Rank #1: Ep 050 - Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James
Strap yourselves in and pick a good safe word, because Andrew and Craig both read Fifty Shades of Grey for this, our landmark 50th episode! Boy are they sorry!
A warning up front in case you're not familiar: this is a book that is mostly about a BDSM relationship. Our show this week has swearing and pretty graphic descriptions of sex, so keep that in mind while listening.
Rank #2: Ep 300 - Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
We couldn't think of a better way to celebrate our 300th episode than with a *biting* discussion of Stephenie Meyer's blockbuster hit Twilight.
Will klutzy cipher Bella Swan and perfect baseballboy Edward Cullen make it? Can you practice abstinence in the world that gave rise to Fifty Shades? And when you become a vampire, does it make you HOT?
Find the answers to these questions and more in our tricentennial extravaganza!
Rank #3: Ep 200 - Infinite Jest, by David Foster Wallace
Here it is: the big two-hundo! This week, Andrew tackles David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest in a show that is nearly 2.5 hours long and yet somehow still not quite long enough to get to everything.
We break down the plot and the structure, such as they are, and we also dive deeper into the role of addiction and depression in the book and the book’s at-times antagonistic relationship with the reader. It’s a book worth reading, but perhaps more than anything we’ve yet done for the show, it resists being read.
Rank #4: Ep 161 - It, by Stephen King
Stephen King's It deserves most of the praise it gets - it's an incredibly long, incredibly detailed book that tells two long intertwined stories and a bunch of short ones besides, and in one section it made Andrew physically uncomfortable. Mission accomplished, Stephen!
But it's not all good; the book is longer than it probably needs to be and it lingers on certain aspects of pre-teen sexuality just a BIT more than seems advisable.
Anyway, come on down and enjoy this week's episode! We all float down here.
And you'll float, too.
Rank #5: Ep 072 - Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
This week, we take another run at Jane Austen. Pride and Prejudice is, in Andrew's words, "a book where a bunch of people eventually get married to each other.
"It's also more than that, of course—it gives us an opportunity to talk about class, wealth, social standing, love, the institution of marriage, Milton Bradley jingles, and one Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy (Fitzy to his friends).
Rank #6: Ep 169 - Flowers in the Attic, by V.C. Andrews (hosted by Two Bossy Dames)
This week's episode is something a little different: Andrew and Craig were off writing the Two Bossy Dames newsletter last week, so Margaret H. Willison and Sophie Brookover are taking over the show this week!
The Dames read V.C. Andrews' Flowers in the Attic, which is apparently MUCH more about incest than the books we normally read! But they handle it ably, answering questions like: is this supposed to be titillating? IS it titillating? Why is our culture so bad at exposing young women and girls to sex in a healthy, non-creepy way? And more!
You can subscribe to Two Bossy Dames and view an archive of past letters (including the one we did!) at www.tinyletter.com/twobossydames.
Rank #7: Ep 320 - Twilight: New Moon, by Stephenie Meyer
Just like Bella can't resist her vampire beau Edward, we couldn't resist returning to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series. So we sharpened our fangs and grew out our wolfbeards for a lengthy discussion of the second book in the series, New Moon.
We bemoan the dearth of quality humans in Bella's life. We discuss our #TeamJacob leanings despite some concerns about his "Nice Guy" persistence. And we express our frustration with a book that doesn't WANT to be a metaphor for power dynamics despite being about a teenage girl DEALING WITH SUPERNATURAL MONSTER BOYS.
Rank #8: Ep 182 - Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë
This week Andrew completes the Brontë trilogy with Charlotte Brontë's seminal novel Jane Eyre.
Is it a romance? Is it spooky? Do we like Mr. Rochester or does he well and truly stink? We'll attempt to answer these questions and more in between revisiting #MomSwears, solving some Scooby Doo mysteries, and traveling through Internet tubes.
This week's episode is brought to you in part by Kinyo Poetry and Squarespace.
Rank #9: Ep 338 - Twilight: Eclipse, by Stephenie Meyer
If you can't stand how hot these werewolves are, get out of the kitchen! This week we head back to Forks for the third of the four main Twilight books, and while we had kind of made our peace with reading these in our New Moon episode, we question the wisdom of that decision this time around.
Rank #10: Ep 117 - Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
What better way to discuss Diana Gabaldon's genre-straddling, time-traveling historical fiction novel Outlander than by confining ourselves to the same room? Live (not really) from Craig's kitchen, we're happy to bring you an episode chockablock with bad Scottish accents, interdimensional romance, and plenty of Highland sex tips.
Rank #11: Ep 100 - Fifty Shades Darker, by E.L. James
100 episodes! That means we've read and talked about 100 books, which isn't a lot in the grand scheme of things but it sure feels like a lot for our little podcast.
For our last milestone episode, we read EL James' Fifty Shades of Grey. Now that we've done another 50 shows (and since the major motion picture is in theaters now), we've gone back to the sexy, sexy well to read Fifty Shades Darker.
Our frustrations with the original book are joined by some new complaints, and just like last time you can find some nearly-compelling threads amid the wreckage if you try hard enough. We also talk a little about the actual BDSM community, and how poorly Christian Grey would fit in among real-life practitioners. One of our listeners provided us with some links, which we've included below for added reading.
"Feminists can be kinky too" from Femmeuary: https://femmeuary.wordpress.com/2014/02/03/feminists-can-be-kinky-too/
"The two mantras of BDSM" from The Kink Factory: http://thekinkyfactory.com/bdsm-for-beginners/ssc-rack/
Rank #12: Ep 343 - How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie
You want to be popular? You want your ideas to be heard? You want to get a great job? Then Dale Carnegie has the tips for you! His best-selling self-help volume How to Win Friends and Influence People has been helping business men for decades, so we decided to sit down and go over a few of the particulars.
PS We've also got a hot tip for anyone looking to get more chips at their office cafeteria.
Rank #13: Ep 172 - Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo
Do you hear the podcast sing?/Singing the song of Hugo's book?/It is a book about some people who are sad and live in France!
It took us a while to finish Victor Hugo's classic novel Les Misérables, but that doesn't mean it wasn't worth it! Join us this week for a discussion of the book's inception and its lasting appeal.
Other talking points include zoo cuisine, D&D alignments and soul-crushing poverty. Uplifting, huh?
Rank #14: Ep 067 - Bossypants, by Tina Fey
Tina Fey is a prolific, talented, outspoken comedian with a track record to rival the best in the business. She’s also a keen observer of the human condition, and her 2011 memoir/essay collection Bossypants covers with wit and humor a wide range of topics including the ins and outs of television comedy writing, motherhood, and becoming a woman in the late 20th century.
Just as her infamous 2008 portrayal of Sarah Palin sparked many a cable news conversation (some productive, some frustrating), Bossypants spurred a smorgasbord of conversations (some productive, some frustrating) between us. So listen this week as we talk about sitcoms, remember terrible jobs, mull over gentrification, and continue to wrestle with that thorny thing called Privilege.
Rank #15: Ep 272 - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by JK Rowling
For this week’s show, we attempt to figure out what we can add to a conversation about one of the most-discussed books in all of modern literature! Join us for a chat about what JK Rowling’s first book does well, how useful we find the concept of “sorting” real-world people in different contexts, and the nature of fandom.
Rank #16: Ep 134 - LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien
Join us for the second installment in our four-part journey down to Mordor with J.R.R. Tolkien and his Lord of the Rings series. Craig's sister Jillian remains in the fellowship for a Family Size episode on The Fellowship of the Ring.
Talking points include elven paradises, stranger danger, bath time songs, and the difference between dipping and bouncing.
Rank #17: Ep 150 - Fifty Shades Freed, by E.L. James
It's not that a book about a BDSM relationship (complete with graphic sex scenes) can't be good, it's just that THESE books are intensely frustrating. The repetitive prose and awkward sex end up back in our crosshairs, but this time around we pay especial attention to Ana and Christian and just how frustrating they are as characters.
Rank #18: Ep 087 - Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Have you read Gillian Flynn's Gone Girl, or seen the major motion picture currently in theaters? Because if not, you probably should turn back: we're in full-on spoiler mode this week, and this story hinges on its twists.
Also on the show this week: Christmas Creep, the writing process, and our brand-new Tickle Me Mario doll.
Rank #19: Ep 291 - Gone With The Wind, by Margaret Mitchell
Gone With The Wind is an American classic, both in that it is a classic book written by an American author and in that it does a bad job wrangling with America's original sin, slavery. We try to justice both to Mitchell's characterization and sense of place while also accounting for her blind spots.
Rank #20: Ep 039 - The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
In 1893, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle "killed" Sherlock Holmes. Eight years later, the popular detective returned in The Hound of the Baskervilles, much to the delight of Doyle's mother.
Why was Doyle unable to abandon his creation? Why have the zany detective and his Everyman sidekick Watson endured for over a century? Maybe we'll answer those questions. At the very least, we'll talk about how nerds have kept the crime-fighting duo alive for new generations to enjoy in print and onscreen.
In this week's episode, we'll also discuss the adventures of Sir Arthur "Iggy" Conan Doyle, Professor Challenge, nerd rage, and (last but not least) hellhounds.