WSIRN Ep 67: Just the right book at just the right time

Hello readers, and happy Tuesday! You know what that means…

Today’s guest, Eli Sykes, is a food scientist who describes his job as “getting to eat snacks all day,” so I think it’s safe to say Eli is living the dream. We’ve had a lot of English majors on the show, but today we get to look into what it’s like to be married to an English major, because, you guessed it—Eli’s wife is one. This episode is loads of fun, as we discuss how a teacher sparked the reading flame in his heart (and exactly what book fanned it), a certain unnamed author who gets a lot of love around here, and how he “just wants more Mr. Collins in his reading life.” 

I hope you’re as intrigued as I was! Enjoy the episode.

What Should I Read Next #67: Just the right book at just the right time

Books mentioned in this episode:

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• Dead Wake, by Erik Larson
• Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson
• 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne
• Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day, by
• Author Shel Silverstein
• The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein
• Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen
• Persuasion, by Jane Austen
• The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro
• Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro
• Unbroken, by Lauren Hillenbrand
• Seabiscuit, by Lauren Hillenbrand
• Go Set A Watchman, by Harper Lee
• To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
The Harry Potter series, by J.K. Rowling
• The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman
• High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby
• About A Boy, by Nick Hornby
• Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
The Wayward Pines series, by Blake Crouch
• The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
• Funny Girl, by Nick Hornby


Leave A Comment
  1. Susan in TX says:

    Because of his love of Shel Silverstein and his noticing the rhythm of Jane Austen’s words, I think that he would love Kwame Alexander. Yes, there children’s books, like all good children’s books, age is irrelevant. Start with The Crossover and then Booked. Kwame reads The Crossover- I listened to the Audible version first, but read the paper version of Booked. Either is excellent!
    Happy Reading!

    • Eli Sykes says:

      I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read of his. So far, I’ve read Norse Mythology, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane, American Gods (Audible version was outstanding), and I’m reading Neverwhere right now. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed everyone of his books so far. Eating them up. ?

  2. Stacy says:

    Staying with Neil Gaiman recommendations, I absolutely loved Good Omens. He co-wrote it with Terry Patchett and it’s one of my favorite books. So funny!

  3. Mary Ellen says:

    I think he would really enjoy Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld (modern update of Pride and Prejudice with a particularly true and funny version of Mrs. Bennett) and also Year Zero by Rob Reid (wacky and hilarious book about aliens who are fans of 70s music and come to earth to resolve copyright disputes).

  4. Maegan Blackwell says:

    Judith Viorst wrote “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day”, not Shel Silverstein.

    Looking forward to listening to this episode!

  5. Andrea says:

    I am half way through the Buried Giant right now.I picked it up off the library shelf a few weeks ago because I’ve been wanting to read an Ishiguro book and this is the one that most intrigued me. It has a very fairy tale quality. I loved the beginning and then put it down to read something faster paced, but I will go back because it does keep calling to me! The hardcover copy I have from my library is beautiful too, with a dark green cover and black edged pages, which I found very exciting!

    I recently listened to Neil Gaiman read Norse Mythology, which was great. Gaiman has such a great storytelling voice!

  6. Susan says:

    I just finished the last 200 pages of Dark Matter last night— could. Not. Put. It. Down.
    It is zany and a little ‘out there’ from what I usually read, but so so good!

  7. Scarlett Pierson says:

    I love to hear guys on this podcast! The fact he loved P&P makes me love his wife! She is a smart cookie!!!
    What about The Passage?

  8. Ani says:

    So glad to hear the Nick Hornby recommendation! “About A Boy” is my favorite of his and I love “A Long Way Down”. He’s also a fantastic screenwriter (he wrote the script for the film version of “A Long Way Down”) and I really recommend both the book version and movie version of “Brooklyn” – book my Colm Toibin/film script by Nick Hornby.

  9. Tana Henry says:

    I can relate to Eli’s love of Jules Verne. There’s just something about his books that sparks my imagination (and travel bug, too)! I’m really looking forward to reading Dark Matter. It sounds delightful to me in a Stranger Things kind of way!

  10. Melanie says:

    I thought it was interesting that Anne used the word zany to describe Dark Matter. When I think zany I think crazy in a funny way, almost slapstick. I just finished listening to the audiobook yesterday, and while I would definitely say that the story is over the stop and there are some spots of humor, I didn’t find it to be a funny book. Not a criticism, just a thought on words.

    • Jen C, Hornby is very “Hornby” in all his books. I don’t think Funny Girl had a lot of extreme cussing (of course I’m probably desensitized to it given what else I read), but I believe it did have some, and it felt very much like a Hornby book, so if you weren’t a fan of A Long way Down you won’t enjoy this one.

  11. Mary says:

    I could not help but think of “All the Light We Cannot See” because of the main character’s love of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.”

  12. I second the “Seabiscuit” recommendation (and Persuasion is an amazing Austen followup for Pride and Prejudice lovers). Alternative recs I thought of: for someone who likes thrilling yet deep nonfiction, I also recommend Jon Krakauer, in particular Into Thin Air (for something shorter, try Into the Wild first). Due to the interest in Washington-area locales and World War II and the love of Ishiguro’s style, I recommend Guterson’s Snow Falling On Cedars (I think the writing is lovely and quiet like Ishiguro. Additionally, while Ishiguro changes genres constantly, Eli might enjoy Never Let Me Go as well as The Remains of the Day).
    Finally, while I know Eli was looking for funny and shorter books right now, many of his favorite books spoke of sweeping plots and characters that are fleshed out and develop and change over time, and most of the books were deep reads with lovely language and a melancholic feel. In that case, I highly highly recommend A Little Life by Hanya Yanigihara (bonus: it is as good on Audible as it is in print – but be warned, it’s sad and has a trigger warning for child/sexual abuse).

    TLDR recs: Into Thin Air and Into the Wild (Krakauer), Snow Falling on Cedars (Guterson), A Little Life (Yanigihara), Remains of the Day and Never Let Me Go (Ishiguro) and yay to Seabiscuit and Persuasion.

    • Oh and Neverwhere and American Gods (Starz season out soon) are my Gaiman picks. For Shel Silverstein fans, you may enjoy Billy Collins for accessible poetry for adults. Dark Matter was a great book too. Ready Player One may also tickle one’s sci-fi pop culture fancy (kind of fantastical like Harry Potter albeit not straight fantasy, and it will be a movie soon).

      • Eli Sykes says:

        I cruised through Ready Player One. I kept telling my wife about it and she kept telling me that she would never read it. If the movie is half as good as the book I’ll make her go. ?

  13. Erin says:

    If you want to binge read some good authors and branch into sci-if or urban fantasy I’d recommend the Dresden Files but jim Butcher. It’s about a wizard in Chicago who is hilarious. Then the Vorkosigan Saga by Louis McMaster Bujold has very memorable characters. And anything by Brandon’s Sanderson is fabulous but start with Steelheart, Firefight and Calamity.

  14. Kristen says:

    Don’t give up on Ivan Doig before reading The Whistling Season! A fantastic story, unforgettable characters, poignant and laugh out loud funny.

  15. Diane says:

    I just discovered that with an Audible membership and an Amazon Prime membership, I can listen to Rosamund Pike’s narration of Pride & Prejudice for free! It is for streaming only, you have to pay if you want to download it, but I will be listening to this starting tonight!

  16. Cheryl says:

    LOVE Laura Hillenbrand. I can’t figure out how to get a link, but try to find the interview Greta Van Susteren has with her. Greta used to have a podcast called Gretatalk. The interview is around an hour, and it is one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever heard. I love her books, especially Unbroken, even more after listening.

  17. Jeffrey A Culverhouse says:

    I would suggest _Pillars of the Earth_ by Ken Follet. I think the depth and complexity and grand scope would keep him enjoying the book; and while there are no dragons, it is set in the middle ages, so that might help as well.

  18. Molly says:

    Because he likes reading gripping non-fiction with multiple plot lines I am suggesting Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. It is non-fiction but also has extremely quirky characters (which his love of Mrs. Bennet and Mr. Collins indicates he would appreciate). Since Eli mentioned loving a book with dragons, knights, and is set in medieval times I think he would also like The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King. It is a mystery. There is a murder. It is NOT a book that could be considered horror though it is a bit creepy in places. I found both books un-put-downable.

  19. Mairsydoats says:

    I second the Jon Krakhauer recommendations. Also, for funny, I do love Bill Bryson. Any of his books, but I think starting with A Walk in the Woods gives a good indication of whether or not he’s for you. He does travel (Walk in Woods, all the British stuff), and deeply researched stuff (Home, A Short History of Nearly Everything). All are funny.

  20. Jamie says:

    I would definitely echo the commenter who recommended John Krakauer. He and Eric Larson seem to be literary soulmates when it comes to their writing styles and how they take apart a historical event and put it back together in way that reads like fiction. However, if you harbor any secret dreams of one day being a mountain climber, you may be scared (and scarred!) after you read some of Krakauer’s works. 🙂

  21. Eli Sykes says:

    It’s hard to believe we are coming up on 4 years since we recorded this. I would say it was a landmark experience. I moved cities, my wife received her master’s in English, bought a house, and adopted a rescue dog after this episode aired. I’m not saying Anne was responsible, but this podcast and all the good books I read played a part. Thank you, Anne; you started it all. I’d love to talk again sometime.

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