WSIRN Ep 78: Super-relevant (and super-enjoyable) fiction for our time

Today’s WSIRN conversation won’t go the direction you’re expecting, and I think you’re going to love it for just that reason. 😉

Today I’m delighted to welcome Kathleen Grissom, author of the hugely bestselling books The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything.  Kathleen is a reading discussion pro: she has talked to more than ONE THOUSAND book clubs since The Kitchen House was published! Today we chat about hardcovers versus paperbacks, “reading books like popcorn”, historical fiction with a touch of redemption, and we take a deep dive into Kathleen’s fascinating intuitive writing process. 

But before Kathleen became a writer, she was a reader, so of course we get to dig into what she loves, and hates (and why), then I take my best shot at recommending what she should read next. 

I can’t wait to share this with you today! Let’s get to it. 

What Should I Read Next #78: Super-relevant (and super-enjoyable) fiction for our time with Kathleen Grissom

Connect with Kathleen Grissom:
Website | Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links. More details here.

• The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom
• Glory Over Everything, by Kathleen Grissom
• The Bobbsey Twins series, by Laura Lee Hope
• The Famous Five, by Enid Blyton
• Anne of Green Gables series,  by L.M. Montgomery
• Emily of New Moon series, by L.M. Montgomery
• Gap Creek, by Robert Morgan
• West With The Night, by Beryl Markham
• Circling The Sun, by Paula McLain
• Out of Africa, by Isak Dinesen
• Tools of Titans, by Timothy Ferriss
• Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, by Alexandra Fuller
• Cocktail Hour Under The Tree of Forgetfulness, by Alexandra Fuller
• Follow The River, by James Alexander Thom
• Alice I Have Been, by Melanie Benjamin
• Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
The Aviator’s Wife, by Melanie Benjamin
Swans of Fifth Avenue, by Melanie Benjamin
State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett
The Summer Before the War, by Helen Simonson
• News of the World, by Paulette Jiles
• All Over But the Shoutin’, by Rick Bragg
• Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand
• Devil At My Heels: A Heroic Olympian’s Astonishing Story of Survival as a Japanese POW in World War II, by Louis Zamperini, David Rensin
• Seabiscuit: An American Legend, by Laura Hillenbrand
• The Bean Trees, by Barbara Kingsolver


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  1. Marci says:

    Kathleen! I’m still listening to this episode in my ear as I write (you are delightful by the way!). But I just had to get on and recommend Straight On Till Morning by Mary S. Lovell. To me it is the superior biography of Beryl Markham (besides her own words in West with the Night). Lovell to me captures the essence of Beryl, whereas I felt like the novelization of her life in Circling the Sun cheapened her a bit and focused in excess on her romances. I highly recommend Lovell’s work in general, but especially this one and The Sisters (about the Mitford sisters who are FASCINATING).

    Great episode! What a delight to hear from an author whose books I loved!

    Thanks. 🙂

  2. Susan in TX says:

    Loved this episode! Kathleen was a delight. So nice to hear about some older publications that may have fallen off the radar for many. (And couldn’t help but think we should read something by her for MMD Book Club, just so we could interact more with her. 🙂 ) Kudos to her for visiting so many book clubs!

  3. Barbara S Atkins says:

    First of all two of my favorite books have been “The Kitchen House” and “Glory Over Everything”. I am a native Philadelphian and could walk along with that wonderful book.
    I found the audible version of “Unbroken” to be excellent. Sometimes I find it easier to listen to difficult books. I am not certain why. Best of all it is read by Edward Herrmann (I am close to age to Kathleen and Herrmann is an adult voice of trust and security to me, I love him.)
    I adored “The Bean Trees” and its follow-up “Pigs in Heaven” (I had to look that one up, did not remember the name). I did not finish “Poisonwood Bible”-just was not for me, but my favorite Kingsolver is “Prodigal Summer”.

  4. Wendy says:

    such an amazing podcast and a thrill to hear you chat with author, Kathleen Grissom! Based on her favorites – I think there’s a strong chance she may like the following (if she hasn’t read them already):
    1. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
    2. The Woman Next Door by Yewande Onotosco
    3. The Dark Circle by Linda Grant

  5. Leslie Matlof says:

    Hi! I am a long time listener of your podcast and really enjoy your recommendations each week. I was thrilled to hear Kathleen Grissom recommend Don’t Let’s Go To The Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. It’s one of my all time favorite books, both for the interesting story and setting and for the incredible writing. I have read and enjoyed all of Fuller’s books, and wanted to recommend another of hers: The Legend of Colton H Bryant, a non-fiction story of a Wyoming Oil rig worker. So good. Thanks!

  6. Mary says:

    I just re-read Out of the Depths, the Autobiography of John Newton. I want to recommend it as a book about redemption and overcoming adversities. It is also a book about African slavery.
    Also, Ms.Grissom’s remark that she is just a woman who happens to write reminds me of exactly of what Anita Lobel said recently at a local presentation. She was complimented for overcoming great adversity and going on to write and illustrate books. She refused the compliments saying she is “just a woman.”

  7. Kate says:

    What a great conversation! As a child I lived in southeast Asia where British children’s books were easier to come by than American, so I devoured quite a bit of Enid Blyton’s oeuvre, including the Famous Fives, the Secret Sevens, all her school stories, etc.
    Also highly recommend Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight; I found quite a few parallels in my own experience of growing up abroad in the Third World.

    • Adrienne says:

      Hi Kate! I grew up in Kuala Lumpur, moving to the USA when I was 10. I also read everything by Enid Blyton, but the Famous Five series was my favorite. She was a prolific author! I still have most of those books but sadly my kids never showed any interest in reading them.

      • Kate says:

        Hi Adrienne! I was in Jakarta and Singapore, and had lots of friends from KL 🙂 No, even my brothers who are 10 and 12 years younger than me had no interest in Enid Blyton. They liked the Paddington Bear books, though.

  8. Gloria says:

    It was lovely to hear about some books outside of what is usually talked about on this shows today! I have to say that this is the first episode in a while that has exploded my TBR list. It is so nice to hear from people who have different backgrounds and stories etc. and hear them talk about books they love.

  9. Dawn says:

    This was one of my favorite episodes! I have had The Kitchen house in my TBR forever and just put in on top! When the author is a nurse, as am I, it just bumps their book up higher! I added a lot of books that were discussed today to my TBR as well. Thanks for your show, love it!

  10. Nancy says:

    Betty Smith’s Joy in the Morning has been discussed at least once on the WSIRN podcast. It has that overcoming theme, and a wonderful main character; it’s fiction but maybe semi-autobiographical? I first read it as a teenager, and re-read it about a year ago. It had staying power for me. I enjoyed it more than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and it’s shorter.

  11. Becca says:

    Kathleen, It was such a wonderful experience to hear you speak about your writing process. I felt like it was a mini class for all aspiring writers. Thank you for sharing your love of books, reading and writing. I now have a larger TBR list.

  12. Mimi says:

    I really enjoyed this latest episode with Kathleen Grissom. It was fun to hear the perspective of a writer and one older than most guests. And as a longtime Southern Living reader, I loved the Rick Bragg mention. The first thing I do when I receive a new issue is open to that month’s column/essay.

  13. Megan says:

    I mustn’t have read Peace Like A River 15 times as an early teen! I loved it! I have never heard it mentioned since then and have often wondered if it was actually a good book or something I would only enjoy at 15! So glad to find out it was a best seller and enjoyed by others!

  14. SoCalLynn says:

    This is my favorite WSIRN episode. I am moving the Kitchen House up to the top of my list now; I’ve been meaning to read it for years. I was thrilled to hear you mention Follow the River by James Alexander Thom, as it is one of my favorite historical fiction books. He is a wonderful HF author, putting so much research into his work yet still able to tell such very human stories. I also loved his From Sea to Shining Sea, Longknife and Panther in the Sky.

  15. Kimi says:

    This was such a beautiful episode of the podcast. I have had a few guests that I really felt connected with, but this was one of the few that I feel I really learned from.
    I probably don’t fit the demographic you are gearing towards, but I truly appreciated hearing from someone over the age of 40. I feel that the ages of those featured here are getting younger with the reading choices that are presented becoming newer each week. Yes, I love hearing about the new, it is nice to have a thoughtful view that an experienced lifetime of reading can bring. It was a joy to hear from an intelligent, seasoned woman with book choices that were interesting and outside of the current trends.

  16. Barbara. Bocan says:

    I absolutely loved this podcast. I have read all of Ms Grissom’s favorites & was so glad to hear about books from past decades, as so many young people are usually interviewed & they have only read newer books.
    I hope more people of an older generation will be interviewed.

  17. Samantha says:

    I so enjoyed this episode! It was just delightful. Kathleen, thank you for sharing about your creative process – that is always so fascinating, and I definitely think you will enjoy Big Magic. I’m looking forward to reading about Crow Mary.

  18. Elizabeth says:

    This might be my favorite WSIRN episode yet. Kathleen, you are such a natural story teller. I could have listened for hours. I regret to say I’ve not read your work, but I will be rectifying that situation immediately. I’m another Southern Living subscriber, and I always flip to the back to read the Rick Bragg column first! (Were you also a fan of Lewis Grizzard?) I was never fond of “Poisonwood Bible” (and like you, I can’t quite recall why), but I do think you will enjoy “The Bean Trees”. I wonder whether you’ve read any Eowyn Ivey. I loved how she portrayed both the severity and the beauty of the Alaskan wilderness in “The Snow Child”, and I think her characters are the kind you’d admire — persistent in the face of adversity.

    • Susan in TX says:

      Oh, wow, Elizabeth! You just sent me back a couple of decades down memory lane – nobody ever mentions Lewis Grizzard anymore, but I used to giggle through his books like crazy. (Can’t help but wonder if I would still find them funny, or if I would be appalled at my younger self??)

  19. Ellen W says:

    I am moving your books to the top of my “to read” list and will be eager to read your upcoming book. I lived in Billings for nine years and learned a fair amount about the various tribes in Montana, especially the Crow as their reservation is near Billings. The Summer Before the War was in my top five reads for 2016, I am sure you will love it.

  20. Jamie says:

    I’m almost positive that Kathleen would have already read it, but I kept thinking that The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom might be right in her sweet spot.

  21. Anna says:

    I really enjoyed this episode. I have loved both of Kathleen’s books, and I’m looking forward to the next one. I got lots of good book ideas from this interview. I grew up in the Southern part of the US, lived as an adult on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation in MT, and have lived in Africa since 2009. There were quite a few books mentioned that tie into those areas. So many books, so little time…

  22. Sarah says:

    I have had both of Kathleen Grissom’s novels on my iPhone to listen to for quite a long time. I am so glad that you had her on your show! Usually I listen for recommendations (my list is growing outrageously long), but I particularly loved this episode because I’ve never heard an author describe the writing process before, especially like that.
    As soon as I finish my current books, The Kitchen House is next. Thank you SO much for interviewing her. I thought your questions and follow up questions were so wonderful.

  23. Amy says:

    I have been binge listening to WSIRN because I just recently found the podcast and I have to say this was one of my favorite episodes!!! Kathleen, you are just a joy and so fun to listen to! I immediately went and put your books on hold at my library!!! I just loved your analogy of saving a new favorite book or two to savor like a box of chocolate!!! That is so true!!!!

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