Readers, we added a last-minute introduction to today’s podcast about what we do and why we do it, especially in light of the current anguish we’re experiencing in the United States following the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and subsequent needed protests. We hope you’ll listen.

Today’s guest Elyssa Gould is an academic librarian and “recovering English major,” whose goal is to get caught up on her own backlist while she’s separated from her natural habitat, the library. And you know me, when I hear “English major” my ears perk up. Today we’re shuffling around Elyssa’s 100 or so unread books into a few smaller stacks, for a self-styled literature curriculum that should keep her busy at home for as long as necessary. 

I hope that sounds delightful, not daunting, because in my book, book flights are a ton of fun. Let’s get to it! 

Let’s get to it! 

“I’m trained to be beholden to that three week deadline, and the penalty of having
the book taken away from me if I’m not finished. It helps me read faster!
But then when there’s suddenly no penalty…”

You can admire Elyssa’s handcrafts at


Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links. More details here.

The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
Paris In Love by Eloisa James
Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Paris Hours by Alex George
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas Pere
Dream More: Celebrate the Dreamer in You by Dolly Parton
Felicity by Mary Oliver
The Next Right Thing: A Simple, Soulful Practice for Making Life Decisions by Emily Freeman
Writers & Lovers by Lily King
Blood Bones and Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton 
Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef’s Journey to Discover America’s New Melting-Pot Cuisine by Edward Lee 
 ● Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner
The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
● Author Flannery O’Connor (try this collection)
● Author Sylvia Plath (try her Collected Poems)
● Author Sue Monk Kidd (try The Book of Longings)
● Author Barbara Kingsolver (try Unsheltered)
● Author Lisa Ko (try The Leavers)
● Author Anne Lamott (try Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)
The Complete Stories of Flannery O’Connor
● Author Eudora Welty (try The Collected Works)
Florida by Lauren Groff
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Also mentioned:

Pantsuit Politics podcast
WSIRN Ep 43: Fiction FOMO and curing Hamilton hangover, with Sarah Stewart Holland
@TheUnreadShelf on Instagram
WSIRN Ep 158: The life-changing magic of clearing your unread shelf with Whitney Conard
WSIRN Ep 178: The Next Right Thing for your reading life, with Emily Freeman
Reading is better when it’s done wine tasting style
WSIRN Ep 7: Books that uplift and inspire, the books that “hook” you, and filling the Brown Girls’ Bookshelf, with Osheta Moore
WSIRN Ep 186: Finding the book that feels like it was written just for you, with Lamar Giles
WSIRN Ep 162: The best bad ending you’ll ever read, with Traci Thomas

Thanks to this week’s sponsors:

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What do YOU think Elyssa should read next? And have you ever built a book flight from your own shelves? Tell us about it in the comments!

  1. Nancy Andrews 2 years ago

    Love this podcast. I would recommend Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr that I heard about on this podcast. I loved it, and it jumped up to one of my top twenty books of all time.

    • Sara 2 years ago

      Yes, I absolutely love that book! One of my favorite memoirs (along with Save Me the Plums, actually).

  2. Emily Murphy 2 years ago

    The book on the Vanderbilts wasn’t listed. Was the title A Well-Behaved Woman? You might also like A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table which has been mentioned on WSIRN before, of course. She’s in Paris in this memoir.

  3. Kendra Browning 2 years ago

    What is the name of the book and author that Anne mentioned that was about a woman riding out a hurricane? I looked in the show notes and couldn’t find it. Is it maybe in one of the short story collections? Thank you!

    • DJ 2 years ago

      It’s one of the stories in Florida, by Lauren Groff.

  4. Kate 2 years ago

    Sounds like you might have “Delicious” by Ruth Reichl on your shelf – that’s a great story that includes magazine publishing, a mystery involving James Beard, and all the great foodie haunts in NYC. I’ve read it twice! Also try “On Rue Tatin” by Susan Herrmann Loomis, who moved to France with her family to start a cooking school.

  5. Shea 2 years ago

    I love your “Book Flight” recommendations! Especially the food one 🙂 I also studied abroad in Paris (for a short time) so I am curious to check out The Paris Hours! (I’m a recovering French major… who can no longer speak French, ha!)

  6. Debora 2 years ago

    Anne, thank you for your opening statement on this episode. I appreciate your candor and sensitivity to what is happening in your city and our country.

  7. Jennsev 2 years ago

    A wonderful food/Paris memoir is Mastering the Art of French Eating; Lessons in Food and Love from a Year in Paris by Ann Mah. It is delightful, and ticks many boxes on Elyssa’s favorites list!

    • Jennsev 2 years ago

      And also 2 by David Leibovitz -Drinking French and The Sweet Life in Paris.

  8. Sara 2 years ago

    Anne, I agree with Deborah-thank you so much for your words at the beginning of the episode. Very well said. I’m also a “recovering” English major (jealous Elyssa went the librarian route) and loved this episode so much – a bright spot after a dark weekend. I was ecstatic to hear you recommend my absolute favorite book: Their Eyes Were Watching God. It is the only book I re-read, and sometimes I just open it at random to enjoy the language & imagery. Hope Elyssa enjoys it!

  9. Dee 2 years ago

    I, too, am a recovering English major with an automatic “must have” gut reaction for books about and set in Paris and France. I do have to disagree about “Paris in Love” by Eloisa James. I loved it! I liked experiencing what it would be like to pick up and live in Paris for a year. Lest you think that I have a blind eye when it comes to Paris-set books, I didn’t feel the same way about “Almost French” and “A Garden in Paris.”

    Enjoyed the episode. I have also been drawing from my hard copy TBR as well!

  10. Nina 2 years ago

    Anne- Thank you for The beautiful way you addressed the current crisis in our nation regarding race and injustice. We’ve all heard a lot over the last few weeks but your comments were honest compassionate and empowering. We really appreciate you!

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