Mar 22

A new podcast; an audiobook narrated by the creator of Hamilton, and questions from the mailbag.


This week Michael tells us about a new podcast, This is the Author, published by the audiobooks division of Penguin Random House. It features short conversations with authors who are in the studio narrating their audiobooks. During the course of that discussion, we also talk about In Other Words, the new book by Jhumpa Lahiri which she narrates in both English and Italian.

audiobooksAudiobook of the week (05:43)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjamin Alire Saenz and read by Lin-Manuel Miranda is my pick for this week’s Audiobook 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

More from the virtual mailbag (11:14)

This week we answer (or try to answer) several listener questions:

Jen from Boston asks:

“My kids and I often listen to the barefoot books podcasts which are essentially folk and fairy tales. Are there any “adult” version of this? Like a podcast that is a short stories being read out loud? I am looking for like 10-15 minute story rather than an entire audiobook. Thanks so much!”

Some ideas for Jen:

Mary from Byfield writes:

I am a retired librarian from a private school in MA. One of my former students contacted me recently and asked for book recommendation for her advanced 9 yr old reader(female).This child wants to read adult books. I listen to your Podcasts and wonder if you have ever considered doing a show on adult books for young readers. Or if you and Michael have any personal recommendations for this query. Thanks for any help…a loyal listener and a die hard reader. Ann…thought you’d like to know the next book to be read on my nightstand is A Little Life…

We were a little stumped on this one, so we’re looking to our listeners for ideas. A few thoughts we had:

  • Michael immediately thought of Uprooted by Namoi Novik
  • I think this is a great time to introduce classics, because kids of this age aren’t yet intimidated by classics. In our house, we started with reading aloud Oliver Twist and Great Expectations, and then my daughter moved on to books that interested her, like Les Miserables, after she had seen the movie.
  • Have your friend take her daughter into a library or bookstore and let the experts work with the child to figure out what she might like.


spancho asks:

Is there a single resource for keeping abreast of author lectures and signings? I’d like to hear Hanya Yanagihara but she doesn’t seem to have a website… I’m so pleased with the 2016 TOB authors and I’d like to hear from as many of them as possible!

We don’t know of one, though that’s a great idea! We recommend that you go to Library Thing and click the “Local” tag (free membership required). That should give you a list of author events near you. Other options are to subscribe to newsletters from bookstores and libraries near you, and to check out author festivals. You may have luck with a particular author by looking at the publisher’s website to see if a tour is listed.

Pat8 inquires:

I’m trying to remember where I heard recommendations for novels that revolve around book sellers/bookstores. Len at The Kindle Chronicles thought he’d heard something like this several years ago as well. I’ve asked over on the Goodreads group as well. Do you remember a list of recommendations like this from a podcast of yours?

In BOTNS #138, we talked about Books About Books, including The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai, which is about a children’s librarian, and 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff.

Goodreads has a list of Books about Bookstores, including Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, The Storied Life of AJ Fikry.

Other titles discussed:

Two books we can’t for you to read (31:06)



Michael recommends The Paper Menagerie and Other Stories by Ken Liu, which is a wonderful collection of short stories. The title story is about a young man and his mother who makes origami animals. Please do check out this collection; Ken Liu is a brilliant writer who transcends genre.

I fell in love with The Year of the Runaways by Sunjeev Sahota, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize this past year but will be published in the US on March 29th. It’s the story of 3 young men who immigrate illegally from India to England, and what they go through in order to make a better life for themselves and their families.


  • Book Riot just published a list of “47+ Books About Libraries” that may have some additional options for Pat8:

  • For Mary, I immediately thought of YALSA’s Alex Award. The description specifically states it is awarded to “books written for adults that have special appeal to young adults, ages 12 through 18” — so a little older than the child in the question, but maybe a good jumping off point. I like to follow this list myself as an adult reader since I read both YA and adult books and appreciate finding titles that crossover.

  • Leslie

    One of my favorite books about bookstores is nonfiction, Bookstore: The Life and Times of Jeannette Watson and Books & Co.

  • CIMHsv

    For Mary from Byfield: There are so many wonderfully rich YA books, why rush this 9-yr-old into the adult realm? I would recommend The Giver quintet, A Wrinkle In Time quartet, The Maze Runner series, Nancy Drew series, and such. The rub here is, even though she is an advanced reader, she is a child and may not have the emotional ability to fully understand and process more advanced sexual and emotional themes like those found in Perks of Being a Wallflower or the violence of The Hunger Games series, that an older tween would be able to. Books shape and form the reader and I think more care needs to be taken here than simply coming up with a list of “adult books readable by a child.”

  • CIMHsv

    By the way, The Paper Menagerie Kindle edition is on sale at Amazon for $8. Thanks for the recommendation, Michael!

  • tcheer4life

    For Mary from Byfield, The Harry Potter series, the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, The Lost Years of Merlin by T. A. Barron. I don’t know why so much is fantasy, but I loved them while I read them to my son – and we read at bed until he was in Junior Hi!

  • colibri19

    I’ve heard of Aristotle and Dante before but kinda had no clue what that story could be about. Sounds really good. And Saenz is pronounced like signs by the way. 🙂

  • Stephanie

    For Jen I recommend the Myths and Legends podcast. The host was an English major who reads and comments on stories from all over the world, like the original “Aladdin” and adventures from characters in Arthurian legends. Each episode is about a half hour long, so he often breaks up the longer stories into multiple episodes.

  • Charlotte

    Pat8, The Moment of Everything by Shelly King takes place in a bookshop, and actually goes into the whole indie versus chain bookstore struggle.

  • Bess

    For Jen I recommend “Morning Short: Your Daily Dose of Fiction”. Podcasts run anywhere from 8 to 30 minutes. There’s also a new serial, “Alice Isn’t Dead” from the creators of “Welcome to Night Vale”

  • Abi

    For Mary, I would definitely agree with Anne’s suggestion of reading classics. I was a fairly advanced reader and started reading Dickens, Austen and Bronte when I was around 9 years old. This was in the late 90s, when Northern Lights had just come out, and I remember reading that in a couple of days and then racing through everything else I could find by Philip Pullman – and I would recommend the whole Dark Materials trilogy. I also read a lot by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, with no real thought as to whether these were books written for ‘adults’ or ‘children’.

    I’m not a parent, and my parents are very liberal and were always happy for me to just read whatever I wanted to pick up from the library, so I don’t really feel that I can comment on what is or isn’t ‘appropriate’ content for a 9 year old, but understand this can be a concern. If there are worries about the themes in adult/YA fiction, why not look at non-fiction? I was very into animals, and remember reading pretty much everything in the ‘animal’ section of my local library – whether that was ‘How to care for your puppy’ or an encyclopedia of big cats. Some non-fiction can be fairly heavy going, even for an adult, but there seems to have been an explosion of pop-science/history books in recent years which may also be accessible for advanced younger readers.

  • Deborah Ader

    For books about bookstores – The Cemetery of Forgotten Books Series is focused on a bookstore in the second book – not sure about the rest yet

  • Karen

    For the listener looking for author events. Hanya Yanaguyhara is coming to Pittsburgh Aptil 1 and the event will be held at the Carnegie Library Lecture Hall in Oakland.

  • Michelle

    Suggestion for Mary: I recently read Moloka’i by Alen Brennert and thought it was a great read about a child that grows up in the leprosy colony in Hawaii in the early 1900s. It’s an easy read and it introduces you to the history of Hawaii before it was considered a state of the U.S.

  • Quailing

    For Mary, I was starting to read adult books when I was about 9 or 10, so I tried to think back to some of the books I liked a lot. I tended towards books with animals and books that were about adventure or survival. Here are some that came to mind:
    My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
    Watership Down by Richard Adams
    The Flame Trees of Thika by Elspeth Huxley
    Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
    The Other Side of the Mountain by EG Valens
    Adrift by Steven Callahan
    All Creatures Great & Small by James Herriot
    The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
    The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London
    Born Free by Joy Adamson

    I will also say I read Alive by Piers Paul Read and Ordeal By Hunger by George Stewart when I was 9 and absolutely loved both of them! I don’t think they damaged or traumatized me. But I can see why recommending true stories of survival cannibalism to a 9 year old might be a bit tricky.

    PS I second the recommendation for The Year of the Runaways — what a great read!

    PPS I also second the recommendation for Aristotle & Dante. And I had no idea that Lin-Manuel Miranda read the audiobook!

  • Abigail Waters

    For Mary; I recognized your problem right away because I was totally that kid. I went a little far and made a whole blog post about it ( with sections for books written for kids with universal appeal, adult books with children protagonists, and others. I leaned towards fantasy so top contenders are definitely Neil Gaiman books.

  • Nancy Castaldo

    For Mary – Books for your 9-yr old reader: The Incredible Journey, Travels with Charley, Heidi, Little Women, The Little Prince, and The Jungle Book are just a few selections. Classics are great at this age. Also – don’t forget poetry books! Time to dive into ee cummings, and others.

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