Today is a What Should I Read Next milestone – our very first mailbag episode! We invited our newsletter subscribers and Instagram followers for their burning questions, and I did my best to answer. If you’ve ever been curious about the inner workings of the WSIRN team, what my typical day looks like, how to get on the show yourself, or what book changed MY life, today’s episode holds the answers to these questions (and MANY more).

Let’s jump right in!

Books mentioned in this episode:

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• Crossing to Safety, by Wallace Stegner
• I Am Pilgrim, by Terry Hayes
• 11/22/63, by Stephen King
• The Passage, by Justin Cronin
• Station Eleven, Emily St. John
• A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman
• The One In A Million Boy, by Monica Wood
• A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
• One True Loves, by Taylor Jenkins Reed
• Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen
• Practical Magic, by Alice Hoffman
• The Terrible Thing That Happened To Barnaby Brocket, by John Boyne
• Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles
• The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce
• Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, by Helen Simonson
• Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, by Winifred Watson
• 5 Children and It, by E. Nesbitt
• The Railway Children, by E. Nesbitt
Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West, by Cormac McCarthy
• Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard
• The Babysitter’s Club, by Ann M. Martin
• Emily of New Moon, by L. M. Montgomery


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  1. Noel says:

    There was a book mentioned in this episode (it’s been mentioned before) in which when the main character needs something that book magically appears, what book was that? None of the titles above seem to have that in their description. I’m probably just overlooking it, but it sounds intriguing

    • D says:

      I’m not sure about a title for adults but there is a kids series starting with Half Upon a Time by James Riley that I believe has a feature like that. My kids loved those books in 5th grade or so.

  2. Kate says:

    For the woman that enjoyed A Man Called Ove, I would recommend The Secret Diary of Hendrik Groen, 83 1/4 years old. It is written in diary form and it takes place in an older folks home so you can expect some death but it is definitely background to the wonderful personality of Hendrik Groen.

  3. Gloria says:

    For Kelly going to England – Arthur Ransom, author of the Swallows and Amazons series! They are rather expensive to get this side of the pond (or maybe just in Canada?) but being loved by generations of British children I imagine it would be more affordable there.

    And I just wanted to chime in that I appreciate a diverse variety of diverse readers more than anything in your guests! The shows I love the most have sparked my interest in new books and topics and genres and authors. I think it might be a matter of volume – not every show will spark every listener to expand there TBR list but the sheer quantity of books and book talk on this show is bound to inspire at some point. That said, I always enjoy listening.

  4. Missy G. says:

    I disagree with the “regular readers” commentary. From my perspective, almost all of the guests have been authors, bloggers, bookstagrammers, or someone else with a public persona who benefits from having their name introduced to the MMD/WSIRN audience. I’m not saying this is wrong to do this, of course. It is mutually beneficial for WSIRN to have folks on the show who can publicize their participation and grow the podcast’s audience as well.

    To me, a regular reader is my mom, or my coworker. Off the top of my head, and I have listened to every episode, I can think of only ONE guest who stood out as “regular reader” on the show: she was getting recommendations prior to her honeymoon. I’m sure that someone will come along to correct me, but only this one guest sticks out in my mind.

    • Jamie says:

      I’m one of the ‘regular readers’ who was a guest on WSIRN. Nothing famous about me…still not sure why Anne picked my application (although extremely grateful and humbled!). Chatting books with her was definitely one of the highlights of my year!

    • Anne says:

      It sounds like you consider yourself a regular reader? Yet if you came on the show, we would get feedback doubting your status as a regular reader. 🙂 It happens every episode. Nobody sounds like a regular reader on the podcast! Maybe there is no such thing as a “regular” reader. I like this last explanation best.

  5. Laura says:

    For the question about British books, I’d recommend looking for Dorothy Whipple (Someone at a Distance), Barbara Pym (Excellent Women), and maybe Beverley Nichols. They can be hard to find in the US and are so good. Also, the different UK covers can be fun for other favorite authors. Have a good time! Literary tourism in London is so rich!

  6. Rick O'Brien says:

    Hi Anne,
    My wife (Pam Hagan O’Brien) and I love listening to your show. Usually in the car on our way to a used book sale somewhere in New England.
    I think you do a fabulous job. As a former broadcast interviewerI am impressed. I find that you ask insightful open ended questions that are phrased just right.We get many many recommendations from the show. Generally the audio is good but on several occasions either you or the guest become noticeably lower in volume. If you are not using a compression program in your audio chain may I suggest trying one. It would “even out” the highs and lows in volume.
    Thanks for producing an excellent show.

  7. Gretchen S. says:

    For Barbara’s friend, I’d suggest two books: Enchanted April by Elisabeth van Arnim, which is about the power of love to change relationships and people and has the extra benefit of giving you a glorious vacation in Italy in the spring and also News of the World by Paulette Jiles which is a surprisingly gentle book about aging and fulfilling your role to the best you can. Second the recommendation for Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand, which is quite funny.
    And thanks for the shout out!

  8. Amber Puzey says:

    This is my very first time listening to your podcast. Crossing To Safety is the first book I hear you mention and I’m hooked. It’s always the recommendation I give when asked my favorite book. Excited to go back and listen to ‘normal’ podcasts and what you recommend and I’ll definitely be listening from now on!

  9. Meredith says:

    I LOVED Rules of Civility!! Somewhere the author invites you to ring him if you are in his New York neighborhood, and I feel like he would actually meet you! Great writing, neat author!

  10. Leigh Kramer says:

    We *did* talk about The Passage on my episode and I still heartily recommend it and the other two books in the trilogy. I get why it wasn’t for you and sometimes I’m surprised by how wholeheartedly I embraced it because I don’t like scary things. There were certainly intense scenes (although I experienced this more in the third book) but I was completely wrapped up in the story and invested in the characters. I’m still impressed by the social commentary and by how much it made me think about how I’d respond to those circumstances.

    • Jamie says:

      I had to chuckle when Anne mentioned reading the book about an epidemic virus taking over the country while having a fever IRL. My husband is slowly recovering from a cough/fever/flu that just won’t go away (I think he’s on day 5 when usually he’s 24-hrs and back to his normal self). What book am I currently reading? Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan. *Probably* not the best choice to read while a loved one isn’t feeling so well… 😉

      • Melyssa says:

        Brain on Fire scared me to death when I read it. I am so glad the author had family to advocate for her when she couldn’t or she’d never have been diagnosed correctly. Glad I didn’t read it while I was sick or while a family member was.

  11. Tara says:

    To the friend who wanted literary fiction without any trauma included:
    I don’t know if they are considered to be literary fiction, but there are a couple ideas that come to my mind for you.
    1) The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera. This is more contemporary, but the setting takes place somewhere that takes the reader away from the business and harshness of life. There is a lot of commentary about current times and education, and it is what I’d consider to be a cozy yet intellectual read.
    2) At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon. This was a popular series that also has a lot of daily life circumstances and I’d consider a very cozy read. At the same time, it has a couple mysterious events that create a complexity to the plot, but it takes out any trauma (without giving too much away). I was surprised at how much this book kept my attention and I couldn’t wait to get home from work everyday to read more.

    I wish you the best and hope out of all the recommendations that you find one that really hits the bullseye for you.

  12. Courtney says:

    I had a couple of ideas for literary fiction books without trauma per the email question. Honestly, I am not sure if they’re considered literary fiction, but here they are

    — The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer. While it does address the events and aftermath of WWII on the tiny island of Guernsey, the epistolary framework of the book and the absolutely charming characters keep the trauma of the war at a safe distance. I came away with an absolute love for these characters, a desire to travel to Guernsey, and yearning for life in a small town.

    — The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Stand by Fannie Flagg. Again, I am not sure if Ms. Flagg’s work constitutes literary fiction, but this book was so lovely, and at points laugh-out-loud funny. At 60-years-old, the protagonist Sookie, learns that she is adopted. She is not the progeny of an old and prominent Southern family as she had been raised to believe, but hails from a Polish Catholic daughter of immigrants in Wisconsin! Her biological mother was actually one of the WASP (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots) of WWII, and the novel goes back and forth between her story during the 1930s and ’40s, and Sookie’s current life. In it, Sookie uncovers her heritage and comes to terms with learning who she really is. The characters in this were so much fun, and the story completely engaging. It touches on themes like what constitutes a family, mother-daughter relationships, and women’s rights. As a bonus, I learned a lot about the WASPs whose story had been buried for decades.

    — The Gilded Years by Karin Tanabe. This probably counts as historical fiction rather than literary fiction (not sure where the line is) as it is the fictionalized version of the real life of Anita Hemmings, the first black woman to attend and graduate from Vassar. The college however, didn’t know she was black as she successfully “passed” for most of her career there — until someone to whom she was close spilled her secret. There is no trauma here — there is definitely some righteous indignation and outrage related to injustice and racism. But, it seems like a safe bet for someone feeling emotionally tender.

    Best of health to the listener’s friend. I hope she ends up reading some books that are good for her soul and psyche.

  13. Shelley says:

    For Barbara’s friend, what about:
    The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides
    On Beauty by Zadie Smith
    Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil (which is not fiction, technically, but reads like it) – John Berendt.
    We Are Not Ourselves (Matthew Thomas) and The Interestings (Meg Wolitzer) weren’t to my taste, but might fit in this category? Other readers can weigh in…

  14. Juliette says:

    Firstly Anne I love your podcasts and always have a pen and paper handy to write down any recommendations that suit me.
    Secondly for the person looking for books for her friend with cancer I loved the author – Jude Deveraux especially her book The Summerhouse – I read it when I was going through a really tough time in my life and loved, actually went back and reread it a few years later as it was such a huge part that time for me..

  15. Nancy says:

    Two suggestions for the friend seeking books without trauma: Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith; it’s shorter than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and I enjoyed it more. And Number the Stars. It’s a short, wonderful book set in WWII. It’s been a while since I read it and now that I think about it there may be loss of a main character.

  16. Sarah says:

    For the friend going through chemo…how about Eligible or American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld? I liked both and I do not recall anything anxiety-producing.

  17. April says:

    Hey Anne:
    Did I miss the episode with Jane Harper (The Dry)? I think I’ve caught up on listening to all of the shows, but I could have sworn you said she was coming this summer. Am I imagining things???


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