WSIRN Ep 174: The heart wants to read what the heart wants to read

WSIRN Ep 174: The heart wants to read what the heart wants to read
First a special announcement:
What Should I Read Next is now on Patreon to bring you outtakes, peeks behind the scenes, printable goodness, online hangouts, BONUS EPISODES, and… access to our epic spreadsheet that holds the loves, hates, and recommendations from each episode. Backers also will get to participate in certain aspects of the creative process from call-ins, to special episode ideas, in fact our current backers even helped us title this episode.Get closer to the creative process by heading over to now and joining WSIRN’s behind-the-scenes family.


Readers, I don’t think I can introduce today’s guest Kate Daley any better than she introduced herself in the guest submission form that totally hooked me. She wrote, “I’m a 28 year old house painter in New South Wales Australia, living full time for the last two and a half years in a Toyota Hiace camper van… I lost the joy of reading after a decade long reading rut and nearly gave up on ever picking up a book again…two years of audio books and your podcast whispering in my ear while I painted houses and I’m now chewing my way through six to eight books a month!”

I knew I HAD to talk to Kate about how book life and van life collide, so we braved the 15 hour time difference and made it happen. Today we’re chatting about the genre that threw her into that intense reading rut, the competitive side of reading in her family, and just where she stows her personal library in her little living quarters.

Let’s get to it!

What Should I Read Next #174: The heart wants to read what the heart wants to read with Kate Daley

You can keep up with Kate Daley’s van-roaming reading life on Instagram.


Books mentioned in this episode:Some links are affiliate links. More details here.
If you’d like to support your local indie, check out And by all means, go grab one of these from your local library!

A Streetcat Named Bob, James Bowen
Red Rising, by Pierce Brown
Secondborn, by Amy A. Bartol
The Last Girl, by Joe Hart
A Thousand Pieces of You, by Claudia Gray
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas
Skip Beat!, by Yoshiki Nakamura
The Inspector Gamache series, by Louise Penny
The Bookshop on the Corner, by Jenny Colgan
Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback, by Robyn Davidson
My Plain Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows


 What do YOU think Kate would enjoy reading next to break out of her comfort zone? Tell us in the comments section!

more posts you might enjoy

36 comments | Comment


Leave A Comment
  1. Audrey says:

    Maisie Dobbs mystery series by Jacqueline Winspear. Long way down by Jason Reynolds. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann—reads like a mystery novel but strong social justice themes regarding Native American population. For brother: Gregor series by Suzanne Collins and The Ranger’’s Apprentice series by John Flanagan. Cherub series by Robert Muchamore. Happy reading!

  2. Cristin says:

    If you want to revisit your comfort zone (fantasy), The Lies of Locke Lamora. I am not usually a fantasy reader – this is so good!

  3. Ginny Agnew says:

    I’m afraid, Anne you demonstrated that you’d attempted counsel outside your expertise with your suggestion of pretty little poetry books. Not good advice to break into a love of poetry. There are exquisite sources online for poetry starters. Tracy K. Smith the current Poet Laureate has a podcast called The Slowdown. Former Poet Laureate Ted Cooser sends out weekly poems that are spare and accessible in his American Life in Poetry. Another former PL Billy Collins hosted a series called 180 which provided that number of poems to classrooms each year. At least two years are collected into book form and Library of Congress continues the tradition online through their rich location of free poems.
    Absolutely buy poetry. But there are so many resources for free online so one can shop for the poets who speak their language. Poetry Foundation and Poetry Daily are two other great sources.
    Your suggestion’s unhelpfulness illustrated clearly what your podcast could be in far less expert hands. So use it as a warning not to venture outside of what you know. And you know so very very much I hate to see you stumble so. I listen each week joyfully to your podcast and greatly appreciate the skill and hardwork you put into it so it hurts me to be critical. But it is too easy for people wrongly exposed to poetry to write it off. It is the clearest path to the soul when well done so I hate people not to find that for themselves. I’ve gone on too long

    • Manda K. says:

      To present a different perspective on this issue, I actually appreciated Anne’s mention of the Everyman Pocket series. I was unfamiliar with the series and did a little digging online. In addition to the poetry titles, there are quite a few volumes of short stories. I was impressed by the breadth of the offerings, and while they are pretty, yes, they also seem to be thoughtfully curated. I’ve got my eye on several titles, both for myself and my poetry-loving daughter.

      • Victoria Rotondi says:

        I agree completely. I’m very thankful to have learned about this series from today’s podcast. I’ve been perusing the series and have already picked out a few books for my wish list. I think it’s one of many ways to begin to read poetry more regularly.

      • Ginny Agnew says:

        You got me shopping now, too. There are indeed some gorgeous books in that collection. I may have to sample one or two to find out just how wrong I was to nitpick about Anne’s Advice. Thanks

    • Anne says:

      I’m sorry you disagree; I was speaking from experience, because I love this series myself, and have found this to be a welcoming gateway for many readers who prefer their poetry in book (that is, paper) form. Thank you for sharing additional resources.

      • Ginny Agnew says:

        I’m the mother of a daughter who lived for the past year in a van with her fiancé so my objection may’ve been in part from the knowledge that every inch really matters and every penny counts. As I said to Manda you two have me taking a look at those books so I entirely withdraw my criticism.
        Keep up the good work!!

  4. Kelly says:

    If she was looking for a stretch read within her comfort genre, the way Kate spoke about “how people are treated” in A Streetcat Named Bob combined with the Red Rising pick makes me think An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon might be a good pick for her. Snapshot synopsis: More or less autistic woman investigates clues to deeper meaning behind her mother’s suicide in a generation ship by way of the Antebellum South. (Warning for graphic content.)

    Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer is the first of a series staring a 12 year old villain wunderkind who is convinced fairies are real – and would make an excellent target. I loved them when I was younger, so perhaps her brother would like them as well.

  5. Brigette says:

    I suggest the YA book “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jaqueline Woodson. Each chapter is a poem. It is very accessible poetry and a meaningful story.

  6. Elise says:

    Kate, since the Inspector Gamache series piqued your interest in poetry, maybe you could try Morning in the Burned House by Margaret Atwood. I believe that’s the real source for most of Ruth Zardo’s poems. I haven’t read it, but I’ve noticed that most of the Atwood poems I HAVE read have a narrative drive to them – like short stories in themselves. It might be a fun collection to check out.

    • Elise says:

      Also, if you would like to read another book about homelessness that is compassionate, humanizing, and hopeful, I recommend “God in the Alley: Being and Seeing Jesus in a Broken World.” As the title suggests, it’s written from a Christian viewpoint, but even if that’s not your perspective, it can inspire you see the beauty and humanity in people who are often overlooked. It’s a very slim volume and a fast read, but it packs an emotional punch.

  7. Judith says:

    Fantasy with great characters by an Australian poet !!! The Pellinor Series (4 books) by Alison Croggon. Set in a world of medieval level technology plus magic, where the magic is closely linked to poetry and song, a teen girl and later her younger brother have many adventures and save their world ( not really a spoiler because in this sort of story the world usually gets saved – sort of like saying the lovers get together in the end of a romance novel!) The books are as beautifully written as one would expect from a poet and contain songs and poems as part of the story.

  8. Louise I says:

    What about some magical realism, to blend the real world with some fantasy, bending the structure of reality a bit? I loved Garden Spells and First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen, after a recommendation from Anne on the podcast ages back.

  9. Becka says:

    I loved this episode so much! I identify with Kate a lot, even on the level of having a younger brother who I am insanely competitive with when it comes to reading. My brother and I both love fantasy so we often read the same books (and it makes it easier to get him to read when he’s being a surly teenager). We read the Mistborn series by Brandon Sanderson together, and while it may be a lot for non fantasy readers, I highly recommend it! The character and plot development is insane.

    • Laura Salles Schwartz says:

      I came over here after listening to the episode to recommend Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn (yes, it’s a trilogy, starting with The Final Empire, but there are more books in the same universe later on)! Was about to say it’s catering to her comfort zone and not challenging her but it seemed it’d be a good choice for her. It is one of my favorites in the genre, for sure!

      I read a lot of sci-fi/fantasy/YA series and have Red Rising in my TBR. I should really move it up my list.

      I have another recommendation in your comfort zone, with LOADS of character development, Kate. If you haven’t given this a chance yet, I have nothing but praise for Robin Hobb’s “Assassin’s Apprentice”. There are a few trilogies that follow the life of Fitz (and another character, but I don’t want to spoil anything), from a young child to adulthood, starting with the Farseer Trilogy.

      For your brother (and you’d probably enjoy it with him!) I recommend “Steelheart” (The Reckoners Trilogy), also by Brandon Sanderson, which is an action/adventure dystopian adventure that reads like a movie. I had a lot of fun with this one!

      Finally, I have to leave one final recommendation for you, although this is my maybe one. It’s a bit romantic, and I can’t quite remember details about any romantic YA tropes, but I do remember really really enjoying this one. It’s called “The Kiss of Deception” by Mary E. Pearson. It’s a romantic fantasy, but don’t let the title fool you into thinking it’s just silly romance, it’s an adventure book!

  10. Carol says:

    Coincidentally, the evening prior to this podcast I was browsing my library’s Cloud Library for an audio book to download and came upon a poetry book that is so enjoyable. The Poets’ Corner: The One-and-Only Poetry Book for the Whole Family, by John Lithgow, who narrates along with Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Glen Close, Jodie Foster, Gary Sinise and many more. It covers poets from the 14th century to current. For each poet, Lithgow discusses the poets life, his or her fellow poets who inspired them, and some discussion of the poem itself. Although available in hardcover, the audio version is a must because the readings are preformed so eloquently, or, as the case may be, with great humor, drama and emotion. I am someone who has not read enough poetry, and this is the perfect selection to become reacquainted. I highly recommend it!

  11. Mary Beth says:

    The audio version of The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is wonderful. It is read by the author and much like listening to a slam poetry session. It is YA fiction about a young poet and her relationships with herself, a boy, her mother, and her poetry.

  12. Marie says:

    Kate I have recommendations for both you and your little brother. For your little brother, a huge family favorite is “Holes” by Louis Sachar. I actually first read it pre-kid – the premise sounds dark – a set of kids in a detention camp forced to dig holes in the desert, but it ends up being a very entertaining tale of a family curse due to a pig-stealing ancestor that includes onions and unlikely friendships that all comes together in a happy ending. A pick that might also be appealing to your sci-fi interest is the White Mountains series by John Christopher, which my 11-year-old self loved.

    For Kate, I recommend the memoir “Blue Highways.” In a life transition, the author decides to go on a road adventure around the US and choosing the “blue highways” or side roads. It’s a charming book about the local characters he meets along the way. Since you like Manga, there’s “Persepolis”, a graphic novel memoir by a woman growing up in Tehran during the revolution. I shared this with my book club and it converted a number of people who had never picked up a graphic novel before.

  13. Great episode! My recommendation about books on wheels, is an older book. Parnassus On wheels by Christopher Morley! I listened to an audio edition of it that I loved!

    Also, a book I read after hearing about it on this podcast, book I read after hearing about it on this podcast, news of the world.

  14. Christina says:

    Kate might enjoy the book Finding Gobi by Dion Leonard. It’s a true story about an (Australian) ultramarathon runner and a stray dog who runs up to him during a race through the Gobi Desert. They run together for 77 miles, until Gobi goes missing. The rest of the book details the search to find him and then the effort to adopt him and bring him home. The book was actually my town’s community read this year. Definitely recommend!

  15. Sarah says:

    Kate, if you decide to go back and read My Lady Jane, you have to listen to the audio book! Katherine Kellgren (who unfortunately passed away a few months ago) is a FANTASTIC narrator, and her reading of the book makes it so much more fun! And if you need another series, Katherine also narrates The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. There are six books in the series, but they go quickly and they’re so much fun.

  16. Angela says:

    Kate, for thought-provoking young adult fantasy, check out The Giver by Lois Lowry. Your brother might like it too.

  17. Jessie says:

    OMG is she likes fantasy, she should definitely read Australian writer Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor and the sequel Wundersmith. Awesome, middle grade, fantasy fiction.

  18. Jodie Posen says:

    Hi Kate, based on your love of Red Rising – which I also loved (on audio) and your love of YA you might also enjoy Scythe by Neal Shusterman. It is also a series.

  19. Hilary says:

    As a ‘gateway’ book (from fantasy to historical fiction)- I would strongly recommend Kindred by Octavia Butler. It admittedly sounds a little weird but the protagonist can travel back in time so she goes from modern day (from when this was written, the 1970s I believe) to the Civil War era. I *LOVED* this book and can’t recommend it enough.

  20. I just listened to this episode and a number of books popped into my mind. First off, after you read TRACKS, be sure to find the movie. I think I watched it on Netflix instant.
    A few other cat books you might like:
    THE TRAVELLING CAT CHRONICLES by Hiro Arikawa is a Japanese story newly translated. It’s about Saturo who takes in Nana the cat (who narrates the story) after he is hit by a car and then after some time embark on a journey across Japan to find a new home. It’s lovely.

    Paul Magrs is a British author who wrote THE STORY OF FESTER CAT which is a true story about a stray that Paul and his partner took in but again told from the cat’s perspective. Then their story continues in WELCOME HOME, BERNARD SOCKS.

    Thanks for the lovely podcast episode!

  21. Alex Mac says:

    I loved your poetry recommendations because I also try to work a little poetry into my daily life. I saw that another listener recommended The Slowdown podcast and I wanted to recommend that as well. It is a 5 minute podcast and I (as an audiobook lover) have found it to be a great way to add 5 minutes of poetry every week. The host (current U.S. poet laureate Tracy K. Smith) gives a very short introduction and then reads a poem. In the same way that I really began to love Shakespeare once I heard it performed, it really deepened my love of poetry to hear it read aloud. It gives me lots of ideas for poets whose work I seek out in book (paper) form. I love it!

  22. Brenda says:

    I know I am kind of “late to the party”, having just listened to this episode. I thought the recommendation to read or listen to a few minutes of poetry at a time was helpful. Two poets that feed my soul are Mary Oliver (who recently died) and Wendell Berry. Also it might be worth a try to read (or listen to) some novels in verse, such as the those by Helen Frost. Others I have enjoyed of late are The Crossover by Kwame Alexander (he is a genius..and your brother might like his writing) and Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (or really anything by him). Loved the episode and hearing about Kate’s reading
    and tiny home.

  23. thewildrumpus says:

    Did you see “Bookshop on the Shore” (Jenny Colgan) is coming out in June? I’m sure it will be a perfect summer read!

  24. Emily says:

    After your comment about fiction from Australia, I had to throw out what has become my favorite book so far of 2019 – Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton.
    It’s about a boy growing up in 1980s Australia dealing with issues like having parents who are drug dealers, an older brother who refuses to speak and a best friend who happens to be an elderly prison escapee. The story sounds fairly straightforward but there is an element of magical realism throughout the book that keeps you unsure of whether or not you’re reading fiction or fantasy.
    Anne, I’d love to hear you talk about this one on an episode!

  25. Karensa Lee says:

    Did this podcast have a transcript? Usually it’s posted with the podcast post and didn’t see one. I like to read them after listening. Thx

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *