Most Recommended Books in 200 Episodes of WSIRN Podcast
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

This book was first recommended very early, in Episode 12, "Life is hard but reading doesn't have to be." I'll bet you weren’t assigned this breezy Cinderella-ish story set in 1930s Britain back in English class. When a placement agency sends unemployed middle-aged governess Miss Pettigrew to the wrong address, she spends the best day of her life with a glamorous nightclub singer, extricating her hour by hour from one scrape after another. Light, charming and utterly delightful (though FYI, this was first published in 1938 and some conversations and attitudes feel quite dated to modern ears). More info →
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Home Fire

Home Fire

I recommended this book to a Scottish bookseller in a delightful episode of What Should I Read Next recorded live in Scotland's national book town, that's Episode 171: "A podcaster, a barrister, and a joiner walk into a bookstore." This modern retelling of Antigone was long-listed for the 2017 Man Booker Prize and powerfully probes themes of love, political allegiance, and terrorism. I'm not sure I would have realized this was rooted in the Greek myth if I hadn't been told: Shamsie's story feels modern, timely, and incredibly relevant to current events. (First line: "Isma was going to miss her flight.") More info →
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Jayber Crow

Jayber Crow

This is one of the books I read over and over again so it only makes sense I'd recommend it over and over. I first recommended it to Andrea Griffith in Episode 28, "Books that no one's writing about in Entertainment Weekly." I resisted reading this one for a long time because I thought the name "Jayber" was ugly. Please don't make that mistake. This gorgeous novel has an impressive sense of place. It's a book you can see and feel. It's contemplative, beautiful, and sad. It's a book that stays with you. More info →
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The Lola Quartet

The Lola Quartet

This is the kind of book I love: a compulsively readable literary mystery, featuring stylish prose plus a plot that keeps you turning the page to find out what happens next, by Emily St. John Mandel, author of bestseller Station Eleven. I talked about it on an impromptu episode of What Should I Read Next that laid the foundation for One Great Book. I was so impressed by the way Mandel unfolded the story piece by piece, introducing us to a seventeen-year-old girl in hiding (with piles of cash duct-taped to the underside of her baby's stroller), and slowly revealing how she ended up there—and how the members of the old high school musical group the Lola Quartet are connected to her disappearance. Set in muggy South Florida, the story is dripping with atmosphere and has a noir feel. More info →
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Love Walked In

Love Walked In

I first recommended this in episode 24, devoted to life-changing books. De los Santos novels have all the characteristics of good binge reads: good storytelling, likable characters, and beautiful writing. Cornelia is a hopeless romantic, obsessed with the epic love stories portrayed in classic films, but floundering in her own life. Everything changes the day a Cary Grant look-alike walks through the door of the coffee shop she manages. Of course she falls for him, and strikes up an unlikely friendship with his 11-year-old daughter. Cornelia's family provides support (the friendly and witty kind, thankfully) as she navigates big transitions and tough decisions. If you love this, good news: there's a sequel. More info →
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Harry’s Trees

Harry’s Trees

Have you ever read a book that made the world around you feeI just a little bit magical? I first raved about this latest from Jon Cohen to the Modern Mrs. Darcy Book Club, and we read it together earlier this year. This story features an unlikely friendship, a book-within-a-book, a battle to save the local library, and a mysterious good Samaritan, all set amidst the beautiful Pennsylvania forest. Listen to author Jon Cohen talk about books that capture the magic of everyday life on WSIRN episode 160. More info →
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Garden Spells

Garden Spells

I LOVED discussing this book with the author's fellow North Carolinian Kendra Adachi in Episode 27, "Books good enough to make you turn off the tv (even if you love tv)." Sarah Addison Allen's novels share common elements: they're Southern, small-town, and uniquely magical. This is the book that hooked me on her writing. The romance is cheesy, the magic impossible, but put them together and it sings. A few love scenes are a little racy (ahem). If you're not down with supernatural food or a magical apple tree, skip this one—but you should know how many readers call this "a wonderful surprise." A must-read for fans of The Language of Flowers. Sweet, sparkly, and thoroughly Southern. More info →
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What We Were Promised

What We Were Promised

I loved this emotionally resonant debut about class, culture, regret, and the road not taken so much that I included it on last year's Summer Reading Guide; it deserves more attention than it's gotten. After twenty years abroad, the Zhens return to their native China to take up residence among Shanghai's nouveau riche. But deep unease lies behind the façade of their pampered lifestyle, and the reappearance of a long-lost brother stirs up a host of long-buried emotions, and forces the family to revisit complicated (and secret) past choices. The backdrop of contemporary Shanghai and a national festival highlights how the family embodies China's current conflicts and complexities: rich vs poor, urban vs rural, old vs new values (and I loved talking with Cindy Brandt about the realities of these divides in episode 140 of What Should I Read Next). More info →
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Four Seasons in Rome

Four Seasons in Rome

Author:
Series: Best Nonfiction 2015
Genre: Memoir
I first recommended this book to Tsh Oxenreider in Episode 6, "Books for book nerds, author backstories, and simple stories told well" and was delighted to hear it influenced her writing process for At Home in the World. I later recommended it to a mother-daughter duo in Episode 111, "A lifetime mother-daughter book club." This magical memoir is about the year Doerr, his wife, and his twin baby boys spent in Rome after he won a writer's residency grant. He found out about the award the same day they brought the twins home from the hospital. Doerr writes beautifully about his year abroad, from the everyday and the extraordinary: grocery shopping, sourcing baby gear (for twins!), his wife's illness, sightseeing, Pope John Paul II's funeral. I googled every street, church, and town he referenced. More info →
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Lonesome Dove

Lonesome Dove

I first recommended this to a fun husband-wife reading duo in Episode 137, "Reading as a couple + the best books YOU read this summer." This big, fat, Pulitzer-winning novel was on my radar for years before I finally picked it up. It's not the kind of book I expected to love: the story revolves around a 3000 mile cattle drive from a dusty Texas border town to the unsettled lands of Montana in the 1880s, and features a motley cast of characters including illustrious captains, notorious outlaws, ex-slaves, Texas Rangers, sheriffs, and more. Yet I did—and so have several guests! More info →
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The One-in-a-Million Boy

The One-in-a-Million Boy

This title gets the distinction of the most recommended book on the podcast. I LOVE the way Holland Saltsman describes this book in Episode 40, "Spouses of Readers Anonymous." Wood explores themes of love, loss, and identity through a quirky 11-year-old boy who loves making lists, a wily 104-year-old woman, an absentee father, a Boy Scout project, and the Guinness Book of World Records. (That means if you want to talk about it, you need a reading companion!) More info →
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Tell Me Three Things

Tell Me Three Things

I've WANTED to recommend this book a dozen times on the show, but I've only done it twice: to Leigh Kramer way back in Episode 9, "The reality of bookworm problems," and to Annie Spence in Episode 109, "Reading slumps are the worst." A girl-next-door type suddenly finds herself in an elite California prep school, and has to figure out how to navigate this new privileged world while still grieving her mother's death. When she gets an email from an unidentified boy who calls himself "Somebody Nobody" offering to be her spirit guide to her new school, she doesn't want to say yes—but she really needs his help. A sweet and fun teen romance, but also a pitch-perfect portrayal of the grieving process. I couldn't stop myself from cheering for Jessie as she put her life together again. More info →
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Before We Visit the Goddess

Before We Visit the Goddess

I recommended this book during a wonderful conversation with Max Dunn in Episode 48, "It's good to be a Special Readerly Snowflake." The novel tracks three generations of Indian women and their fraught relationships. The title comes from a chance encounter one of these women has with a stranger, which is fitting because my favorite parts of the story deal with the small moments that change the course of a person's life, and the unlikely friendships that do the same. This is a wonderful, beautiful, and sad book, and I've been recommending it like crazy since I read it. More info →
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Miller’s Valley: A Novel

Miller’s Valley: A Novel

I loved discussing this book with Melody Warnick in Episode 39, "Judging a book by its first sentence." This story of a young girl growing up in a rural community during a time when the community itself is facing a tremendous change. This was wise, reflective, and easy to read, and strongly reminiscent of Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior. More info →
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Stay with Me

Stay with Me

I most recently recommended this in Episode 148, "Rebuilding your life (and your library)." Adebayo's debut is a powerful, emotional story about love, family, and fidelity set against the backdrop of the turbulent political climate of 1985-2008 Nigeria. The story begins with Yejide's mother-in-law arrives at her door with a guest in tow: her husband's second wife, that she didn't know he'd married. More info →
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