WSIRN Ep 86: Eclectic tastes, slow readers, and talking about books with strangers

In today’s episode I’m talking with reader Emily Kinard, who lives in Washington, D.C. Emily’s job is literally promoting literacy. If she had to describe herself in one sentence, she would say that she has a zest for life and for learning, and that she’s found books to be the perfect combination of both. (She might also let you know Little Women is her “precious baby.” We understand each other, Emily.) Emily is proud to come from  a family where it’s completely normal for her grandmother and mom to give her book recommendations, and for her to return the favor. And if she sees you a reading a book she loves on the plane, she won’t hesitate to strike up a conversation about it—because there’s nothing like a good book for bringing people together.


I enjoyed our conversation so much, and think you will too. Let’s get to it!

What Should I Read Next #86: Eclectic tastes, slow readers, and talking about books with strangers with Emily Kinard

Connect with Emily:

Twitter | Goodreads

Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links. More details here.

• The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
• Testament of Youth, by Vera Brittain
• Empire Falls, by Richard Russo
• A House in the Sky, by Amanda Lindhout
• Atonement, by Ian McEwan
• The Son, Philip Meyer
• Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell
• Behind The Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity, by Katherine Boo
• Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry
• Author Louis L’amour
• West With the Night, by Beryl Markham
• Circling The Sun, by Paula McLain


Leave A Comment
  1. Stacy says:

    This episode hit on a lot of authors/books that I’ve been reading or thinking about reading lately. Just bought Lonesome Dove a week ago after seeing so many people rave about it on Library Thing. Also picked up a Richard Russo book at the opening of our new independent bookstore.

    The recommendation for Behind the Beautiful Forevers is spot on as well as Winter’s Bone. I haven’t actually read Winter’s Bone but the movie was so good.

    I’d recommend A Constellation of Vital Phenomena or The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra. Love both of these books so much.

  2. Paula says:

    I have not listened to this episode yet but am very excited to as it mentions one of my favorite books, Behind the Beautiful Forevers. I read this book several years ago and rarely meet anyone who has read it, but it’s great!

  3. Susan in TX says:

    Yay, Emily! I loved Testament of Youth as well! I heard about it from British book bloggers when I first discovered the book blogging world, but it took me until 2013 to get around to reading it – AND, it made my “best of” list at the end of that year. I have her Testament of Friendship sitting on my shelf, but haven’t gotten around to reading it yet — I’ve been waiting to let some time build up between them so that I won’t have too high expectations. 🙂

  4. Kim says:

    So with you on Atonement, Emily. If you want to give Ian McEwan another chance, though, read Saturday. The two stories are nothing alike. The subject was not easy, but I was surprised at how I wanted to know what happens with the characters.

  5. Debi Morton says:

    I enjoyed this episode very much,, and in one big way felt validated by the conversation with Emily. I, too, consider myself a fairly slow reader. My Book Club laughs that they can never recommend a book I haven’t already read, but it’s just because I’m such a voracious reader, not a fast one. The people on the MMD Book Club site who read 4 or 5 books a week amaze me!
    BEHIND THE BEAUTIFUL FOREVERS is a book I read shortly after it came out, and liked so much; but I struggle to describe it to others in such a way that they will want to read it. I do think you’d like it, Emily.
    I’m going to have to look up a couple of the other titles from the episode, especially TESTAMENT OF YOUTH, which you made sound wonderful.
    I do hope someday we meet on a plane and we are both reading something wonderful!

  6. Janean Marino says:

    Anne, you mentioned a book about writing in the episode – your reference to the author citing Richard Russo’s masterful use of character and timeline in Empire Falls. I checked the book list for the episode, but I’m not seeing it. I’d love to have the cite to add to my writing TBR. Thanks!

  7. BettyLou says:

    Emily, I just have to tell you that the exact same thing happened to me after I saw Testament of Youth. I had to read more about Vera Brittain. I saw the film in a festival and so had not really known anything about it until I saw the film I chose to read Letters from a Lost Generation. It wasn’t an “easy” read but so worthwhile. Testament of Youth has now been ordered.

  8. Kyla says:

    I love Behind the Beautiful Forevers! It was so good that I thought it was fiction until I got to the end. When I realized that it was all true, it made me love it even more.

  9. Amy says:

    I would recommend We were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter paired with All But my Life by Gerda Klein. Hunter’s book is about her Grandfather and the experiences his Polish/Jewish family had during WWII. The story gripped me from the start and I was so invested in the people. I was on the edge of my seat wanting to know who survived. All but My Life is Klein’s holocaust experience as a Polish Jew and the title accurately describes how the war ended for her. Read these!!!

  10. Caitlin Mallery says:

    I just read Testament of Youth this year, and would love to have someone to talk about it with! I really did feel the kindred spirit of Vera, and want to own this book for sure. There are so few WW1 books, non fiction or fiction. More people need to remember this time in history.

  11. Kathy says:

    I first read Teatament of Youth when I was a teenager. PBS’s Masterpiece Theater did it as a multi-part series in 1980 that I just loved at the time. I wonder if you can still get it somewhere, I saw the newer movie and thought it missed so much of the book that the miniseries was able to capture (although I do love Kit Harrington). I love this book and have read it many times, although you have inspired me to re-read it again. I also have read Testament of Experience and Testament of Friendship, which aren’t nearly as personal. They center more on her politics, she was a lifelong pacifist for good reason. Vera Brittain was a fascinating person.

  12. Michelle Luck says:

    I loved Testament of Youth but wasn’t aware of the movie – I need to find it. Vera Brittain also wrote a novel called Honourable Estate which was wonderful.

  13. Nikki says:

    Yes, yes, yes to Lonesome Dove! I would not call myself a fan of westerns (in fact, Lonesome Dove may be the only western I’ve ever read), but this book is so much more! It’s hands down one of my top ten favorite books of all time. I really do hope you love it.

    • Kate says:

      I adored Lonesome Dove and it lead me to read Wallace Stegner and Rick Bass, and also to bake a lot of sourdough bread 🙂

  14. Dawne Pitts says:

    Anne, what was the name of the first book you talked about in the ad for Revell books? It sounded interesting! Thanks!

  15. SoCalLynn says:

    I am one of those who thinks of Little Women as “my baby” too. I read March and it was one of those books I felt like throwing across the room in disgust. Not because of the writing, it was well written, but because it demolished my perception of Mr. March. 🙁 Maybe that’s why I don’t read any retellings of classics any more.

    • Kate says:

      I agree completely! Little Women was a pillar of my childhood, and I was so upset by the characters of Mr. March and Marmee in March. It took me a while to decide I could disregard March totally and stick with my lifelong assumptions about all the characters in Little Women. 🙂

  16. Shannon says:

    This is not to do with this podcast but you have talked about Rosamunde Pilcher in a couple of podcasts. I loved Winter Solstice and was wondering what the title of her book for the summer season is?

  17. Nicole M. says:

    I really enjoyed this episode. A House in The Sky is one of my favorite books, I could not put it down once I started. I was glad that it was mentioned on the show because I haven’t seen it get a lot of accolades. When you mentioned it, I was literally in my car going “yes, yes, yes!”
    Emily, you may also like The Skies Belong To Us: Love and Terror in the Golden Era of Hijacking by Brendan I. Koerner. Totally different subject matter, but it has the same informative yet interesting vibe as A House in the Sky.

  18. Jill W. says:

    If you like Empire Falls, then I recommend a deep dive into Russo’s other works. He’s completely wonderful. I also recommend listening to interviews with him. Pretty sure Fresh Air did one in the last year or so. He really draws you in. My favorites are Empire Falls and Straight Man.

    If you like strong characters, history and getting absorbed into a long story, then I wholeheartedly recommend A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles. Also, I bet you would like Life After Life by Kate Atkinson- one of the best and most original books I’ve ever read (by one of my favorite authors), and it covers a bit of WWI in addition to WWII. The characters in both of those books have really stayed with me.

    I’ve put Testament of Youth on my TBR list. I had never heard of it before. Sounds fascinating.

    • Kate says:

      I was only vaguely aware of Richard Russo, but I downloaded the Kindle sample of Empire Falls because of this episode and Could. Not. Stop. Reading. I immediately checked out the ebook from the library (4th of July–the branches were closed!) Nothing much is actually happening, but his characters are so compelling and the very dry narration keeps me reading past my bedtime.

  19. If you like Winter’s Bone, then Ron Rash’s novels should be next or his short stories if you’re rushed for time. I have every single novel he has written, and he is one of the only writers that I pre-order his books. I would start with Above the Waterfall or The Risen. My favorite is The Cove or Saints at the River depending on my mood.

  20. Christine says:

    Hi Emily,
    In the western vein, I would also suggest Wallace Stegner’s “Angle of Repose” and “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” There are also some short story collections by him that focus on the west, and he has some great non-fiction as well, including “Beyond the Hundredth Meridian” and “Gathering of Zion.”
    P.S. I’m a huge Stegner fan 🙂

  21. Kristen says:

    Thanks for the recommendation for Testament of Youth… just watched the movie while waiting for the book to be available at the library. So moving and beautiful! My recommendation for you is The Englishman’s Daughter: A True Story of Love and Betrayal in World War I by Ben Macintyre. I still think about that book years after first reading it.

  22. Carol says:

    I love Empire Falls, and my book club is about to read Testament of Youth! This was an exciting episode for me.

  23. Annie says:

    I HIGHLY recommend Richard Russo’s two books, Everybody’s Fool and Nobody’s Fool. They are very very similar to Empire Falls. The characters are so engaging and the town is hilarious. A side note to Anne…I have “binge listened” to most all of the podcast episodes. You have yet to mention (I believe) one of my favorite authors, T.C. Boyle. He writes about such a wide variety of topics, my favorite books are Drop City and The Tortilla Curtain. I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE your podcast, your voice and your insight. Keep up the amazing work!

  24. Amy says:

    I am late to the commenting game on this episode, but YES to Testament of Youth. I was a history minor in college and took a WWI class which forever changed my perspective. One of the books I read for the class was Testament of Youth. I have never met anyone else who has even heard of it, let alone read it! I watched the movie last year and was reminded just how powerful Vera’s story was. IF you haven’t studied WWI, PBS has an excellent documentary miniseries. My favorite WWI novel is Rilla of Ingleside. LM Montgomery and Vera Britain would have been friends, I do believe.

  25. I have not read Lonesome Dove yet and used to be a snob about Westerns, but I have recently repented after I read The Thicket by Joe Lansdale. It feels epic but it’s not 900 pages, so it’s a little less intimidating. I love the characters he brings to life, and there are quite a cast in this book. It’s told through the eyes of a young boy whose younger sister is stolen by some bad men, and he has to find some help to go rescue her, but their parents have just died from some early 20th century pox. I know, it sounds like a John Ford movie, but it’s sooo much better. I’ve been reading a lot of Joe Lansdale since I read this one, and another favorite of mine is Sunset and Sawdust. Lansdale’s feminism shines through in this one. It’s about a woman who is being framed for her ex-husband’s murder, and she has to clear her name, with some reluctant help from her ex-MIL. Crazy things happen, including Biblical weather (it’s Texas, so that’s true to life), and there are so many fabulous characters I can’t even. I love his writing so much, when I finish one of his books I feel…cleansed. It’s hard to explain, it’s like I’ve been through some intense experience and survived and came out the other side changed and ok. So there’s my plug for Joe Lansdale westerns. I’m making my way through all of his books now.

  26. Barbara says:

    I’ve read a few Richard Russo books, and while I think his writing is beautiful, the pace is a bit slow for me.
    But, his autobiographical book, Elsewhere, was fantastic. I really enjoyed it, specially the audiobook which is read by Mr. Russo himself.
    Elsewhere is mostly about his mother, and growing up with her. It really takes you to a different time in this country, to a town of the type that don’t exist anymore. I highly recommend it.

  27. Lindsey says:

    A little late to the party, but! Pro tip for when you snap a picture of parts you like: in Google Keep you can add that picture, select grab image text, and it transcribes it for you! It doesn’t always do a perfect job, and it’s a good idea to crop it down to exactly what you want beforehand, but it’s pretty handy.

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