that Alix Harrow, who wrote A Spindle Splintered and many other books that we've loved here on the podcast, recommended this novella and called it out for what she wrote as "the sheer sensory joy of reading this book."

So that sounds about perfect to me for a summer read. I need a little bit more sheer sensory joy of summer in my reading life and this is going to deliver it I think. So I'm excited.

ANNE: Those sound amazing. Okay, thanks for adding more books to my summer TBR. It's so fun to hear what everybody is interested in. Donna and Holly, thanks for hopping on with me and sharing yours.

DONNA: Thank you.

HOLLY: This was so much fun.

ANNE: Donna, would you share the name of that again, the Emma Alias Grace something?

DONNA: Oh, Alias Emma. And it's by Ava Glass.

ANNE: Thank you. I didn't write fast enough.

HOLLY: They'll be in the show notes. [HOLLY, ANNE, DONNA LAUGHS]

[00:22:44]

ANNE: Readers, I hope you enjoyed my chat with Holly and Donna. I always enjoy talking books with them. And I'm so glad that for once we recorded one of our literary conversations.

Next up, we have another trio. Our event manager Shannan Malone is joined by What Should I Read Next? producer, Brenna Frederick, and Modern Mrs. Darcy book club community manager, Ginger Horton.

Today, Ginger and Shannan are talking about the author they're both currently obsessed with, while Brenna chimes in with a lengthy list of recommendations from an author that she is currently loving. Let's listen in.

GINGER: Oh, you know what, I'm gonna take my earrings off for real because I think they're kind of jangly.

BRENNA: Okay.

GINGER: I'm ready.

BRENNA: All right, Shannan and Ginger, here we are back in the recording booth. Listeners, my name is Brenna Frederick. I'm the producer here at What Should I Read Next? I do a lot of different things that get this podcast into your ears every week, but largely a lot of working with our guests. And then I also edit these episodes, including this one, which means this week I got to listen to my own voice.

But Shannan and Ginger, could you tell the listeners what you do around What Should I Read Next? or Modern Mrs. Darcy?

GINGER: Well, you know, I forgot all about this, Brenna, until you were saying what you did. And fun fact, which I'm sure you know, but does Shannan know that I actually applied for your job?

When I applied to work for Modern Mrs. Darcy, I was upfront with Anne and said, "Oh, I know nothing about podcasts, but what I do know is that you are growing and I would love to work with you." And she said, "Yeah, no, you're not right for that at all."

But [GINGER, BRENNA, SHANNAN LAUGHS] she so thankfully found you and so thankfully for me, hired me to be the modern Mrs. Darcy book club community manager. So this mostly means that I get to hang out in the book club, which is forums and events and talk about books most days.

Listeners might also know me from Episode 283 where Anne encouraged me not to save the good stuff. And I've been taking that to heart for the past year since I was on the podcast a year ago. And I can truly say that that philosophy has changed my reading life for the better.

SHANNAN: And I'm Shannan, the event manager, event planner here at Modern Mrs. Darcy and I do all things that need to be done when it comes to planning events for the book club, What Should I Read Next?. And Ginger and Brenna, y'all may know this, but I also applied for Brenna's job.

GINGER: I did not know that.

SHANNAN: Really?

GINGER: Shannan, this is hysterical.

SHANNAN: Yes, I did. I applied for Brenna's job, but my resume was packed full of event stuff. Anne emailed me and was like, "You know, if I have a need for an event person, can I reach out to you?" And I was like, "Sure."

GINGER: "What would we do without Shannan?" I think that regularly.

BRENNA: Oh, yeah.

GINGER: I get to talk books with Shannan a lot, and I get to talk books with you, Brenna far too seldom. So this is an extra treat.

[00:25:34]

BRENNA: So I want to know what summer reading is like for you two. Like how do you describe what you're looking for in your summer reading?

GINGER: I'm on record as usually having a pretty major summer slump that I have not been this summer. And that is primarily thanks to audiobooks. So I feel like I'm on the go a lot more, days or longer. I just feel busier in summer months. So a lot of times reading is the first thing to go, which is very sad, but audiobooks can go with you.

So I am currently living in Hawaii, but I'm on an extended trip to the mainland this summer to see friends and family. And car rides are good for audiobooks. Yeah, anytime you can squeeze in a few pages here or there.

I'm going to talk a little bit about this title later, but the one that's on my nightstand right now is like a light and funny title. So that's been my strategy where you can pick up a few pages and you don't have to like sink into something.

I've also been on a little bit of a mystery’s bender because we're focusing on mysteries in our classes and our author talks in August in book club. So I'll talk about that a little later, too.

BRENNA: This seems like a good plan for slump avoidance.

GINGER: Yeah.

BRENNA: I also often have a large slump in the summer. I'm not sure why really. My schedule isn't that much different in the summer and I don't think I read that much differently in the summer. Maybe that's the problem. Maybe I need to anticipate the slump like you're doing and put together a plan. [LAUGHS]

GINGER: I didn't even notice that I had a slump until I started tracking my reading. I just knew that low level bothered me every year. And when I started tracking it and realized it always comes back, it really helps me to sort of not freak out about it.

So I think as we say in the reading life, "you're never alone," just knowing that it's coming and knowing that it's coming back provides a lot of comfort for me at least.

BRENNA: How about you, Shannan?

SHANNAN: My summer reads are generally lighter and laid back in the past. But the past two years have caught up with me in a very real way. And I have been continually on the struggle bus this year. This summer is no different. So what that has meant for my reading life is that I do not want to be here. I want to be someplace that could never be, see things that could never happen.

GINGER: In a galaxy far far away, are you saying, Shannan? [BRENNA CHUCKLES, SHANNAN LAUGHS]

SHANNAN: Something like that. Yeah, sci-fi and fantasy has been the only thing I have been reading this summer. And that is definitely different. But at this point, I'm like, "Is this my new normal?"

GINGER: What is normal?

BRENNA: Okay, I have this very specific genre. It's not even a genre—it's like a sub sub sub-genre—I have been actively seeking out this summer. I have been hunting for any book that's not just sci-fi but on a spaceship or even like on a distant planet, a group of researchers and they're all the only living thing on this planet or something like that.

Something very isolated and isolated small spaceship with only a couple people, that's what I'm looking for. Like I want something so incredibly alienated from the rest of the world. That has been very comforting to me to be in these little like almost claustrophobic stories about only a couple people.

GINGER: I live for a sub sub sub-genre. That's why you're speaking my love language there.

BRENNA: I am in the middle of one right now that I'm really liking. And I've read a couple others. Like they're not exceptional, but boy, are they hitting just the right sweet spot.

[00:29:04]

GINGER: Well, what I'm going to talk about today is actually almost the opposite of what I told you that summer reading is. And I think that's what makes a really magical sparkling kind of reading experience is that when everything that you say is not true, but you love it anyway, I think that is...

You know, one of the reasons I read is to be surprised and delighted. It's not the only reason I read but it is outstanding when that happens.

BRENNA: Well, I think we should get into the good stuff. Ginger, I want to hear about what you've been loving this summer.

GINGER: I am dying to talk about this because I have not talked about this that much publicly. It barely squeaks in for summer because I technically read it on Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial beginning of the summer season. It is Ring Shout by P Djèlí Clark. This alternate fantastical, horrible history casts Klu Klux Klan members as actual demons. They're spreading their viral fear and hatred.

The first person that I told this about was actually Shannan. As I mentioned, we often talk books. And she called when I was halfway through that weekend, and I said, "Shannan, I reserve the right to change my mind once I've finished but I am reading the best thing I've read in 20 years." I have not changed my mind.

I think Shannan now has gone on to surpass and read even more of Clark than I had. She keeps finding short stories on the internet and sending them to me. I'm so thankful. You're fangirling hard this summer over... I've taken to call them PDC, P Djèlí Clark. But I fully intend to become a PDC completist.

I first actually heard about Ring Shout from Chelsea. And yes, I have Voxed her to thank her for pressing this into my hands. But I shied away from it because I knew the subject matter. And readers use caution for your own state of mind. This book is rough. But while it is intense, P Djèlí Clark's mind is so masterful and his world-building is so intricate, his characters are unforgettable.

I love a book that engages my moral imagination. We hear a lot about how the reading life can engage empathy and understanding, those positive virtues. And I absolutely want that in my whole life, not just my reading life. I want to love those good things, but I also want to loathe what is bad.

And Ring Shout falls in the camp of horror. It takes a stark look at wickedness and there is not a smidge of beauty or glorification in this story. So again, reader beware. Take care of yourself. This is horrific in the literal and figurative meaning. I don't often read horror, but I might have to rethink that just because the experience of reading this... And it's really slim. This is a slim horror novel in which is so powerful.

SHANNAN: After Ginger told me about Ring Shout I was very intrigued, but a little scared of the darkness of it as she described it. I don't generally do horror, but I decided to just see what else P Djèlí Clark had written. And A Master of Djinn which he released May 2021 of last year was everywhere. I mean, if this was visual, and I held up the cover, I guarantee you you have seen this book.

I did mention that I have been on the struggle bus. After a while I thought you know, a little darkened story might be appropriate now, and I picked up anything by P Djèlí Clark. And honestly, I don't even remember the first one that I read. I think I read a short story.

So let me tell you a little bit about Clark because like Ginger said he has gone down a rabbit hole.

GINGER: Deep dive.

SHANNAN: He is a history professor at the University of Connecticut and he writes fiction as a break from all of his academic work. And he's an African-American, and he's a history professor currently at the University of Yu Han.

One of the reasons he uses a pen name for his fiction is he loved sci-fi and fantasy growing up and he read The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis and loved it so much that as a kid he went to the library to pick up, you know, something else that was by C. S. Lewis and came home with some theological treatise nonfiction and was like, "What is this?"

So he has a pen name now to differentiate his academic work, which is under his given name Dexter Gabriel and his fiction work, which is P Djèlí Clark. And the interesting thing about P Djèlí Clark is Phenderson is for a family member as well as Clark. But Djèlí spelled D-J-E-L-I is African word for storyteller. And I just thought that that is just great.

GINGER: So cool.

[00:33:46]

SHANNAN: And his work is divided into two categories. His Dead Djinn Universe that he's created through a short story, a couple novellas, and the long form novel. And that takes place in Cairo, Egypt in 1912.

It features the alternate history of what if great Britain had lost the battle to colonize Egypt and thus Egypt is a major superpower in the world and Cairo is a major city on par with London and Paris due to the arrival of these magical creatures or djinn, which in American culture we understand to be genies.

His second category is the African diaspora in the western hemisphere. So Ring Shout is included in that as well as Black God's Drums, which is an alternate history about the North and the South that are in a stalemate in the middle of the Civil War. And New Orleans is neutral territory.

Now, as far as the satisfying summary, I've already told you this is not a traditional summary for me. But as Ginger has already stated, if you want your summaries to have a strong sense of place, Clark takes you where he wants you to be. Whether it's on an airship doc in New Orleans, Georgia countryside outside of Macon, or a bizarre in Cairo, you will be there. And that scream summer to me.

GINGER: You will be transported. That is for sure.

SHANNAN: I am a completist at this point. I have read everything except a few short stories that I can't find or don't have access to. And some of his work I've read multiple times.

One of the things that I am wrestling with from his work is my role and activism and what that looks like when it comes to social justice and equality. And I got that from the main character in Ring Shout, who is as he described a woman with a sword fighting injustice. And I thought that that was fantastic way to describe that.

Him being this African-American history professor, combining his love of sci-fi and fantasy and history, he creates this powerful and impactfully layered fiction.

GINGER: One of the things that I love about him is how his mind works. I would love to live for a day in the Encyclopedia of his mind. He really can sort of mesh worlds, mesh mythologies alongside of history, sort of seamlessly tie them together, where you're not even positive where one begins and one ends. And I think that's part of the point.

SHANNAN: And he's won every award or been nominated for every award in the Sci-Fi fantasy category as you can think of.

GINGER: We might have a little literary crash. Brenna might have put us together just so we could not like [SHANNAN LAUGHS] infect anyone else with our gushing.

BRENNA: It's really cool to hear about people discovering their next favorite author. I came into this recording thinking that my choice wouldn't have much in common with you both because I knew... you know, we knew in the planning process that you two had an author in common that you were excited to talk about and you were going through this exciting summer discovery together.

I thought I would just gonna be tagging along with my different book. But hearing y'all talk about his writing, I'm realizing there's actually a very clear relationship between P Djèlí Clark's writing and the book that I have loved this summer.

My book is Never Say You Can't Survive: How to Get Through Hard Times by Making Up Stories by Charlie Jane Anders. I've been reading this for a very long time. I did it in bytes over a long period of time. And I finished a reread recently. So I didn't read it for the first time this summer, but it's made a really good impact this summer.

It's a nonfiction book from Charlie Jane Anders, who if you recognize that name, she's the author of All the Birds in the Sky, The City in the Middle of the Night, multi-award winner also. Very well known in the Sci-Fi scene.

I've recommended her short story collection, Six Months, Three Days, Five Others before on the show. I think I sent you a copy of it, Shannan. I don't know if you read it. But I sent you a copy because it's so-

SHANNAN: You did.

BRENNA: ...unapproachable. And I also read her more recent short story collection, Even Greater Mistakes. I mean, I could say that Even Greater Mistakes, that collection and Never Say You Can't Survive pair so well because Even Greater Mistakes goes through favorite or interesting moments in her writing career which is decades old. And she prefaces each of them with a description of like why she wrote it, what her headspace was like when she wrote it, what was going on in the world.

And that's very much related to what she's talking about in Never Say You Can't Survive, which is a book about writing. But it's a very different kind of book about writing than you may have come across before. Like the classic books about writing Bird by Bird, the Stephen King's On Writing.

But Never Say You Can't Survive is specifically about writing, the bizarre or the strange or the Sci-Fi, the fantasy. Writing something that gives you a way forward when it feels like realistically in the world it is hard to move forward, writing fantasy in a way that frees you, writing bizarre alternate histories and you know, the book world that I really have a lot of affection for and focus on a lot in my reading life.

The reason I think this like relates to P Djèlí Clark, and what I've heard of his writing from you both-

GINGER: Yeah, I can see it.

BRENNA: ..Charlie Jane Anders talks a lot in the book, particularly... She's coming particularly from like a queer lens, looking at the world and how difficult it is to exist as a queer person right now. Like I say that out of personal experience and how marginalized identities often we have to create these worlds in our own communities, but also in our own media and our entertainment.

That is either, and I think both of these things are healing, either writing your way through a world that is an even worse version of what's currently happening because it can be extremely like cathartic and helpful to make things that you're going through sometimes subtle, not apparent on the surface, very explicit on the page. That can be very healing, very validating. very cathartic.

[00:40:17]

SHANNAN: Definitely. Reading Rings Shout and the way he has the Ku Klux Klan have demons, I'm relating to what you're saying with that from Djèlí Clark's writing. You know, it did feel cathartic.

BRENNA: Can you see it now? [BRENNA, SHANNAN, GINGER LAUGHS]

SHANNAN: Yes.

GINGER: I liked how you put that, Brenna, that fiction can be healing. I had never really thought about that externalization really drawing attention to that.

BRENNA: Sometimes you just want that thing to be acknowledged, sometimes you want that thing out in the open. And Charlie Jane Anders talks about that. But also talks about the flip side of that, which is you can write a future that is beautiful, you can write a future that is better.

I'm thinking specifically of... I mean, we talk about Becky Chambers all the time. I think that goes without saying Becky Chambers is writing fiction where she wants to feel hopeful about the world and where we might go.

Another author I think of with this kind of like writing a future where some things are better is Akwaeke Emezi, specifically their book Pet. Because it's a book where things do definitely go wrong but some things are better. It is a friendlier world to be queer, it is a friendlier world to be black, it is a friendlier world to be a child.

SHANNAN: I think that's also what's appealing in the Dead Djinn Universe. It is a friendlier world for people of color in that universe. Like I said, Cairo is on par through this alternate history with London and Paris. And that was meaningful to me as well. And I can see what Charlie Jane Anders… what she is saying in that book.

GINGER: I don't mind telling you that I just added it to my cart while we were talking. Is that allowed to say that I was definitely searching my favorite bookstore?

BRENNA: I think we allow book shopping on this book podcast. [SHANNAN, GINGER, BRENNA LAUGHS] Charlie Jane Anders is also a very funny author. She has this sense of humor. It's very her. Like I can always tell these little jokes in her writing. It just sounds like her. I really enjoy that about it as well.

Well, what about what we're looking forward to reading next?

GINGER: I'm going to cheat just a tiny bit because I have barely started this title. As I said I'm traveling though so reading is going a little bit slower. But let's file this under and now for something completely different.

So this is the book I'm probably the most excited about. It's sitting on my coffee table I mentioned. It's Dial a for Aunties. My friend and book club member, Rachel, told me about this at a book club in person meeting this summer and she had us laughing about it so hard in the aisles of novel bookstore in Memphis.

And I remembered another book club member had put it on my radar last summer at our Best Books of the Summer event at book club. So if book club members are talking about a same hilarious title two summers in a row, that is a reason to move it up my TBR list to my TBRRN. That's to be read right now list. I just made that up. I don't think that's a term. [SHANNAN LAUGHS, GINGER CHUCKLES]

I get so many good suggestions from that annual best books of the summer event and book club, but this is the one that moved to my nightstand. and I have to give a quick shout-out to the one I shared at that annual Best Books event Fault Lines. I do highly recommend this on audio. I mentioned that audio was kind of saving my reading life right now. That was read by a new favorite narrator for me, Olivia Wilson, and her narration is just pitch perfect.

So I got to get both of those in because I'm loving one currently and have very recently loved Fault Lines. Beautiful cover too. It's got these like cherry blossoms on them. It's really beautiful.

SHANNAN: I'm just looking for some more sci-fi and fantasy. I've tried a couple that have not gone anywhere for me. I might have to either continue my reread of P Djèlí Clark or dive back into Becky Chambers' work or keep trying to find something comparable that I'll enjoy.

[00:44:13]

BRENNA: Honestly, I'm not looking very far ahead and my TBR at all. I don't TBR if I'm being honest. But I'm in the middle of one right now that I'm really excited to finish. It's called Far from the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson. It's very much in that vein that I was talking about at the beginning: claustrophobic spaceship fiction.

This book is set on an AI piloted spaceship. One of the main characters is a... I believe she's a pilot. She's there to be like, you know, the human hands on deck during this long spaceflight. So this character wakes up at what should be the end of the trip and finds that everybody else on board has been murdered.

By this time the ship is like orbiting a planet that they were going to ship all these people to. Then the government on that planet gets involved. And it's a locked room mystery because they're gonna run out of oxygen. They don't know who the murderer is, is there still a murder onboard? Is everybody accounted for? Suddenly, there's a wolf on board and they're like, "What?

And it's been really satisfying so far, really cool. I think that the world-building has been pretty easy to understand so far. That might just be because I'm used to sci-fi though. I no longer think I can gauge what is approachable to a non-sci-fi reader anymore. [SHANNAN, GINGER, BRENNA LAUGHS]

I'm really interested to read this author's other work now. Tade Thompson is an afro-futurist sci-fi author.

GINGER: Do I know that name, Tade Thompson? Is that the Rosewater author?

BRENNA: Yes, he wrote Rosewater. And then I believe there's some books that come after that. He writes a lot of like crime fantasy and sci-fi, which I think is a really great crossover. Even having not finished this book, I'm liking it enough that I think I will look into his other books. Well, this was delightful.

GINGER: Yes, I'm really excited. This was a great conversation. I can't wait to listen to the whole thing.

BRENNA: Yes.

GINGER: I mean, not just us, [BRENNA CHUCKLES] but all the team members. It's always like, "Ooh, Yes!"

[00:46:11]

ANNE: That was so much fun. And I love being reminded about how each of these talented folks joined our team.

Wrapping up our team conversations today are my husband Will Bogle, our What Should I Read Next? operations guy, and editor and social media manager, Leigh Kramer.

In addition to sharing their summer selections, they talk about how they each approach a lengthy series and the importance of packing backup books when you're heading out on vacation. Here's what they had to say.

WILL: To town? Is that where we are? Brenna said we're going to town. [CHUCKLES] Hey, Leigh. How about you introduce yourself and then we'll go to town. [LEIGH CHUCKLES]

LEIGH: So I am Leigh Kramer. I'm the editor and social media manager around these parts. I have appeared on a couple of episodes of What Should I Read Next?.

WILL: And I'm Will. I do a lot of the behind-the-scenes stuff around here, but have also been on the show a number of times, most recently with Mel and Dave for the episode Strong Sense of Summer, which is actually kind of funny. So this will be my second summer episode this year. But I'm not really... I get my reading done but I'm not killing it in the summertime as far as reading goes.

LEIGH: I'm not a seasonal reader. So I feel like, yeah, summer doesn't really change anything for me.

WILL: I think I am. I think I am pretty seasonal.

LEIGH: Oh!

WILL: Like summer is just... I'm kind of doing other stuff and so it's not my go-to. I think I'm usually really hunkered down in the fall and do a fair amount of cozy couch reading in the-

LEIGH: Like what kind of books do you reach for in the summer then?

WILL: That does change. I do like spy novels. You know, fast paced... I'm always down for a heist fiction or nonfiction. I read some really good nonfiction heists in the summer. There's one about the largest diamond heist in Antwerp, Belgium ever. Totally true story. And the stuff is bananas. It's like, "This can't be real," but totally true.

LEIGH: Is that a good segue into your first book to talk about today?

WILL: You know, it's funny I've not been reading any of that stuff, which maybe I should get into. [LEIGH LAUGHS] Because thinking about this, I'm kind of wondering, I'm like, "Well, what should I talk about? What's the best book I've read this summer?"

I like kind of having something on the back burner. You know, I don't want to go through a series. Like it's nice to feel like you have this sort of built-in go-to. And I decided this summer like I'm now piling up series that I'm interested in. I should just go on and finish the Cork O'Connor series by William Kent Krueger, because I really enjoy this book. But I'm, I don't know, maybe book 13 at a... I think book 19 is coming out this fall.

LEIGH: Oh, wow.

WILL: And in fact, it came in the mail. Annie is like, "Hey, do you want this?" I'm like, "Well, not for a while." [WILL, LEIGH CHUCKLES] Like I'm still six books off.

DONNA: Like catch up.

WILL: So I've done like three of those real quick succession this summer and realized that might be too fast.

LEIGH: Okay, this is really interesting, because I am not a fast series reader at all and a lot of my friends will just binge-read them. And I will take, you know, a year or two in between the next book because I think I need a little distance before I go back into that world. This is gratifying for me to hear.

WILL: Yeah, yeah. So that's what I've been reading most recently. But I think so far, maybe even the best book I've read this year is The Cartographers.

LEIGH: Oh, I just started a couple nights ago.

WILL: Did you really?

LEIGH: Yeah.

WILL: That's Peng Shepherd. I was in the summer reading guide. There's a lot of things going on in this book. There are two timelines, and the present timeline is very much a mystery. And what's interesting is I started reading this because when Anne was reading for the summer reading guide, which would have been like February or March, she didn't tell me a lot about it but she kept dropping these hints that I'm like, "Okay, I am really intrigued. What is this book?" [LEIGH CHUCKLES]

And then you and I actually both do a fair amount of first looks at the blurbs that go into summer reading guide and that sort of thing. And I don't have any idea what the summer reading... It didn't really matter. I didn't actually even want like more of an explanation. Like I was just so curious about like watching her take it in.

LEIGH: Like reactions to it.

WILL: Yeah, her reaction. So Anne thought I was gonna like that mystery part, the current timeline. And there's like a mysterious tech giant to... you know, you kind of assume that there's a tech giant in any book that's probably nefarious or whatever. So there's this questionable, all knowing tech thing or whatever, which I have... I'm always wary of those in real-life and in my books. But no, I like the sort of flashback timeline, which had a lot of like campus novel feel to it.

LEIGH: Oh.

WILL: Right? There was this kind of found family, there's this really close knit group of friends. I wouldn't say it was like nostalgia for me. It's just not really my time. But there's kind of this sense of idealism and opportunity. I found that part to be just amazing. I love the group of friends. And, of course, it all sort of falls apart and they're not friends in the present timeline.

So you kind of go back and forth between those two. I don't think I'm gonna... If you're in the middle of it, I'm not gonna tell you a whole lot more about it though.

[00:51:02]

LEIGH: I mean, it's not even the middle. I think I'm maybe 80 pages in. So a lot of books ahead of me. It's really gripping whenever I pick it back up.

WILL: Gripping is a good way to say that. I read it really quickly because I definitely enjoyed that mystery. Like, "What just happened here?" And as they're untangling, the plot very much moves, but I liked, especially the development of all those other characters.

LEIGH: Sounds like I'm in for a treat.

WILL: I think you are. So since you just started that, [LEIGH CHUCKLES] what have you been reading this summer that you've enjoyed?

LEIGH: I just finished maybe last week, I think. It's called Legendborn by Tracy Deonn. It's a YA fantasy retelling of King Arthur.

WILL: Okay.

LEIGH: But it's about this girl named Bree. She's 16, she's a black girl and her mother recently died. And she goes off to University of North Carolina for this early college program. This is kind of going to be her fresh start while she's grieving her mom.

In one night she realizes that magic exists – there are like these monsters on campus. And then she also realizes that someone messed with her memory that night that her mom died. She wants to get to the bottom of what actually happened to her mom and you know, basically to get revenge if needed. And so that includes infiltrating a secret society on campus.

WILL: Of course.

LEIGH: It's fascinating how the story builds. There are so many layers to it. She learns that her mother practice route work, but her mom never told her that she had these abilities. And so she's kind of learning about her own magical gifts while learning about the secret society and the ties to King Arthur.

It examines racism, complicated grief, generational trauma. There were so many great twists. I was absolutely riveted. And it's part of a series so it ends and you're like, "What?" [CHUCKLES]

WILL: Oh. So this is the kind of series that you want to go on to the next one.

LEIGH: Yes.

WILL: But I'm actually glad that I have a few months until the next one comes out because I don't know that I would read it immediately. But now I have until November, and that'll be the perfect time to pick up the second book-

WILL: A little space. Okay.

LEIGH: ...to see what goes down. There's like a tiny bit of a love triangle, which I normally hate. But the way that it's building and the two potential love interests are actually really great. And I don't know who I would root for, except I kind of do. And that's going to be the guy who is like part demon himself, because that's how I roll. [LEIGH, WILL LAUGHS] It's a really fun, intriguing layered read.

WILL: That sounds great.

LEIGH: What's your next book that you want to talk about?

WILL: I mentioned this to you and Brenna while we're setting up. [LEIGH LAUGHS] My other book is also from a summer reading guide but not one of Anne's picks. This was in the expanded summer reading guide that we do for book club members and Patreon members. The team sort of recommended some books they were looking forward to and Holly on our team pulled out this book by Ben McGrath called Riverman.

LEIGH: Just that title suggests to me that's a Will book.

WILL: No, I mean, Leigh, this is so much Will book. [LEIGH LAUGHS] This title sounds great, right?

LEIGH: Yeah.

WILL: The cover is like a photo of a canoe, but the photo is like overlaid on the jacket where like the rest of the jacket is a map. I'm like, "Oh, maps, canoes, like, whatever, this would be great, right?" And I hadn't picked it up. And then I saw that she had picked it. I'm like, "Okay, you know what? I should definitely get into this." And I loved it. It was great enough so that Holly and I actually recorded a bonus episode for Patreon where the two of us just talked about it after we had both read it this summer.

Ben McGrath is... he's a journalist for the... I believe the New Yorker. He may never write another book. I mean, this is so well researched. Like he spent years digging into who this person was and sort of what their travels meant and how they touch the people that he met and all this stuff.

And it was really, really well done because he's both sort of in the book, right? He's the journalist kind of going on this journey of discovery, but it's not about him. And so he did a really good job of sort of balancing that. So if you're into nonfiction, wanderlust kind of that man that wants to do his own thing, really good read.

LEIGH: I look forward to listening to that bonus episode.

WILL: Did you have another book that you...?

[00:55:13]

LEIGH: I do have one more to share today. So this is slightly cheating because I got an advanced copy and it doesn't come out until September 6th, but I want to make sure that it is on people's radar. It's called Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make--And Keep--Friends by Marisa Franco.

WILL: I've seen this.

LEIGH: I may have actually talked to you and Anne about it when I saw you recently. So it looks at friendship through the lens of attachment theory, and it is just fascinating. If you're familiar at all with attachment theory, you may have thought about that, you know, how you relate to people in terms of like your family or your spouse or partner. But to think about it with friendship is really, really interesting.

She's a psychologist, and she really believes that we need to prioritize friendship more. So the book is all about how you can, you know, strengthen and deepen those relationships and also how to manage conflict better. There's a lot of helpful scripts that are provided. It's really thought-provoking.

And I feel like a lot of people will get so much out of it and that their friendships will become better as a result. Or, you know, they'll figure out ways to widen their circle of friends, which I feel like we could all probably benefit from.

WILL: Learning how to do conflict in friendship is probably... It seems easy to be like, "Well, I don't have to be this relationship." So like, if we have a conflict, I'm gonna jump, you know?

LEIGH: Right. But we lose out if we just cut our losses. Now, sometimes you do need to cut your losses. There are some friendships that aren't worth persevering on. But I think we do lose out. And then it's easy for resentments to build if you don't deal with that stuff. So I got so much out of it. And I've been bringing it up to everyone. So that has to include the listening audience.

WILL: That's funny. We don't normally talk books, Leigh?

LEIGH: I know. I was thinking about that. Well, we do.

WILL: We talk about books. But is it different?

LEIGH: We talk about books a lot but I don't know that we recommend books that often. Because we do have different tastes. But I always like to hear what you're reading, even if I'm like pretty sure it won't work for me. [LAUGHS] But I think that's part of the point of the podcast, too, is figuring out like, where do your tastes align and where could you maybe stretch and grow a little bit?

WILL: I also do not read nearly as many books as you do.

LEIGH: I read a lot. It's my superpower.

WILL: It's your superpower. It is a good way to look at it.

LEIGH: So what is on your radar for the summer? What are you hoping to read?

[00:57:39]

WILL: I really at this point don't know. We're gonna go on vacation here shortly and I need to sort of figure out what my next several are going to be because we're going to be away and I'm going to need to have backups. I always take extra books if we're driving because I'm like, "What if I'm not on the move." [CHUCKLES] You don't wanna get stuck.

LEIGH: You have to have options. It's imperative.

WILL: That's right. So I'm not sure what's next for me. What about you? Do you have things that you're pining for here at...?

LEIGH: Oh, yes, indeed. I talked about The Jasmine Throne in last summer's team episode. The sequel comes out next month, August 16th. It's called The Oleander Sword. So got a murder princess and a powerful priestess. This is by Tasha Suri, I should say. Uh, so, so good. And I have just been dying to read the next book, so I can't wait.

And then the other one... This is also a cheat because I already read it, but it comes out August 9th. It's called Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon. And if you love angsty romance, then I highly recommend. It's just a beautiful, beautiful book, and I can't wait to see what she writes next.

WILL: I don't love angsty romance.

LEIGH: I know.

WILL: I'm not sure you were specifically talking to me about that.

LEIGH: That was to everyone else. [LAUGHS]

WILL: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. [LAUGHS]

LEIGH: I'll rephrase it. It is a must for angst lovers.

WILL: Well, I'm glad we get to talk books today.

LEIGH: Yes, this was fun. And I can't wait to hear what everybody else says.

[CHEERFUL OUTRO MUSIC]

[00:59:13]

ANNE: Readers, I always love hearing from our team here on the show, and I hope you enjoyed this peek into our team's reading lives. It's a joy to work with this group of incredible people who share our passion for all things books and reading.

I hope you walked away with ideas of what you might want to read next and maybe even discovered a new book twin on our team. Let us know in the comments if you've read the books that we mentioned today or if you have any suggestions for what our team members may enjoy reading next.

Find the full list of titles at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/344.

Every week we share some of our favorite quotes and moments from the show over on our Instagram page @whatshouldireadnext. If you enjoyed an episode, it's super easy to share our posts to your own stories and help your friends figure out what they should read next.

Find me on Instagram @annebogel. I recently wore our new What Should I Read Next? t-shirt over there. It makes a perfect gift for any reader on your list. Even if that reader is you. Check it out over on Instagram. I'm there at @annebogel.

Keep up to date with all our What Should I Read Next? happenings like our upcoming fall book preview with our weekly newsletter. Sign up at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/newsletter to make sure you're in the loop.

Keep up with the show by following us in Apple Podcast, Spotify, Overcast, wherever you get your podcasts. Tune in next week for another dive into all things books and reading.

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

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

And as Rainer Maria Rilke said, "Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading." Happy reading, everyone!

Books mentioned in this episode:

We’re starting by featuring a favorite from each team member!

Ring Shout

Ring Shout

From Ginger: This fantastical and horrifying alternate history takes place in Prohibition Georgia, where it casts Klu Klux Klan members as actual demons spreading fear and hatred. I don't usually read horror, but this book really engaged my moral imagination as it takes a stark look at wickedness. The world-building is intricate and the characters are unforgettable: it was a powerful read. More info →
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The Cartographers

The Cartographers

Author:
From Will: This might be the best book I've read this year. There's a lot of things going on here: the book follows cartographer Nell Young, who lost everything—her career, her reputation, her fiancé, and her family—because of an argument over a cheap gas station map. But then she learns that the map wasn’t junk at all but an incredibly rare and hotly sought-after artifact—and her knowledge of its existence may put her very life in danger. The books features two timelines and a bit of a campus novel feel, and brings you into a close group of friends—a found family, really—with a sense of idealism and opportunity. But then it all falls apart and everything changes and you're trying to figure out what's happened. More info →
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Nora Goes Off Script

Nora Goes Off Script

From Donna: Oh my gosh, I loved this book so much. This rom-com sets up screenwriter Nora, who unexpectedly falls for the lead actor on her newest production. It was sweet, funny, smart, and soothing, and I just wanted to live in this book. It's the perfect escapist read! More info →
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Never Say You Can’t Survive

Never Say You Can’t Survive

From Brenna: This nonfiction book from one of my favorite sci-fi authors Charlie Jane Anders is a very different kind of book about writing. She explores writing about bizarre or alternate worlds as a path to write your way out of challenging situations, and shares techniques that help you write in ways that are healing and cathartic. I didn't read it for the first time this summer, but it's made a really good impact this summer, and its offers a great reminder that you can write a world that is different and more beautiful than our own. More info →
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Legendborn

Legendborn

Author:
From Leigh: I was absolutely riveted by this YA Fantasy. A retelling of the King Arthur legend, it follows a 16-year-old Black girl as she goes off to an early college program. She discovers that magic exists, and that someone's messed with her memory about a major event in her life. She wants to get to the bottom of what actually happened, which includes infiltrating a secret society on campus. There are so many layers and great twists to this story, which examines racism, complicated grief, and generational trauma. More info →
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Lucy by the Sea

Lucy by the Sea

From Anne: I sat down with this book on a Saturday and I read the entire thing because I didn't want to put it down. It is a pandemic story, following Lucy as she escapes with her companion from New York City to the coast of Maine. The conversations in this book are about the pandemic, but also about the fragility of life and what it means to be in relationship with others, and I found it touching, sad, but ultimately life-affirming. More info →
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Nobody Gets Out Alive: Stories

Nobody Gets Out Alive: Stories

Author:
From Holly: This collection of short stories featuring women in the wilds of Alaska was incredibly immersive and featured a strong sense of place, while exploring stories of love, family, heartbreak, and home. Newman makes you feel like you're right there along with the characters. Some of the stories are interwoven across time, so you have the chance to revisit some of the characters and learn more about what happened to them next. More info →
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A Master of Djinn

A Master of Djinn

From Shannan: I've become a P. Djèlí Clark completist, and this is his first full-length novel that dives into an alternate history that places Egypt as a major superpower in the world, with Cairo a major city on par with London and Paris. It follows Agent Fatma el-Sha'arawi, the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, as she investigates a murder that threatens both the city and the world. I love how the author meshes worlds, mythologies and history in a seamless and beautiful way. More info →
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Books mentioned in Anne, Donna, and Holly’s segment

Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout
The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston
Nora Goes Off Script by Annabel Monaghan
Madame de Treymes and Other Stories by Edith Wharton
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
New Suns: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color edited by Nisi Shawl
Nobody Gets Out Alive: Stories by Leigh Newman
The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri
Portrait of an Unknown Woman  by Daniel Silva
Perish by Latoya Watkins
What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris
Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li
Alias Emma by Ava Glass
Killers of a Certain Age by Deanna Raybourn
• Veronica Speedwell series by Deanna Raybourn (#1 A Curious Beginning)
The Great North Road by Steve Silk
Spear by Nicola Griffith
A Spindle Splintered by Alix Harrow

Books mentioned in Shannan, Brenna, and Ginger’s segment 

Ring Shout by P Djèlí Clark
A Master of Djinn by P Djèlí Clark
The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
The Black God’s Drums by P Djèlí Clark
Never Say You Can’t Survive by Charlie Jane Anders 
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders 
The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders 
Six Months, Three Days, Five Others by Charlie Jane Anders 
Even Greater Mistakes: Stories by Charlie Jane Anders 
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
On Writing by Stephen King
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Dial a for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto
Fault Lines by Emily Itami (Audio edition)
Far from the Light of Heaven by Tade Thompson
Rosewater by Tade Thompson

Books mentioned in Will and Leigh’s segment

• Cork O’Connor books (#1 Iron Lake)
The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn 
Riverman: An American Odyssey by Ben McGrath
Platonic: How the Science of Attachment Can Help You Make–And Keep–Friends by Marisa G. Franco 
Bend Toward the Sun by Jen Devon

Also mentioned in this episode:

WSIRN Holiday Gifting – Kid’s Edition recommendation request form
WSIRN Ep 83: An epic birthday bookstore roadtrip
Smart Bitches Trashy Books
Shakespeare and Co. in Missoula
Tiny Reparations Imprint
Adventurous Ink
WSIRN Ep 283: Don’t save the good stuff
Novel Books in Memphis
WSIRN Ep 331: Strong sense of summer
Patreon Bonus #154: I love a book with a map in it




27 comments

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  1. Cathy Brown says:

    Thank you for providing the list of books you talked about. I am not into podcasts but am very interested in the book selections. I have a few to add to my list !

  2. sbe says:

    Thank you for this list! Could you tell us which patreon episode it is that mentions Holly’s Alaska bookshelf? Thank you!

    • Holly Wielkoszewski says:

      Hey, Holly here! Check out Patreon Bonus #139: Books to inspire your next outdoor adventure, and also the Tour of my bookshelves bonus post for more Alaska shelf discussion!

    • Holly Wielkoszewski says:

      Hey Lindsay! I don’t anymore, but I lived outside of Bigfork, Montana for about 5 years recently, and I grew up visiting the area every year to see family. Shakespeare & Co. is always a must-stop when I’m in the area.

      • Deirdre says:

        I was so excited to hear you mentioned Shakespeare & Co! I am flying into Missoula next week on my way to camping at Glacier NP with no internet access and not much chance to charge devices. I usually do ebooks, but realize I’m going to need a paperback or two for my trip, and I was looking for Missoula bookstore recommendations!

  3. Maggie Ostroff says:

    Dear Shannan,
    Thanks for the shout out to our beloved UCONN. Home to the best, and I mean best woman’s basketball team ever. UCONN is the abbreviation for University of Connecticut. Long name for a very small state. It is pronounced “Yukon” and the mascot is, of course, the beautiful Husky.
    Loved your discussion with Ginger. I can’t get enough sci fi.

  4. BarbN says:

    I confess to getting the voices mixed up, but to whichever team member was interested in people stranded far from civilization or in a spaceship with no way out- that seems so specifically related to Good Morning Midnight by Lily Brooks Dalton that you’ve probably already read it, but if you haven’t, it would definitely fit in that category. Thanks for a great episode.

  5. Rachel Bonczyk says:

    In the category of claustrophobic si fi I recomend Contagion by Erin Bowman. I got this from my local library as a mystery book and absolutely loved it. Technically YA but very good and the first of 2.

  6. Susan says:

    I have a suggestion for Holly (I think: the team member who has an Alaska shelf): Series “Alaska Wild” by Paige Shelton. She normally writes cozy mysteries, but this series is a little grittier. I find it has a good sense of place of a small, remote Alaskan town. Three have been released and #4 is due to release in December.

    And a question for Will: right at the start he mentioned a nonfiction book about the biggest diamond heist, ever, in Amsterdam. The title wasn’t mentioned but that sounds awesome, so I was just wondering.

  7. Amanda Fadden says:

    Hi! Ooo love the recommendations, I am a huge fan of any Maine reads recommendations. Loved Haven Point from last year’s summer reading guide and it inspired my trip this year to the Maine coastline. So will happily sit in the cue for Lucy by the Sea for the TBR list.

  8. Emily VA says:

    I think Brenna may already have read these, but my favorite book in the micro-niche genre of “a small group of people out alone in a spaceship in the far reaches of space together” is Becky Chamber’s To Be Taught, If Fortunate.

    My favorite read of the summer was Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky, and I want everyone to read it immediately so we can discuss how awesome the spiders are.

    • Emily VA says:

      Also, I think Shannon should try a Gail Carriger book – possibly Etiquette and Espionage. It’s not sci fi, but it’s steampunk alternative history, and it’s *hilarious* and Gail Carriger gives me similar vibes to Becky Chambers. Ooh ooh! Or The Fifth Gender – also by Carriger, but a cozy mystery on a space station with adorable aliens!

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