Book Pairings

One of the podcasts that I listen to, “Get Booked” by the folks at BookRiotgives book recommendations based on the requesters’ requirements.

Get Booked

A common request is “read alikes,” a book that is similar to one that was thoroughly enjoyed.

Earlier this year I stumbled into another category quite serendipitously. I had just finished the audiobook of Neal Stephenson‘s tome Anathem, and I didn’t want it to end.


It is a beautifully crafted speculative fiction work that takes place in a secular monastery on a planet very similar to Earth, but not Earth. The world building was phenomenal. I would have joined this order! I wanted more – even after a thousand pages.

DH2U recommended The Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse.

The Glass Bead Game

Although it takes place in a very different world, it was similar enough that it felt like a companion work, not simply something that would scratch a similar itch. These books should be enjoyed in close proximity to each other; they truly are a book pairing.

I do have a favorite, though. If you only want to read one high brow, esoteric piece of fiction, pick Anathem.

I am currently in the middle of another excellent book pairing.

My audiobook, White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg is the perfect companion to my fiction reading, Tobacco Road by Erskine Caldwell.

White Trash

White Trash focuses on how so much of the racial tensions today were caused generations past by the white, land-owning class trying to keep their ranks fixed and power in tact. Keeping the poor whites focused on being better than the other races drew their attention away from seeking more equality in the system. This is a premise I was familiar with since it was a central theme of one of my graduate-level history courses.

Tobacco Road

In most high schools, students read The Grapes of Wrath, as the definitive novelization of the Great Depression. Tobacco Road is also set in that era. It is a much quieter book. They aren’t on an epic quest, and their suffering gets just a little bit worse with each passing day. The contrast between Grapes and Tobacco Road is based on what the author’s wanted to convey: Steinbeck portrays the Joad family is hard-working and only in dire straights because of circumstance, whereas Caldwell wanted to emphasize the dehumanizing effects of poverty with Lester family, sharecroppers without the ability to pay for seed to plant and without the willingness to leave their ancestral land to become factory cogs.

At least that was my assessent of Tobacco Road to start. The more I read, the more I realized that something was wrong with the book. The characters had no feelings for other people other than lust or hate. Then I came about a passage in White Trash that explained it all: Erskine Caldwell was part of the eugenics movement and was proving that the depravity of the poor was passed on geneticly.

Switching back and forth between these books definitely added to my understanding of both. I love it when things accidentally come together like this!

What other books should be read together? or Did anyone stumble onto a hidden classic this year like I did with Tobacco Road?