Really, Really, Really Problematic

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Amanda and Jenn discuss deeply messed up books, body positive reads, and more in this week’s episode of Get Booked.

This episode is sponsored by Falling Hard by Stacy Finz and Book Riot Insiders.

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1. I’m a huge fan of your show and Book Riot in general. Thanks for being so amazing! I’m proudly a plus-sized/curvy (for lack of a better term) women in her late twenties, and I was wondering if you had recommendations for books with female main characters who are also described this way. Growing up I really identified with Meg Murray because she felt out of place with her appearance like I did. Recently, I have loved reading Dumplin’, Size 12 is Not Fat, Duff, and Bet Me because they featured characters I could relate to physically who were described positively and had a happy ending that didn’t involve them losing a lot of weight. (I most recently read It Had To Be You, and didn’t love it.) I loved the body positive message of each book, and I’m a sucker for a makeover sequence, but I have always hated reading books where the fat/chubby girl found happiness after losing a few pounds. I plan on reading Shrill and 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, but I was wondering if you had any recommendations for fiction or romance books with more characters I could relate to that have enjoyable story lines. I have read too many non-fiction books and graphic novels, so I would prefer not to get books in those categories. I also have learned that I don’t do well with reading books with unlikeable characters, for example, I struggled with Girl On the Train and Gone Girl. I’m sorry for this incredibly long email, but I would really appreciate any help that you could give me! Thank you so much!



2. Jenn and Amanda!

My dad’s 60th is coming up and I want to get him something special. We do NOT have the same reading taste whatsoever so I was hoping that you could help me out. I know that he liked Heretic by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Pagan Christ by Tom Harpur and Snakes in Suits by Paul Babiak. He is a retired lawyer if that helps.
I would also be open to something that makes a joke of him getting old.

Thank you!


3. Hi There,

Somehow this agnostic Middle Eastern woman with a Catholic upbringing went in the fall to see her true love, Paris (city of all things amazing), Fell in love with a conservative smoking hot Spanish/Moroccan/Israeli Jew living in Paris (he’s a tax architect and a musician), and we’ve had a tumultuous long distance relationship ever since. I can’t make this stuff up ladies! He’s got his issues, one of them being that he’s kind of conservative right wing Zionist which lends itself to a level of intolerance from him that I have no patience for. I’m working on him though, and despite that, I’ve seen a lot of beauty in Jewish history and culture. It makes me want to know more. Do you have any fiction or nonfiction reads you could recommend that might be interesting insight into the Jewish people and culture. I don’t want anything holocaust or world war related.



4. Hi Book Riot!

I would like to expand my reading in literary fiction. However, in general I do not want to read books about rape, child abuse, infidelity, or rich people’s problems. I love the beautiful style of writing that you often see in literary fiction, such as “White Teeth” by Zadie Smith. I enjoyed “The Tiger’s Wife” by Tea Obrecht until the ending (I was pregnant when I read it). I was excited to pick up Karen Russell’s “Swamplandia,” but first read the short story it was from in “St. Lucy’s Home. . .,” which told me the novel would lead into one of my areas of avoidance. Literary fiction books other than “White Teeth” that I have really liked include: “Middlesex” by Jeffrey Eugenides, “People of the Book” by Geraldine Brooks, “The Guernsey and Literary Potato Peel Pie Society” by Mary Ann Shaffer, and “Stones from the River” by Ursula Hegi.

I primarily read YA, fantasy, and natural history, in part of because there are more signposts within those genres to help me find what I’m looking for. I do read literary fiction sometimes, but I find myself avoiding it because I can’t easily find things that appeal to me. Sometimes when I read I just want to read, not be emotionally wrung out. I do think it is important to be exposed to stories that push us and make us uncomfortable or upset, but for me, right now, a little bit goes a long way. Can you suggest literary fiction books that I might like, or ways for me to select books that I’m not going to toss aside halfway through because of rape, child abuse, or just general self-involved shittiness from all the characters?



5. Hello,

I’ve just finished The Expanse series by James SA Corey and loved it!

It’s just so good! I particularly love the crew and their relationships. Plus there are strong female characters and diversity. Yay!

Could you recommend something similar to fill The Expanse shaped hole in my heart until the next book in the series? I do have Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie, Grim Space by Ann Aguirre and Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves in my TBR but I’m not sure that they’re what I’m looking for at the moment. I’ve also read Saga but would appreciate any suggestions you have.

Thanks so much!

–Marie, Cardiff, Wales


6. I am in the mood for some great adventure fiction with a strong sense of place. My mood stems from recently discovering the Agent Carter television series and experiencing withdrawal symptoms while waiting for the return of The Musketeers series on BBC America. In the past, I’ve enjoyed books like The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo, The Scarlet Pimpernel, Treasure Island, and The Outlaws of Sherwood. (Amanda, veering slightly away from traditional adventure, I’ve also loved The Agency and Sabriel series.) I would love to read books with strong, smart female characters if possible, and my searches for books fitting my requirements have been fruitless. I would love to hear your recommendations.


7. Hi Amanda and Jenn – I just discovered the Book Riot family of podcasts and I am inhaling Get Booked and All the Books! My TBR list is OUT OF CONTROL. One type of book I don’t know how to specifically search for, but thoroughly enjoy, is (for lack of a better word) the “f*cked up” book. Two examples are Tampa and The Preacher comic series. Both were great, engrossing and soooo twisted! What can you recommend that might be in this lane? Thanks!!!


8. Hello Amanda and Jenn-

My sister and I are in our early-mid 30s and decided to read one book together each month. Our first choice is On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan– because it’s fairly short.

She loves anything science fiction and history, Harry Potter, Silo Series and dystopian novels. I love anything non-fiction, family saga, books set in the 1920s and memoirs. We’re being open minded to each of our preferences but could use some recommendations. If you could help these 2 sisters out, we’d appreciate it!

–Andrea & Ana


Books Discussed

9 Rules to Break When Romancing a Rake by Sarah Maclean

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli (rec’d by Preeti)

Zealot by Reza Aslan

Lost at Sea by Jon Ronson

Our Harsh Logic from Breaking the Silence

Anything Chaim Potok (The Chosen)

List of Jewish historical fiction not about the Holocaust

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

Ninth City Burning by J Patrick Black

Embassytown by China Mieville

Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

Asking For It by Lilah Pace

Out by Natsuo Kirino

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles

Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine