WSIRN Ep 59: Prescribing books for what ails you

Hello readers! Time for a brand-new episode of What Should I Read Next.

Before I introduce today’s guest, I have some fun news to share! The one year anniversary for What Should I Read Next is right around the corner, so OF COURSE we’ve got some fun anniversary episodes in the works! The first of these is a special episode where we’ll finally focus on what *I* should read next. At the end of today’s episode, I’ll share three books I love, one book I hate, and what I’ve been reading lately, and you can tell me—by email or voice message—what YOU think I should read next!

Here’s how to share your recommendation:

Option 1: Go to the Talk To Me page and record your short message there. Tell me what I should read, and why.

Option 2: Email Brenna @ and tell her in an email message. You’re contacting Brenna, my friendly assistant producer, because I am not going to hear your suggestions until we record this special episode! You’ll hear what I really think, unfiltered, and with no advance notice.

This is going to be SO fun. I can’t wait to hear your recommendations and share everything with you in January! 

Now — on to today’s episode!

Our guest this week is Danielle Mayfield. Danielle lives in Portland, OR with her husband and two small children. You may know her as the author of Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith, a book of essays that was recently released by HarperOne. Danielle often writes about heavy hitting topics like refugees, theology, and downward mobility, but today we are running away from the heavy stuff and are searching for good comfort reads instead.  We also chat about literary baby names, the wildly differing opinions people have about what makes a book “escapist”, and book scenes so jarring we had to set them aside… forever. 

What Should I Read Next #59: Prescribing books for what ails you with Danielle Mayfield

You can connect with Danielle on Twitter, Facebook, or her website. And don’t forget to check out her recently released book, Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith.

Books mentioned in this episode:

Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D.L. Mayfield
The Ramona Quimby series by Beverly Cleary
The Space Trilogy series by C.S. Lewis
• Author John Green
Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth
• Author James Herriot
The Illustrated Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
The Illustrated Harry Potter & The Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
Bossypants by Tina Fey
The Neapolitan series by Elena Ferrante
The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice from the Civil Rights Movement to Today by Charles Marsh
The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron Ph.D.
The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine N. Aron Ph.D.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
The Highly Intuitive Child: A Guide to Understanding and Parenting Unusually Sensitive and Empathetic Children by Catherine Crawford
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson
• Author N.K. Jemison
Evensong by Gail Godwin
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh


This episode is brought to you by the 2017 Modern Mrs Darcy Reading Challenge. Reading is personal, and your reading list should reflect that. So this year, we’re offering our choose-your-own-adventure reading challenge. It’s free and easy to join!

To get started, go to and pick the path that’s right for you. If your reading life has lost its oomph, reading for fun is right for you, with 12 categories we chose with you in mind. If you want to stretch yourself in 2017, choose reading for growth, which has its own 12 categories. If you want to read everything, challenge yourself to tackle both lists.

I can’t wait to read with you in 2017!

What do you think Danielle should read next? Tell us all about it in comments. 

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  1. Katie says:

    I Burned for Your Peace: Augustine’s Confessions Unpacked
    by Peter Kreeft
    Life in the Time of the Butterflies (about the Mirabel sisters)
    Without You, There Is No Us: Undercover Among the Sons of North Korea’s Elite by Suki Kim
    Kartography by Kamila Shamsie

  2. Susan says:

    Since you like Harry Potter I also recommend Trenton Lee Stewart for fast-paced fun books. The Mysterious Benedict Society is great but he also just came out with the Secret Keepers which is a stand alone if you don’t want to commit. I also recommend Frederick Backman for well-written feel-good stories. Oh, and have you read Ender’s Game?

  3. Sara says:

    Here are two not-long reads that are fast paced, hilarious and moving- Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: a Memoir of Going Home by Rhoda Janzen, and The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: a Memoir by Elna Baker. There is some adult content but nothing nasty. (I’m thinking you enjoyed Tina Fey’s memoir…)
    Also, a memoir that isn’t so much funny as uplifting and fascinating in its social commentary is Expecting Adam by Martha Beck. It’s not at all mawkish. A couple at the opposite end of society to refugees have a life event that breaks open their world in a wonderful way…

    I love Call the Midwife too. Have you seen the BBC adaptations?- including the Christmas Special 2016 which aired on Christmas Day?

  4. Laura says:

    I’d recommend The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim for Danielle. It’s hilarious in an understated way, set in a beautiful place in Italy, and is “happy fiction” in my mind. I love all your favorites (and felt the same way about My Brilliant Friend) so I think it might be up your alley.

  5. Phyllis Alexander says:

    Given her love for James Herriot and interest in theology, she may enjoy the Mitford Series by Jan Karon. Older but so good with loveable characters.

  6. Jamie says:

    Anne beat me to it!!! As soon as I was done listening to the podcast I was going to comment that Danielle should try We Never Asked for Wings, and then the final recommendation ended up being that one. Haha! I would also suggest The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez (immigrants, love, family, loss, sacrifice) and Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner (WW2, sisters, mystery, redemption). Both read quickly and definitely carry you away to another time/place, but are still ‘easy reads’ enough to enjoy them and not feel like you’ve been hit by a truck when you’re done reading, even if they do touch on some deeper themes.

  7. Andrea says:

    I loved this episode! I added many of these books to my list. And I secone the recommendation above of Expecting Adam by Martha Beck. It was a deep, thoughtful, loving book and I myself have put it in the hands of 2 family members because it is a truly important book in our present culture.

  8. Kathleen says:

    I gotta recommend Rainbow Rowell for some (mostly) lighthearted escapism. Some of her books are heavier than others (sob…Eleanor and Park), but I loved Attachments for a fun read. Plus, given her interest in Harry Potter, try Fan Girl and the spinoff/follow up Carry On, which is Harry Potter-ish fan fiction.

  9. Tamera says:

    Try Mary Kay Andrews. Great fun light-hearted fiction. A little drama, romance, and Scooby Doo still mystery. I always feel better after one of her books. Start with “Savannah Blues”. And read Mitford series.

  10. Laura Lee says:

    Danielle, like you, I loved James Herriot’s books when I was young and, even though I know you now have tons of book options, I just want to encourage you to read them again if you want to! I am listening to them (narrated wonderfully by Christoper Timothy who played Jim in the tv series), and they are still absolutely and completely charming and enjoyable.

  11. Amy Thompson says:

    After this episode, I ordered a copy of The Highly Sensitive Child and just started reading it. Ummmm, THANK YOU! Somebody really “gets” my son (and my husband!) Maybe I will be able to understand them better. I’m a strong introvert, and there’s a lot of overlap, but this description fits them both so well. I’m excited to keep reading.

  12. Loved this episode–especially the talk about being HSP which I’ve recently realized is why I get so overwhelmed 🙂 and I LOVED the 100 Year Old Man. Made me laugh out loud and while I often get passionate about what I’m reading, that reaction is rare.

  13. Kimberly says:

    I love Melina Marchetta and I think her books might be a good fit for escapist without straying too far from serious things. Most of her books are contemporary YA fiction, but she has a fantasy series and a new adult thriller out (though I haven’t read that one yet). She manages to write a story about characters’ small situations that fit within a larger issue without being an Issue Novel. As always, I loved the podcast!

  14. Allison Boyer says:

    I have a wonderful magazine to recommend: Taproot: The magazine for makers, doers & dreamers. And for a comfort read I’ll recommend The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman

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