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253: Essay Collection Recommendations for Your Unabridged Reading Challenge

Episode Cover Image with words Essay Recommendations for Your Reading Challenge

Have you read any essay collections that you enjoyed? In this episode, Jen and Ashley are sharing essay collection recommendations for books we loved, which are perfect for the 2023 Unabridged Reading Challenge. You could also choose a poetry collection or a short story collection to complete the category!

Ashley recommends Jessi Klein’s I’ll Show Myself Out: Essays on Midlife and Motherhood ( |, and Jen recommends Kelly Jensen’s [Don't] Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health (

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Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Kelly Barnhill’s The Ogress and the Orphans ( |

Jen - Talia Hibbert’s Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute ( |

Essay Collections We Recommend

Ashley - Jessi Klein’s I’ll Show Myself Out: Essays on Midlife and Motherhood ( |

Jen - Kelly Jensen’s [Don't] Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health (

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Bookish Check-in

Ashley was reading...

Book Cover of Kelly Barnhill’s The Ogress and the Orphans

Kelly Barnhill’s The Ogress and the Orphans ( |

From the Publisher:

"Stone-in-the-Glen, once a lovely town, has fallen on hard times. Fires, floods, and other calamities have caused the people to lose their library, their school, their park, and even their neighborliness. The people put their faith in the Mayor, a dazzling fellow who promises he alone can help. After all, he is a famous dragon slayer. (At least, no one has seen a dragon in his presence.) Only the clever children of the Orphan House and the kindly Ogress at the edge of town can see how dire the town’s problems are.

"Then one day a child goes missing from the Orphan House. At the Mayor’s suggestion, all eyes turn to the Ogress. The Orphans know this can’t be: the Ogress, along with a flock of excellent crows, secretly delivers gifts to the people of Stone-in-the-Glen.

"But how can the Orphans tell the story of the Ogress’s goodness to people who refuse to listen? And how can they make their deluded neighbors see the real villain in their midst?"

Jen was reading...

Book Cover of Talia Hibbert’s Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute

Talia Hibbert’s Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute ( |

From the Publisher:

"Bradley Graeme is pretty much perfect. He’s a star football player, manages his OCD well (enough), and comes out on top in all his classes . . . except the ones he shares with his ex-best friend, Celine.

"Celine Bangura is conspiracy-theory-obsessed. Social media followers eat up her takes on everything from UFOs to holiday overconsumption—yet, she’s still not cool enough for the popular kids’ table. Which is why Brad abandoned her for the in-crowd years ago. (At least, that’s how Celine sees it.)

"These days, there’s nothing between them other than petty insults and academic rivalry. So when Celine signs up for a survival course in the woods, she’s surprised to find Brad right beside her.

"Forced to work as a team for the chance to win a grand prize, these two teens must trudge through not just mud and dirt but their messy past. And as this adventure brings them closer together, they begin to remember the good bits of their history. But has too much time passed . . . or just enough to spark a whole new kind of relationship?"

Our Essay Collection Recommendations

Ashley recommended...

Book Cover of Jesse Klein’s I’ll Show Myself Out: Essays on Midlife and Motherhood

Jessi Klein’s I’ll Show Myself Out: Essays on Midlife and Motherhood ( |

From the Publisher:

"In New York Times bestselling author and Emmy Award-winning writer and producer Jessi Klein’s second collection, she hilariously explodes the cultural myths and impossible expectations around motherhood and explore the humiliations, poignancies, and possibilities of midlife.

"In interconnected essays like 'Listening to Beyoncé in the Parking Lot of Party City,' 'Your Husband Will Remarry Five Minutes After You Die,' 'Eulogy for My Feet,' and 'An Open Love Letter to Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent,' Klein explores this stage of life in all its cruel ironies, joyous moments, and bittersweetness.

"Written with Klein’s signature candor and humanity, I'll Show Myself Out is an incisive, moving, and often uproarious collection."

Jen recommended...

Book Cover of Don't Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health, edited by Kelly Jensen

Kelly Jensen’s [Don't] Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation about Mental Health (

From the Publisher:

"What does it mean to be crazy? Is using the word crazy offensive? What happens when a label like that gets attached to your everyday experiences?

"To understand mental health, we need to talk openly about it. Because there’s no single definition of crazy, there’s no single experience that embodies it, and the word itself means different things—wild? extreme? disturbed? passionate?—to different people.

"In (Don’t) Call Me Crazy, thirty-three actors, athletes, writers, and artists offer essays, lists, comics, and illustrations that explore a wide range of topics:

"their personal experiences with mental illness,

"how we do and don’t talk about mental health,

"help for better understanding how every person’s brain is wired differently,

"and what, exactly, might make someone crazy.

"If you’ve ever struggled with your mental health, or know someone who has, come on in, turn the pages . . . and let’s get talking."


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