WSIRN Ep 11: What’s going on beneath the surface with Meredith Schwartz

It’s Tuesday, which means a new episode of What Should I Read Next!

What Should I Read Next #11: What's going on beneath the surface with Meredith Schwartz

In this episode I chat with Meredith Schwartz, a self-described Type A, INFJ, and unapologetic listmaker who is trying desperately (and a big compulsively) to hold together all the crazy aspects of her life. There’s nothing vanilla about Meredith: she has strong opinions about her reading, which makes for a fabulous conversation.

Connect with Meredith Schwartz at Penelope Loves Lists, where she serves as creative director. You can also find her on instagram, pinterest, and facebook.

Books discussed in this episode:

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Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
• Sweet Dreams Romances
 Sweet Valley High Series by  Francine Pascal
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
Still Life by Louise Penny
Better Than Before by Gretchen Rubin
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
The Circle by Dave Eggers
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
The Physician by Noah Gordon
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
The Brothers K by David James Duncan
The Likeness by Tana French
In the Woods by Tana French
Ballad of the Whiskey Robber by Julian Rubinstein
Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House by Cheryl Mendelson
Morningside Heights by Cheryl Mendelson


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  1. R says:

    Meredith, I think you would also enjoy The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert – a (long!) sweeping narrative that travels all over the world with a character that you will fall in love with.

  2. Sandra mosolgo says:

    The last book I couldn’t put down and inhabited my thoughts was Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls & when it was finished I had to read & listen to every interview I could find online.
    Sandra m

  3. Caitlin says:

    For the mystery-romances, I would recommend Mary Stewart. She’s a British novelist who wrote some wonderful novels starting in the 1950s. Her heroines are sensible, strong and intelligent. Whenever I read her books I wish that if anything strange or mysterious happened in my life I might react as well as they do.
    I would start with her first novel “Madame Will You Talk?” (Charity is my favorite of her heroines), although I think “Nine Coaches Waiting” is wonderful as well.

  4. Marné says:

    Another mystery series I’d recommend (I, too, love the Inspector Gamache series) is Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chief of Police series. Like Gamache, I love Bruno and the other characters in his small, southern France village.

  5. Briana says:

    Very funny to hear that Meredith hated “The Circle”. I just finished it the other day and totally agree that there are no characters worth rooting for. While reading it, I found myself having to catch my breath because I just hated Mae so much! It will be interesting to see the film adaptation.


  6. liz n. says:

    Yet another reason I love these podcasts: Were it not for this conversation, I’d never have considered “Morningside Heights” because the name of the book sounds so tra-la-la-here’s-some-fluff to me! Now, it’s on the ever-growing TBR list.

    Also, although “The Count of Monte Cristo” is over 1,000 pages, it does not read like a burdensome tome. It’s such a page-turner, and I love it for all the reasons Meredith does. Edmund Dantes is a character that has stuck with me since I was nine or ten years old; he is unforgettable.

  7. Barbara Atkins says:

    I want to recommend the following site to other readers For the past 8 years or more Heather Ordover has been reading classics that are in the public domain. Current book “The Count of Monte Cristo”. She is an English teacher and sets the chapters up and gives lots of information to make sense of some of the things that confuse us about the classics. There is a huge back catalog and it is there and free.

    I agree with Marne and the recommendation of Martin Walker’s Bruno series. I also like Donna Leon’s Guido Brunetti series. What these have in common (along with Louis Penney’s books)is that the central characters are very moral men. Flawed, normal men who make good choices for the people around them.
    I do not really appreciate Tana French, a bit too violent for me. OTOH, I am requesting the Mendelson fiction through inter-library loan.

  8. Aimee says:

    Hi! I am really interested in reading The Likeness, but am wondering if I would be missing out if I didn’t start off with the first book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. What do you think? Thanks!

  9. Jessica Jensen says:

    I am so glad you discussed the Inspector Gamache series. I read the first book and enjoyed it, but after reading the second and third I wasn’t really interested in continuing because of the exact thing you said. The crimes were just… icky. But now I’m inspired to read book four and see how it goes. I am definitely in the category that needs to have at least one character too root for as well. And, I’m an NF so you might be onto something there. Thanks for another great podcast!

  10. I loved being interviewed by Anne so much. Serious fun. And I’ve already tucked into her recommendations happily. She was spot on, as usual.

    Now, you wonderful readers have added more to my list. Love that!

    (The Martin Walker series IS excellent, Barbara. Always makes me want to expatriate to France.)

    Keep the recommendations rolling in!!!

    • Dawn says:

      I finally listened to your episode (just this morning) and I loved it! Meredith, you describe the books you love SO well. “Glittering!” Such a great adjective to communicate about the book itself AND your feelings for it!

      Totally putting all of these books on my TBR list. The only one y’all discussed that I read was Girl on the Train (overrated, IMO), but all of the others sound great.

      Page turners I have loved include At the Water’s Edge (Gruen), 11/22/63 (King), American Wife (Sittenfeld), & Winter Garden (Hannah). They’re not exactly the mystery genre focused on in this episode but they had me turning pages for sure. I also second The Glass Castle.

  11. Kate says:

    This was my favorite episode yet! I added the count of monte cristo and morningside heights to my list, and I moved up the Louise Penny books to top of list. To end this on a total fangirl note, I’m currently reading another Anne pick- The cuckoo’s calling!

  12. Scarlett says:

    I loved that she loves Louise Penny!!! I’m just now getting to The Brutal Telling!!! I’m so excited! I was wondering Anne which was your favorite of the series so far?

  13. Paula Agius says:

    I am going to sound like a total fan girl here, but I love this website and your podcast! They have changed my life. I read quite a bit (10 books a month on average) but it has gotten harder for me to pick up new reads. I have searched the blogs and have found a few I like but was super excited to find yours and now my TBR list has grown leaps and bounds. Your latest podcast was my favorite one and have bought The Count of Monte Crisco ebook on Amazon for 99 cents. I am also reading Still Life and am really enjoying it. Keep up the great work. Fan for life!

  14. Micha says:

    I love, love, love your Podcast Anne. I have read about half of the books mentioned in this episode.

    Meredith: I really identified myself with you. If you are looking for a fun page turner like The Girl on the Train, try Life We Bury by Allen Eskens. I found it fast paced and a lot of fun.

    I am putting Count of Monte Cristo on the top of my list!!

  15. Candace M Chatman says:

    In the middle of this episode I had to pull up all my library apps and website to start searching for books. I can’t wait to listen to morningside heights, and I started listening to Faithful Place by Tana French the second the podcast ended. Thanks!

  16. Amy Melniczenko says:

    During the podcast, you mentioned another mystery series that you compared to the Louise Penny series but I couldn’t hear the name for the life of me. And I don’t see it in the list you posted about the episode. Can you help me by telling me what you’d recommended?

  17. Sarah Silvester says:

    I had to recommend “Jonathan strange and mr norrell” by Susanna Clarke from this episodes book choices! It’s a big book, it’s got mystery, it’s got magic – it’s a page turner you can’t put down. Highly recommend as someone who loves your choices of favorites!

  18. Melissa says:

    Once again I have both my goodreads page open and my local library to see what books are mentioned because I have to add them to one list or the other.
    I am *loving* the idea of taking a weekend for reading, what a fabulous husband to arrange that!

  19. Tracy Tobias says:

    Have you read Career of Evil? What did you think about it? It as so graphic and dark, I could hardly get through it. Hoping young Harry Potter fans don’t get their hands on it. Love your podcast and am so envious of your ability to read so many books. I’m such a slow reader. I’d also love to recommend my friend, Katrina Kenison for an interview. She reads a ton of interesting books, use to edit America’s Best Short Stories and is the author of some fabulous books, including The Gift of an Ordinary Day and Mitten Strings for God. Two books that changed my life and how I looked at Parenting. They are two of my favorite books to teach from in my parenting classes.

    • Anne says:

      I HAVE read Career of Evil but I skipped or seriously skimmed SO MANY PAGES because the content was so grisly. I’m hoping the next one is tamer. I’m also hoping Rowling will hurry up and finish it because I want to know what happens next. 🙂

  20. LoriAngela says:

    Loving your podcast and putting my reading life as a priority. Found you through the knitting podcast, “Cultivate and Create”. I appreciate that you expect us to not know all the books, but to be open to discovery.
    I am a huge Louise Penny fan (Canadian, eh?) and listen to a lot of Lee Child on my audible, as well as light fantasy like the Ursula leGuin.
    Don’t think I’ve heard you mention “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt yet.
    Thanks for the tip on Tana French. I love a murder mystery and we are travelling to Dublin this summer!

  21. Anna says:

    I was a little late listening, but I really enjoyed it. Penelope Loves Lists is one of my favorite blogs. 🙂 I read the Count of Monte Cristo awhile back. I went through a stage in late teens/ early 20s where I read logs of Dumas, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and even a little Solzhenitsyn. I keep thinking I should go back and reread some of those to see what I think about them from an adult perspective. This has given me a little boost to do that, and I’m going to start with the Count of Monte Cristo.

    I also love Louise Penny- can’t wait for her next book to come out! I’ve now added quite a few from this podcast to my unrealistic, ever growing “To Be Read” list.

  22. DIANE PEDROSA says:

    I want to mention a book called THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY to follow up with your admiration for The Count Of Monte Cristo. This book is an autobiography like no other. I hope you give it a try!
    Enjoyed hearing about the books you read.
    Diane P

  23. Sarah says:

    This is only episode 11 and I SWEAR Louise Penny has come up in almost every one! Fine fine, this Canadian gets the message! I finally started reading just a few days ago, got my mum to start reading and we just booked a Thanksgiving (Canadian) trip to the Eastern Townships to see ‘Three Pines’ and all the fall colours! Thank you. Oh and FYI: my mum tried to get the series at the library in Calgary – it’s all checked out and on hold forever and then she tried a few second-hand stores – not ONE Louise Penny! Does everyone in Calgary listen to your podcast too? HA!

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