WSIRN Ep 72: Embarrassing bookworm confessions

Happy Tuesday, readers! In today’s new episode, I chat with Madeleine Riley, a 24-year-old special education teacher in New England who runs a bookstagram account I love, Top Shelf Text, where she celebrates the most beautiful titles she’s been reading lately.
What Should I Read Next #72: Embarrassing bookworm confessionsimages via TopShelfText


Today, we talk about who Madeleine is as a “regular reader.” She’s an INFJ who can’t help but judge every book by its cover. She’s managed to build reading into the rhythms of her life (because she loves it and needs it). She adores mysteries. Oh, and along the way we share some embarrassing bookworm confessions. 

Click play to hear all about it!

What Should I Read Next #72: Embarrassing bookworm confessions with Madeleine Riley

Books mentioned in this episode:

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Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White
Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl
Rosie Revere Engineer, by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
Ada Twist, Scientist, by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
Iggy Peck, Architect, by Andrea Beaty and David Roberts
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Heidi, by Johanna Spyri
A Little Princess, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
All the Missing Girls, by Megan Miranda
The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda
This Is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel
Anne of Green Gables, by L. M. Montgomery
Still Life, by Louise Penny
A Great Reckoning, by Louise Penny
A Beautiful Mystery, by Louise Penny
The Cuckoo’s Calling, by Robert Galbraith
The Rivals of Versailles, by Sally Christie
The Mistresses of Versailles series, by Sally Christie
The Last of August, by Brittany Cavallaro
A Study in Charlotte, by Brittany Cavallaro
The Mothers, by Brit Bennett
Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult
A Share in Death, by Deborah Crombie
Death at La Fenice, by Donna Leon
• Author Agatha Christie

Also mentioned:

The Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club
• WSIRN Ep. 57: What’s Your Reading Personality? (With Shaney Swift)
• The Puffin in Bloom collection
Beautiful editions of Anne of Green Gables

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Leave A Comment
  1. Perhaps off-topic, but this audience will understand: Yesterday, I saw my daughter love to read for the first time. Despite my reading to her every night (even now, and she’s 13), she never got into it herself. I would buy her books, and she would shrug. We would go to the library, and she would return the books on the due date, untouched. As an avid reader, I despaired. Would she just be a YouTube junkie and never know the joys of losing oneself in a good book? Well, she dug into “The Hunger Games.” She started it last year but made no progress. She picked it up again a few days ago, and has devoured it. “The movie was great but the book is so much better,” she said. YES! At last! There is hope!

    • CarrieMtn says:

      Oh! Taste Of France, I know exactly what you mean. We are huge book lovers in our home. My daughters have always loved read aloud times. Yet, my youngest 12, struggled with mild dyslexia and just never loved reading. Last year she asked to see the Hunger Games movie. I told her she had to read the book first. So, she did- and loved it! I beamed from ear to ear when she said the book was better than the movie! Hurray! She then decided on her own to always try and read a book before seeing the movie version. She still prefers YouTube over reading, but I overheard her telling a friend all about The Hobbit, and the importance of reading it. Having a child who loves books makes all the other struggles of parenting a little less painful.

  2. Susan in TX says:

    Loved this episode and am feeling more compelled to pick up the Deborah Crombie I picked up last year after seeing it on the summer reading guide. (Madeleine, you’re not the only one who collects books and lets them sit too long!) Quick question – where in the episode did y’all talk about the Megan Miranda titles? I may have missed them since I was exercising, but I tried to skim back through and still couldn’t find it. Anybody help me out? Really curious.

    • Cristina F says:

      Susan, I think I missed those titles too, so I can’t help you there.. but agree with the Crombie series. I didn’t really care to pick it up after Louise Penny, but hearing more about them today makes me want to give them a try!

    • Hi Susan,

      Unfortunately the part where we discussed Megan Miranda’s novels was edited out (for time reasons). You can catch a review of All the Missing Girls (a book that I mentioned as a thriller that I really enjoyed) on my blog here:

      So glad that you are looking to pick up Deborah Crombie’s mysteries too — I would love to hear what you think once you’ve read them!

  3. Stacy in TX says:

    Great episode! Completely agree with the Deborah Crombie recommendation. Her books just get better and better the further into the series you go. I would also recommend Charles Finch’s series set in London during the mid to late 1800’s. It features Charles Lenox, Victorian gentleman and part time detective. I read the first book last year and promptly devoured the next nine after that. Strong character development throughout the series.

  4. Beth B. says:

    On giggling your way through Anne…
    When Gilbert gives her the candy heart at school? Hysterical. She’s my hero.

  5. Diane says:

    Hi Madeleine and Anne,
    Great podcast, thank you ?
    I would like to recommend Maisie Dobbs series for a British, Historical fiction(1917-), Mystery with a highly respectable character in Miss Maisie Dobbs.

  6. Ashley S says:

    Loved this episode! I can’t wait to check out Madeleine’s Instagram! I’m not a mystery reader but after she mentioned Anne I wondered if LM Montgomery’s The Blue Castle would be a good recommendation. I’d never heard of it but read it this year because of the Fountains of Carrots podcast and absolutely loved it. Also The Awakening if Miss Prim, maybe? It was a cute, fun read.

    • Ashley, thanks for your recommendation! I put The Blue Castle on my list! I’ve read The Awakening of Miss Prim (by chance, I came across it at the library a few years ago) and loved it! It had great Jane Austen vibes.

      • Alicia Unger says:

        Hi Madeleine,

        I have to second that I think The Blue Castle is a great fun read. I went into it with zero expectations and it continuously made me smile.

        Following the LM Montgomery theme, I’m wondering since Anne eluded you for so long if you have ever read her Emily of New Moon series?

        Have to say I love Emily even more than Anne, and think her over the top imagination and spunk will also have you laughing out loud in places. Plus you get to do more exploring in beautiful Prince Edward Island which is never a sad thing. Happy reading!

  7. Kara says:

    I really enjoyed this episode. Truly I love them all but this episode was the closest to my taste in books though I haven’t read many of the ones mentioned. I shelved Coo Coo’s Calling 70 pages in and Anne is up next in my TBR pile (I’ve never read them before). I have a question, I read Still Life last year after all the love on WSIRN and it was okay but after today’s podcast I’d like to try Louise Penny again. My question is does a person have to read them in order (or all of them) or can they stand alone?

    • Kara, I’m so glad you enjoyed it! I would really recommend reading the Louise Penny series in order. Like Anne said, she hits her stride with the fourth book but truly I enjoyed every single one of them. The mystery changes with each one but it’s really the way that the characters change from book to book that you want to experience chronologically! I’m totally biased, but I think it’s worth another shot!

  8. Crystal Awsum says:

    Both you, Anne, and Madeleine, should read The Silent In the Grave Series by Deanna Raybourn, or her new series that starts with A Curious Beginning.
    Both have strong lead female characters who are amateur detectives and are helped by a very strong, manly figure who is tortured and you just fall in love with him for some reason… I binge read the first three in the Silent in the Grave series(I think there are six full books, and a few novellas) and A Curious Beginning and A Perilous Undertaking in five days-I have two small children or I would have finished them faster. Seriously, the best series to binge read! Both series start with a bang and each book has different mystery. It is terrific!

  9. Kyla says:

    I’m stuck 2/3 of the way through The Sympathizer, a dense, heavy, “important” book that I do want to finish, but it’s just not propelling me forward like I want. So inspired by today’s episode, I’m taking a break to revisit Anne Shirley after 25 years away. I’ll get back to the important cultural themes of being Vietnamese after the war soon enough. ?

  10. Regina K. says:

    Yay, I’m so happy to find Donna Leon recommended on this podcast! I have been reading her Commissario Brunetti series since 1998 – 26 installments so far. I live in Germany and she is incredibly popular over here (they even turned her books into a TV show, which is rather bad, sadly). The series is fantastic and definitely one for binge reading!
    Leon is an American living in Venice, and the mood of this beautiful and unique city comes across in every sentence she writes. Plus, the Brunettis are one of the most loveable families in literature, seriously! Read about Paola Brunetti (a literature professor devoted to Henry James) preparing one of her mouthwatering Italian dinners and you know what I mean :-).
    Donnas Leon’s books are not translated to Italian on her own wish because they contain a fair amount of criticism of Italian politics, mafia methods and certain aspects of society and she does not want to be seen as a denigrator.
    Give it a try, you will not regret it!

  11. Marie says:

    Great podcast!! I loved Madeleine’s picks and the way she talks about her work!
    Madeleine, I laughed when I heard you talk about your “hate” pick. Mine would probably be A Casual Vacancy–which I couldn’t finish, but I loved the Galbraith mystery series so much. The funny part is that the main reason I enjoyed them was because I actually because I loved Cormoran Strike’s character so much. I will say that The Cuckoo’s Calling was my least favorite of the series for one of the same reasons you listed; I wasn’t drawn in by the celebrity world she sets up.
    Thanks Anne and Madeleine for a great show!

  12. Barbara S Atkins says:

    I was also going to recommend Donna Leon. We are on the same page. I enjoy the Charles Lenox and have read all the Maisie Dobb’s except the latest. I would recommend the “Bruno, Chief of Police” series by Martin Walker. The series is set in rural France (the Dordogne I think). Fair warning, when he cooks I drool and remember how wonderful the simplest foods can be in both Italy and France

  13. Valerie says:

    Thank you Madeline for describing contemporary fiction as you did – I’ve felt the same for years and struggled to find a good way to describe it. Dysfunction seems to be very trendy right now and while no one is perfect it can be quite depressing and frequently does not make for likeable or relatable characters. Also, your thoughts on historical fiction echoed my own and I was so happy to find someone who likes Agatha Christie novels (and recommendations for mysteries in the same vein). So much of what you said about your book loves were my thoughts exactly! P.S. Hello from Connecticut, state neighbor! 🙂

  14. I read the Anne books last summer (at 34!) for the first time. I couldn’t put them down and just read them all in a row. I have an 8-year-old daughter and I can’t wait to introduce her to Anne. I think I could totally justify buying a beautiful set “for her.”

  15. Kyla says:

    Another Anne Shirley comment: I just started listening to Rachel McAdams version, and it’s fantastic! Listening to the physical description of Anne made me think that she probably looks like a young Emma Stone. I know that’s not the most important thing to add here, but I just had to tell someone who might care 🙂

  16. Marion says:

    I listened to the podcast while working. I was surprised when Madeline said she did not like Cuckoo’s Calling. I actually enjoyed the book. I liked Rowling’s storytelling in that novel. But I have not read the Harry Potter books and it was my first time reading anything by her. Also, I had never heard of Donna Leon until Anne recommended it. I went ahead and bought the Kindle version of Death at La Fenice. Looking forward to reading it. I do agree with Madeline about the dysfunction in contemporary/literary fiction. Fiction should reveal all facets of life….not just dysfunction.

  17. This was one of my favorite WSIRN podcasts. Madeleine, I was wondering if you’ve read the series that starts with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King? It features Sherlock Holmes, but the main character is Mary Russell. I LOVE this series! I think you would enjoy it! Also, I started following your blog; if I knew you IRL, it would be so fun to be in a book club together. I am also an INFJ.

  18. Megan says:

    This Is How It Always Is – I laughed at this one because I agree and count it as a favorite and it will always be remembered as “the book that led me to my first chiropractor appointment”. Yes, I have a bookworm problem of poor posture while reading in bed and one late I stayed up too late reading this book and could not move my head from side to side the next morning! I’m still in recovery from this bookworm incident and listened to this episode on my way back from my most recent chiropractor appointment…

  19. Kaylee says:

    I had to share that I had a very similar experience with the Anne of Green Gables books! I have owned the whole set since I was young and had never finished the first book. I’m 29 now, and when I retrieved my original copy it still had an old bookmark in it where I had started reading it. :-)I was always a huge fan of the movie. Since hearing about the Anne books and L.M. Montgomery so much on this podcast, I finally finished the first book at the end of last year. It was awesome. You did a great job describing the Anne experience. That was very much how I felt reading it. I am currently starting the fourth book in the series. I’m looking forward to reading the Emily series and other books by L.M. Montgomery. I have always been an avid reader, but like you, have not had many other true “reader” friends. I’m pretty sure none of my friends in school read books like Anne of Green Gables. I’m finally finding and embracing my reading style and I love it! Thanks Anne, for this podcast!

  20. Finally catching up on my podcasts and loved this episode! I can totally relate with Madeleine’s feelings toward Cuckoo’s Calling. I was so excited to read it due to my love of J.K. Rowling, and I was a tidbit devastated when I realized I was completely bored with that book (and I didn’t like the characters either!). I also gave up somewhere around page 100 and was totally bummed. So, I found some affirmation here; I’m glad it wasn’t just me – makes me feel a little less guilty for being disloyal to J.K. 🙂
    I am also reading Anne of Green Gables for the first time even though it has been on my bookshelf since I was a child. I certainly feel that Anne Shirley is a kindred spirit!

  21. Annie Haynes says:

    I highly recommend the Clare Fergusson/Russ Van Alstyne mystery series by Julia Spencer-Fleming. Contemporary mysteries set in upstate New York, the characters and their difficult choices dominate the actual mystery for me. There are eight so far and I believe the ninth is in progress.

  22. Boxon says:

    Very much list, I just read a little from the list you write above. What fiction books do you think are good? I love the fiction novels 🙂

  23. Anne says:

    I JUST read Still Life by Louise Penny & In the Woods by Tana French, despite numerous recommendations on the website & podcast. I loved both books! I am on the waiting list at the library for the next book in each series, & much appreciate the recommendations in this episode to help me through this time of great anticipation. Thanks for getting me hooked, Anne!

  24. Kris says:

    I probably identified more with this episode than any other. And also I want to be friends with Madeline and move to Marblehead. LOL. I rarely reply but I just had to add (3) recommendations for Madeline as well.
    1. Because of your newfound love for “Anne” – please try my all time favorite book, “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. Also, if you have not see the 1985 Film version of “Anne of Green Gables” with Megan Follows, do it now!!
    2. Because of your love of Sherlock Holmes – please consider the Mary Russell (“Beekeeper’s Apprentice”) series by Laurie King. I adore them ALL.
    3. Because of your love of mysteries and poison, try the TV show “Reign” about Mary Queen of Scots. Totally escapist fun. AND bonus: Queen Catherine de’ Medici is played by Megan Follows – and needless to say she is VERY different than when she was “Anne”. Which is jarring and super fun! 🙂

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