This is a transcription of Jeremy Anderberg Recommends Shepherd.com and Two New Books — 12 May 2023’
Melissa: Coming up, the story of a Boston-based lady with plenty of mettle.
David: A modern take on the Cold War spy thriller.
Melissa: Plus, our distraction of the week. I’m Mel.
David: I’m Dave. This is the library of lost time.
David: TODAY we’ve got something new for you. We’ve got a guest coming in to talk about his distraction of the week. – His name is Jeremy Anderberg. He is the author of the delightful, free, weekly newsletter, “Read More Books.”
But first we’re going to talk about two new titles. Mel?
Melissa: I’m not really into MURDERY true crime stories, but I love a good heist. A few months ago we got really caught up in the Netflix documentary This is a Robbery: The World’s Biggest Art Heist. It tells the story of two thieves who dressed like cops, conned their way into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and walked out with $500 million worth of art including paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and Manet. This happened 33 years ago, and the art is still missing.
Melissa: I was really excited to learn about the new book The Lioness of Boston by Emily Franklin. This is a novelization of Isabella Stewart Gardner’s life, and her bio is a corker. Rather than trying to fit into snooty 19th century society, she was a free spirit. She traveled all over the world — London, Paris, Egypt, Asia. She met Romantic authors including Henry James and Oscar Wilde. She sometimes walked a pair of real lions in the Boston Public Garden. John Singer Sargent painted a stunning portrait of her. And she turned her Italian palazzo-style house into a museum filled with the art and antiques she collected on her adventures.
Melissa: It’s worth mentioning that Isabella’s museum gift shop sells lovely things, including bookmarks, tote bags, and mugs with quotes from Isabella on them. My favorite is a line she write in an invitation: ‘I feel that either we will soon become enemies, or also forever, very, very good friends. Come to tea with me this afternoon.’ I want to know more about this lady! The book is The Lioness of Boston by Emily Franklin.
David: My book is ‘The Partisan’ by Patrick Worrall. This is a modern take on the old-fashioned spy thriller. The action centers around three characters. First, there’s Greta, who, back in the 40s, was a teenager in Lithuania. Her parents were killed, and she escaped into the woods. Over time, she became part of the resistance network there. She has since gotten very good at killing people.
David: And then there’s a story that’s set in the 60s. We meet two chess players: Michael, who’s a student at Cambridge, and Yulia, who’s a Russian prodigy. They meet at a tournament in London and take a liking to each other. That’s a problem because Michael’s the son of the Director of Naval Intelligence, and Yulia’s the daughter of a Politburo official. Several people want them together, and just as many people don’t. Greta gets involved. And the story leads on from there.
David: This book has tension and history and spy-craft. It hits London, Moscow, and Lithuania. It’s been out in the UK for a while. The reviews there were great. It just came out in the US. If you’re looking for an intricately-plotted thrill ride back to the Cold War era, consider taking a look. It’s ‘The Partisan’ by Patrick Worrall.
David: And now, our Distraction of the Week. [magical sound effect]
David: Today. We’re talking with Jeremy Anderberg. He is the author of the Free weekly newsletter. Read more Books on Substack. Jeremy, you’ve got a great distraction of the week for us.
Jeremy: I do. Yeah, Thanks for having me. So my distraction is this book Discovery platform called shepherd.com. So let me give you just a little bit of background of how I landed here. Before I tell you about what it is. So as a book reviewer, I get bombarded by the book publicity marketing machine. This flood of new books, publicists who reach out to me dozens of emails a week. Right. And it’s kind of in that world, you see all the same books floating across Bookstagram and the bookish Internet, right? So I’ve had this desire lately to find unheralded, unknown books that maybe haven’t heard of or in, you know, weird niche topics that you don’t see often. And I remember this website I first stumbled across a couple of years ago called shepherd.com, and it consists entirely of lists of five books that are compiled by authors who write in a certain niche topic or genre. According to the site, they have over 8000 lists at the moment. There’s a lot of a lot of perusing you can do. Yeah, and I’ve I’ve found, as I’m sure you guys have as well, that five books is a perfect number, right? It’s not an overwhelming number. It’s not too small of a sample size. It’s like really a sweet spot where you can kind of dip your toes in a bit, explore a little bit more deeply, but but not be overwhelmed. So I love that all of the lists are capped at five. You guys obviously, you know, know that sweet spot as well.
Jeremy: What I love most is that the random list button. So there’s this this button on both mobile web and on a regular web browser that takes you to a random list. So as I’m here with you right now, I’d like to read a couple as I hit the button. Just to give you an idea of what’s out there. So the first one, the best books about the magic of bees for ages 10 to 14 sounds delightful. Yeah, like I’ve never heard of any of these. So this list was created by It looks like someone who wrote a book called The Bee Maker. So then she highlighted five other books, kind of in this world of bee books for juveniles, which is just awesome. Next one here, the best literary horror novels that will get under your skin and stay there. So this this particular list, as I’m looking now, there’s like two books I’ve heard of The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, House of Leaves by Mark Danielewski. The rest are books I’ve not heard of. So that’s what I love about it, is it tends to be a combination of like maybe 1 or 2 books that that I’d be familiar with just from being present on the bookish web. And then inevitably a few that I haven’t because these aren’t folks who are, you know, beholden to by the book marketing machine. Like I sometimes am as a reviewer. So that’s my distraction. I love just hitting that random book list over and over again and finding myself minutes, hopefully not hours later, having added way too many books to my list.
Melissa: Don’t you love that feeling when you find a book that is new to you, that sounds like you’re going to love it and you’ve literally never heard anything about it before, Like that just feels like a treat.
Jeremy: It really does. And it’s it’s always such a surprise. And I don’t know why, but I think sometimes for bookish people, we think we kind of know everything that’s out there, right? Even though that’s impossible, just by the nature of how many books there are. But I especially love it, you know, when when I find a new book that’s been recommended to me and I love to not know anything about it when I go into it too, I’ll skip the back, cover everything and just open it and start reading. And it’s it’s such a delight even, you know, when I’m when I’m surprised by a plot twist that happens early on that’s like described on the book jacket. But it’s a surprise to me because I haven’t I haven’t read that or whatever. So yeah, it’s such a fun it’s like one of the great delights of being a reader is finding an unknown book that you love and want to share with the world. Right?
Melissa: Strong agree.
David: That was Jeremey Anderberg recommending the book-finding service, shepherd.com. Jeremey is the author of the newsletter, “Read More Books.” He also runs a reading project called ‘The Big Read,’ where he leads a group of readers through classic books. In a few weeks, they’re starting ‘The Count of Monte Cristo.’ Later this year, he’s covering ‘The Haunting of Hill House’ by Shirley Jackson and ‘East of Eden’ by John Steinbeck. If you want to get in on that, we’ll put a link in our show notes.
Melissa: Visit strongsenseofplace.com/library for more links to all of this plus more about the books we discussed.
David: Thanks for joining us in the Libary of Lost Time. Remember to visit your local library and your independent book store to lose some time yourself.
Melissa: Stay curious! We’ll talk to you soon.
Top image courtesy of Onur Binay/Unsplash.
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