I’ve been soooo looking forward to sharing today’s episode with you. Today we’re sharing the live audio from my book tour stop at the Strand in New York City. This evening in their gorgeous rare books room was MAGICAL. The room was packed with avid readers (and quite a few What Should I Read Next alums, which is what we like to call our past guests). It couldn’t have been a better night, and I am so happy and thankful that now you get to listen in in today’s episode.
But. I can’t talk about that night—or this episode—without telling you that sharing it feels bittersweet. This was my second—and last, for now—book tour stop for Don’t Overthink It and one of the Strand’s last events before closing their doors due to covid-19. My heart goes out to the Strand, its employees, and all of New York City. I hope to see you all again soon.
For the time being, it’s a solace to be able to bring you the live audio from that night at the Strand. This episode is ALL ABOUT What Should I Read Next; I’m reflecting on the show in a way that I really haven’t done publicly. I hope you find it interesting, illuminating, and entertaining. In the next segment I’m joined by a Strand bookseller to do some on-the-fly literary matchmaking for our live audience. I’ll share some photos to our instagram account so you can see what she and I were working with.
I’d like to say a special thank you to the wonderful staff at the Strand who made this event possible, particularly Sabir Sultan and my matchmaking partner Robyn Smith. I hope we can do it again one day. And readers, I hope you enjoy this special episode.
Now let’s get to it.
[CHEERFUL INTRO MUSIC]
ANNE: Hey readers. I’m Anne Bogel, and this is What Should I Read Next? Episode 230.
Welcome to the show that’s dedicated to answering the question that plagues every reader: What should I read next?
We don’t get bossy on this show: What we WILL do here is give you the information you need to choose your next read. Every week we’ll talk all things books and reading, and most weeks, do a little literary matchmaking with one guest.
We’ve got a special episode coming your way today and more about that in a second...
Readers, I hope you know about our other podcast One Great Book. That’s where I pull one book off my bookshelves and tell you all about it in 10 minutes or less. We haven’t released new public episodes of One Great Book recently, but I do record OGB style bonus episodes for our patreon supporters—and for the first time ever, we’re making one of those bonus episodes available to everyone, not just to patrons.
In this new episode, I share insights from a book I read many years ago, that I keep thinking about these days because those insights are helping me daily as I navigate the current coronavirus crisis. I think they’ll help you, too, and because this topic is so important right now, I wanted to make it available to everyone. As an added benefit, you’ll get to listen in on one of our bonus episodes that we release regularly for our patrons and are typically ONLY available to that community.
Patreon is simply a platform that makes it easy to share bonus content like this with our community there, like bonus episodes, Ask Us Anything chats, and access to the secret spreadsheet vault that holds all the featured books from every single episode. If you’re looking for a bookish community during an isolated time, now is a wonderful time to become a patron. Brenna and I are hosting our next Ask Us Anything chat on April 9th, and these are always so fun. And I won’t lie, independently created and produced podcasts like ours could REALLY use your support right now.
To listen to that new bonus episode, and to learn more about our Patreon community, visit patreon.com/whatshouldireadnext. That’s Patreon, P-A-T-R-E-O-N, Patreon.com/whatshouldireadnext
Readers, we will not have a new episode next week, on April 14, so now is a great time to dive into that patreon content, or to catch up on past episodes from What Should I Read Next or our sister show One Great Book. These episodes are evergreen; you can listen in any order, at any time. Happy listening.
Readers, I’ve been so looking forward to sharing today’s episode with you, but I’ve gotta tell you, it’s bittersweet. Today we’re sharing the live audio from my book tour stop at The Strand in New York City. We recorded this episode not even a full month ago—on Friday, March 6, 2020. To me, then, the city felt mostly just as it always had. Things were only then beginning to change—I noticed a few masks on the street; I was more diligent than usual with the hand sanitizer. When I met a fellow podcaster, we didn’t shake hands, we bumped elbows.
The event went on Friday night as planned. The rare book room was PACKED with readers, and I wish I could convey the energy in that room. You could feel it when you were there, and I hope you can hear it in the audio. It was incredible. I got to meet so many listeners, and meet several What Should I Read Next alums (that’s what we call our past guests) in person, some again and some for the first time. I think everyone had a fabulous time; I know I did. It was such a special night.
How quickly things change. Just 9 days later, The Strand closed its doors due to covid-19, and they remain closed at this time. Readers, I’m heartbroken for the Strand, for New York, for all of us enduring this hard thing. But this evening—that you’re about to listen to—was an absolute joy, and I’m so grateful that it happened, that so many readers could be there, and that we have the live audio to share with you, from what it looks like might be my second and last night of my Don’t Overthink It book tour.
When you listen, know that you’re not just listening in on a live book tour event. No, we planned this from the beginning as a live podcast episode, and we planned it with all our listeners in mind—those who could be there with me in the rare book room that night, and those who are listening now, today.
I think you’ll enjoy this episode, because it’s all about What Should I Read Next. I’m reflecting on the show in a way that I really haven’t done publicly, at least not until this night, and I hope you’ll find it interesting and illuminating. And entertaining. After that, I’m joined by a Strand bookseller to do some on-the-fly literary matchmaking for our live audience. I’ll share some photos to our instagram account so you can see what Robyn and I were working with; you can check those out at instagram.com/whatshouldireadnext.
I’d like to say a special thank you to the wonderful staff at The Strand who made this event possible, particular Sabir Sultan and Robyn Smith. I hope we can do it again one day. And readers, I hope you enjoy this special episode. Now let’s get to it.
[CROWD CLAPS AND CHEERS]
SABIR: Good evening, everyone, and Welcome to The Strand. My name is Sabir. For a little bit of history, The Strand was founded in 1927 by The Bass Family over on 4th Avenue’s “Book Row.” Stretching from Union Square to Astor Place, Book Row gradually dwindled until after over 93 years, The Strand is the sole survivor still run by the Bass family, still housing new and used books, and running nearly 400 events a year.
Tonight, we are celebrating the release of Anne Bogel’s new book Don’t Overthink It. It’s a guide to bringing positive thought patterns that’ll bring more peace, joy, and love into your life. Anne is the author of Reading People and I’d Rather Be Reading, and the creator of the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy, and the podcast What Should I Read Next and One Great Book. Bogel’s popular book list and reading guides have established her as a tastemaker among readers, authors, and publishers. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky.
So without further ado, please join me in welcoming Anne to The Strand.
[CROWD CLAPS AND CHEERS]
ANNE: Thank you, Sabir. And thank you to The Strand for having me. Writers don’t usually get the director’s chairs until their books become movies. I don’t think they’re going to do that with Don’t Overthink It. [CROWD LAUGHS] I have come to this bookstore as a reader for many years. But it’s a pleasure to be here as a writer. Thank you for making that possible by reading and buying your tickets and showing up. I really appreciate it. I imagine that it’s What Should I Read Next that brought you here tonight. I would love to hear if What Should I Read Next has done good things for anybody’s reading life in this room. [CROWD CLAPS] That is amazing! Thank you!
We actually have several What Should I Read Next alums … I don’t know if y’all know this, but this is what we call our people alumni once they’ve been on the show. Does anybody want to go to that school? It’s a lot of fun. It's a fun crowd. I hope I’m not going to embarrass anybody, but Keren Form is here somewhere. Front row! Rolling the dice on your next read. Did you say it was episode 194? Rissie Lundberg, math teacher extraordinaries is here. What’s your episode, Rissie? She’s episode 123. Now that’s a math teacher episode number if ever I heard one. [CROWD LAUGHS]
And are you Amy Rohn? Hi. Nice to see you in the front row. There’s a pattern here. What was your episode number? That was recently. 221. Okay. It really is a fun club, so thank you all for coming - thank all of you for coming out. That submission form is whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/guests. I just want you to know.
So, the story behind What Should I Read Next actually started on my blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy. I put up a blog post one Sunday morning that said, hey, for years now after talking about books publicly people have been coming to me with a question, thinking I know something about books and reading, and the question is this: I’m looking for my next book, can you recommend something great for me? And my answer was always, well I mean, no. [LAUGHS] I can tell you what I’ve read and really enjoyed but I don’t know what to tell you that you may enjoy reading next. And I started thinking about this. I’m an introverted, ENFP, enneagram 9 slow processor, so I mulled it over for a couple years in the back of my mind. And then one Sunday morning on an impulse, I put up this blog post because the thing about blogging is you can put an idea out there and just see what happens.
So I put up a post that said, [SIGHS] I get this question all the time, and I can’t just tell you a great book unless I know something about you. So let’s try this. Tell me three books you love, one book you didn’t, and what you’re reading now and I’ll recommend three titles you may enjoy reading next. That happened a long, long time ago. Like 2013 I think, and here we are in 2020 and that is the exact format of the podcast. It didn’t start as a podcast. I thought it’d be fun to do as a blog series, and what I realized answering these queries week after week was it worked, but I felt like it would work better if we could have a conversation. And at the same time, this podcasting thing was really catching on, and I thought well that would be fun, but I wonder what the show could be about. And it took me [LAUGHS] an embarrassing long time to realize this book recommendation, matchmaking thing happening over here ‘cause that’s what I called it originally. I said let’s try some literary matchmaking, personal shopping for books, whatever you want to call it, like let’s take this idea out for a spin.
But I didn’t like it in a written format. But I thought talking to readers every week sounded like a lot of fun. And finally it dawned on me that that was the same idea if we married the book recommendations with the podcasting format, it could be really rewarding for a lot of people. And thank you for bearing that out.
Our podcast is really unusual in that after we recorded the first episode in October 2015 and I know four years isn’t a long time for some things, but it’s a long time for a podcast. And I just told you that I was a slow processor, so every other episode when a reader tells me three books they love, one book they don’t, and what they’re reading now, and then they say, Anne, what should I read next? I think that's so much pressure! Why are you putting me on the spot? Who came up with this format? [CROWD LAUGHS]
That was back in 2016 when that episode went live. The idea goes back to 20... maybe early 2015. Three days ago, I had a book come out called Don’t Overthink It. When I started working on this idea and I started quietly talking about it with a number of writing friends I can count on one hand, they said wow, that’s really different. It’s not books and reading, and I said, well, it’s these topics I love to talk about with my friends. It’s topics that I know that I love to explore on my blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy. I know they really resonate with readers, it’s something I’m interested in.
It's really only in the past month or two that I’ve realized What Should I Read Next is a format that couldn’t be more perfect for helping readers like myself and readers like you overcome overthinking in their reading life. It’s so obvious to me now, but I was completely blind to it at the time. The format in its inherent limitations, the way it’s structured, really helps me and by extension, you, not overthink it in your reading lives.
When I introduce the episode I say [LAUGHS] What Should I Read Next is the podcast that answers the question that plagues every reader, and I really do record that fresh every time. The outro, too, fresh every time. We get that question a lot. But the question that plagues every reader is what should I read next? And as anyone who has stood in front of the shelves going [SIGHS] I can’t be reading until I decide what to read next. I just don’t know. Like raise your hand if you - if you feel that pain. I’m always tempted to say we’ve all been there. I’m just going to say most of us have been there. But the show was designed to answer that question, so I want to tell you why it works. Now these are questions I address in Don’t Overthink It, but tonight we’re going to talk specifically about how these principles can work in the reading life.
First one is with the format of the show, it lets us limit ourselves to free ourselves. What that means is in our regular lives and in our reading lives, we face so many decisions every day. I mean, we are on one floor of this amazing bookstore. 18 miles of books, which depending on your mood at any given moment and your mental energy level, will either feel like delightful abundance or horrors. I can’t pick one book off this table, how can I pick one book in this entire store?
This is a real thing. Like we all have to make so many decisions every day and if we want to read for enjoyment or for relaxation or for intellectual stimulation, and we’re tired and the thing standing between us and our next read is a decision, then we might just turn on Netflix because they’ve got this figured out. They’re like if you don’t do anything, the next show is popping up right now. Like they’re not gonna make you make any decisions.
So what What Should I Read Next does is it puts really tight limitations in place for the books. The format is unchanged. You tell me three, one, and what you’re reading now. We call it the three-one-one at What Should I Read Next HQ but sometimes people want to tell me like seven titles they’re reading now. I love hearing what readers are reading next, but then like too much data makes me feel a little overwhelmed. But you tell me three books you love, one book you don’t, and I tell you three titles.
Now who has listened to an episode where I’ve given a guest more than three titles? Do you like that or do you think Anne, cut it out? Okay, like it, raise your hand. Anne, cut it out, raise your hand. Oh, you’re not helping me here. Come on! [CROWD LAUGHS] I can’t help myself, but I would never give them 17 because that would be too many for them and for me. They’re tight limitation for time. Usually an episode takes about an hour to record, although we have had episodes that have taken like 2 1/2 hours to record. Usually that’s when there are emotional stories, fears involved, or someone who’s really nervous and we talk our way into the point where we’re excited talking about books. And we’ll talk a little more about that.
Also a question I get a lot is how thoroughly do I prepare for every episode because the forms that some of y’all filled out tonight are very similar to what we have on our guest submission form at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com. So people ask me like, how many days do you spend researching? And how long is the gap between when a reader tells me their titles and when I recommend titles back, like is it a couple hours? Is it a couple days? Is it a week? There’s no gap. I limit myself to one hour to prepare for every podcast. Otherwise I don’t know that I could ever stop ‘cause you can never be ready to recommend all the books a person might enjoy and I just decided one hour is enough to have good information to work with.
Also I could prepare all day long and then just be blindsided by the reason that the person loved The Great Gatsby wasn’t all for the reason I expected them too, and my preparation would all be in vain, so we like to keep it loose. There is no gap between when readers tell me their books and when I start suggesting books for them to read. Again, let’s go back to who came up with this format idea? [CROWD LAUGHS]
Something else that What Should I Read Next does really well is it gives readers an outside perspective on their reading life. If you’re the one on the show and you’re talking to me about your reading life, you have so many data points about what you’re reading that you can’t always see the patterns that are pretty obvious to an outside observer. You’re in your own head, which is wonderful but also not always an advantage. So I get to be the outside perspective. Now if you’re listening to the show, you get to hear another reader talk about their reading life and so you can start to see the patterns. You can hear why readers enjoy books and you get to hear different titles that you might not have picked yourself. So getting that outside perspective is really valuable.
Something that the show has that is excellent for overcoming overthinking whether you’re at the grocery store or choosing your next read is an attitude of experimentation. It is okay to try new things and see what happens next. And we have this attitude of experimentation baked into the show. The truth emerges in contrast so if you read a book and you didn’t enjoy it or you thought I can see that this is good, but it’s not for me, or I don’t know, you flung it across the room, anybody done that? That is a higher percentage than I would have expected. Okay. You think that readers are placid and then they throw things, heavy things.
But it’s baked into the show that if you try something that wasn’t for you, that’s not a failure. That is excellent information and you can always use that information, good or bad, to have excellent conversations with your fellow readers. I mean, you want to have a good conversation about books, you put some readers around a table, you say tell me about a book that you really didn’t like. That’s gonna be a good conversation. So that attitude of experimentation is part of the show.
And finally, the way I close every episode is with a decision, and that is not on accident. I mean, can anybody recite what I would say at the end of the show? So, Amy, out of those three reads, what title do you think you’ll read next? Amy, what did you say? Amy said she would read Scythe next. The reason was because she had a copy on her desk. You had to decide somehow, and so you took the sign the universe was telling you and then she read the whole series. It’s not always great. Sometimes we’ll check in with readers after a while, and say, oh, did you read the book? What did you think? And they’ll say umm, no. [CROWD LAUGHS] The library, like, came in with a request I’ve been waiting for like a month and a half, so I thought I needed to read that. But they’re reading, so we’re okay with that.
So it’s not a coincidence that we have a decision at the end of the episode. And the important thing isn’t that they stick to it. We don’t, like, we don’t send the reading police to knock down your door. I mean, did we? [CROWD LAUGHS] If Brenna sends them, she doesn’t tell me about it. But we do want readers to have a working plan for what they’re going to read next.
In the book, I talk about this concept as speeding up to move on, and the idea comes from riding like a motorcycle. I’ve ridden a motorcycle once in my life ‘cause I’m not like a wild adventure seeker. I know you’re all shocked. [CROWD LAUGHS] But the first time I got in a motorcycle, my friend was like, hey, we’re going to speed up real quick, and I was like hey, this is my life … Can we not? Can we go slow? And he said, you can’t go slow on a motorcycle. It’s like learning to ride a bike. You just weave. He’s like, trust me, you’ll be happier if you just keep going. It feels uncomfortable at first, but we’re gonna speed up. You gotta speed up to move on.
I found that this idea applies so much to our reading life and any decision we’re making. When we’re staring at our bookshelves without a book that we’re in the middle of, I mean, sometimes it can feel like delightful abundance, but sometimes it can feel like agh, I’m just not comfortable unless I’m reading a book. So you have to make that decision. You have to speed up to move on so you can be reading again. So we want to hear our guests say what they’re going to read next, and I love how sometimes our guests say, first, they’ll say, my gut says this. I love that book or it’s on my desk or sometimes they’ll say, I’m going to go to my local indie and see what’s on the shelves or see what they say. Or see how quickly they can get the first one in. Sometimes they’ll say I’m going to request them all from the library and I’m going to read whatever comes in next. Or sometimes they’ll say, well I’m going to go in alphabetical order. Or publication date. But they’ll make up a framework for themselves that lets them decide without deciding, and that totally and completely works.
ANNE: Readers, I know many of us are looking for ways to make the most of our time at home right now and practice extra self-care, whether that means baking homemade bread, reading that 700 page book on your TBR, or simply enjoying extra time with family.
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ANNE: Something I get asked all the time is am I prone to overthinking after I record an episode? Do I hang up on a call and go ahh! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that book. Do I walk into my library and see a book on the shelf and go, that would have been perfect for Rissie? And the answer is yes, I do this all the time. Sometimes I’ll finish a recording. This happened fairly recently. I think this episode with Leanne is going live next week.
When I read her submission form, I knew immediately there’s a perfect book for her and I wrote it down in my notes … And then I forgot all about it, and I didn’t realize until after I finished recording. So there are two things I tell myself here: one, there’s lots of books a reader could enjoy reading next. There’s always email. I could email her and say, if you want another book recommendation, here you go. We have our Patron community at Patreon.com/whatshouldIreadnext and do you know what people who like the behind-the-scenes like? They like tales of regret and me screwing up behind-the-scenes. [CROWD LAUGHS]
So I can tell that little story and do a One Great Book style description of the book I forgot to mention in What Should I Read Next and then put that out as bonus content. But also attitude of experimentation, we are all regular people; there is no official reading answers. That’s okay because there’s always another episode. And for all of us, there’s always another book to read next.
So now, we are going to put some of those principles into action. Robyn is going to join me, do some literary matchmaking. So, thanks for filling out our guest submission form when you all came in. It’s really truly similar if you’ve never been to the page to the submission form our guests fill out at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/guest and that is how we choose most of our guests.
If you’ve applied, and we didn’t choose you, it was probably a question of timing or you chose books that I’m on the record of loving fervently and I have to make myself not talk about on the podcast anymore. It’s not because we don’t think you’d be fascinating to talk to. I think I’ve gotten maybe three forms ever where I’ve thought, we can’t make an episode out of that. And it’s from a publicist who didn’t read the form, so. [CROWD LAUGHS] But also I can’t put out 47 episodes a week because again, limit yourself to free yourself.
Okay, so Robyn Smith is an events assistant. So Robyn has your dream job. She works at The Strand as an events assistant and she’s a freelance writer on creative nonfiction and news. Her writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Northern Virginia Magazine, which we were just discussing, The Daily News Record, and Brooklyn based feminist quarterly, Bust. And Robyn is here to help me with this giant stack of forms that we are not going to get through but by golly, we are going to have fun doing we what we can. Okay. Hand me the lute. I’m not going to make a Vanna White joke except I kinda just did.
ROBYN: I could be your Vanna. [CROWD, ANNE LAUGHS] That would be … I would be honored to do that.
ANNE: Here’s what we have here. [GASPS] I feel like this is a trick though.
ROBYN: It is a little bit.
ANNE: Am I being vetted by The Strand?
ROBYN: It’s Sabir. The events director. My boss.
ANNE: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So Sabir loves Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, Flesh and Blood by Michael Cunningham, and Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie. Ooh. I like it. You’re digging deep. I respect that. One book you don’t, Deutschland by Darryl Pinckney. Reading lately, Where Reason Ends by Yiyun Li… What do you think your boss should read next, Robyn?
ROBYN: Well, Sabir is usually the one who has recommendations for me so it’s exciting now that the tables have turned. [CROWD LAUGHS] Remember this during my performance review. [ANNE LAUGHS] I think Sabir could take a break from fiction, even though I know you said you love it a lot, particularly memoir. I will recommend to you Mindy Kaling’s memoir, either one. Just one of them. I think you’d like it. What do you think?
ANNE: So he could use some laughter in his life?
ROBYN: Some laughter, yes. Some joy and laughter. [CROWD LAUGHS]
ANNE: To mix it up.
ROBYN: Yeah, to mix it up.
ANNE: To mix it up. It’s good to mix things up sometimes. When I walked into The Strand today for the first time since yesterday, [CROWD LAUGHS] I spotted Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones by the front table and I thought oh, that book. I mean, it doesn’t necessarily matter what I like, but I’m looking at Marilynne Robinson, Michael Cunningham, Kamila Shamsie, and I think their storytelling styles are interesting enough to keep it interesting for you, but similar enough to think that those could make a little readerly constellation for you.
Okay, Jane Pollock is here. She loves The Night of the Gun by David Carr, Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow, and She Said by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey. She doesn’t like Wild Flower by Drew Barrymore. Okay, we put one book you don’t on here. I gotta give my disclaimer. It can be difficult to ask people to share a book they don’t like, especially in a bookstore that celebrates authors because we all know a real person wrote that book even if they died a hundred years ago and we want to respect that.
So what we talk about on What Should I Read Next is everybody has their own reading taste. There are books that are well written and there are books that you deeply resonate with and enjoy the reading experience. I have suffered through books that I am so glad I have read, but that’s different than finding the book that you know, like oh, it’s Sunday afternoon and it’s raining and I’ve got my cup of something and I want to pick up a book that I am going to enjoy. We’re asking for a book that is not when we ask for readers for one book they don’t.
Okay, so, Drew Barrymore, Wild Flower. Not for her, and lately she’s been reading Sally Field In Pieces. Okay creative nonfiction, memoir lover, what do you think?
ROBYN: I think that you would really enjoy an anthology that Vanity Fair put out last year called Women on Women. It is full of features from the past couple decades, including like Tina Turner, Tina Fey, all the Tinas in it. [CROWD, ANNE LAUGHS] I think it would be a good fit with what you put on your sheet.
ANNE: Diane Keating also has a beautiful either new or soon-to-be memoir hitting shelves about her family of origin. Elliot Young loves Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Harry Potter. He’s not sure what’s not for him because he loves to read. Elliot, how old are you? 10? I got a 10 year old boy.
ROBYN: You got this.
ANNE: Or I had a 10-year-old girl too.
ROBYN: I was ten once. [CROWD LAUGHS] You first though.
ANNE: Now I do not know Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior, but based on your other two picks I’m going to find it for my 10 year old and put it on his shelf. I can tell you that he loves for speedy, laugh out loud reading Mac Barnett, The Terrible Two series and also Mac B. Kid Spy is what he really loves. I gotta warn you though, you can read one of these books in like an hour or two, but you will have fun doing it. Rainy day when your practice gets cancelled or you just had too much homework you’d just rather be reading, it’d be a great day for that. Also I think the Artemis Fowl series could be great for you. And if you do love the first one, there are so many books after that, like what? I know we have fans in this room. Like seven or eight? So that could keep you busy for a good, long time.
ROBYN: And also, I want to say congratulations because you are way ahead of where I was. I waited until I was 14 to read all the Harry Potter books, and you’re already done. So now you have the rest of your life to reread them over and over again. [CROWD LAUGHS]
ANNE: Fran loves The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah, Say Nothing by Patrick Keefe, and Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fanny Flagg. That book is coming up on the podcast very soon. She doesn’t like The Book of Joan, and lately she’s been reading Frederick Douglass and Motherless Brooklyn. She reads most genres, but has never tried YA.
ROBYN: I think this one’s on you.
ANNE: Fran, if you were on the podcast, I would want to really dig deep into The Book of Joan, which is not like the others, but so I have ideas of why that book wouldn’t be for you but I would be wondering if I’m right. I am often not right because the title is just a proxy for what could be any number of reasons a book didn’t work for a reader.
Sometimes it could be timing. Sometimes it could be content. Sometimes it could be I never read books about cancer, or at least I don’t right now. Sometimes it could be like, I thought that was drivel that shouldn’t be published. Like that does happen. [CROWD LAUGHS]
You’ve never tried YA. If you’re interested in trying YA, I would really recommend Julie Buxbaum. If you want to read something of the moment, it’s her book Admission based on the Aunt Becky college admission scandal. There’s a character clearly based off Aunt Becky in the book. [CROWD LAUGHS] That’s coming in May, but right now her two books ago book Tell Me Three Things is … It’s a thoroughly YA novel that is thoroughly enjoyed by legions of readers of all ages. That is Tell Me Three Things.
Okay. Daniella, and I can have book club together. She loves Persuasion by Jane Austen. Olive Kitteridge, which I only just read for the first time, by Elizabeth Strout, and Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. But not for her was The River by Peter Heller. We were admiring the paperback version of that in the bookstore today. I know you have feelings about David Sedaris, Robyn, what do you think?
ROBYN: Yes I do. He was on Whitney Cummings’ podcast this week and they had talked for 2 1/2 hours and I listened to all of it. I highly recommend for all of you as well, anyway. So his most recent book that came out I believe in 2018 was Calypso, it’s his latest essay collection. And it was the first one I ever read by him and it was really great.
I think the combination of Persuasion and Me Talk Pretty One Day would be Wuthering Heights. I read that in January, and I thought it was just absolute smut. [ALL LAUGH] So all the characters are just terrible people. It’s supposed to be a love story, but it’s really just narcissism. [ANNE LAUGHS] So I think that would be the combination of those two books. What about you, Anne?
ANNE: Sometimes I’m really surprised to hear who likes certain books, like when Jen Hatmaker came on the podcast and said, oh my gosh, David Sedaris is my hero. THat’s not what I expected her to say. What I like about David Sedaris is that he starts telling you a story about one thing that on a dime turns into something else. So you’re laughing, and then you’re crying, and the shift is like eight words when you find out what’s really happening.
And for that, I would really recommend the micro memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly. There’s a collection that came out a couple years ago called Heating & Cooling. It’s not the same style. But she has this gift of taking you places you didn’t think you were going the page before. She captures these important moments … She writes a lot about her family and things she’s been through. And also illness and endless humor … I remember there’s this one really funny story about peeing. I don’t remember the details, but reading her book, I just think oh, keep telling me stories ‘cause you are so great at this. That’s Heating & Cooling.
Julia loves The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman; The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez, and The Things You Save In A Fire by Katherine Center. Not for her, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy. Lately reading Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid, which was so fun, okay. I just want to say that I just finished like on the airplane the audio version of Abby’s new book The Happy Ever After Playlist. It’s coming in April. The Happy Ever After Playlist was so fun on audio. Put it on your list. it’s coming really soon. I hope you love it.
Annie McCoughsly, who I got to meet tonight, whom I’ve known on Instagram forever, loves Rebecca, The Cider House Rules, and 11/22/63. Not for her, Eat, Pray, Love, and lately she’s been reading and loving The Bean Trees. So I’m thinking if you haven’t yet and I hope you have, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, definitely Americanah. So great with big themes you pulled out here, not that there’s, like, time travel in it, but big juicy stories which is what I see in your favorites. Read everything she’s written. It will make you happy. And if it doesn’t, we can have a great conversation on What Should I Read Next about it.
ROBYN: And then what I will quickly add to that is White Teeth by Zadie Smith.
ANNE: So we were just talking about micro memoirs where Beth Anne Fennnelly compresses these what are usually long narratives into a page or two. This is like the Heating & Cooling version of the podcast.
ROBYN: I’m really glad that we could do this.
ANNE: Okay, please thank Robyn for joining me in the literary matchmaking madness. [CROWD CLAPS]
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ANNE: Now we get to do questions.
SABIR: I was just going to say if you want to raise your hand, we’ll run a mic to you.
GUEST: What is the book you were so excited to introduce your children to?
ANNE: So the assumption behind this is there are books I’m excited to introduce my children to. [CROWD LAUGHS] But I talk to people about books and reading for a job and it seems there’s a pattern. There’s a book you can’t wait to introduce your children to because it was so deeply meaningful to you and they, you are asking the universe to make your children hate it. [CROWD LAUGHS] So first of all, I’m not going to put an answer out there. I will say there are books that I remember really enjoying that I’ve watch them read and not enjoyed, and then I thought, I’m raising humans who can’t think and then I read the book again and go, oh, it’s a different experience when you’re 9 and when you’re 40, who knew.
But I will say that my daughters come to me every year and say, do you think I’m old enough to read Jane Austen yet? And I only recently. my oldest is 14, I said you know, actually, by now, maybe. But it wouldn’t hurt to wait. ‘Cause I feel like if you read beloved books that are not for 9 year olds before their time then they’re just going to be inoculated against books that you loved instead of actually see the value of them. So how’s that for a non-answer?
But seriously, over and over again, you ask your child to love your favorite book. I mean, even if it’s only with your eyes or with your hints of putting it on their nightstand, they’ll be like, yeah, I’ll show you. [CROWD LAUGHS]
GUEST: Hi, Anne.
GUEST: How do you go about selecting books for your summer reading guide?
ANNE: Oh, that is a project that is so easy to overthink. I am reading Publishers’ Weekly and talking to readers and getting publicist submissions and basically I read a whole lot of books … That was me deciding not to definitely swear on the podcast ‘cause Brenna’s not here to edit it out … Read a whole lot of books, but I’m choosing them purposefully. Like, I know that I just realized I didn’t have any books by men on the list about a month ago so I went to find some books by men. I realized that I was, like, really heavy in the mystery genre this year and I was like oh, well, either we need to make this thing or we need to balance it out.
But I’m reading, reading, reading, and I fluctuate widely between thinking I want to read every book published in the land between March 1st and the 4th of July so I can talk about them all and like choose the best and thinking like, readers do not want a 75-book summer reading guide. That’s not helpful. Lots of reading. That’s the answer. There’s some good ones coming too. I’m really excited.
GUEST: Hi. I was just curious to follow up on reading and the lots of reading and putting together a guide … At what point reading a book are you inclined to give up on it, if you will. Because you’re going to do all this reading and create a summer reading list, whatever, there’s some books here and there around page 80 or page 120, I think, I don’t think this really happens and I’ll just stop. Not too many. I was just curious what was your process with that ‘cause that’ll let you read more things and choose from a wider variety of things rather than …
ANNE: So this can be a rather inflammatory question for a lot of readers who have very strong opinions about whether it’s okay to not finish that book you start. It depends. I often am reading for a certain purpose, like if I’m reading titles for the summer reading guide and I start reading a book and I realize that I don’t know, everybody’s dying and there’s ton of triggers on the first five pages that a lot of … It’s just going to automatically mean it’s not a book for a lot of readers. When I’m looking for titles for the summer reading guide, I’m definitely looking for things that don’t have niche appeal. I’m looking for books that will apply to a wide variety of readers. So right then I can be like, I’m on page five and I can see that this isn’t working.
But last year I gave up a book I think on like page 300 of a 420 page book that had been highly recommended by someone that I love to talk books with, and I kept thinking, it’s gonna get better. It’s gonna get better. It’s gonna get better. And she finally told me and she said wait, you’re on page 320 and it’s not … ? No. You can just move on. [CROWD LAUGHS] So it’s very circumstantial. It’s a spirit of experimentation.
I am definitely an abandoner. I went through this really weird kick a few years back where I kept picking up plane crash books on airplanes without knowing it. [CROWD LAUGHS] I thought you have got to be kidding me. Definitely wrong book, wrong time.
GUEST: How many books do you read a week? Are you a speed reader? And what tips can you recommend for reading more?
ANNE: I read three to four books a week typically, although I do have two great weeks a year, beach week, and the week between Christmas and New Years where I’ll read like a book a day. It’s great. Especially at the beginning of the year. I think I’m going to read like 900 books this year. [CROWD LAUGHS] Which I don’t think is a great idea actually. That’s not real life. That’s holiday life or beach life.
I mean I don't do the speed reading, like the tips for how to become a speed reader and quadruple your reading speed. I don’t do that. I am a naturally fast reader. I have really big feet and I’m a slow runner, and my eyes are blue, and the research indicates that reading speed, like you can nudge it a little bit in one direction or another but if you’re a slow reader or a fast reader, that’s just kinda like what you’ve got in the lottery. So I don’t want to like, oh, yay me. I’m just a really slow runner and the universe may be balancing out.
Tips for reading faster … I do know that when you’re helping a child develop reading fluency, or what’s recommended by people smarter than me about such things, ‘cause I am not a teacher, is you give them a book a little bit below their grade level. They don’t have to struggle to comprehend learning to scan quickly, and I’ve talked to some adults who say that has worked for them. Like they wouldn’t try to read quickly something like Pride & Prejudice with like, you know, its 200 years old interesting language, but they could do that with like a contemporary romance, which is just written in a more … I mean, it’s written the way that we talk and so you can read that faster than your brain can process something that was originally written in Italian in the 16th century.
GUEST: You have to read a lot for work, so this is your job, so do you ever feel that you can’t read enough of books that you want to read for your personal reading life because you’re compelled to read the books that you’re supposed to for your job?
ANNE: There have been times where I realized this could be a problem. Like if I am not enjoying it, and I don’t want to talk about books, it’s not going to be fun to listen to the podcast. And like that would be a real downer. I have a lot of control over the show and over my blog and over the summer reading guide, and if it was not for good for my reading life, then we would just not have a summer reading guide. Which we actually really discussed a lot last year. We’re having a summer reading guide.
I’m definitely aware that if I’m … Like for summer reading guide season, I can’t read all contemporary novels for four months straight, ‘cause that makes me an unhappy reader, so I am definitely aware of the mix of titles I’m reading in genre and this time of year, really publication date and authorship and nationality and all that. It loses its spice. You gotta mix it up. It’s like a reoccurring theme tonight.
GUEST: Hi, so, I know we all in here love to read but I was wondering if you had any advice for people who say they don’t like to read or more reluctant readers.
ANNE: Is there someone specific you have in mind?
GUEST: I teach high school English.
ANNE: Ooh! [CROWD LAUGHS] I don’t know how I feel about this, but I get a lot of questions at book tour events for women specifically asking about husbands and people talking about reluctant children of theirs, and I love that you’re asking for your students. I think the key is finding a way in. And that’s not going to be the same for everybody. Like if only it was that easy, but also what would the fun in that be?
But sometimes it’s the topic. Or sometimes it’s the story that really grabs them, or the backstory of the author, but if you can find the right book that a struggling reader really connects with, a lot of people who are not enthusiastic about reading, especially when they’re young, they just haven’t had the experience of enjoying a book. They read because they have to or because they should, and they don’t understand what all the fuss is about ‘cause they’ve never had that experience that keeps us coming back. If someone could put a book in their hands that is right for them, they can go oh! Now I get it. And they’ll want to do it again.
Thank you all. Those are great questions.
[CHEERFUL OUTRO MUSIC]
ANNE: Hey readers, I hope you enjoyed this very special live edition of What Should I Read Next. You can find the full list of titles mentioned in today’s episode at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/230 (that’s 2-3-0). Visit The Strand online at https://www.strandbooks.com/, and follow their gorgeous Instagram account @strandbookstore. I would also be exceedingly grateful if you’d pick up a copy of my new book Don’t Overthink It wherever you get your books.
Though I’ll say now is a wonderful time to give your business to an independent bookstore. Hopefully we’ll get The Strand open back up soon, and you can order from them. But in the meantime, I just shared a roundup of some of MY favorites on modernmrsdarcy.com last week—and don’t miss the comments section, it is pure gold. Your book purchase would greatly benefit a small business right now, and I think Don’t Overthink It will benefit you as well. I didn’t realize I was writing a book that would be just the ticket in a pandemic, but here we are. Readers, thanks in advance; I hope you enjoy it.
Next week What Should I Read Next is taking a short break, but we’ll be back on April 21st with more literary matchmaking! If you’re missing the show in the meantime, well, that’s why we have our Patreon community. Your $5 per month pledge unlocks access to exclusive bonus episodes, livestreams, and more. That’s HOURS of extra content, and you can cancel your membership at any time if you need to do that. Our next livestream hangout is on April 9th, so this is a perfect time to join in on the fun! Visit patreon.com/whatshouldireadnext for more information.
If you’re on twitter, let me know there @AnneBogel. That is Anne with an E, B as in books -O-G-E-L. We also have a new twitter account for our podcast. Find us there @readnextpodcast. Find me on instagram at annebogel and at whatshouldireadnext. Our newsletter subscribers are the first to know all our news and happenings; if you’re not on the list just go to whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/newsletter to sign up for our free weekly delivery.
If you enjoy this podcast, friends, now is the time please to leave a review on Apple Podcasts, or check out my book, Don’t Overthink It. Those are real concrete, tangible ways to benefit books and reading and authors and publishers … And just thank you so much in advance.
And thanks to the people who make this show happen! What Should I Read Next is produced by Brenna Frederick, with sound design by Kellen Pechacek.
Readers, that’s it for this episode. Thanks so much for listening.
And as Rainer Maria Rilke said, “ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.” Happy reading, everyone.
More What Should I Read Next live (online):
My favorite thing is coming this week! Join Brenna and I THIS THURSDAY for our next Patreon livestream. We’ll chat about what’s happening behind the scenes, what we’re reading now, and we’ll give recommendations for what you should read next.
Then next month we’ll be LIVE for our annual Summer Reading Guide Unboxing. This is your early peek into what’s in this year’s guide, plus I share not only which books I picked, but WHY. To join us live (online) become a Patreon supporter today.
Books mentioned in this episode:
Some links are affiliate links. More details here.
● Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel
● I’d Rather Be Reading: The Delights and Dilemmas of the Reading Life by Anne Bogel
● Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Changes Everything by Anne Bogel
● Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
● Burnt Shadows by Kamila Shamsie
● Black Deutchland by Daryl Pickney
● Where Reasons End by Yiyun Li
→ Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (and Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling
→ Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
→ Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones
● The Night of the Gun: A Reporter Investigates the Darkest Story of His Life. His Own. by David Carr
● Catch and Kill: Lies, Spies, and a Conspiracy to Protect Predators by Ronan Farrow
● She Said: Breaking the Sexual Harassment Story That Helped Ignite a Movement by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey
● Wildflower by Drew Barrymore
● In Pieces by Sally Field
→ Vanity Fair’s Women on Women edited by Rakhika Jones and David Friend
→ Brother & Sister by Diane Keaton
● Diary of an 8-Bit Warrior from Andrews McMeel Publishing
● Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
● Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
→ The Terrible Two by Mac Barnett and Jory John
→ Mac B., Kid Spy by Mac Barnett
→ Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer
● The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah
● Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by Patrick Radden Keefe
● Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg
● The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch
● Frederick Douglass by David W. Blight
● Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem
→ Admission by Julie Buxbaum
→ Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaum
● Persuasion by Jane Austen
● Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
● Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
● The River by Peter Heller
→ Calypso by David Sedaris
→ Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
→ Heating and Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly
● The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
● The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
● Things You Save in a Fire by Katherine Center
● The Ministry of Utmost Happiness by Arundhati Roy
● Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
→ The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
● Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier
● The Cider House Rules by John Irving
● 11/22/63 by Stephen King
● Eat Pray Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
● The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
→ Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
→ White Teeth by Zadie Smith
● One Great Book style bonus episode on our Patreon page (anyone can listen)
● The Strand Bookshop
● WSIRN Ep 193: Rolling the dice on your next read w/Keren Form
● WSIRN Ep 123: Books that will totally make you cry (with laughter) w/Rissue Lundberg
● Amy Rohn ep 221: Swipe right for book love w/Amy Rohn
● WSIRN guest submission form
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How do you think Robyn and I did on-the-fly?