71. Superlatives for the best books of 2021 so far

Today, Sara and Chelsey share their favorite books of the year (so far) with a series of bookish superlatives to guide them. From most surprising to most disappointing, we discuss the books that have shaped our reading lives in the first half of 2021. We love this low pressure format for sharing “the best” books and would love to hear about YOUR favorites, using our superlatives list.

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Books mentioned:

Thank you for supporting the show by shopping our affiliate links! 

Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jandrowski (Amazon)

Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian (Amazon)

Anna K by Jenny Lee (Amazon)

Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (Amazon)

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Amazon)

Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (Amazon)

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro 

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (Amazon)

Writers & Lovers by Lily King (Amazon)

Share Your Stuff, I’ll Go First by Laura Tremaine (Amazon)

One Two Three by Laurie Frankel (Amazon)

Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (Amazon)

How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America by Kiese Laymon (Amazon)

Wintering by Katherine May (Amazon)

Ariadne by Jennifer Saint (Amazon)

Malibu Rising  by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Amazon)

Matrix  by Lauren Groff (Amazon)

You Got Anything Stronger? by Gabrielle Union (Amazon)

70. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton and glittering contemporary books full of social commentary

Chelsey and Sara discuss The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton*, a glittering Gilded Age classic that feels particularly relevant today. We chat about our experiences rereading one of Wharton’s early novels, how we felt about the divisive character Lily Bart, and our recommendations for contemporary pairings—including one of our favorite essay collections and a coming of age novel set at a boarding school. 

*This episode does include spoilers, so listen carefully for spoiler warnings if you haven’t read The House of Mirth yet.

For more bonus episodes, nerdy classes, and extra book talk,  join our Classics Club: patreon.com/novelpairings.com.

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Listen to our pairings: [45:58]

Books mentioned:

Thank you for supporting us by shopping our affiliate links!

Chelsey

Sara

Also mentioned:

The Gilded Age Girls Club series (Duchess by Design #1) by Maya Rodale

The Gossip Girl of Her Time: On the Pleasures of Edith Wharton

69. A summer short story to read in one sitting: The Prairie Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

Today in “Short Story Club,” Chelsey and Sara are discussing “The Prairie Wife” by Curtis Sittenfeld. It’s a quick, absorbing read about summer camp, social media, and how stories shape our identities.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on it! Note: Short Story Club episodes do contain spoilers. Read the story first, and then come back to hear our nerdy discussion!

Join our Patreon community for an extended Short Story Club discussion on Discord. 

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Short stories for summer from Bustle

Chelsey

Sara

68. The Summer Book by Tove Jansson and contemplative books for moody summer reading

Today, Chelsey and Sara discuss The Summer Book by Tove Jansson*, a contemplative and vivid book in translation about a young girl, her grandmother, and the little island they inhabit. We discuss our favorite vignettes, the endearing characters, and our recommendations for contemporary pairings—including memoir, literary fiction, and poetry. 

*This episode is spoiler-free. Click here to listen in your web browser, or download the episode wherever you get your podcasts.

For more bonus episodes, nerdy classes, and extra book talk,  join our Classics Club: patreon.com/novelpairings.com.

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Get two audiobooks for the price of one from Libro.fm. Use our Libro.fm affiliate code NOVELPAIRINGS and support independent bookstores.

Listen to our pairings: [31:50]

Books mentioned:

Thank you for supporting us by shopping our affiliate links!

Moomin books by Tove Jansson (Amazon)

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson (Amazon)

Chelsey:

Castle of Water by Dane Hucklebridge (Amazon)

A Thousand Mornings by Mary Oliver (Amazon)

Memories of Low Tide by Chantal Thomas (Amazon)

Sara:

Jacob Have I Loved by Katherine Paterson  (Amazon) // SSR Episode 87

Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson (Amazon)

Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner (Amazon)

Pick of the week:

Chelsey: We Can Do Hard Things podcast: What the hell is FUN and why do we need it?

Sara: Tove Jansson’s Moomins and her private universe.

67. Sweeping family sagas for classic and contemporary reading tastes

Today, Sara and Chelsey share their favorite classic and contemporary sweeping family sagas. We recommend intergenerational stories that take place over decades or centuries—or across multiple continents. We also define and discuss this sub genre and speculate about why it’s become such a popular phrase in publishing. Do you have a favorite novel that fits on our list?

For more bonus episodes, nerdy classes, and extra book talk,  join our Classics Club: patreon.com/novelpairings.com.

Connect with us  on Instagram or Twitter. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get updates and behind-the-scenes info.

Get two audiobooks for the price of one from Libro.fm. Use our Libro.fm affiliate code NOVELPAIRINGS and support independent bookstores.

Books mentioned:

Thank you for supporting the show by shopping our affiliate links! 

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Amazon)

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (Amazon)

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich (Amazon)

The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich (Amazon)

East of Eden by John Steinbeck (Amazon)

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh (Amazon)

Middlemarch by George Eliot (Amazon)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez (Amazon)

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough (Amazon)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (Amazon)

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison (Amazon)

Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Haley (Amazon)

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley (Amazon)

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (Amazon)

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon (Amazon)

A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza (Amazon)

The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers (Amazon)

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee (Amazon)

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (Amazon)

66. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende Part Two

Today Chelsey and Sara discuss the second half of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, Chapters 7 through 14. In this episode, we cover new characters, prominent themes, and final thoughts on spending so much time with the Trueba family, plus our contemporary pairings! We’ve paired Allende’s masterpiece with novels of magical realism from all over the world, and we can’t wait to hear your recommendations for further reading. 

Click here to listen to this episode in your web browser.

For more bonus episodes, nerdy classes, and extra book talk,  join our Classics Club: patreon.com/novelpairings.com.

Connect with us  on Instagram or Twitter. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get updates and behind-the-scenes info.

Get two audiobooks for the price of one from Libro.fm. Use our Libro.fm affiliate code NOVELPAIRINGS and support independent bookstores.

Skip to this timestamp for our pairings: [41:55]

Books mentioned:

Thank you for shopping our affiliate links!

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende (Amazon)

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (Amazon)

The Poetry of Pablo Neruda (Amazon)

Chelsey

Sara

Pick of the week:

Chelsey: “Everyone called me crazy for getting divorced in my 70s

Sara: Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir on PBS

65. Classic novels to read with your book club and tips for getting more out of book club discussions

Today, Chelsey and Sara discuss: when it comes to the classics,  what makes a great book club pick? They also share a handful of highly discussable classics, plus their top tips for better book club  discussions. Tell us which classics your book club loved (or loathed) on Instagram.

For more bonus episodes, nerdy classes, and extra book talk,  join our Classics Club: patreon.com/novelpairings.com.

Connect with us  on Instagram or Twitter. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get updates and behind-the-scenes info.

Get two audiobooks for the price of one from Libro.fm. Use our Libro.fm affiliate code NOVELPAIRINGS and support independent bookstores.

Books mentioned: 

Thank you for shopping our affiliate links and supporting the podcast!

Passing by Nella Larsen (Amazon) // Episode 16

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Amazon) // Episode 26

The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan (Amazon) // Episode 10

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (Amazon

Myths and Retellings // Episode 18

Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann (Amazon)

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (Amazon) // Episode 33.5

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (Amazon) // Episode 20

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton (Amazon)

Also mentioned:

Literary Theory & Critical Lenses

Episode 5: Feminist Theory

64. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende Part One

Today Chelsey and Sara discuss the first half of The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende, Chapters 1 through 6. There’s so much to discuss in this jam-packed, sweeping family novel. In this episode, we cover initial impressions and approaches to the book, Allende’s style, and key characters. We’ll share contemporary pairings in Part Two on June 22nd! 

To listen to the episode right here in your web browser, click here.

For more bonus episodes, nerdy classes, and extra book talk,  join our Classics Club: patreon.com/novelpairings.com.

Connect with us  on Instagram or Twitter. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get updates and behind-the-scenes info.

Get two audiobooks for the price of one from Libro.fm. Use our Libro.fm affiliate code NOVELPAIRINGS and support independent bookstores.

Pick of the week:

Chelsey: Research the slave trade in Chile and Indigenous Chileans for even more historical context 

Sara: Magical Realism: Embracing the Absurdity of Latin America | Andrés Hermida

63. Brand new summer books and backlist pairings to topple your TBR

We’re kicking off the summer reading season with a TBR toppler full of highly anticipated summer releases and backlist pairings! This episode is full of books we haven’t read and our best guesses at which books might be readalikes or thematic pairings. With buzzy books and under-the-radar releases from every genre, you’re sure to find at least one book (or maybe ten) for your summer To Be Read list. We can’t wait to hear which books you put on hold at the library or pick up from your local bookstore!

For bonus episodes, nerdy classes, and extra book talk,  join our Classics Club: patreon.com/novelpairings.com.

Connect with us on Instagram or Twitter. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get updates and behind-the-scenes info.

Get two audiobooks for the price of one from Libro.fm. Use our Libro.fm affiliate code NOVELPAIRINGS and support independent bookstores.

Books mentioned (affiliate links):

June:

Malibu Rising by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Amazon) – 5:35 
The Most Fun We Ever Had by Claire Lombardo (Amazon)

The Other Black Girl by Zakiya Dalila Harris (Amazon) – 8:25 
When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole (Amazon)

Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia – 11:26 (Amazon)
Loyalty Bookstore
The Diviners by Libba Bray (Amazon)
The Girls of Murder City by Douglas Perry (Amazon)

Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford (Amazon) – 15:15
This is My America by Kim Johnson (Amazon)
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (Amazon)

Walking on Cowrie Shells by Nana Nkweti (Amazon) – 19:00
How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin (Amazon)
The Heads of the Colored People by Nafissa Thompson-Spires (Amazon)

Grown Ups by Marie Aubert – 21:45
Emma Straub — try All Adults Here (Amazon

The Natural Mother of the Child: A Memoir of Nonbinary Parenthood by Krys Malcolm Belc (Amazon) – 25:05
Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters (Amazon)

Filthy Animals by Brandon Taylor (Amazon) – 27:40
Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo Anstine (Amazon)
Lot by Bryan Washington (Amazon)

God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney (Amazon) – 31:24
The Book of Essie by Meghan MacLean Weir (Amazon)

July:

Shoulder Season by Christina Clancy (Amazon) – 35:43
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert (Amazon)
Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures by Emma Straub (Amazon)

We Have Always Been Here by Lena Nguyen (Amazon) 39:38
For All Mankind on Apple TV
All Systems Red by Martha Wells (Amazon)
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Amazon)

The Startup Wife by Tahmima Anam (Amazon) – 43:08
The Circle by Dave Eggers (Amazon)
The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood (Amazon)

August:

All’s Well by Mona Awad (Amazon) – 47:00
If We Were Villains by M. Rios (Amazon)

The Turnout by Megan Abbott (Amazon) – 50:00
Turning Pointe: How a New Generation of Dancers is Saving Ballet from Itself  by Chloe Angyl (Amazon)

In The Country of Others by Leila Slimani (Amazon) – 54:50
The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani (Amazon)
Tangerine by Christine Mangan (Amazon)
This Lovely City by Louise Hare (Amazon)

The King of Infinite Space by Lyndsay Faye (Amazon) – 57:17
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell (Amazon)
The Dead Fathers Club by Matt Haig (Amazon)
Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye (Amazon)

The Guide by Peter Heller (Amazon) – 60:01
The River by Peter Heller (Amazon)
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke (Amazon)

62. Quarterly Favorites: page-turning reads and reflections on Spring 2021

Every quarter, we stop to reflect on our reading lives and share a few of our favorite reads. Today, we’re looking back at books from our spring reading season, from palate-cleansing pageturners to nuanced nonfiction. We’d love to hear what you read this spring! Let us know at @novelpairingspod on Instagram

Listen to the episode in your favorite podcast app or with this link.

For bonus episodes, nerdy classes, and extra book talk,  join our Classics Club: patreon.com/novelpairings.com.

Connect with us on Instagram or Twitter. Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get updates and behind-the-scenes info.

Get two audiobooks for the price of one from Libro.fm. Use our Libro.fm affiliate code NOVELPAIRINGS and support independent bookstores.

Books mentioned (affiliate links):

The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan (Amazon)  – 5:00

The Rose Code by Kate Quinn (Amazon)  – 8:38 

What Kind of Woman by Kate Baer (Amazon)  – 14:30

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel (Amazon)  – 15:09

The Final Revival of Opal and Nev by Dawnie Walton (Amazon)  – 18:25

Craft in the Real World by Matthew Salasses (Amazon)  – 22:10 

Good Company by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney (Amazon)  – 27:10

Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann (Amazon)  – 30:45

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (Amazon)  – 34:00

Disfigured on Fairy Tales, Disability, and Making Space by Amanda Leduc (Amazon)  – 36:00

The Good Sister by Sally Hepworth (Amazon)  – 39:55

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Amazon) – 44:50

Summer lineup – 49:22