The Reading Culture Welcomes Neal Shusterman

author neal shusterman
Masthead Waves


If you know a young person who has read the "Scythe" trilogy by Neal Shusterman, then you know how real another world can feel. Especially when that world doesn't feel so far away from the one we're in. When my son Cassius started getting into Neal's books, starting with "Scythe," I had to read alongside him to understand what was drawing him in so intensely. 


In this episode, Neal Shusterman, a storyteller of the most fantastic and committed kind, shares how getting immersed in his favorite fictional worlds inspired him to create some of his own. He shares about how and why he prioritizes characters to enhance his worlds, and how seriously he takes sticking to the rules (in his books, at least!). You may know Neal from his National Book Award-winning "Challenger Deep," or one of his collaborations like the recent (and wow, prescient) "Dry" with his son, Jarrod Shusterman, or from his Printz-winning "Scythe" and the subsequent books in the series. To know his books is to know a new world.


Getting immersed in settings unlike – but not far from – our own provides crucial lessons about perspective. This outside perspective allows us to shed our preconceptions and witness characters and events in a way we would be unable to otherwise. It’s an incredibly impactful storytelling style for young readers just learning these skills, and Neal is a master at it.


In this episode, Neal shares about the ways in which Jaws and Star Trek changed him, and how getting immersed in his favorite fictional worlds inspired him to create some of his own. We also learn about the role religion plays in his life and writing.


For his reading challenge, The Nature of Consciousness, Neal wants to send us into various fictional worlds to challenge our perception of a prevailing debate in our own world: A.I. Neal has curated young adult and adult stories that are complex and do not paint AI as evil or one-dimensional. Beanstack clients, use the challenge on your site!


This week’s featured librarian, Danielle Masterson, is the assistant director assistant director at the Wilmington Public Library in Massachusetts and one of our Beanstack OG clients! Danielle shares some wisdom to settle the debate of what “qualifies” as reading.


Listen to the full episode, “Here, Extrapolated: Neal Shusterman on the Art of World-Building,” on Apple, Google, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Like what you hear? Please leave a 5-star review, subscribe, and share with someone who will enjoy it!


Follow the podcast on Instagram @thereadingculturepod to see reels of our guests and subscribe to our newsletter at to learn about our exciting upcoming giveaways! #readingculturefam (for life!)




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