Meet Kendra Winchester, co-founder of Reading Women—a weekly podcast where women discuss books by or about women, as well as interview talented women writers.
Kendra spoke with us about how the podcast began, her own favorite listens, what she can’t wait to read next, and the importance of independent bookstores to our communities.
What prompted you to start Reading Women?
In grad school, my friend Autumn and I read a lot of books by dead white dudes. “Where are all the women?” we asked. “We know they’re here somewhere!”
To try to balance out our reading, we read a lot of women writers together—Jesmyn Ward, Donna Tartt, Carson McCullers—and decided we could expand this conversation to our friends more easily by recording and sharing our thoughts via podcast.
What’s been the most memorable moment of hosting the podcast?
For me, meeting Min Jin Lee stands out as the pinnacle moment of my bookish life. She’s a literary star and an all-around great human being. When Autumn and I met up with her at a book signing, Lee opened up her binder and showed us that she had her Reading Women Award seal stuck on the inside right next to her National Book Award Finalist sticker. This small moment felt huge to us and encouraged us beyond words. (We also fangirled—a lot. I have no regrets.)
What audiobooks do you suggest listening to in honor of Women’s History Month?
When I heard that Robin Miles, one of my favorite narrators, narrated The Warmth of Other Suns, I was like, “Where do I sign up?!” The audiobook may be over 17 hours long, but it’s beyond worth it. The way Isabel Wilkerson chronicles the migration of African Americans from the Jim Crow South to urban centers to the Northern and Western United States takes my breath away. It’s so detailed and intricately crafted.
[audiobook title=”The Warmth of Other Suns” isbn=”9781455814251″ author=”Isabel Wilkerson” narrator=”Robin Miles”][/audiobook]
At almost 30 hours long, These Truths, written and read by Jill Lepore, is one of the longest audiobooks I’ve ever listened to. But I binged through this audiobook, making up any excuse and doing any chore so I could keep listening to Jill Lepore tell me the story of the history of the United States. Broad, all-encompassing, and incredibly inclusive, I can’t recommend These Truths enough. Whether you’re a US history novice or expert, there’s something for everyone.
[audiobook title=”These Truths: A History of the United States” isbn=”9781980010876″ author=”Jill Lepore” narrator=”Jill Lepore”][/audiobook]
We’ve heard you are an evangelist for audiobooks. Can you tell us why you’re on a mission to get people listening?
As a kid growing up in the ’90s and early ’00s, I used audiobooks almost every day. I’ve had chronic daily headaches and migraines since I was a kid, which makes reading print impossible sometimes. To make sure I didn’t miss out, my mom bought a tape deck for me and introduced me to audiobooks. But even with audiobooks, my reading habits depended upon the whim of whatever the local librarians decided to purchase at the time, meaning I read a lot of books I wasn’t really interested in just so I’d have something to read.
As an adult, I still primarily read books via audio. Now, with more than a dozen audio apps on my phone, I’m spoiled for choice and have never felt so happy to be someone who reads through my ears. Audiobooks aren’t just a convenient way to fold the laundry and listen to your book club’s next pick at the same time. Audiobooks provide thousands of readers with the accessibility to books that able-bodied readers have. Supporting the audiobook industry, including platforms like Libro.fm, helps keep books available for readers of all kinds, not just people who read with their eyeballs.
What’s your best tip for incorporating audiobooks into your life?
Just like you have to build up your reading comprehension, you also need to build up your listening comprehension. Start with a kid’s book, like Howl’s Moving Castle or Aru Shah and the End of Time. Or reread a favorite, like Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. If you get distracted, you can jump right back in without getting confused or frustrated that you missed something because you already know the story.
[audiobook title=”Howl’s Moving Castle” isbn=”9781436186124″ author=”Diana Wynne Jones” narrator=”Jenny Sterlin”][/audiobook]
[audiobook title=”Aru Shah and the End of Time (A Pandava Novel Book 1)” isbn=”9780525587514″ author=”Roshani Chokshi” narrator=”Soneela Nankani”][/audiobook]
[audiobook title=”Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” isbn=”9781781102374″ author=”J.K. Rowling” narrator=”Stephen Fry”][/audiobook]
What audiobooks are you looking forward to reading?
Hands down my most anticipated audiobook is Samantha Irby’s Wow, No Thank You. She narrates her audiobooks, adding perfect comedic delivery to her already hilarious essays. Trust me—her essays are the joy you never knew you needed in your life!
[audiobook title=”Wow, No Thank You.” isbn=”9780593170694″ author=”Samantha Irby” narrator=”Samantha Irby”][/audiobook]
What role have independent bookstores played in your life?
I didn’t have a local indie bookstore until moving to South Carolina as an adult. A few years ago, I completed scavenger hunt on Indie Bookstore Day. My friends and I went to nearly every indie in the upstate and had such a great time!
Since then, I’ve joined a book club at M. Judson Booksellers and attend author events at Hub City Bookshop. I appreciate how these stores serve their communities and provide a wonderful place for Southern book nerds to gather and discuss our favorite books.
Keep up with Kendra with the Reading Woman Podcast. Happy listening!