WSIRN Ep 37: Reading as a couple + the best books YOU read this summer

It’s Tuesday, and time for a new episode of What Should I Read Next!

In today’s episode we put a fun twist on a familiar theme. Kurt and Kristin are a husband and wife who want to read more together. They came to me and asked, “What should WE read next?”

Kristin’s been a lifetime lover of books; Kurt’s only recently become a serious reader (thanks in part to 15 years of nudging from his wife). They want to find books that they can read and talk about together.

They both like high-quality fiction, but you can probably guess which one of them loves Blood Meridian and which ones loves A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. My challenge was to help them find books in the tiny sliver of their overlapping interests.

Stay tuned till the end of the episode, because today we’re also hearing from you! I asked you in the podcast newsletter to tell me all about the best (and worst) books you read this summer. We stitched together a sampling of your responses and it’s so fun to listen to.

(We’ll be doing this again, and newsletter subscribers will be the first to know. If you want to be stay in the loop, sign up here.)

What Should I Read Next #37: Reading as a couple + the best books YOU read this summer

If you enjoyed Kristin and Kurt’s conversation as much as I did, hop on over to Kristin’s blog, Home Sweet Life, to keep up with their adventures.

Books discussed in this episode: 

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The Hardy Boys, by Franklin W. Dixon
A Fine Balance, by Rohinton Mistry
Big Rock Candy Mountain, by Wallace Stegner
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy
The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway
Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegner
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber: A True Story of Bank Heists, Ice Hockey, Transylvanian Pelt Smuggling, Moonlighting Detectives, and Broken Hearts, by Julian Rubinstein
The Harry Potter series
Crime & Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
Rules of Civility, Amor Towles
Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
The Course of Love, Alain de Botton


Leave A Comment
  1. Tara says:

    I get so excited whenever a WSIRN guest mentions Wallace Stegner. I just read his novel The Spectator Bird, and I immediately made my husband read it too, so it may be a good shared read for you. It’s shorter, so there’s not as much of a time commitment as Angle of Repose or The Big Rock Candy Mountain. It’s now the first Stegner I recommend, replacing Crossing to Safety. Although I love Crossing to Safety, The Spectator Bird has a little bit more plot, which makes it more accessible for someone new to Stegner.

    • Melodee says:

      I’m intrigued! I just read Crossing to Safety this summer and LOVED it. Would you recommend I read The Spectator Bird next before the bigger ones?

      • Tara says:

        Well, I adore Angle of Repose, so I certainly don’t want to dissuade you from it! They are somewhat similar in form, actually. Both Angle of Repose and The Spectator Bird are narrated by a cranky-but-lovable old man who is going through documents.In Angle of Repose, the narrator is reading through his grandmother’s papers/letters/journals. In Spectator Bird, a husband is reading an old diary of his to his wife–and they are sort of processing a bunch of stuff together as they read. Marriage is a huge theme in both books. But they are also very distinct — so read them both! 🙂 Also, if you’re an audiobook fan, the audio version of The Spectator Bird is read by Edward Herrmann (who played Richard Gilmore in the TV show Gilmore Girls), and he does an amazing job.

        • Melodee says:

          Thank you! That info is really helpful. It definitely sounds like I want to read them both. 🙂 I do listen to audiobooks and really liked Edward Herrmann’s reading of The Boys in the Boat, so I’ll check it out!

  2. I loved this episode! My husband and I try (unsuccessfully) to read together. This has given me hope that it is possible and that we should keep trying to find books we’re both interested it. It’s happened only once I can think of over the 10 years we’ve been together. (Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde. NOT to be confused with 50 Shades of Grey.)

  3. Jody says:

    Great question regarding The Road and whether or not he saw it as hopeful or depressing. Both my husband and I read the book and we have opposing viewpoints; I thought it was incredibly depressing and he read the ending as hopeful and forward-looking.

  4. Rhonda Laws says:

    I am so very excited to hear about The Gentlemen in Moscow. I am off to request it from my library! Another great podcast!

  5. Jennifer says:

    A book my husband and I both enjoyed was Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden. Not my usual taste by I have now read almost everything by Boyden and easily can say he is a favorite.

  6. Susan V says:

    I was so excited about this podcast because it featured a husband and wife, and because it was nice and LONG!! Anne, I wish the podcasts were twice a week, I love them so much!! When I was in high school and college, I was a HUGE Russian literature fan. I wrote a big senior year on The Brothers Karamazov, and in my freshman year in college, my boyfriend (now husband of 40 years) wanted to read it as he was reading some Russian novel for a class. I haven’t read any Russian literature in years, however. This year, hubby and I read two books you’ve recommended. Being Mortal and One-in-a-Million Boy. Normally we don’t read the same books. 🙂

  7. Melodee says:

    I loved this episode because my husband and I love reading together (as in, I read out loud to him). His job requires him to be away for a couple months at a time, and we’ve found that reading over the phone allows us to just relax together at the end of a long day when we might not be up to a lot of conversation, but we still want to spend time together. Kind of like curling up to watch a show together when he’s home. (Although we read when he’s home, too!) A couple of your suggestions will make our joint TBR list.

    I also loved the summer reading report section! I had SO much fun thinking about and recording my submission, so I was a little disappointed not to make the cut. 😉 But knowing me, I was probably too long-winded!

  8. Tracy Tobias says:

    Great topic! My husband and I both read a lot, but rarely the same thing. Friends of ours are actually in a couples book club and that might be an idea for Kurt and Kristin to start. One book that you both might like is Shantaram – a epic tale that takes place in Bombay. My husband, who mostly reads non-fiction enjoyed it immensely and it is a girlfriend of mine’s all time favorite book. Another book that both my husband and I really enjoyed was Boys in the Boat. It is so well written and such a great story of perseverance. There will be lots to talk about. Read that one at the same time. Happy reading and discussing.

  9. One book Kristin and Kurt might enjoy together is Anthony Marra’s “A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon.” It is well written, has memorable characters and relationships, and depicts the Russian/Chechen conflict. Marra is considered by some to be a modern day Tolstoy, but at one-third the page length.

  10. Kristin Johnson says:

    Great podcast! When my husband and I got married 21 years ago I was a reader and he wasn’t. It was HARD!! Finally I convinced him to read Outlander. (I had to discuss it with someone!!) That got him to like reading. Now he is hooked and reads about the same amount of books as me.

    We also try to read the same book a couple of times a year. We love it! He will pick a book and then I pick a book. This past year we’ ve read and enjoyed: The Forgetting Time by Sharon Guskin, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. We then went to hear Emily St. John Mandel speak for one of our date nights. So fun!!

    Other books and series that we have enjoyed in the past have been: Lonesome Dove (It’s great!), The Outlander Series, Game of Thrones Series, Girl with a Dragon Tattoo series, Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, Lord of the Rings Series, Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, all the Pat Conroy books…Just to name a few! 🙂

    I think it is so fun to be able to read a book at the same time as a couple and discuss.

  11. Sarah Smith says:

    This is such a great episode! I love that Kristin mentioned the Ralph Moody books, which were a childhood favorite of mine and my three siblings. Many little phrases from those books became part of our family vocabulary. (E.g., Horse of a different color). They are so good and I don’t hear much about them.

  12. I’m always looking for new books to read and just subscribed after finding your pin on Pinterest. I’m an aspiring author and would like to suggest one of my novels, Tangled, a Southern Gothic Yarn, or Opal’s Story, both set in Texas. Happy to send reader free copies for reviews, otherwise they are moderately priced on Amazon, I’m a Jane Austen fan and have recently discovered Sarah Addison Allen. Someone compared me to her in a review, so I had to check her out. Now I’m hooked. Highly recommend her books. Some magic and redemption in what could be a dark tale.

  13. Tiffany King says:

    I was thinking about Lonesome Dove as I listened so it was fun to hear it recommended. It’s a great book. I bet they might also enjoy Barbara Kingsolver’s Poisonwood Bible. There’s a lot to discuss in that book.

  14. Kristin says:

    I loved this episode! I wish my husband was a reader, but he is not. This summer he read two Jon Krakauer books while we were on vacation and I was elated!

  15. Kristen and Kurt,

    My husband only reads computer books or sports articles. I love to read. I read mostly self help since I’m a counselor, but I love fiction, memoir, personal essay, etc.

    My husband travels a lot for work, and sometimes I get to join him as we make our way through the western slope of Colorado. I onced bought a book called The Telling Room: A Tale of Love, Betrayal, Revenge, and the World’s Greatest Piece of Cheese by Michael Paterniti.

    My husband was hooked! We listened to most of it on our road trip but then spent late evenings in bed listening to the remainder. I think you’d love it. Anne has mentioned it a few times here on her blog.

  16. Sheryl Esau says:

    I often imagine myself being on this show and pick out my books I love and hate and The Sweetness of the Bottom of the Pie was my hated book, so I was SO HAPPY to hear someone else pick it. I totally agreed with Melody. I was planning to read more, but not going to waste my time with irritating Flavia. A close second hated was The Goldfinch, that I kept thinking would get better, but had so many unfinished story lines it drove me crazy. Thanks for another great show!

    • Sheryl Esau says:

      I just wrote my comment on the wrong episode. Oops! Sorry! I’ve listened to a bunch tonight and they’re all good!

  17. Denise M says:

    After listening to episode 101, my husband and I went back to #37 together.
    We’re just finishing the Course of Love – and would highly recommend it for ALL married couples as a shared book. The author is incredibly insightful and normalizes the struggles of marriage, career, & parenthood. Much of it hits a little too close to home….but totally in a good way.
    Thank you, Anne, for the great recommendation!

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