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The SSR Podcast

Author: Alli Hoff Kosik

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Each week, freelance writer and lifelong bookworm Alli Hoff Kosik will challenge a guest to reread a literary throwback or to experience for the first time ever a book they may have missed as a kid. After that, they'll be asked to spill all the feels and all the opinions about that book on the air for your podcast-listening pleasure. Every Tuesday, you can find us breaking down an old school read from our tween and teen days on a new episode of the show. We'll cover everything from The Baby-Sitters Club to Holes, Nancy Drew to Harry Potter. This time around, we're a little wiser (yay!), a lot older (ugh.), and of legal age to drink wine... so we'll have a lot to say. Happy Reading!
285 Episodes
This week, SSR takes it all the way back to 1961 for a discussion about a classic: J.D. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey. Alli and her guest talk about the book’s publishing history and deep dive into its content: insufferable men, existential dread, the nature of wisdom, quarter-life crises, and emotional states best shared via AIM away message.TW: suicide, depressionSheila is the author of the novels The Goddess Effect and Friends in Napa, which Mindy Kaling called “smart and wildly entertaining… like drinking a glass of wine with an endlessly witty, scandalous friend.” Her work has appeared in many publications, including Vogue, The New Yorker, and The New York Times. Sheila lives in Los Angeles with her husband and you can follow her on Instagram @sheilaym.
Welcome to the first episode of SSR: WriTing Friends! This new monthly series—co-hosted by Abby Wolfe—is a fun look at the writing process from multiple perspectives and stops along the way. Broadly speaking, our goal with WTF is to make the writing process transparent at every stage and to further connect readers and writers in this community and beyond.In this inaugural episode, Abby shares more about herself and her writing life with listeners! Alli and Abby also talk more about their vision for WTF going forward, their thoughts on genre, and Alli’s DNF era.Follow Abby on Instagram @shmab and @abookwolfe.
Timed appropriately (and accidentally) with the 4th of July holiday, Episode 281 is a return to the beloved Dear America series! This time, Alli and her guest tag along on a frankly miserable journey on the Mayflower with Remember Patience Whipple in 1620. The book is A Journey to the New World and it was written by Kathryn Lasky and published in 1996. Former Scholastic book fair fans will especially enjoy this walk (cruise?) down memory lane in spite of its many sad moments.TW: suicide, depression, grief, loss of a parentOlivia Muenter is a writer, reader, and a co-host of the Bad on Paper podcast. Her first novel Such a Bad Influence is available wherever books are sold. In her free time, you can find her working on her old house in the Hudson Valley, where she lives with her husband and her dog. Follow her on Instagram @oliviamuenter.
For the first time this year, we’re back to Stoney Brook with our favorite sitters! The fifty-sixth book in the series explores blatant racism… while the girls produce a musical with their young charges. There’s a lot going on! Episode 280 breaks down the way race and racism are portrayed in Ann M. Martin’s fictional world, looking closely at which sitters bear the brunt of the responsibility for explaining prejudice, if the author does a disservice to other sitters by making them so naive, and what young readers can learn from stories like Keep Out, Claudia!Melissa Mogollon holds an MFA in fiction from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a BA from the George Washington University. Originally from Colombia and raised in Florida, she now teaches at a boarding school in Rhode Island, where she lives with her partner and dog. She is passionate about education, youth empowerment, Rihanna, and ceviche. Oye is her first novel. Follow her on Instagram (@melissamogollonwriter).
Like the book at its center, Episode 279 will feel like a warm hug! Kate is back, this week to discuss the Newbery Medal-winning The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. The conversation covers everything from dysfunctional families and empathy to fairy tale tropes and the author's origin story.Kate Czyzewski is an educator turned bookstore manager and event coordinator at Thunder Road Books in Spring Lake, NJ. Follow her @thesaltybookworm.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be a bookseller at an independent bookstore? Kate from Thunder Road Books in Spring Lake, NJ—who you might also recognize as @thesaltybookworm—is on SSR to answer all of your questions! Kate tells us…* How she transitioned from being a teacher to a bookseller* How the team chooses backlist titles to stock in the store* How she comes up with the perfect recommendations for customers* What she does when she doesn’t know anything about (or like!) a book requested by a customer* The throwback reads young bookworms still request in the store* Her favorite and least favorite parts of the job* What it’s like to plan author events… and so much more! Kate also shares a summer reading preview!
If you’ve been missing SSR’s signature approach to the literary throwbacks of your teen and tween years, the wait is over! Episode 277 marks our official return to the pod’s usual format—and this time, it’s all about Gail Carson Levine’s The Two Princesses of Bamarre. Published in 2001, the book is a story of bravery and sisterhood, and it creates space for conversations about so many of our favorite tropes from kid lit of the early aughts. Alli and her guest also explore the connection between fairy retellings (like Gail Carson Levine’s work, including Ella Enchanted) and the wildly popular romantasy trend of 2024 (think Fourth Wing and A Court of Thorns and Roses). Chelsey Feder of @chelseyreads, Novel Pairings, and The Eclectic Reader is back for a record-breaking FOURTH appearance!
SSR is back after Alli’s maternity leave! We’ll be back to discuss a new literary throwback next week, but we’re kicking things off (again!) with a little catch-up session. Chelsey Feder of @chelseyreads and Novel Pairings plays co-host to help bring the SSR community up to speed on what’s been happening since you last tuned into the podcast. Alli and Chelsey discuss two major developments in Alli’s life, as well as what her reading routine has looked like recently. You’ll also hear more about what to expect from this new chapter of SSR.Big thanks to Chelsey for joining as co-host for this special episode… and to all of YOU for your patience and support!
Thanks to all of the listeners who participated in this year’s crowd-sourced episode: Abby, Diane, Julia, Holly, Kat, Shira, and Tracey.Tune in to hear them answer questions about their favorite childhood reading, times when they disagreed with the podcast, book recommendations for 2024, and more!
For the final book episode of 2023, Alli and her guest turn their attention to a real classic: Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. It’s the first time reading the 1943 semi-autobiographical novel for both of them… and there’s a lot to discuss in this hefty volume! Topics of conversation include imperfect adults, the importance of education, pragmatism vs. idealism, the evolution of our language around mental health, financial insecurity, red flags, anti-Semitism, and how they might have experienced a book like this had they read it as children.TW: addiction, death of a parent, infant lossOre Agbaje-Williams is the author of The Three of Us. Follow her on Instagram (@oreawilliams).
At long last, Alli and her guest turn their attention to a book that’s been requested many times by listeners: Margaret Peterson Haddix’s Among the Hidden. The first installment in the Shadow Children series, Among the Hidden explores the consequences of a totalitarian government taking extreme measures to combat (alleged) overpopulation. Episode 273 covers everything from reproductive rights and propaganda to the history of dystopian literature and different types of activism.Claire Ahn is the author of I Guess I Live Here Now. Follow her on Instagram (@cuhlaireahn).
With New Reads November 2023 behind us, we’re back to throwbacks, starting with Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox. Alli’s guest recently read the 1970 novel with her own children… and she has thoughts. Episode 272 features conversations about gender representation, fatphobia, the power of illustrations, violence, and the glorification of stealing.Bestselling author Jesse Q. Sutanto is known for a number of books, including Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, Dial A for Aunties, and The Obsession. Her latest YA novel is called Didn’t See That Coming. Follow her on Instagram (@jesseqsutanto) and Twitter (@thewritinghippo).
It’s the grand finale of SSR’s New Reads November 2023… and the perfect time to discuss Talia Hibbert’s YA debut, Highly Suspicious and Unfairly Cute. With a trio of fantastic guests, Alli gets into the details of the book’s plot and pays special attention to OCD representation, outdoorsy scholarship experiences, romance tropes, and the extent to which there are two sides to every story. Thanks to Brittany (@britsgotbooks), Cait (@whatcaitreads), and Shira (@shira243) for being part of this first-ever Patreon episode of the podcast! Join the Patreon family to get in on the fun HERE.
Week 3 of New Reads November takes a very close, very fun look at Maurene Goo’s Throwback. The book inspires conversations about everything from the complicated nature of mother/daughter relationships and empathy between generations to high school homecoming experiences and the tension between conformity and standing out. Alli and her guest also consider who Throwback is meant for and discuss the book’s origin story.Becca Freeman is the author of The Christmas Orphans Club and co-host of the Bad on Paper podcast. Follow her on Instagram (@beccamfreeman).
Week 2 of New Reads November 2023 is all about Joelle Wellington’s Their Vicious Games. The book feels like a real return to the heyday of YA, with the addition of organic, fresh threads about class, race, and privilege. On Episode 269, Alli and her guest do plenty of fangirling over the book and discuss concepts like performative allyship, white saviorism, satire, and more.Erin La Rosa is the author of For Butter or Worse and Plot Twist. Follow her on Instagram (@erinlarosalit) and Twitter (@erinlarosalit).
New Reads November is BACK for a SIXTH year!This time around, we get things rolling with a conversation about Camryn Garrett’s Friday I’m in Love, which was published in January 2023. The book inspires conversations about “coming out narratives,” casual racism, self-aware narrators, the subversion of tropes about sweet sixteens, and the pressures that many teens experience. Alli’s guest also takes her behind-the-scenes of how he writes for the YA audience!Eliot Schrefer is the New York Times bestselling, award-winning author of books for young people, including his latest, Charming Young Man. Follow him on Instagram (@schrefer) and Twitter (@EliotSchrefer).
On this special bonus episode, Alli is joined by Sara Hildreth of Fiction Matters and the Novel Pairings podcast! As she prepares to take a brief podcast maternity leave in early 2024, Alli looks to Sara for advice on how to manage a pause in sharing content with her community. They take you behind-the-scenes of the business of podcasting, Patreon, Substack, and more! Follow Sara on Instagram (@fictionmatters).
Listener favorites Allison and Mary from Dolls of Our Lives are BACK for Episode 267! This time around, they join Alli to discuss Danger at the Zoo: A Kit Mystery, a 2005 installment in the American Girl Mysteries series that was written by Kathleen Ernst. They talk broadly about Kit’s storyline and the AG mysteries as an offshoot of the rest of the American Girl series. In the context of Danger at the Zoo, they also chat about kid journalism, the Depression, the history of the word “hobo,” and more.Allison Horrocks and Mary Mahoney are the co-hosts of the Dolls of Our Lives podcast and the authors of Dolls of Our Lives: Why We Can’t Quit American Girl. Follow the podcast on Instagram (@dollsofourlivespodcast) and Twitter (@DollsLivesPod).
On this special episode, Alli answers listener questions about…* How she handles tricky situations with podcast guests* Whether she would rather deal with a boring book or a boring guest* The books she’s most excited to share with Baby K* The best marriage advice she’s ever received* The books that are still on her podcast wish list* Her current thoughts on Bethenny Frankel* How to get started with writing fiction… and so much more!
Episode 265: Fifteen

Episode 265: Fifteen


On Episode 265, Alli and her guest explore a new side of all-time kid lit rock star Beverly Cleary — a more ~mature~ side! This week, the focus is one of Cleary’s books for teen readers, Fifteen. The conversation covers everything from awkward first date moments and ‘50s crush etiquette to class undercurrents and the importance of confidence. Alli and her guest also unpack a hard-to-read scene set in a Chinese restaurant.Alison Rose Greenberg is the author of Bad Luck Bridesmaid and Maybe Once, Maybe Twice. Follow her on Instagram (@alison.greenberg) and Twitter (@alisongreenberg).