Five Favorite: Narrative Nonfiction Podcasts

I basically only listen to podcasts, and long-form nonfiction are some of my favorites. (Yet I don’t listen to audiobooks? 🤔) Below are four of my absolute favorites, and one* I can’t wait to start!

The Dream: Host Jane Marie dives into the world of pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing, and all the other businesses that require their members to recruit their nearest and dearest in hopes of a commission. Join her as she traces the path of get-rich schemes, from her roots in rural Michigan all the way to the White House.

Monster*: This true crime podcast tells the story of one of the city’s darkest secrets, the Atlanta Child Murders, nearly 40 years later. Host Payne Lindsey aims to find truth and provide closure, reexamining the disappearance and murder of over 25 African American children and young adults. Season two focuses on the Zodiac killer.

Serial: Serial is a podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial tells one story — a true story — over the course of a season. Season one focuses on the murder of Hae Min Lee, season two on political prisoner Bowe Bergdahl, and season three on the justice system of Cleveland, OH.

Slow Burn: Even recent history is rich with surprising subplots, strange details, and forgotten characters. On Slow Burn, Leon Neyfakh excavates recent political history and finds surprising parallels to the present. Season one focuses on Watergate and season two on Bill Clinton’s impeachment.

Standoff: In 1992, hundreds of armed federal agents surrounded a family of white separatists in a ramshackle mountaintop cabin. Eleven days later, three people were dead—and the story of Ruby Ridge was just beginning. Journalist Ruth Graham explores a tragedy that’s become a foundational myth for the modern right, and finds some frightening lessons about power and paranoia. 

Do you have your own favorite narrative nonfiction podcasts? Let me know! To see previous topics, click here.

Five Favorite: Books I Read in 2018

Instead of focusing on the less-than-stellar reads that made up my 2018, I wanted to highlight the five that made it great––which just so happen to all be written by women. (So freaking dope!!) I also thought that I wouldn’t have ten books to fill out a Top Ten Tuesday post but that was a huge miscalculation. Lol. Winnowing down this list was so hard.

Are any of my favorite 2018 reads your favorite, too? Let me know! To see previous topics, click here.

Five Favorite: Atmospheric Thrillers

It’s taken me a full month to digest the seemingly innocuous Top Ten Tuesday prompt villains. (Please don’t ask why because I just don’t know.) Very few books I read have capital-V Villains, and I became bored scrolling through Goodreads trying to think of more than a handful or any one type. Since it’s so chilly/borderline cold in New England now AND it gets pitch black by four-thirty, I thought I’d explore creepy, chills-down-your-spine atmospheric thrillers instead — because sometimes a place itself can be the scariest thing.

Do you have your own favorite atmospheric thrillers? Let me know! To see previous topics, click here.

Five Favorite: Series I Haven’t Finished

“Five Favorite” is a feature on thewasofshall where I lay out my five favorite “x”. Sometimes they’re relevant to a season or holiday, mostly they’re not. It’s an all-around fun excuse to give my 100% amazingly awesome opinion. To see previous topics, click here.

Do you know the feeling where you read a book and you’re so in love with it and need more and then you find out that it’s part of a series and you’re like, YESSSS?

Me, too. Except, for some reason or another, I start series and really, really love the books and then, just… stop. Put the rest of the series on my TBR and then move on to something else.

Below are some of my favorite series I haven’t quite finished.*

The All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness
Series starter: A Discovery of Witches
I last read number 1

The Giver quartet by Lois Lowry
Series starter: The Giver
I last read number 1
Books are up to 4 — and the series is finished

The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin
Series starter: The Passage
I last read number 2

The Robert Langdon novels by Dan Brown
Series starter: Angels & Demons
I last read number 3
Books are up to 4 with a 5th coming this October

The Undead/Queen Betsy series by MaryJanice Davidson
Series starter: Undead and Unwed
I last read number 11
Books are up to 15

* I actually did a Top Ten Tuesday post on this same topic back in 2015 – and I still haven’t finished some of the series yet. LOL.

Have your own five favorite unfinished series? Let me know!

Five Favorite: New Book Resources

“Five Favorite” is a feature on thewasofshall where I lay out my five favorite “x”. Sometimes they’re relevant to a season or holiday, mostly they’re not. It’s an all-around fun excuse to give my 100% amazingly awesome opinion. To see previous topics, click here.

As a librarian, keeping up-to-date on new releases is part of my job. (At least, that’s what I tell myself when I spend hours perusing review journals and websites!) So, here are my favorite ways to stay abreast of the (tens of) thousands of books that get published every year.

  • Book websites:
  • Edelweiss & NetGalley: online interactive digital frontlist book discovery tools
  • Franzen Comes Alive: Liberty is a reading machine (I don’t know anyone, online or off, who reads as much as she does). She co-hosts All the Books! as well as pulling together a weekly newsletter of, like, twenty books. (Seriously, every week.)
  • Goodreads: membership to the number one social media site on books has its perks — like monthly new releases; get an email sent to your inbox or just browse by genre or authors you already have on your shelves.
  • Review Journals:
    • Baker & Taylor’s Forecast: a monthly publication promoting forthcoming hardcover and paperback book titles
    • Kirkus Reviews: book reviews and recommendations from the most trusted voice in book discovery
    • Library Journal: previews of upcoming titles; access to timely reviews of books, audiobooks, DVDs, and other media; author interviews; conference updates; and other opinion and analysis from LJ staffers and contributors
    • Publisher’s Weekly: a weekly news magazine focused on the international book publishing business and offering feature articles and news on all aspects of the book business, bestsellers lists in a number of categories, industry statistics, and pre-publication book reviews

Have your own favorite ways to learn about new books? Let me know!

Five Favorite: Travel Books that Made Great Films

“Five Favorite” is a feature on thewasofshall where I lay out my five favorite “x”. Sometimes they’re relevant to a season or holiday, mostly they’re not. It’s an all-around fun excuse to give my 100% amazingly awesome opinion. To see previous topics, click here.

Today’s Five Favorite is a guest post from Caroline over at Culture Coverage! She’s been a bookworm all her life and loves talking about her reads with like-minded people. She always has a recommendation on hand, no matter the topic or situation.

Summer is officially over, and if you’re one of the many people who didn’t have the chance to get away this year â€” be it due to work commitments, lack of funds, or something else — I’m sure you’ll be mourning the season’s end.

If you’re anything like me, when actual travel can’t happen, you whisk yourself away into the stories and adventures of characters from your favorite books and films. These five titles are my top picks and will have you vicariously wandering the world, whether you’re in the mood to curl up with a good book or just crash in front of the screen.


So many travel lovers know the bite of wanderlust, the urge to escape to the farthest and most remote reaches of our humble planet. The subject of Jon Krakauer’s biographical best-selling novel Into the Wild took this lust to an extreme reality. Christopher McCandless was an overachiever from suburban Virginia. After graduating college, he abandoned his life and family to travel solo across America. Both book and film provide a chilling tale of “never enough.” McCandless was never fully satisfied with his latest adventure and always wanted to go farther, faster, and wilder. He eventually found his way to the Alaskan wilderness, where his tragic tale took a turn for the worst. Epic both on page and screen, it’s a harrowing tale and one that makes you glad to be curled up in the warmth of your own home.


I must confess that I haven’t actually read Eat, Pray, Love, but the film is one of my favorites when I want to indulge in a bit of travel action. Liz Gilbert is a successful writer with a great husband and a flashy life. However, something just doesn’t feel right. When her marriage begins to break down and she’s forced to file for divorce, she tries to solve her problems by dating a handsome, charming young actor. Still, Liz is unhappy, and it isn’t until she embarks on a round-the-world adventure that she begins to get to the bottom of her dissatisfaction. It’s cheesy and overdone, but the traveling-to-find yourself storyline is one to which every adventure lover can relate. Both film and book showcase three wonderful cultures — Italy, India, and Indonesia — and take readers and viewers on the adventure of a lifetime. The book is definitely one that’s on my list to grab soon!


Evocative and indulgent, this wonderful tale by author Joanna Harris is as delicious as its namesake. Set in a quiet and sleepy French village, Chocolat documents the arrival of mysterious mother-daughter duo, long-time drifters who plan to open a controversial chocolate shop just as the town prepares for Lent. However, Vianne, the mother, provides so much more for the town’s people than merely sweet treats. Her insightful observations, loving character and gentle nature win many of the townsfolk to her cause, but she creates a rift in the village. The film is probably most well known for the casting of Johnny Depp as the river gypsy Roux; however, many of the books biggest fans claim this actor choice was a mistake. After you’ve read the book and watched its film adaptation, you can decide for yourself.


This astounding tale is a memoir of Robyn Davidson’s trip hiking 1,700 miles across the Australian desert. Tracks follows her journey from the point she moves out to Alice Springs, learns to train camels, finds her own caravan of the animals to take with her, and embarks on the long and challenging walk. The tale has everything you could want from a rural Australian adventure: wildlife, bush tucker, run-ins with the Aborigines, and, of course, vast plains of endless sands. By far one of my favorite parts is Davidson’s constant reflection on her trip. She notes how she isn’t trying to prove anything or for the fame and recognition; it’s just simply an idea that took her fancy. This refreshing mindset is something unique to travel sagas, which usually have a more profound motive, and gives the story its own individual feel. Personally, I prefer the book because it goes into more detail about the trials of surviving alone in the desert. However, the film showcases the beautiful and impacting terrain of the outback, so for a visual experience, it’s definitely the format of choice.


Alex Garland’s epic travel novel The Beach brought a young Leonardo DiCaprio into the limelight in its film adaptation released in 2000. It follows an eager backpacker to one of the world’s greatest travel spots: the mighty Thailand. He soon hears of a remote island located just a short boat ride off the main coast. Like all in his situation, he is intrigued and sets off in search of the hidden paradise. What he finds on the island appears to be a dream come true, and it isn’t long before he decides to set up camp for good. However, there’s also a dark side to paradise, as Leo’s character, Richard, soon learns. This story holds one of my favorites twists ever, which is why I don’t want to give away too much detail. It’s a poignant commentary on a very niche segment of society and presented perfectly to audiences in both formats.

Have your own five favorite travel books? Let me know!

Five Favorite: TV I Want to Be Books

“Five Favorite” is a feature on thewasofshall where I lay out my five favorite “x”. Sometimes they’re relevant to a season or holiday, mostly they’re not. It’s an all-around fun excuse to give my 100% amazingly awesome opinion. To see previous topics, click here.

I already did a top ten Tuesday post on books I want to see as a TV series or film, but there are sooo many shows I watch (and with which I am OBSESSED) that would work really well as a stand-alone or multi-book series. Here are my five favorite!

12 Monkeys: This series has quickly become one of my favorite shows, and it makes me think of a trilogy filled with time travel and romance and time travel and a high-stakes end-of-the-world plot and, oh yeah, TIME TRAVEL.
(Inspiration: The Passage trilogy by Justin Cronin)


Agent Cater: I know that Peggy Carter is part of the MCU, but even ignoring her connection to Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D., I envision a visually muted series of comic issues highlighting her intelligence amid the sexism and misogyny of post-World War II New York.
(Inspiration: Lady Killer by Joëlle Jones)

Caitlin Fitzgerald as Libby Masters, Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters and Lizzy Caplan as Virginia Johnson in Masters of Sex (season 3, Key Art) - Photo: Liz Von Hoene/SHOWTIME - Photo ID: MastersofSex_S3_KeyArt_300

Masters of Sex: The life of William Masters and Virginia Johnson was technically adapted from their biography of the same name, but I want a lush work of literary fiction filled to the brim with both criticism of and nostalgia for the mid twentieth century.
(Inspiration: I Went to Vassar for This? by Naomi Neale & The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides )


Mr. Robot: This show just begs for a stand-alone atmospheric thriller filled with tech jargon, an unreliable narrator, and the Hack Of The Century – which only happens half way through so you read into the middle of the night because WHY ARE THERE SO MANY PAGES LEFT???
(Inspiration: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk)


Orphan Black: Even good things have to end, so this would be a well-plotted, multi-arc series with kick-ass lady protagonists; multiple, intersecting plots; and an ever-widening conspiracy you just HAVE to figure out.
(Inspiration: The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown)

Have your own five favorite TV shows you want as books? Let me know!