In glorious news for all book heads, Shameless duo Michelle Andrews and Zara McDonald have unleashed a brand new podcast all about books. Add it – and I cannot express this enough – to the list, if you haven’t already.
Shameless Presents: The Books That Changed My Life is an eight-episode series on LiSTNR where hosts Michelle and Zara ask their special guests about the reads that have always stuck with them.
Think: academic Dr. Susan Carland, Crazy Rich Asians author Kevin Kwan, and comedian Hamish Blake as guests.
PEDESTRIAN.TV chatted to Michelle and Zara about their new podcast, here’s what they had to say.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
PEDESTRIAN.TV: How would you describe the podcast to a book worm?
Michelle Andrews: Oh, it’s a deep and meaningful life chat with people that you probably find inspiring, we find them inspiring, about the books that made them who they are today. And it’s across the entirety of their lifetime. Like we speak to so many people about the first book they fell in love with, and so often that ends up being this really nostalgic chat about a childhood book. Other times it ends up being a really philosophical, or really emotional chat about adulthood and the challenges that different kinds of people face.
It’s everything from Susan Carland’s chat about having a divided heart as a mother between your career and motherhood, or her discovering, or reaffirming her love for her religion as a Muslim woman, all the way to Kevin Kwan and what made him fall in love with the glitz and glamour of life and high society New York.
So there’s a huge, huge scope of stories that we tell in this podcast and it’s been an absolute delight.
PTV: And how has the response been so far?
Zara McDonald: It’s been lovely. I think one thing we’ve learned over the last year in particular, since we’ve been doing a book club of our own at Shameless, is that there’s a real space on the internet that people crave for conversations about books.
I think I really underestimated, before even starting a book arm of our business, how much people love it. Like, it’s one part of the internet that you don’t find in many other places. I don’t think there are many conversations you have on the internet that look at conversations about stories. And I think for this, when we launched this podcast, the reception was amazing.
PTV: That’s so good to hear! So the guests on your show include my eternal crush MasterChef judge Jock Zonfrillo –
MA: That was my favourite episode.
PTV: Amazing! Could you give me a little teaser of his episode?
MA: He talked a lot about his upbringing. And I knew that he had a rough upbringing, but it wasn’t until we kind of had the opportunity to read his memoir and get to know the details that we truly appreciated where he’s come from and how he’s built himself back up.
I mean, he was stealing cars as a young child and he was heavily involved with drugs as a young teenager. And it was really life-affirming to speak to him about how he’s then turned his entire life around, from basically the moment he hopped on a plane and came to Australia to live.
PTV: I can’t wait to listen to it. So I have to ask: what books changed your life? Top three, if that helps.
MA: Shall we go in categories? ‘Cos we were writing some down yesterday. We did childhood, most memorable – like that.”
PTV: Go for it!
ZM: The first book that kind of came into my life was The Magic Faraway Tree. Sounds almost cliché, but it’s the first book that kind of gave me access to my own imagination. Like, I don’t think that any book since then has had me in my own head so much, creating stories. Especially as someone who’s gone into a career path where I always wanted to write and tell stories
I was like, that was the first time where stories came alive in my mind. And my imagination really ran free. And I think those images have always really stuck with me.
MA: Yeah, mine is random. It was a series of four books written by – I believe, two Australian authors together, like co-wrote them, called Netball Dreamz and Dreamz had a Z. And I read these books cover to cover from book one to book four – I’m not exaggerating – probably 25 plus times. And I absolutely adored that it chartered one woman’s journey as she made it into the Australian netball team. And that was my aspiration at the time. And I think it was 1) a series of books that told me, as a young woman, that having a huge passion for something is good. And that your passion will pay off if you pay attention to it. And 2) that you shouldn’t feel ashamed of that.
ZM: The next book I have is The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and I actually borrowed Michelle’s copy. And the reason that one is on my list is I actually read it over summer this year, when I had found myself in this relatively anxious headspace that was kind of very new to me and I couldn’t concentrate on anything.
I deleted Instagram, I was finding myself perpetually stressed about my job and my role and everything. And I read this book in an afternoon and I felt completely transported by it, like into a completely different world to such a degree that it calmed me down. And it was really a sound reminder to me that books can be my form of meditation, and that I should really lean on them in that way, instead of churning and burning through them and not thinking about the impact they were having on my mind. So this book was the first book I’d read in one afternoon in years.
MA: I think my next one for this is Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, which we’ve spoken about on the podcast quite a bit. It’s just an incredible read. I think it transported me to another time in history and taught me a lot at the same time.
I think the experience of reading that book was so enjoyable for me because it was actually a book that I then passed to Zara, similar to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, it was a book that we both read and then we could talk about. And I think that’s my favourite part of reading, like reading it myself, but then having a friend either have already read that book and recommend it to you, or give you their copy. Just like the connection with books are my favourite thing ever.
I think Pachinko and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo were like – that was the way we realised this is an idea. Like we love talking about books, we love sharing books and sharing our opinions on them. So maybe we could do a podcast on this too.
ZM: And then the last book I have is so completely random, it’s Andre Agassi‘s memoir, called Open. I read it when I was in uni and it was when I used to read nonfiction books a lot, and it was one of my favourite books ever.
It was one of the first stories I’ve read of someone so completely famous, who was so completely talented, who had such a complicated childhood, a complicated relationship with fame, who the world’s perception of was very different to perhaps his own perception of himself.
And like the dichotomy between both of those things – I just love it. It genuinely changed my perception of like – you could have everything in the world and things can still be very complicated. That book has always stuck with me as like, one of my favourite books.
MA: My last book would be The Courage To Be Disliked by Fumitake Koga and Ichiro Kishimi, which I picked up this year.
It was actually originally published in Japan and written in Japanese, and it’s recently been translated into English and a bunch of other languages as well. It’s a conversation, it’s a fiction book. But it’s a conversation between a philosopher and a young man who comes in, who’s struggling mentally. And this philosophy takes him through different psychological principles to what we actually follow here in Australia, or what they follow in the UK or America, in particular.
It was kind of like a splash of cold water to the face. Like, it is incredibly challenging and I don’t agree with everything in the book. But I think it reframes how people assume that past experiences might inform how you act and how you behave today. And when I recommend this book, I don’t want anyone to think that it’s changed my view on the world and how other people act. I think, if anything, it’s potentially challenged how I feel within myself on a very, very individual level.
That’s how I would encourage anyone to read it – just think about it yourself. And as I said, I don’t agree with it all, but I think it’s been great to actually be challenged by a book. Intentionally picking books that will challenge you and push you and make you consider things in a different way.
Shameless Presents: The Books That Changed My Life is available exclusively on LiSTNR now. Learn everything you need to know about right HERE.Image: Instagram / @zamcdonald