Dec 01

The Holiday Gift Guide is here! We discuss a sort-of genre of books that we can’t quite put a name to. Plus, we recommend The Grownup by Gillian Flynn and Gratitude by Oliver Sacks.


Download the Books on the Nightstand 2015 Holiday Gift Guide!
This year, sharing the Gift Guide on social media could win you free signed books! Every time you share the guide on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, linking to this page and using the hashtag #BOTNS2015GG, you’ll be entered to win a complete set of our Booktopia Petoskey 2015 authors’ most recent books, signed by the authors! Runners-up will receive one signed book. Don’t forget that using the #GiveaBook means that Penguin Random House will donate a book to a child in need, so throw that hashtag on your post/tweet as well! We’ll randomly choose winners just after Christmas, and mail out the books in early January. Good luck and Happy Holidays!


audiobooksAudiobook of the week (03:24)

Hexed, Kevin Hearne  Hammered, Kevin Hearne

Hexed and Hammered by Kevin Hearne, narrated by Luke Daniels, are my picks for this week’s Audiobook(s) of the Week.

Special thanks to for sponsoring this episode of Books on the Nightstand. allows you to listen to over 60,000 audiobooks, instantly, wherever you are, and the first one is free. Download or stream any book directly to your Apple or Android device. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and free audiobook download by going to


What Do We Call This? (06:14)

After reading What Comes Next and How to Like It by Abigail Thomas, a listener wrote in asking if, like young adult, there should be a category for older adults. We discuss what that category could include, what it should be called (we have no idea), and will categorizing books that way limit their audience?


Two Books We Can’t Wait For You to Read (23:36)

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The Grownup by Gillian Flynn, is a short story newly released in a special small hardcover. The story follows an unnamed narrator who, in her scam job as a medium, is called in to investigate the evil that’s pervading a family. But is that evil coming from the old Gothic house they recently moved to, or is it coming from the sullen teenage son full of anger and threats? In true Gillian Flynn fashion, you will be kept guessing!

Gratitude by Oliver Sacks, is a beautiful hardcover containing the four essays written for The New York Times by Dr. Sacks in the two years leading up to his death. These powerful and moving essays are filled with universal truths and should be read and re-read by everyone.

  • Marion Healey

    I work at a public library that subscribes to the NoveList Plus database. NoveList is a great resource for author and title read-alikes as well as a wonderful search tool for refining subject categories. I was able to find a list of 211 titles under the subject of “middle-aged women” (ugh, that sounds terrible, but I don’t know why), and discovered that there are other subject headings for “Forties (Age)” and “Fifties (Age). You can also choose whether you would like to read about a character who is flawed, introspective, spirited, sassy, or many other descriptors. I would imagine that many public libraries subscribe to NoveList and that it may be underutilized other than by library staff. I’ve attached a screenshot showing some of the different search filters within this topic that hopefully isn’t too small to see!

    • Judy Plum

      I just discovered Novelist on my library website. It is awesome!
      I would also encourage readers to use it to find new books.

  • Karen Hecht Brown

    I would add “Florence Gordon” by Brian Morton to the list of books that would appeal to readers of a certain age. Florence, New Yorker, author, and feminist icon, is working on her memoir and dealing with family members who recently relocated to NYC. I really enjoyed reading this book and was surprised that it did not receive more attention.

  • Nicole Introvert

    The Listopia feature on Goodreads may be of use for books about older adults. One quick search brought this up for me:

  • Judy Plum

    Dear Michael and Anne,
    I am thrilled that you used my question as a podcast topic. I love that rather than having a set answer, the question prompted sincere thought and discussion. I agree that categories can be limiting — some of my favorite books are considered “young adult,” “fantasy,” or “western” even though I am older, a realist, and have no wish to be a cowboy. If I didn’t deliberately go into those sections of my bookstore or library, I wouldn’t find those wonderful books. I do like the idea of tagging, though. It’s not that certain books are only for certain categories of readers, but rather that the ideas and themes within these books have special resonance with particular readers. I have two additional suggestions for the list: “Being Mortal” by Atul Gawande and “The Uncommon Reader” by Alan Bennett. Still looking for a category or tag name for the list. What do we call this?

  • Terri Torrez

    Haven’t listened to this episode yet but I just have to say I started reading the Iron Druid series after Michael recommended it. It was right around the time we moved and my commute got much longer so I decided to listen on audiobook — and I love these audiobooks. They’re just so fun.

  • Jenifer Pullman

    Michael and Ann; As I just finished up reading the marvelous second book in the Flavia de Luce series; “The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag”, by Alan Bradley, I found myself wondering if you two had ever talked about this excellent series on the podcast. As I sat there reading the acknowledgements (yes, I always do), there you were! Thanked! Acknowledged! I was so glad that we are all in this together! I knew you’d love it!

  • Carol Kubala

    I truly love Novelist. It is a wonderful Readers’ Advisory Service but it is a fee based product and not all libraries can or do subscribe. An alternative would be Reader’s Advisor Online which which is free to use and which will provide read-alikes as well as the ability to refine genre, subject, etc. You can narrow down your search and hopefully come up with something that fits your needs. I started by doing a Genres, Subgenre, Appeals Search on Life Stories and then narrowed down by topic/theme of aging and then chose I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron. I could have continued to narrow my search. Reader’s Advisor Online is not quite as intuitive as Novelist but has a vast amount of information that can be manipulated. Play around with and see.

  • Carol Kubala

    I really enjoyed listening to this podcast and the discussion about What Do You Call This?. I couldn’t come up with anything catchy and am not certain there is anything that would all encompass this group. Elderly, Senior, Middle-aged, etc., none seem to quite do it as these terms mean different things to different people. I think the emailer was in her 50’s and I’m 67. I love my senior perks but really don’t feel elderly though have seen people my age referred to as such. I think subject, genre, topic, theme, read-alikes, tagging and the like better serve finding more books that will fit our needs. I do think giving an age range a title will limit the audience though can be useful for young adult and juvenile lit. I thought it was interesting that Ann immediately suggested memoir and Michael came up with fiction. Searching any of the suggested titles a database like Novelist or Reader’s Advisory Online or tagged based catalogs like Library Thing or most library catalogs will help you find other titles in the same subject area. For instance searching for Our Souls at Night in my library’s catalog offered these genres and topics

    Fiction; Domestic; Family; Literary;
    Widows; Widowers; Loneliness; Relationships; Family conflicts; Grandsons; Small town life;
    that could possibly be used to further my choices.
    And while we’re speaking about libraries don’t forget that most libraries have staff that are willing and able to help you find that next read or a list of possibilities.

  • A Davis

    I’m middle aged myself, so I would think I would gravitate towards protagonists with some years under their belt. Did a quick calculation after your podcast, and of the 25 books I’ve read in 2015, 56% involved young protagonists, 36% had middle aged lead characters (I loosely defined middle age as greater than 40, or by having middle age experiences, such as having older kids, ill or advanced age parents, job problems or layoffs, etc.), and 12% had both young and middle aged main characters. Interesting…
    I’d like to recommend Anne Tyler. As she has matured, so has the ages of her main characters. Her books are wonderful.

  • Readers looking for books about middle-aged women with aging parents might enjoy:
    They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson
    Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant by Roz Chast
    Special Exits by Joyce Farmer
    Incontinent on the Continent by Jane Christmas

  • Clarissa

    Two of my favorite writers are in the what do we call this… Virginia Woolf – Mrs. Dallaway, and I believe To the Lighthouse, and Grace Paley – her third collection of stories and all her stories after the third collection.

  • Jan Moorehouse

    Just a quick note–I have a long-time friend who, post-retirement, began writing what she calls Middle-Age Fiction. She even started a blog with that title. I was happy to send her the obvious choices to read and review on her blog. The blog is currently not on-line, but she also has a blog titled “Any Shiny Thing” that I enjoy reading because it’s about life after 50. Just wanted to share this info even though you are both, undoubtedly, not yet 50!

  • KilianMetcalf

    As the boomers move into their 60s, the demand for books in the category will grow. I agree it needs a name. I suggest ‘books for grown ups’ as a label. I would have suggested ‘adult fiction’ had it not been for an experience I had. I remember seeing a trailer for a movie that advised that it contained adult themes. I said to my companion, ‘I wonder if that means we’re going to see people making difficult ethical decisions, struggling to decide how to allocate limited resources, and cope with the changes that aging brings?’ ‘No,’ she said, ‘I think it means that there will be sex.’ ‘Oh, is that what Hollywood thinks being an adult means?’ ‘Apparently so.’ ‘Well, maybe they will change their minds once they grow up.’ If you read this, you have my permission to use my name.

    • Judy Plum

      I think “Books for Grown Ups” is both an apt and positive title for this genre. Well done!

  • Andrea

    Enjoy your show. I’ve been away for a while but am just getting back into my favorite podcasts, this being one of them. How about a genre called “Reflective Lit” which implies that one has lived life long enough to reflect on earlier times with some degree of wisdom? These are a few books that fall into the category that I’ve read: Olive Kitteridge, Elegance of the Hedgehog, One Hundred Names for Love, Gift of the Sea, Brother Cadfael mysteries, Gilead, Landscape of Farewell by Alex Miller, Secret Scripture, and Sense of an Ending. Great show!

  • Kristin

    I’m behind on my listening but just off the top of my head, I’d recommend:

    Philip Roth, Everyman, American Pastoral; Human Stain; Exit Ghost; many more.

    Siri Hustvedt, The Sorrows of An American; her latest one (I forget the title)

    Paul Auster, any from last 15 years or so

    John Updike, Rabbit at Rest

    Jane Gardam, Old Filth

    Tolstoy, Death of Ivan Illich

    Marilynne Robinson, Gilead

    Sebastian Barry, On Canaan’s Side

    Hilma Wolitzer, An Available Man

    William Maxwell stories

    Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

    Ivan Turgenev, First Love (okay, told in flashback, so more an older person looking back to his youth but it is such a perfect book I had to include it).

    Eluzabeth Taylor (the British author), Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont

    Susan Isaacs’ novels

    WG Sebald, Austerlitz

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