Apr 03

 Today’s topics include parents footing the bill for self-publishing, fiction making us want to learn more, and two books we can’t wait for you to read: I am an Executioner, a short story collection from Rajesh Parameswarn, and a “big idea” book, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhig.

kid with book

In segment one, we analyze this front page article from The New York Times, about parents who pay to have their children’s books self-published. It’s not a completely black and white issue, but Michael and I definitely have our opinions.

Fiction into Non- (7:13)

As you all know, I loved Adam Johnson’s The Orphan Master’s Son, and it made me incredibly intrigued about North Korea. This obsession caused me to buy Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden, about a man who was born in a North Korean labor camp and managed to escape to South Korea. I love when fiction makes me want to learn more about a specific topic. The Mists of Avalon by Marian Zimmer Bradley led me down a path of Arthurian literature, both legend and criticism. Michael felt this with The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen, which made him want to pick up Flu by Gina Kolata.  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer made him Google about Guernsey. Nonfiction can have this effect, too, as in Blind Descent by James Tabor, or The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.

Is it this curiosity that makes the difference between avid readers and those who don’t read much for pleasure?

Whatever it is, I am planning on soon learning more about Joan of Arc, inspired by The Maid by Kimberly Cutter, a novel of Joan of Arc, and The Maid and the Queen by Nancy Goldstone, a nonfiction account of Joan of Arc and Yolande of Aragon, Queen of Sicily.

Tell us your experience: has there been a novel (or work of nonfiction) that has caused you to want to learn more about a particular topic?

Two books we can’t wait for you to read: (17:43)


I am an Executioner   Power of Habit

I am an Executioner by Rajesh Parmeswaran, is a book that I always describe as “a book where the writing makes my brain tingle.” It’s a very dark collection of stories that are simply brilliant. One story is told from the perspective of a tiger in a zoo who is in love with his zookeeper. My favorite story is the title story, mainly because of how Parameswaran plays with language. I can’t really compare the collection to other story collections, but I love it as much as Aimee Bender’s The Girl int he Flammable Skirt or Karen Russell’s St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves.

Michael tells us about The Power of Habit by Charles Duhig, which he is listening to on audio. It’s a “big idea” book, like Quiet, or The Tipping Point, or Made to Stick. It explains how we form habits, how habits are perpetuated, and how to change habits.



[image credit: LicenseAttributionNoncommercial Some rights reserved by arsen.guschin, via flickr creative commons]

  • Jill Green

    I read “My Enemy the Queen” by Victoria Holt as a teen and that led me down the slipperly slope to becoming the Tudoraholic that I am today.  My husband thinks I am crazy because I am always running to the internet to view images and info about people and places in the books that I am reading. 

  • As the Crowe Flies and Reads

    Ann, I think we need to talk about I Am an Executioner some time.  Perhaps you need to a little educational session on it for me!

  • Karen

    Fiction into Non- I read A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry a few years ago and that changed my life! I’m obessed with reading about India. I immediately read Maximum City -Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta.

  • Anonymous

    It happens almost EVERY time I read fiction; I want to learn more about the subject matter.  Reading Ford’s Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, I wanted to learn more about restrictions on Japanese-Americans; reading McHenry’s The Kitchen Daughter, I wanted to learn more about autism spectrum disorder; reading Van Niekerk’s Agaat, I wanted to learn more about apartheid during that period in South Africa; reading Kundera’s The Impossible Lightness of Being, I wanted to learn more about the Velvet Revolution in Eastern Europe. 

    Reading fiction is one of the best ways of digging deeper into your world, learning history, science and more, particularly for someone who’s days of formal schooling are over.

    • Elizabeth Abraham

       Could not have put it better. I find that every great fiction read leads to a huge stack of non-fiction books added to my TBR list.

  • SEY

    Gave Aheb’s Wife by Sara Jeter Nasland to a friend which led to Nathanial Philbrick’s non-fiction account of the Whale Ship Essex and then of course to Moby Dick. How’s that for a circle back, Ahab’s Wife is a novel (one of my all time favorites) with only a small reference to the classic but she had to go back to the source.
    Last week my daughter came home to raid my book shelves, she’s only been out of college a few months but the girl wanted to really READ again!
    Warms a mothers heart. Reading = lifelong learning, its the only way to go deep.

  • Juliette

    “The Eight” by Katherine Neville led me to all sorts of reading about Algeria including Algerian authors and information about the sahara. Cara Black’s Aimee Leduc mysteries was the motivational tool that got me to go to uncharted areas of Paris — alone. Just a start..I am a serial reader/explorer.

  • Pattysnyder26

    Who cares if the kids can enjoy the self-published books? It’s fun for them and those who support them. In fact, a traditional publishing house may read the results and decide to publish them. People have been using self-publishing resources for decades. The traditional publishing houses are bound by what makes money; they don’t publish just because. Traditional publishing is in trouble and may have to create and embrace new ways of surviving.

  • Pattysnyder26

    Who cares if the kids can enjoy the self-published books? It’s fun for them and those who support them. In fact, a traditional publishing house may read the results and decide to publish them. People have been using self-publishing resources for decades. The traditional publishing houses are bound by what makes money; they don’t publish just because. Traditional publishing is in trouble and may have to create and embrace new ways of surviving.

  • Karen Ferrero

    A couple of the fiction titles that caused me to want to learn more:  Snow Flower and the Secret Fan – I had to find out more about the secret writings and foot binding.  Also, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet – I wanted to learn more about the internment.  Finally, Molokai – I didn’t know much about leprosy and this colony on Hawaii.  This book gripped me and I immediately starting researching for more information!  Between Shades of Gray also made me want to learn more about the genocide in the Baltic region, which I knew little about. Great topic, Ann and Michael, thanks!

  • I read these series of books called the Ringing Cedars series about a girl who has lived in the forest all her life. Beautiful and AMAZING books! Started me on this whole journey to learning more about permaculture and inner peace. 🙂

  • Anonymous

    Fiction has always been my gateway drug to non-fiction reading adventures. Two authors that have always inspired me to learn more after reading their novels are Michael Crichton and Laurie R. King. Crichton takes science and social issues and offers a philosophical and fictional journey into a world where they merge. Jurassic Park, therefore, inspired me to learn about chaos theory. Airframe enlightened me about so-called “experts” who make a living getting interviewed by news magazines. Laurie R. King’s novels about Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes, meanwhile, take me on another kind of journey — world travel and time travel. I can learn about the effect of World War I on families, estates, and culture in the UK as the protagonists in her stories show us Nepal, India, Africa, Scotland, and San Francisco. With both of these authors, I am driven to find more material on the places and themes that are important to the novel. Great topic and happy reading!

  • Mostamazingplace

     It is heartbreaking to see a friend in a destructive relationship.
    And infuriating to see them make a move away from their significant
    other and then boomerang right back. (Also embarrassing, because god
    knows your response to the news of their breakup was something like
    “Glory hallelujah” and you know they think of that every time you ask
    how things with Ted are going.) You, as an outside observer, as a person
    who loves your friend, can see their charms, their assets, their deep
    lovability. But when you tell them “You could do so much better” you
    might as well be addressing a wheel of cheese.                                    http://mostamazingplace.blogspot.com

  • Anonymous

    Fiction has led me to non fiction a couple of times. The time that stands out the most for me is when I read the book A WEDDING IN DECEMBER by Anita Shreve. The book itself wasn’t very good but one of the characters was writing a book about the Halifax disaster. New Englanders may be interested in this topic because it is the reason that Boston is given their Christmas Tree every year. The book mention in the work of fiction wasn’t real but i did find the book THE CURSE OF THE NARROWS THE HALIFAX DISASTER OF1917 by Laura M.MacDonald. This book tells an amazing piece of narative non-fiction. An explosion in the harbor leads to widespread blindness because of the windows. A great book for anyone!

  • Lnasemoonspinner

    Katherine Howe second novel just released yesterday The House of Velvet and Glass had me looking at the sinking of the Titanic in a different way. In the opening of this book the focus a mother and daughter headed home after a tour in Europe. From there the book reflects what was happening in Boston and the changes in the  surviving family members. This book has lead me to think and research more about the 1912-1915. It’s a good read.   

  • Krystle

    I heard “When the Empire was Divine” in high school. I was already a WWII buff but this book made me want to learn more about the homefront during this time and more so what was it like living on the West Coast in California (where I was born and raisied) not only for the Japanese Americans but all minorities

  • Paula Eeds

    Finally got to listen to this episode and really enjoyed it.  My obsession started with Africa and moved along to female pilots! 

    Watched & then read Out of Africa.  I then went and read all about Isak Dinesan (books) and Denys Fitch Haddon (bio).  Which then got me to read my all time favorite book “West with the Night” about Beryl Markham and then I read bios about her!

    After I exhausted what I could read about these people in history, I landed upon Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  I have started (but not finished) reading Anne’s diaries, her books and I also read a bio on Charles Lindbergh.

    My fascination with Africa continues with my reading of the “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” series that takes place in Botswana! 

    Thanks for letting me share!

  • Pingback: Currently Reading #1 – STELLA-SCULLY()

preload preload preload