WSIRN Ep 153: Revolutionizing your reading life, 10 minutes at a time

Today’s guest Kari Sweeney is a working mom of four who has developed a unique system to keep her reading life running like clockwork. So many books, so little time is a universal reader problem, so how about we help each other out in the comments – share the reading hacks that revolutionize YOUR life. 

Kari and I are also chatting about wishy washy star ratings, the right season for the right book, how she freed herself from book guilt… and she’s sharing her secret to getting the hottest new books the week they release—for FREE.

Let’s get to it!

What Should I Read Next #153: Revolutionizing your reading life, 10 minutes at a time with Kari Sweeney


Follow Kari Sweeney on Instagram to see what she reads next…


Books mentioned in this episode:
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If you’d like to support your local indie, check out And by all means, go grab one of these from your local library!

• To All The Boys I Loved Before, by Jenny Han (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• P.S. I Love You, by Jenny Han (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
♥ The Great Alone, by Kristin Hannah (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
♥ The One in a Million Boy, by Monica Wood (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
♥ Beartown, by Fredrik Backman (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
♥ Us Against You, by Fredrik Backman (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
▵ Educated, by Tara Westover (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• I’d Rather Be Reading, by Anne Bogel (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Stretched Too Thin, by Jessica N. Turner (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Harry’s Trees, by Jon Cohen (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• The Lost Lake, by Sarah Addison Allen (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• The Peach Keeper, by Sarah Addison Allen (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• Garden Spells, by Sarah Addison Allen (AmazonBarnes and Noble)
• The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen (AmazonBarnes and Noble)

Also mentioned:
• Kari turns her Bookstagram into physical memories with Chatbooks.


What do YOU think Kari should read next? Let us know in the comments!


Leave A Comment
  1. Diana says:

    I felt like I had so much in common with Kari with how we both manage our reading lives! Checking library holds more often than my bank activity, feeling like an expert at managing those holds, and wanting to read books set in locations I am visiting! It was like listening to a kindred spirit!

  2. Adrienne Hudson says:

    Great episode! One suggestion I have for Kari would be “Dancing at the Rascal Fair”, by Ivan Doig. It has memorable relatable characters, none of that high-brow MFA writing (*grin*), and like “The Great Alone”, the setting in this book (Montana in the late 1800’s) is essentially another character in the story. This is actually the second book Doig wrote in his Montana trilogy, but chronologically, it is the first in the story and is just a fantastic story. Now I’m off to check my library holds…..and to add Harry’s Trees to my hold list.

    • Becky Brady says:

      I’ve recently discovered Ivan Doig (I think thanks to this podcast) and have read several of his books… love them!

  3. Kate says:

    My reading loves really align with Kari and I think she will love Harry’s Trees! Also, I loved the Sugar Queen- it was quirky and fun and a great book to mix in as you hop among genres.
    Great episode!

  4. Susan in TX says:

    Loved this episode! So good to hear from Kari in person, since I’ve only “met her” in MMD Book Club and Instagram (and her book sleeves!). We have very similar tastes and reading spectrums, so I really value her recommendations. And I love her library habits — I try to do similarly with new release holds. Reading doesn’t have to be an expensive habit – OR a competition. 🙂

  5. Lori McGough says:

    LOVED this episode. Kari seems so down to earth, plus she and I have similar taste in books. Can’t wait to check out some of your recommendations Anne. Thanks for such a great podcast!

  6. Crystal says:

    Great episode! If she likes “Stretched Too Thin” she might also enjoy “Holy Hustle: embracing a Work-Hard, Rest-Well Life.” Bonus: it’s already set up to be read with a book club 🙂 now I’m off to put my library hold system to good use!

  7. Mardy says:

    I laughed when she said she checks on her library holds more than she checks her bank statement because I am exactly the same! In fact, I just checked my library holds before I listened to the episode. Although I share her love for Fredrick Backman’s writing (Beartown is on my TBR list, after having read everything else he wrote), I really didn’t like A History of Love which is what you recommended to her, Anne. I think I’ll keep Kristin Hannah in mind though. Last weekend I brought a book with me everywhere I went, so while I was waiting for my takeaway, my script to be filled at the pharmacy, I was reading. And I finished three books. So I agree with her, it all adds up!

  8. Martha Gordon says:

    An author I’d recommend to Kari that reminds me of Jon Cohen is Brian Doyle. I especially liked “The Plover” and “Martin Marten.”

  9. Mardy says:

    Also I forgot to add, I LOVE To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. I am not ashamed to admit I listened to all three books from the series back-to-back, twice in just a few days and loved every minute. Till now I think of those books with a smile on my face, and a memory of how it was like to be 16. So nice to know I’m not the only grown woman who enjoys them.

  10. Sophie says:

    Great episode! I have many similar tastes as Kari and her birthday lunch at the bar sounds just up my alley. Though I’d opt for a tea shop with my book! One book I read right after “The Great Alone” was “Peace Like a River” by Lief Enger and really enjoyed it.

  11. Theresa says:

    Harry’s Trees was my very favorite book this year!!! I keep trying but cannot find another book that I have loved as much so I have been in kind of a reading slump since. I am actually considering reading it again and I have never read a book twice. I also love Fredrik Backman and quirky characters so much.

    P.S. – I definitely check my library holds more than my online banking app!

    • Susan Magri says:

      Hi Theresa I also loved Harry’s Trees and rarely read a book twice but this one I might just indulge. I used to like to sit with the characters for a while after I finish a great story but then I also found it difficult to move forward to my next book. After Harry’s Trees I immediately picked up a book in a different genre I started to read The Priest of Bones by Peter McLean. It’s a fast read. Lots of action and great characters. It’s the first of a series.
      Just a thought.

  12. Meredith Greene says:

    The “chatbook ” link in your episode notes goes to a photo book app. Is this the correct one? I searched chatbook (no s) and that app in a book app but in Arabic that I cannot translate. Could you clarify how to go about starting to use the app?

  13. Patty says:

    I totally loved this episode, and my tastes and reading philosophies seem completely align with Kari. Off to update my TBR and Library Holds lists! Thanks, Anne and Kari!

  14. Elaine says:

    Absolutely one of my favorite podcasts, we have pretty similar taste in books and how we spend our reading time. Loved and have read many of the books mentioned. Another great episode!

  15. Patti says:

    Kari had me at Beartown/Us Against You but when she also didn’t enjoy Fates and Furies…yes, girl! I agree so much and loved how she described reading it as work. I never finished it and haven’t regretted it once. Also had trouble feeling engaged with Educated – I haven’t given up on it, though. I think I’ll try again later. Thanks!

  16. Jeannie Decket says:

    We must be soul mates. Your favorite books are exactly mine and for the same reason. I also follow your reading hints and use my library as you do. Here’s
    My tip for you for your Cd holds from your library. I have an iPod. I get my holds and download them into itunes. I can slip my iPod in my pocket and I all my chores and even listen a bit before bed. I can return the Cd books very quickly to the library in a day or 2. So no guilt taking out many books at a time. And I can keep them on my iPod for as long as I want. Enjoyed your conversation with Anne. Happy reading.

    • Adrienne Hudson says:

      Jeannie – this is brilliant! I get a lot of audio books on CD from my library but only listen to them in the car during my commute. I’ll have to try loading them onto my iPod or phone through iTunes.

  17. Terri says:

    I maybe go a little overboard on finding snippets of time to fit in some reading. I take both a physical book and an audiobook with me when I take a bath. I read my book while the tub is filling up, then switch to audio while bathing. Draining the tub makes too much noise, so I switch back to the physical book.
    A tip for both audiobooks and podcasts: I listen at 1.5 speed. It takes only about 30 seconds to get used to, and I can fit in more content without losing sound quality.

  18. Heather says:

    I LOVED this episode! I feel like Kari and I have the same reading tastes and was adding all the books to my TBR list. I also loved how she described Beartown and Us Against You. I’ve been trying to recommend them to friends and just have no words to describe its greatness. Now I can borrow some of Kari’s words!

    • Terri says:

      I actually thought I might pass on Beartown because (even though I **loved** Ove) the description didn’t sound all that inviting. Now, I will give it a chance …. and will love having a sequel if it’s as good as y’all say it is!

      • Kari Sweeney says:

        Terri- Beartown is vastly different from Ove, but what remains consistent is Backman’s ability to write an amazing story with vivid characters.

  19. Terri says:

    Also, I identified with Kari’s comment about sometimes feeling “not smart enough” for a book. Just finished The Overstory, and while I enjoyed it, I was also feeling like I wasn’t fully “getting” it.

  20. Cheryl Bollish says:

    Amazing episode! I was so excited to hear her voice again talking about books with my favorite book person. I got to meet Kari in Austin when a bunch MMD book club friends went to hear Mohsin Hamid talk about EXIT WEST. I read a wide variety of genres too but if she hasn’t read 11-22-63, I think she should give it a try.?

    • Kari Sweeney says:

      Cheryl- Hi friend!
      11/22/63 has been on my TBR for a long time. I think I may try it on audio book. The print book intimidates me 🙂

  21. Katie says:

    I can relate so much to her reading life! I’m also stingy with my stars. I think I have less than 30 5 star books in my entire reading history? 7 of which are Harry Potter. It really has to knock my socks off and be a book I’m going to re-read. A lot of my books are 3 (Good and entertaining, but nothing spectacular) and 4 (I really liked it, but not 5 star worthy).

  22. This was my all time favourite What Shall I Read Next. Kari was so honest and its the first time I’ve read the three books she gave as favourites. I’ve read most of Sarah Addison Allen and like her books. I have loved Kristin Hannah books for years. Finally a match! Biggest difference for me is if I love a book, it gives me pleasure and happy reading hours, I happily give it a five. Just why not!

    • Kari Sweeney says:

      Thanks Kathryn! I don’t know why I’m so stingy with my 5 star ratings. Who knows- maybe 2019 will bring a change 🙂

  23. Erin says:

    Great episode! I can soo relate to this working mom trying to juggle family life and the love of reading! I love holds at the library as well. I feel a sense of duty to return a book right away if I finish early and there are lots of holds on it so others can enjoy it sooner!

  24. Laura Salles Schwartz says:

    Kari, your introduction chat felt like you were describing me! I relate so much to the idea of guilt for wanting to read “lighter” books and feeling pressure to read the more literary novels because it’s expected of readers. I also read from all genres, styles, and 100% based on mood. I need to go back and forth between books I can empty my brain with and just enjoy the ride, and the more literary books that make me think. I’ve also given up on pretending to enjoy only what is supposed good writing, as I’ll take an enjoyable story any day over high brow reading that make me feel “dumb”. There’s room for both in my life!

    So from your favorites I’ve only read One in a Million Boy so far, and it was indeed so lovely. Not super easy for me to read, as a mom of a boy on the spectrum, but it was both so sad and so hopeful, and the characters were fantastic! But from your descriptions, I must read the other two (Beartown has been on my TBR list since it came out, since I did like A man called Ove so much)!
    I also related so much to how you read, in the sense that I find minutes here and there throughout my day to read, I read during lunch, while doing dishes, while folding clothes, in waiting rooms, religiously before bed, and at any other opportunity. I need to learn to listen to audiobooks for my commute but I tend to let my mind wander too much so I haven’t been successful with audiobooks. Oh, and I’m with you in the library hold system! I mostly read from my library, mostly e-books, and since I go through books so fast (a couple a week as well) I always have things on hold and sit down to browse the library website to add things to my wish list and to organize my holds.

    As far as recommendations, have you read “Tell me Three things” by Julie Buxbaum? It’s light and quick like Jenny Han.
    Also, and I might be on the wrong track here, but I’d suggest trying “Spring Snow” by Yukio Mishima, which is a story about forbidden love. It’s a very melancholic book but so so beautiful. I must say, it has been many many years (20 years perhaps) since I’ve read it, and my memory of the story is very vague, but what I do remember is just how beautiful is Mishima’s writing, so it’s a book meant to be appreciated for it’s writing.

    • Laura Salles Schwartz says:

      I have to add that I can probably add another few years worth of books from your instagram account! And I love that idea on how to keep track of your reads!

      • Kari Sweeney says:

        Laura- I loved Tell Me Three Things. Confession- I regularly re-read the last chapter when they’re at the pancake house. In fact- I just reread it on a flight last week. 🙂 I’ll look into Spring Snow.

  25. Sarah says:

    Loved this episode – so many similarities in our reading lives! So curious as to how many holds Kari’s library allows? We get 10 per account but when you’re waiting for those best sellers to come out, you may be waiting a while for them to come in at the library…so ties up some of your holds. Curious how that works with the system!

    • Kari Sweeney says:

      Sarah- My library does not have a limit on holds or the number that can be checked out at one time. I serve as a Trustee on my library board and we are considering limits for both. Mostly because there are some patrons that could benefit from some guidelines. 🙂

  26. Nicole M. says:

    Great episode! I loved the reference to people saying that they don’t have time to read, but never saying that they don’t have time for FB. I plan on checking out all of the book recommendations that were give, I think this is the first time that I hadn’t read any of the books mentioned.

  27. Susan Magri says:

    I absolutely love this podcast! I took your recommendation and read Harry’s Trees and LOVED LOVED LOVED it!!! I have so many books on hold at my library right now! So many books. So little time.
    Thank you 🙂

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