12 favorite episodes of What Should I Read Next

12 favorite episodes of What Should I Read Next

This week we’re publishing our TWO HUNDREDTH episode of my podcast What Should I Read Next?, where each week we talk all things books and reading and do a little literary matchmaking with each guest. As part of the celebration, today I’m sharing twelve of my favorite episodes from our nearly four years of making the show. We started January 12, 2016, and have only skipped a handful Tuesdays in the intervening years.   

Readers, it was so hard to pick favorites, which feels like karmic retribution. Every week I ask a guest to choose three favorite books, and every week, they tell me how hard it was to choose. I reassure them by saying they don’t need to choose their three most-loved books, but simply three books they love—and tell them that most book lovers’ picks vary from year to year, or perhaps day to day. And it’s okay that it’s hard: if they didn’t love books so much, it would be easy.

On that note, if you haven’t yet checked out the corresponding book list I likewise agonized over, click here to review 15 of the most recommended books from 200 episodes of What Should I Read Next

Now it’s once again my time in the hot seat. Today I’m sharing twelve episodes I love—not necessarily the top twelve, but episodes that I adored, and you did, too. Ask me again in a year—or a day—and my list will look a little different. 

The great thing about What Should I Read Next is the episodes stay fresh: you can listen anytime, and jump in anywhere. If you’re a long-time listener, I hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane. If you’re new to the show—or to any podcasts at all—these episodes are great entry points. Hit the blue triangle to play any episode, or search for the episodes you want to download in your favorite podcast app. 

I’m sharing these 12 favorites in chronological order.  

1. Ep 28: Books that no one’s writing about in Entertainment Weekly

In this episode I chat with Andrea Griffith, a former medical librarian, mom of two daughters, and independent bookstore owner, and she came to me with a plea: she misses reading at whim, is craving depth, and wants help finding great books that aren’t relentlessly new, new, new. As you can imagine, I resonated so much with this request and was more than happy to help. 

I talked to Andrea at the beginning of her bookstore ownership, and it has been a joy to watch her store Browsers Bookshop blossom in the intervening years. And then last fall I finally got to visit for book tour, and meet Andrea in person! 

2. Ep 31: Lifetime favorite books and reading for a living

This episode is so fun, I’ve referred to it A TON over the years. Adam reads for a living, literally. When he was a kid and people asked him what he wanted to do when he grew up he’d say read books. But unlike most of us, Adam grew up and turned his theatrical background into a job as a professional audio book narrator.

Adam is also one of the few readers who’s been decisive/brave/committed enough to choose his three all-time favorite books for the show. Most guests limit themselves to titles they’ve read in the past year or two or they say they’ll never be able to narrow it down! Don’t miss the part where I ask him to say “Have a nice day” in a voice that sounds like “velvet dipped in steel.”  

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

This episode with Kathleen Grissom, author of the hugely bestselling books The Kitchen House and Glory Over Everything, was meant to be—and when you listen to Kathleen describe the path that led her to WSIRN, you’ll see what I mean.

We discuss 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.

4. Ep 83: An epic birthday bookstore roadtrip

In this episode I chat with Donna Hetchler about her plans for a very special trip she’s taking, involving the road, a milestone birthday, and a whole bunch of independent bookstores.

Donna also had a special request when it came to helping her choose what to read next. I was afraid choosing good books that met her criteria might be impossible, but we work it out—and I am very surprised by her reaction to some of my picks!

5. Ep 110: When your life resembles Big Little Lies

I’m talking books with Fiona Thoms, a party-planning, paleo cooking, PTA president mum of three kids who lives in Sydney, Australia. You may recognize Fiona’s voice from Episode 62, because she recommends two books to me in our special What Should ANNE Read Next episode. Fiona and I discuss the pleasures and perils of the Australian literary life, how she loves to read fictional books about the places she travels to, how her life bears an uncanny resemblance to the Liane Moriarty novel Big Little Lies, and more. 

Fiona is also a talented paper-crafter: that’s her handiwork in the photograph up top, that she made from an old Australian edition of Harry Potter. I definitely shrieked when I opened that package. 

6. Ep 114: Missed bookstore connections

We marked WSIRN’s second anniversary in style, by bringing back our VERY FIRST GUEST, my ever-colorful friend and The Popcast co-host Jamie Golden. In this episode you’ll get to hear some secrets about what I originally had planned for the show (and which of these plans we threw out the window) a totally true bookshop story about Tom Hanks, a literary pop culture lightning round, and Jamie’s pitch for WSIRN: After Dark.

 

7. Ep 124: The challenge of making your reading life your own

This episode is a FESTIVAL of book recommendations for all ages. You might recognize children’s lit enthusiast Sarah Mackenzie from Episode 49: How To Help Kids Fall In Love With Reading, during our Reading for a Lifetime series, when she came on the show to help me recommend books to some truly adorable bookish kids. In this show we do more of the same, but I’m ALSO going to recommend 3 books that she can incorporate into her adult reading life when she’s not running Read Aloud Revival or sharing books with her kids.

8. Ep 133: Authors who get where you’re coming from

Finding characters to relate to can change the lives of young readers and longtime bookworms alike. Guest Sachi Argabright discovered a rich vein of books by Asian American authors who inspire her, and it’s given her reading life wings! In this episode, I top up her list with unique and soon-to-be-released titles so she can stay in that happy place for a long time to come. 

I was so excited about Sachi’s reading goals that I heaped even more titles than usual on her To Be Read list. We also discuss travel, reading goals, book organization (see her gorgeous “favorites bookshelf” pictured in the show notes), and much much more.

 
 

9. Ep 153: Revolutionizing your reading life, 10 minutes at a time

My guest Kari Sweeney is a working mom of four who has developed a unique system to keep her reading life running like clockwork. We heard raves from readers who put her tips to work for their own reading lives, with great success!

Kari and I also chat about wishy-washy star ratings, the right season for the right book, how she freed herself from book guilt… and she shares her secret to getting the hottest new books the week they release—for FREE.

10. Ep 159: How to cope with the longest book hangover ever

Soooo many readers related to this fantastic classics-heavy episode. Shawntaye Hopkins discovered Jane Austen’s books for the first time as an adult—and after that initial discovery, she dove in DEEP. We discuss the magic of immersive literary events that celebrate the classics (not just Jane!) and how they’ve changed the way Shawntaye reads her most beloved books.

We’re also exploring her TEN YEARS of book journaling, the book she’s still hungover from, and my recommendations for her include a book you probably have never heard of.

 

11. Ep 165: 1000 Books to read before you die

If you ever dream of taking a fresh approach to your reading life, whether the goal is tackling the classics, beating your Goodreads challenge, or simply finding more joy in your reading life, my guest Jim Mustich shares decades of wisdom to help kickstart your reading life.

In this episode Jim and I chat about his history as a reader and why reading 1000 books might not be as daunting as it first sounds. We also put Jim in the hot seat: I share three of my favorites, and then Jim recommends which of those 1000 books he thinks I should prioritize. 

12. Ep 168: A century of good books (in a single year)

Tara Nichols came to us asking for help with a fun and challenging project. Her mission — which she’s been planning for QUITE a while — was to read one book published each year between 1920 and 2019. The challenge brings with it a lot of important questions… what is worth her time? Is it better to read the big important book from a given year, or the title she thinks she’ll enjoy most? And the  question she’s hoping to answer after the year is over… has literature changed in all this time?

We discuss all those things and MORE, before getting to my challenge. I pitch three books worthy of adding to her lineup, including a book that is considered by some to be “the best mystery story ever written.”

Readers, do YOU have a favorite episode of What Should I Read Next? Please tell us all about it in comments! (And stay tuned for our #BookTwin challenge we’re launching tomorrow.)

21 comments | Comment

21 comments

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  1. Matilda Revell says:

    Hi Anne, I guess this is how to communicate a question to you? I was trying to find the episode from One Great Book highlighting The View From Saturday. I loved it! But I cannot, for the life of me, find the podcast! I want to share it with my sister who is a middle school teacher. I have looked and looked on “available” episodes, “previously played” episodes and it is nowhere to be found. At a certain point, are they removed? I have not learned how to find earlier episodes very easily. Am I doing something wrong? I LOVE your podcasts!!

  2. Jen says:

    I’m excited about this list! I’ve been listening for about a year, and have been listening to back episodes also. I recently decided, though, that I didn’t need to be a completist about your podcast, so this gives me a great way to hit the highlights of what I missed!

  3. BarbN says:

    I remember all of these except the first two- I will have to backtrack and find them. I also loved the episode with Chatti, I don’t remember the number. Yay for 200 and looking forward to that many more!

  4. First a big congratulations on hitting 200 episodes-that is cause for celebration for sure. And second I’m SO HONORED to be on this list! I loved talking to you about the Birthday Bookstore Road Trip I was going to be taking. I ended up going to 20 (!) bookstores and I just posted a round-up with pictures on my blog. Your podcast and book club has completely changed my reading life and I’ll be forever grateful. Here’s a link to the bookstore round-up: http://iamyourrabbit.com/home/the-bookstore-road-trip-remembering-20-bookstores

  5. Cyndi Moskal says:

    I’m new to this podcast and working my backwards (while listening to the newest ones). Currently listening to #170 so I have a long way to go! But it’s the only thing I’m listening to right now – I just love it! My TBR list is bursting and I am really looking forward to all the amazing books lying in wait for me. One of my favorites so far is #178 with Emily P. Freeman because she (and you) reminded me it’s okay to pick the next right book and not worry so much about it because the absolute perfect book.
    Thank you for this great podcast and congratulations on hitting 200!

  6. Holli Petersen says:

    Congrats on 200 episodes, Anne! So many of these episodes remind me of beloved books that I picked up because of them.

    Also, it was an honor to be on your show and have a place among the 200! Keep up the great work!!

  7. Paula says:

    Congratulations on 200 episodes, wonderful milestone. I would love to see you go back to some of these guests and check in with them about your recommendations and see if you hit the mark. I get so curious to hear if they liked a book you recommended, especially if it is one I have read and enjoyed!

  8. Kelli Roberts says:

    Such a great list – I can’t believe it’s been 200 episodes! Some of my faves are from the early ones (maybe because I listened to them over and over while I was waiting for more:)) I loved Deidra Riggs, Meredith Schwarz and Jessica Turner for all their excitement, but it’s so hard to choose favorites!

  9. Jennifer says:

    I am new to your podcast (learned of you from That Sounds Fun with Annie F. Downs). I am now slightly obsessed with what people like, don’t like, and what they are reading and then what you recommend. I have downloaded all these favorite episodes and can’t wait to listen to them. You have opened my eyes to so many new books and authors. I am also a librarian who usually works with children; however, I am making a job change to more adults so your adult recommendations have been so helpful. Thank you.

  10. Crisanne says:

    My favorite is the first episode that I ever listened to, which made me an instant fan: the episode with the Ardent Biblios as guests. I (figuratively) fell over with shock and delight as the show went on: I was fully relating to everything discussed. Definitely not a common experience for a bibliophile! An incredible show it remains- and my TBR has bloomed incredibly since.

  11. Rachel says:

    Congratulations! I find that my favorite guests are ones that give me perspective outside of my own experience and introduced me to wonderful people. Some favorites include:
    Ep 82 with Claire Diaz Ortiz whose wide-reading I loved and can’t imagine the last few years without the resources and connections I’ve received through following her.
    Ep 154 with RuthAnn Deveney. She has become a book reviewer I trust the most and love her advocacy.
    As a teacher, Ep 167 with Erin Morris was super important for me to think about my students with trauma backgrounds and finding books for them that wouldn’t retraumatize them. It gave me a whole new perspective and lots of great recommendations.

    For pure fun, Ep 147 for the Snark Squad gals was so good!

    Thank you for continuing to include such a wide variety of readers. It makes such a difference!

  12. Congratulations, Anne! I’m so glad I discovered the What Should I Read Next? podcast a year or so ago; I went through and binge-listened the entire catalogue, and have kept up with new releases since then. It’s one of my top sources for book recommendations, and I’m always impressed by the way you tailor them to your reader. As a fellow Sydney-sider, I loved Fiona’s episode too – any time I hear an Aussie accent on an American podcast, it makes me smile!

  13. Lisa H. says:

    Congratulations on your 200th episode! My favorite episode was the one with the enthusiastic guest who started a book club with her non-local-living sisters. My other favorite was episode #194 with the guest who had worked at The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee and headed up a book club there! What a cool idea!

  14. Melanie Ford says:

    My favorite episode was 162 with Traci Thomas. It inspired me to check out her podcast “The Stacks” which has been life-changing for me. I’ve been exposed to many more diverse authors and important stories than I ever had been before, for example, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison and the play, “Angels in America”. Even if I don’t end up liking every book that is chosen for the book club, the discussion about them afterwards is often very rich and gives me good food for thought.

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