WSIRN Ep 90: Immersive books that make you want to read them again (for the first time)

WSIRN Ep 90: Immersive books that make you want to read them again (for the first time)
Today I’m chatting with Mary Gaertner. I met Mary and her friend Rachel in my very own living room, at the Popcast Live pre-party! Mary and Rachel drove down from Cincinnati together, and spent the car ride choosing their What Should I Read Next books – 3 books they love, 1 book they hate, and what they’re reading now. Mary told me her books, especially the book she HATED, and I said – you need to come on the show! So … we made it happen. Today Mary and I discuss copycat books, strong female protagonists, escapism, genres we aren’t so sure about, and the special feeling of reading a unique book for the first time. 


What Should I Read Next #90: Immersive books that make you want to read them again (for the first time) with Mary Gaertner
Connect with Mary’s work at Girls On The Run: 

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Books mentioned in this episode:

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• American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfeld
• Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld
• Kindred, Octavia E. Butler
• The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
• Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
• Behind Closed Doors, by B.A. Paris
• Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
• Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders
• Church of the Small Things: The Million Little Pieces That Make Up a Life, by Melanie Shankle
• Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult
• This is How It Always Is, by Laurie Frankel
• All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood
• Behold The Dreamers, by Imbolo Mbue
• What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty
• Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty
• The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas
• The Red Tent, by Anita Diamant

Also mentioned:

• The Popcast
• Reading Personality quiz
• “New Curtis Sittenfeld novel will imagine Hillary Clinton’s life without Bill” at The Guardian

What do YOU think Mary should read next? Let us know in the comments!

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24 comments | Comment


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  1. Stacy in TX says:

    Kindred was such a powerful book. I’m opposite of Mary though as I only read it because it contained the time travel element, always a sucker for a good time travel book.

  2. Andrea says:

    Oh my gosh, I went off on a nearly verbatim rant re: the Gone Girl phenomenon and comparisons earlier this year! It was when I reviewed A Separation (, and it was marketed as similar to gone girl but I didn’t think it was at all. It seems an unwise way to market a book – those who loved Gone Girl will always be disappointed, as you said, you can’t read the same book for the first time. And then the people that did not like Gone Girl might miss out on a book that would be good fit for them!
    Also, I highly second The Red Tent – that’s one that has earned a permanent place on my shelves. ❤️

  3. Lisa says:

    I also love novels about the “untold stories.” I’d recommend The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall (retelling of Gone with the Wind from the perspective of enslaved people), and the Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys (the story of Mrs. Rochester). Also Gregory Maguire’s fairy tale retellings like Wicked are good!

  4. Julia Lammert says:

    I actually thought Behind Closed Doors was pretty good. I wouldn’t compare it to Gone Girl though. Yes, they were both thrillers and had some disturbing material but the story lines were quite different. I do plan to read Kindred and The Language of Flowers now!

  5. Angie says:

    Of the 3 books that Anne recommended, 2 were my favorites of this summer and the other, Red Tent, is an old favorite of mine! So I think that my taste must be similar to Mary’s. I’ve never read any of the ones she listed as her favorites so I headed to the library today and got them. I can’t wait to start one. Thanks for a great episode!

    • Jo says:

      Oh, Ok, you had me going “what…?” there for a minute. 🙂 I also totally loved Americanah. One of my favorites. Just went to the library site (ok, I’ll be honest – all four that I have cards for, lol!) to check out Behold the Dreamers, and of course being recommended by Oprah, the wait lists are long. I like recommendations you got, bookmarking some of these!!

      • Mary says:

        Ha, yeah I think I had in my head the list of books I was considering for the MMD reading challenge, both the immigrant story and book in translation and several books fell into both categories!
        I just ordered Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, which I’m super excited about!

        • Jo says:

          I think that’s the only one of hers that I haven’t read. I’ve read (I think!) all of the ones set in Nigeria. I’ve spent most of my adult life in Africa so I just enjoyed them so much. She writes beautifully.

  6. Stacy W. says:

    I totally related to this guest. With young kids, I needed easier reads… Now that they’re a bit older, I’ve tried to choose more challenging reads and leave my “reading comfort zone” (also why I listen to Anne?). Great episode!!

  7. Katie says:

    I just picked up The Red Tent; I’m very excited to start this one. I typically read all new stuff and this will be only the second book I’ve read this year that wasn’t published in the past year or so (the other is And Then There We’re None).

  8. Lindsay says:

    I also love Curtis Sittenfeld. If you like her writing style, pick up a novel by J. Courtney Sullivan. They are not read-a-likes at all but they have a similar straightforward style and I think they both really capture female voices so accurately. Her newest one “Saints for All Occasions” is really good and definitely has the untold story thing going on. I also love “Maine”, and it’s a great one for summer.
    You definitely also should check out “Exit West” by Mohsin Hamid (If you haven’t already). Immigrant story with a dash of magical realism. Challenging but sooo readable, as it’s nice and slim and his prose is like butter.

    • Jo says:

      I just read Saints for All Occasions and really enjoyed it. Now I need to go find more by her and Curtis Sittenfeld also. The TBR list keeps growing.

  9. Michele says:

    Fun show! I just finished the audio version of The Red Tent. I really enjoyed the story & lining it up with Genesis to keep track of the timeline. A surprising point of view.

  10. Brittany says:

    I LOVED this episode. One of my favorite books is What Alice Forgot. I figured since this was one of Anne’s recommendations then ALL of the books she gave, I must like. Really looking forward to reading The Red Tent and The Language of Flowers from this episode. I also loved American Wife from Curtis Sittenfield, but another of her books that I like is Prep. I really enjoyed this book years ago when I read it. I love a book with a school setting. Thanks, Anne, for this great podcast!

  11. Amanda says:

    Hi Mary, I haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird since high school, but I re-read The Great Gatsby last week and I felt sort of the same “meh” that you felt about Mockingbird. I was bored by it, it felt flat and since I’ve read so many awesome books written in that era, that fell flat on its face.
    If you want a great classic I suggest The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton.

  12. Bigsna says:

    Hi! I don’t know if you have any listeners from India, but I’ve been hooked to your podcast since I discovered it a few weeks ago. Particularly enjoyed this one because my reading choices are so similar to Mary Gaertner’s! I completely agree with her on the “copy cat” books – I had the exact same experience with BA Paris’ Behind Closed Doors (I loved Gone Girl) and now I want to avoid all husband-wife based psychological thrillers. I also happen to be reading Americanah right now, which was also discussed on this episode. So I related to this conversation a lot!

    What I’d love to hear about is some Japanese contemporary fiction, if those have been discussed at some point. Keigo Higashino is a master story teller and I’ve read all his books, so I’d love to hear a discussion around those. I’d also like to learn about other Japanese Lit (other than Murakami).

    I will end this very long comment with two recommendations:
    – Apple Tree Yard by Louis Doughty, which I though was Superbly written and a completely new flavour in the psychological thriller category
    – Journey Under the Midnight Sun by Keigo Higashino, which is brilliant and I couldn’t recommend it enough

    Looking forward to finding more episodes here that resonate with me!

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