WSIRN Ep 266: Ask Anne Anything: Re-reads, reviews, and recommendation regrets

WSIRN Ep 266: Ask Anne Anything: Re-reads, reviews, and recommendation regrets

Readers, it’s the 5th anniversary of What Should I Read Next! I’ve been reflecting on how much has—and hasn’t—changed since publishing our very first episode five years ago. The basic show format is exactly the same: every week, I ask one reader to share three books they love, one book they don’t, and then I recommend three books that I think they should read next. Our guest walks away with a full TBR list, and our listeners come away with insights into their own reading lives (and book recommendations, of course). 

Over the years, we’ve sprinkled in a few special mailbag episodes, and on Patreon we host a quarterly “Ask Anne Anything” live stream. We’re overdue for another Q and A style episode on the main feed, so today I’m answering a BUNCH of listener questions. 

We gathered questions from our Patreon community, our newsletter subscribers, and on our Instagram account. Thank you for submitting such thoughtful and fun questions! We received a LOT, and I did my best to answer as many as possible. I won’t get to every single question today, but you can find answers to frequently asked questions linked in the show notes below. 

Today’s episode starts with questions about my reading life and ends with a lightning round. In between, we’re talking about kids and reading, behind the scenes at WSIRN HQ, business and my work, and what it’s like to read for a living. 

I had a lot of fun answering your questions today, readers, and I’m looking forward to what’s in store for year six of WSIRN.

Let’s get to it.

Listen now: 

ANNE: Hey readers. I’m Anne Bogel, and this is What Should I Read Next? Episode 266.

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 do a little literary matchmaking with one guest.

Well, almost every week.

But today is an exciting day. This is our fifth anniversary at What Should I Read Next. Seriously, the first episode released five years ago today, exactly. We’ve brought you 265 episodes of literary matchmaking and also behind the scenes episodes, gifting ideas, live events and more. We’ve also built a lovely following out there in book-dom.

We are so thankful that you are listening … AND I hope this year you’ll join us outside your podcast app and on days other than Tuesday. That could mean following us on Instagram, subscribing to our YouTube channel, signing up for our newsletter, or becoming a supporter in our patreon community.

And it would mean a lot to me and the whole What Should I Read Next team — ‘cause it takes a team to make this show — if you would help us share the book love with more readers. Share What Should I Read Next with your book loving friends and maybe even help them subscribe in your favorite podcasting app.

Here’s to more book talk, recommendations, and great reads this year— and in the years to come.

[00:01:37]

If you’re listening to this episode on the day it’s released, that means it’s been exactly five years since we hit published on our first episode of What Should I Read Next. It’s funny to me how much has and hasn’t changed since then. The basic show format is exactly the same. I have loosened up a lot, but the bones are there. I imagine this to be a space where every week I’d ask one reader to share three books they love, one book they don’t, and what they’re reading now, and then I’d recommend three books they should read next. Yes, it is not lost to me that built into the name of the podcast is the word I call the bad “s-word” in my book I’d Rather Be Reading. So I imagine that we’d enjoy a fun conversation and fill up that readers to be read list and then everyone listening could also get a little more insight into their own reading lives, one week at a time.

The fun part of this show is that’s still what I get to do every week: talk to readers about their reading lives. While my own preferences inevitably come up in mostly every episode, that’s not the point of the show. It’s not the reason we do what we do. And that’s what makes an episode like this one today so much fun. We’ve done Ask Me Anything and Ask Us Anything, we call them mailbag episodes, we’ve done these before. Our first one was way back in July 2017. Our next was in September 2018. Apparently we skipped over 2019 without realizing it, but in that time, we’ve held periodic Ask Us Anything sessions for our patreon partners, but we are overdue for an Ask Me Anything here in our main feed and I’m really looking forward to diving into your questions today. Thank you so much for sending them in.

We gathered questions in our patreon community — patreon.com/whatshouldireadnext Patreon is just a platform that makes it easy to support independent creators — we got them from our newsletter subscribers, and on our Instagram accounts at annebogel and at whatshouldireadnext.

Readers, we received a lot of questions, and while I won’t be able to cover them all, I will be able to cover a whole lot. We also received many questions many questions that were easily answered by just referencing past blog posts, so for the most part, I’m not going to answer those in today’s episode, but I would like to point you to our show notes where we’ll put answers not only to the questions you’ll hear me talk about today but answer some of the questions you won’t hear me talk about today. That page is at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/266.

[00:04:01]

As for today, we’re going to start with questions about my reading life and end with a lightning round. In between, we’re talking about kids and reading, which we got a surprising number of questions about, behind the scenes questions about how What Should I Read Next works, business-y questions about my work, and what it’s like to read for a living. So let’s get to it.

We’re going to begin with my reading life. It shouldn’t have been a surprise that you had so many questions about how I read because while that does come through in most episodes, it’s not the focus. We don’t typically dwell on that, but today we’re going to ‘cause it’s the focus, so here’s what you wanted to know. Let’s begin with this question from Chris: how does Anne read so much?

Well it’s my job. I’m kidding, but also not kidding when I say that because a surprising part of work isn’t the reading at all, like I rarely read during the work day unless it’s summer reading season, or I’m preparing for an author interview or something like that. But even before it was my job, it was my favorite hobby, my go-to way to recharge as an introvert, and my coping strategy of choice. I built reading into the rhythms of my life so I get lots of reading time in nearly every day. It’s that hour before bedtime, and during the winter when it’s not as nice outside, that hour before dinner is often also a really good spot for me, and it’s the rare day that’s an exception to that.

Also a naturally fast reader, and I do mean naturally. Your reading speed is more like your shoe size or your eye color than a skill you’ve built. You can’t affect your reading speed that much. But that means when I do sit down to read, I go through the pages pretty quickly. I read at least an hour a day and it’s often more like two or three.

To answer another popular question, Lots of you wanted to know how I decide what to read next and what order to read books in, like this is what LivCGReads asked on Instagram: how do you decide the order of your reading? Do you group similar genres to read in a row, or alternate? How many books do you have on the go at a time?

I do read multiple books at once as a habit I like to, and one of the reasons I like to do that is because when I finish one book, I’m never lacking for an obvious answer to the question what do I read next? I always have a book in progress ‘cause what I see happen to so many readers is when they don’t have a book to read, they don’t read. I can get a little stuck on the question of which one book out of all the books I can choose from do I want to read next, but with many books going at once, I always have something to turn to. Like right now I know I have a book I’m reading on my Kindle. I have an audiobook. I have a novel, and I have a memoir, and they’re all in my pocket or on my nightstand waiting for me when I’m ready for them, and I can’t read like two novels at once, but when there’s a variety of formats and genres, my brain can keep the different books straight.

[00:06:47]

But the order of reading, I really like to vary that as well. Just with the quantity of books I read and the specific reasons I read them for, and we’ll get more to that in a little bit. Variety is really important to my reading life. It’s what makes it interesting for me to be reading in the volume I am, and it’s what keeps reading from feeling like work in the bad sense instead of the positive sense, so I’m always looking to keep a balance in the long term, but also the very short term, like week by week, old and new, fiction vs nonfiction. Light and heavy. So no, I don’t group similar genres to read in a row, I am looking for that right mix of books.

BookHounds asked if you could only pick one format, would you choose audiobook, ebook, or physical book? [LAUGHS] What a question! I am so glad I don’t have to choose because I wouldn’t - I wouldn’t know how, but Peggy asked how do you choose the books you read via audio and the ones you’ll read via physical or ebook copy?

Readers, it has been more true in this past year in 2020 than it was in any other year that often I read what I could get my hands on. For the first time really in as long as I could remember, getting my hands on the titles I wanted to read was really tricky. The bookstore was closed. The library was closed. Borrowing from friends wasn’t the easy option that it might have been otherwise, and so often I would just read the format available to me and back in March, April, May, a lot of times that looked like ebook or audiobook. I read more ebooks this year than I have read in any other year in my entire life. But when I get to choose, yes, I absolutely prefer certain kinds of books on each format.

For me ebooks are mostly a matter of convenience. It’s not my favorite option, but they make it so easy to read books on the go and I appreciate that. Although that’s changing for me in the past few years. I’ve gotten more adept at highlighting on my kindle and learning how to use highlights, which is really important to me to see my notes later. This really started when I was writing Don’t Overthink It. Whenever I’d realized I needed to reference a book that wasn’t in my house, I could just download it and search for the passage I wanted. That was so helpful, and what I learned from that process, it carried over into my regular reading life, not just my reading as an author life, and thank goodness it did, so I was ready for 2020.

On audio, I want to listen to a good story, whether that’s literary fiction or a good mystery or a memoir. I don’t like reading narrative nonfiction on audio, though. I keep trying, but I do much better with that genre when I can see the words on the page with my eyes. Paper books have always been my preference. I know some readers have strong feelings about hardcover versus paperback, but I really don’t care. When given the choice, I’ll pick the one with the prettier cover.

[00:09:36]

We got lots of questions about how I track what I read. Laura asked how many books I read this year and how many books I started, but didn’t finish, and she said she’s curious how this year compares to years past. Laura, I can answer this for you. In 2020, I read 300 books. That’s the highest number I’ve ever seen. I don’t expect it to be that high again; I don’t feel like it’s a good thing. I know this was just a really stressful year. It was stressful for many of us around the world and it was also stressful for me personally, like, my dad died in August. My reading log in July and August and September is just bananas and I can look at it now and see that I was just reading, remember when I told you it was my introvert recharge and my coping method of choice? So I read lots of books that I wouldn’t normally gravitate to in that volume, and I read at a much higher rate. And that’s fine, but it’s really a number that I hope to not see again ‘cause it indicated that I was reading to escape, and that I needed to recharge and while I’m glad my books were there for me, I wish I didn’t need them in that way quite so much.

Now as for how many books I started but didn’t finish, the past couple years I have written down every book I started at least for a time and then I just mark it when I abandon it like at what page number how far I got, and definitely the date I abandoned it, and those books don’t get a number. Even if I read 400 or 500 pages which I have done, I don’t give that book a number. But I found that when I make myself write down every book, I read a paragraph of that I’m a lot more hesitant to pick them up in the first place because I know I’m going to need to write it down, and I don’t love to go get my pencil and paper and do that. So I don’t know how many books I started but didn’t finish. It’s a … It’s not 300, but it’s certainly, at least, I’m gonna say 52 weeks in a year, it’s at least 52 and I imagine that’s higher than before just because this was a strange, strange year.

Virginia June wanted to know why do you prefer to keep a handwritten reading log rather than use Goodreads as a reading log? And I’m assuming she means Goodreads as a generic, any kind of digital method. The reason is when you’re using a digital method, you have to get your device to input that information and once you’re on your device, you’re on your device and you’re not with your book and that is just asking for trouble, and I know many listeners love your spreadsheets and you get all fancy with them, and I am a little bit envious of all the data you can get and I admire that. But it’s not what I want. I want to be able to sit down on the couch and flip through my reading log and think about it with a pen in my hand holding my journal, and not think about it scrolling down the screen. Also my reading log is always with me. It’s in my purse, and when it’s with me, I remember to log all the books I read. That’s important because this has been a problem in the past.

[00:12:27]

AmyB142 wants to know what makes a book a 5-star read for you? I love a good story, well told, well crafted, and I found that something that makes a book really memorable for me is that it has an element of surprise to it. The author did something I didn’t expect. I wasn’t expecting to like it. I’m not talking about a shocking plot twist, but the author did something that I didn’t see coming. Those books tend to stick with me. Now she’d asked what makes a book a 5-star read. I don’t really use star ratings, but I definitely can tell you all the books I love and I star. I just put a little star beside exceptional reading experiences in my journal.

Elissa wants to know when high expectations let you down, how do you see the book for what it was versus what you wanted or hoped it would be? Oh, this is such a good question, and it’s one that we talk about all the time on What Should I Read Next. Like you can go to a book hoping for something but the author had no intention of delivering and really being able to weigh a book on its merits and not necessarily on what you hoped for perhaps irrationally because that’s not what the book was trying to do and that’s not what the author intended, that’s really tricky to tease out. It’s hard to separate those things, but I think even asking the question, just being aware that you do have expectations you bring to a book and they’re affecting how you feel about it, I think that goes a long way towards helping you be more reasonable in your assessment of it.

Okay. Mana Sagura says I read a lot too, but I want to learn how to review the books I read. Do you take notes as you read, and do you have tips and classes? Oh, I do take notes as I read. Not always. I mean sometimes I just want the experience of reading without any obligation at all, of reading without a pen in my hand, but then I can’t help but abuse book darts or like dog ear the corners. Yes, I’m a dog earer, and if you have to turn this off right now, I understand.

But I do take notes, and when I know I’m reviewing I do take a lot of specific kind of notes that will help me with my review that are different from the kind of notes I might just take if I were reading for enjoyment. Could be simple things like character names, or when the author introduced a certain theme or what my response was on page 87 when the thing happened.

We do have several classes in the Modern Mrs Darcy book club, and those are available to members. That’s our paid community, but they’re available anytime. One is called why and how to write in your books. Another is called how to review anything. Those are there for you if you are interested in that.

[00:15:00]

We got lots of questions about finding what to read, knowing which books to add to your TBR. I’m going to read Broken Deacor’s question. It’s how do you break out of the bubble? It seems like advertising algorithms keep sending me the same book suggestions, looking at you, Amazon algorithm. Well, yeah. That’s how it works. That and marketing dollars, and the same is true on bookstagram. That’s the bookish community on Instagram. Some readers said that they felt like they only heard about the big books, so how do you find under the radar books? I mean really brilliantly executed marketing campaigns at work that are really effective, but yes it does make you feel like you’re seeing the same books over and over because you probably are.

So breaking out of the bubble. Finding book recommendations from real people is the best way to do that, whether that’s your fellow readers. It’s the people at your local bookstore, at another bookstore you like and follow. Whether it’s someone like me. Whether it’s your friends who read in real life. Whether it’s your neighbors. But just getting recommendations from people who read and not people promoting the books that they could sell you is really a great idea. And there’s a place for those marketing campaigns. There absolutely is, and I don’t feel like they’re bad, but when they’re your only source of book recommendations, you’re not going to find books that you describe as being under the radar.

I really like that you’re asking this question and my advice for where to start would be just to identify a handful of people that seriously you could count on one hand, that would be fine, who read a nice mix, old and new. You feel like they have a good overlap with your own reading sensibilities and whether you’re following them digitally or having conversations in person, pay attention to what they’re reading. Ask them what they’re reading, and just you know, poke around. See how those books look to you.

Monica Hayes asked do you have any favorite audiobook narrators. Oh, Monica. I mean. Of course I do. And my list has gotten longer as I’ve been listening to more and more audiobooks. This is not my entire list. Not by a long shot, and I’m more than willing to take a chance on a new narrator. It doesn’t have to be a narrator I already know to listen to an audiobook, but I’m more likely to prioritize the audio format if I see the name Bahni Turpin, who is amazing. She’s one of my very favorite narrators. I really like Scott Brick. I love Joshilyn Jackson, a fiction author who reads her own work. Some of my favorite audiobooks have been read by J. D. Jackson recently. I love Julia Whelan. Emily Woo Zeller. Elizabeth Acevedo, another author who reads her own work but also the work of others. Robin Miles.

[00:17:34]

Oh, one of my favorite episodes of this podcast was with an audiobook narrator. There’s a funny personal story in there someplace, but he was on episode 31 “lifetime favorite books and reading for a living.” Now I always keep an eye out for Adam’s work, but if you’re interested in audiobooks, listening to him describe his creative process and how he records those books is fascinating. You’re going to really like that episode.

Samantha asks when going for quality over quantity how do you deal with an overwhelming TBR pile? Well, Samantha, first of all, I want to say the struggle is real, and it certainly happens to me. Like I mostly feel like my overwhelming stacks are a glorious abundance of titles, but sometimes it does feel a little overwhelming a small percentage of the time, but it happens that this is relatable. I find that I really need to be mindful of my propensity to get distracted by the shiny and new, ‘cause I know a situation that ends with me being unhappy is when I do pick up the new glittering book that I didn’t really intend to read but then [LAUGHS] I saw it on bookstagram and I decided now is the time, and then I’m mad at myself because now wasn’t the time. It was impulsive and not in a good way. So just to know that I can do that and that I don’t always like the way that ends up can help me make good choices.

I try to ask myself when I’m picking up a book, why am I reading this, and also why is now the right time? And there doesn’t have to be, like, some over the top answer like because this is the one perfect book I need in my reading life, but I’m reading it because I’m looking for something fun and breezy right now. I’m reading it because my book club meeting is Thursday. I’m reading it because I haven’t read a nonfiction book in two weeks. Those aren’t questions with right or wrong answers but just stopping to ask myself am I doing this for a reason and is it a good one? helps me make better choices because you don’t get the reading time back if you spend it on a book that you wish you hadn’t read, that didn’t need your attention right then.

And then I just try to be mindful of the balance, what are the last few books that I read. What are the next few I might read. Is that the right mix?

Christy asks do I have eternal TBR books? Meaning they’ve been on your list for maybe decades. Oh, she says not that she’d be familiar with this. Oh, yes. I totally do. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Madame Ovary, Of Mice and Men, and more recently The Library Book by Susan Orlean. I mean, it’s a book about a library. It should be for me. I actually have two copies of this, so why haven’t read it yet?

The thing that keeps me wanting to read a book but never actually reading it is often like I don’t have a pressing reason to read it right now, so I keep not reading it. I mean, I was talking to Will about this and he said you know, you could finish Of Mice and Men in like two hours. You could just knock that off the list today. I know I haven’t picked up Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is because it’s like 800 pages, but I do want to read it one day.

[00:20:21]

Sarah says have you ever changed your opinion about a book for better or worse after discussing it with another reader? Oh, yes. For worse. [LAUGHS] I’ve had friends gently point out to me hang on, did you not think that whatever was problematic? And I’ll go back and look at some passages and go, oh, now that you mention it. But for better, like I remember reading Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and I almost put it down and I almost put it down and I just didn’t care, and then I got to the middle, and I was like oh, I appreciate more what she’s doing, but then in talking about it to another reader and unpacking it a little more, I went from going oh, you know the book was okay, you know, it wasn’t like a waste of reading time. It was all right. Went from going wow, that’s a lot she pulled off there.

Okay, LuluRosa says how do you combat the feeling that you just don’t want to read on a certain day? You know, my first reaction was I don’t usually feel like that, but I bet I do and I just don’t make a big deal out of it. If I just don’t want to read on a certain day, then I probably walk the dog and do a puzzle. Although when I do a puzzle I often turn on an audiobook. I know for me that not feeling like reading is the exception rather than the rule and I think it’s fine to listen to that. That being said, the reading before bed is such an ingrained part of my routine that I have to be exhausted to even think about skipping over that just because my body feels like I can’t go to sleep until I read a chapter, so that’s a case where I really think I rely just on the rhythms I’ve built into my life. But if you don’t feel like reading, and you want to take a walk instead, then take a walk. Or you know, it’d even be okay to watch TV sometimes, really.

Oh, I love this question from Elissa. As a European listener and fan of the podcast I ask, how many translated books do you read per year and why do Americans tend to read almost only English speaking and writing authors? This is such a good question. And I’m sorry to say I’m not entirely sure how to answer it. With a quick scan of my reading journal, I can see that I read at least 24 books in translation this year. I suspect more. Which sounds like a lot, but I read 300 books this year so that’s not a huge percentage of my totals by any means.

As for why Americans tend to read almost only English speaking and writing authors, I haven’t seen the most recent statistics on this, I can’t imagine things have changed much, but as of about five years ago, the estimated average percent of books sold in the U.S. that are works in translation into English from the original language was only about 3%, so I think this is both a matter of availability and I’m just wildly speculating, but I imagine that it’s a matter of both availability and awareness. I would comfortably wager that many readers who love Fredrick Backman or Steig Larsson or The Neapolitan Quartet just don’t realize that those are translated works.

[00:23:09]

Anecdotally though I do know that just the number of queries we get from blog readers and podcast listers who are looking for books in translation and where to find books in translation and you know want specific titles and booklists, the number of requests like that we’re hearing has definitely increased a lot. A whole lot in the past few years and that makes me optimistic.

EmAndChar wants to know how has the pandemic affected your reading life, how much you read, what you read, when you read, etc.? Oh, 2020 was a hard year in all kinds of ways and it’s hard to tease out the pandemic from just other things happening in my life. It’s funny. I didn’t expect to read nearly as much this spring because I was going on book tour. I mean my book tour started on March 5th and it was schedule to go well into May, and we all know that did not happen. But I’ve learned perhaps paradoxically that I just don’t read that much on book tour, and the reason is that I am out and about talking about books during the time of day when I am typically home reading my books, which is delightful, but that is the trade off. I can’t do both at the same time.

So despite the fact that that was entirely cancelled, I still didn’t read much at all at the beginning of the pandemic, but then obviously my reading really picked up a lot later in the year. I really struggled to read literary fiction, which is often one of my favorite genres at the beginning. My romance totals are a lot higher this year. I read a whole lot of mysteries. I think there was something really satisfying this year in seeing the puzzle of a good mystery on the page and seeing it solved by the end of the book.

***

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[00:27:17]

ANNE: Thanks for indulging me talking about my own reading life at length. Now we’re going to talk about kids and reading. We received so many questions about kids and the reading life, both from parents who wanted to look out for their own reading lives while they have young children and adults who are interested in helping young people they love and care for become readers. You also wrote it asking for help finding books for the kids in your life. I really love the spirit behind all the varieties and the clear prioritization of books. So thank you for that.

Okay, here’s a question from Stephanie who says she’s struggling to turn her children into readers but feel a little helpless competing with tablets and the Nintendo Switch. She says I’m wondering if Anne’s kids were always readers even from an early age or did they turn into readers because she created a culture of reading in her home? As you may know, I have four kids. They’re ages 10 to 17, and they are all readers, but they’re not all avid, always have book in their hands readers. They will all read and will read a lot when they are in the middle of a great book. Which is so true for so many people. They did read from an early age, but also like I have kids who started reading at age four, and I have kids who didn’t read until age seven despite trying, but then she started with chapter books instead of like The Bob Sam-I-Am books.

And I don’t mean to say like we did it right, or we screwed it all up, but this is what we did. We certainly had a culture of reading in our home. We always read aloud to them when they were young from a very early age, and we’ve always made it a point to have good books around. And I know we’ve talked on some other podcast episodes about how I try really hard not to be book bossy with my children. I see a lot of adults getting in trouble when they grab a book that they love and they press it into a kids hand and they say read it, I know you’ll love it. And there are certainly relationships where that conversation can be effective, but it’s not always effective from the parent to the child and I’m just speaking from experience here. If that works for you, that’s fantastic.

[00:29:16]

But we do a lot of stealth recommendations around here, like I’ll pick up books at the library or the bookstore or borrow them from a friend and just set them on the coffee table or set them on the kitchen counter ‘cause you know when you’re just standing around or eating your snack and there’s a book nearby, if you pick it up because it looks kinda interesting, you can get hooked before you know it. But when my kids do come to me and say hey, I’m not sure what I should read, yes. I will jump in and help them. But we do have books everywhere and I like knowing that there’s always something for them to pick up if they want to.

Book Club and Whiskey asked I wish I could read more, but I am living the toddler life right now. What is your daily reading schedule and what are your kids doing while you read? Well as you can hear my kids are older. We certainly had a whole lot of toddler years around here, but now a lot of the time when I’m reading, my kids are doing their homework, or you know they’re doing their own things. They’re independent. I would encourage you not to be too hard on yourself. Not to sell yourself short either.

There are all kinds of ages and stages of life as adults where you don’t have as much time or availability to read as you would like, but for I would say most readers that doesn’t mean there’s no time but also I wouldn’t underestimate the value of just those small several minutes snippets of time ‘cause those can add up to a whole lot of books and that can feel really good. Like a friend told me when my kids were young, like, that she found it so satisfying to finish a book ‘cause she’s like you know, the kids need to be fed, the laundry needs to be done, I gotta go to work in the morning, but that book I finished is going to stay read. And especially if you love to read that is really satisfying.

On a related note, Kayla said, I’d love to hear more about what Anne’s reading life looked like when her children were younger. As a mom with two toddlers, I’m trying to find the time to read more while super busy and exhausted. Well I have to say because my kids are older, I didn’t have a phone. Like I didn’t get a phone until … I mean, the youngest of my four children was one, one and a half? And I remember reading so much when they were little, and when I had tiny babies, like you’d be pinned to the couch feeding them for hours every day, and I read so many books from the library during that stage of my life.

Lauren asked a similar question and added I’ve noticed that my capacity for deep topics or complicated plots can make it hard to select worthy choices when I do read. What to do? Lauren, in your reading life as in the rest of your life, timing is everything. You know, your reading life can go in seasons and that can be just fine. Maybe now’s not the time for deep topics or complicated plots, and that is okay. If that’s not okay with you, I would recommend trying a format switch or maybe a time of day switch. When my kids were tiny, I felt like an accomplished person if I could get out of bed and take my first sip of coffee before they got out of bed, and if I could pair that with a chapter of a book, I was just so happy all day. I don’t know if that resonates with you or not, but I’m just going to leave that there.

[00:32:14]

And finally, finding books for kids. Many of you asked how do I find books for my kids. You said you needed a What Should I Read Next for your tween or teens. I mean, I get good book recommendations for my children in many of the same places I get good book recommendations for myself. From my friends with children, my friends who work with children. From my local bookstore. From other booksellers and other professionals I know. From my friend Sarah Mackenzie whose podcast is Read-Aloud Revival, and we have two wonderful episodes with her doing literary matchmaking for kids basically on the show.

And then something else that I think is really valuable is to have other adults in my children’s lives who recommend books to them on a regular basis. And sometimes I may nudge this connection along if my kids don’t reach out themselves, but I just encourage them to connect with … It could be their teacher if they have a great repertoire with their teacher or the school librarian or a favorite subject teacher, somebody in their school or community they really like, and get them talking about books. Sometimes I’ll reach out and be like hey, my kid is stuck, do you have any recommendations to the librarian that I’ve developed a repertoire with. But having adults in their lives who are not you the parent who can recommend books to them ‘cause it just hits them differently than it does coming from their mom or dad. Can be really, really great. In my family, with my kids, these people have been our babysitters, which is the best because they feel more like big brothers/big sisters than parents and also teachers and even aunts and uncles.

Martha asks how do you keep up with your kids reading needs as they grow older? Do you have great resources for tweens and early teens who are great readers? Everything I just said, and also check out the Alex awards. These are given by the ALA every year to adult literature that has great interest to teen readers. Check those out. They’ve been giving them out for years so you’ve got a large selection of books to choose from.

LACBloodworth asked I know you’ve talked about reading with your kids, but I’d like to know what recent book one of your kids asked to read that sparked a conversation in your family or just between the two of you? Oh, you know the first thing that comes to mind is one that might surprise you. It’s The 99% Invisible City by Roman Mars which is basically a nonfiction book about urban planning, but what’s so great about it is you can pop open to nearly any page and it’s about facets of city landscapes that kids have seen. They understand how it works and we had some really delightful conversations after I left that on the coffee table. And that wasn’t a stealth move. I left it on the coffee table ‘cause I was reading it there, and I wasn’t expecting them to pick it up, but they did and I was not sorry for the ensuing conversations.

[00:34:46]

Monica asks what activities do you enjoy as a family that don’t have to do with reading? We camp. We hike. We play games, and we’re learning to play cards lately, and we really like to eat.

Now we’re moving on to podcasts and business-y questions. I was interested in seeing that lots of you wrote and said that you wanted to hear more about the business side of what we do, but you didn’t give us any specifics. So save those up for a future episode and we’ll answer, but I will answer the ones that we did get in. We also got a lot of questions about how does the show work? How do I feel about it? And [LAUGHS] so many of you wanted to know if I had regrets about recommendations I made in the past.

Kristen asks, do you get nervous recommending books you personally haven’t read? That is a great question. I have read the vast majority of books I recommend on the podcast, but not all of them. There are a couple of different reasons for me to be nervous about recommending a book. Some are good, some are bad. But usually I’m not nervous because I haven’t read every page, because if I’m recommending a book that I haven’t read, I have a really good reason for recommending it and I have a lot of trust in the people that I talk to about that book.

Often when I’m nervous about recommending a book, it’s because I think it might really bomb. But the reason I wanna recommend it anyway is because they could love it because some books are like that, you know, like it could be a huge win or a dismal failure but not really anywhere in between. That makes me nervous, but you’ll hear me say on the show, like hey, this could be perfect for you but this is where this recommendation might go astray, I just want you to know. Choose accordingly.

Choose Joy Sophie asks do you ever recommend a book before reading it and regret doing so after reading it? Yes, but maybe not for the reason you think. The place that I run into trouble the most with this is when I spontaneously answer the harmless, harmless question, what are you reading right now? And often I answer because like what I’m reading right now is not a recommendation, it’s just a statement of fact. I’m in the middle of a book that may turn out poorly. It may turn out to be the best thing I’ve read this year. But sometimes I’ll get further into the book, and I’ll go oh, golly. I am so afraid that people will have heard that as a recommendation because people will inevitably when you say that you’re reading something, people think oh, you’re reading this, so maybe I’ll go pick it up too and plenty of people do that. I’ve actually been on other people’s shows twice this year where I’ve said oh, sure, I’ll tell you what I’m reading now. This is the book I’m in the middle of, and then I’ve gotten further in the book and I’ve called them up or emailed them back and said can we cut that from this episode? Because your audience is not going to like that book. That’s when I get into trouble.

[00:37:27]

Liberty asks how do you approach a podcast with a reader whose taste may be very different than yours? I love talking to these guests because that’s the whole point of the show: to dig into someone’s reading life and interestingly, I often learn a lot about my own reading life by talking to people whose taste isn’t similar to mine but wildly different. I’ve always been interested in why people choose to do what they do, why they believe the things they do, what experiences form them, and that interest predates my vocational pursuit of readerly things. I love to have those kinds of conversations with people about anything and when it comes to their reading life, it’s not just hm, how can I pivot from what I’m interested in to what you’re interested in, but tell me what you are interested in. Tell me why. Tell me how that shapes what you do. Tell me how that shapes the choices you make in your reading life. I mean, I hope it’s clear that I am here for those conversations. I really enjoy them.

We got several different varieties of this question. I’m reading Emily Van Ark’s who ... that’s a podcast guest, hello, Emily. Emily was our guest on episode 259 “the formula for a 5 star read” and here’s what she asked: I’m curious about how Anne and her team think about the intersection of politics and What Should I Read Next. On the one hand, I’ve seen y’all work at creating a respectful and inclusive community where readers of all political persuasions feel comfortable talking about books, and on the other hand, some books are inherently political. I really enjoy the Pantsuit Politics episode in early October. It kicked off a U.S. history audiobook binge that took me through the election. And some topics that aren’t inherently political that have become politicized. What’s the What Should I Read Next philosophy about potentially controversial topics?

This question immediately makes me think of Wendell Berry, but first I’m going to talk about our guests. This is certainly something we think about and I think that’s in no small part because the vast majority of our guests come to us via our guest submission form. It’s a public form. It’s at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/guest. Through it, we hear from so many readers. More than we could ever have on the show and we read these submissions really carefully trying to imagine what that episode could be like. We do vet these carefully. The main thing we’re looking at is the books, what books do you choose? That’s how we shape the conversation, and we always want them to be a little different from what we’ve had before.

[00:39:43]

But we also see a wide variety of topics and causes that people want to talk about on the show, and many, many of them are not true to what we are trying to do here on the show. Which is to help you think reflectively and thoughtfully in a way that’s really fun and engaging about your own reading life. Like we exist to help you get more out your reading life, and we need to make sure that those guests' submissions and the things they want to talk about match up with what we are trying to do and to make and not with any cause that they are trying to advance. And for a cause they’re trying to advance, I can mean something as simple and straightforward and obvious as buy my book people. We were recently featured in a Forbes roundup of podcasts you could pitch your book on to offer your pandemic book tour, and oh my. You should see our submissions. But we are constantly thinking about what is the show we want to make, what do we want to invite readers to think about?

I want to be clear that we also think when you get more out of your reading life, you get more out life. So we’re not like putting books in some little bin off to the side of your brain, like they’re a part of your life. Books are powerful. They change hearts and they change minds.

Emily referenced the episode we did with Sarah Stewart Holland and Beth Silvers from the show Pantsuit Politics, and they said every book is political because the political is personal, even books that don’t set out to have an explicitly political message. What they’re doing is sharing a perspective. So what we try to do really is engage a variety of topics and issues in a way that’s true to what we do, and a funny thing about that Pantsuit Politics episode. So what we did on that was episode 254. It’s called “a plethora of political-ish book recs.” Three of us shared fiction and nonfiction recommendations that shaped our understanding of politics, history, and what it means to be a human in this world, and so I got to choose the books I wanted to talk about in that context.

And then for a bonus episode on Patreon, I went and I shared some of the political-ish books we talked about on the podcast in the past, just to highlight those you can go back and listen more, give you a little jumpstart on your reading list if you wanted to read political books for that time of year. We aired that episode back in October when the election was approaching in the United States. I could not believe how many political-ish books we shared on What Should I Read Next over the years. It really surprised me. It was fun to put that together.

[00:41:57]

Now let’s go back to Wendell Berry, who is one of my favorite authors but often has the right words for the occasion. It delighted me to no end to find his words to be perfect for the ending of my book, Don’t Overthink It, and Emily’s question made me think of them too. So he wrote about how eating as an agricultural act, that eating is inherently political. Eating. And if that is true about eating, then why not true about reading as well? Because what he’s really doing is urging us to see not just the thing in front of us but the bigger picture, urging us to make connections that aren’t immediately obvious and always be curious and I hope we do those things on the show.

Michelle asks, do we hear back from all of our guests? From those you hear from, what are the range of responses on what they did with the recommendations? Did they read them? Did they like the books? We hear back from almost everyone, and we certainly do hear a range of responses. Our most common responses: I loved it. I liked it. I haven’t read it yet. I have heard back from a couple guests, and this is mostly people that I know, that I have a connection to, because I imagine they feel freer, but they’ll say something like Anne, I told you I wanted to branch out into that genre and I did, and I hated it. Talking about books that aren’t for you is a whole lot of fun so I am here for those conversations. But it is fun to hear what people read, what they don’t, and why because often they’ll say I haven’t read this book because …

William asks are most of your guests now from the Patreon community, and why don’t those of us who aren’t Patreons get to ask for book gift recommendations or ask questions on the episodes where you answer lots of book requests and not just one person? First of all, William is referring to our Patreon community at Patreon.com/whatshouldireadnext. Patreon is the platform that makes it easy for you to support independent creators like us. It’s not ever been like an easy time to create an independent podcast, but it’s certainly harder now. We really appreciate the financial support that we get from our patrons. So if you’re one of them, thank you so much.

Our guests however are definitely not mostly from Patreon. We do sometimes find after scheduling that they are Patrons, but that’s because Patrons are generally high engagement listeners and more likely to submit. If we ever find ourselves needing a guest on short notice like happened this summer with some reconfigured things because of Covid, then it is our Patreon community we will go to. And the promise of the Patreon community is one of the things that we do is as a thank you for supporting our show is bring you closer to the creative process, so when we are seeking input on an episode, it both is fun for them and easier for us to go to that community, which is smaller than our overall listenership. The reason is if we put out a call to the entire podcast community, we get overwhelmed with responses and asking our Patrons help those literally invested listeners like be part of the show. That’s really fun, and at the same time it reduces those options to a manageable number for us. If you want to get closer to the creative process, that’s the place to go, because that is what we are on purpose doing there.

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[00:46:27]

ANNE: Okay, WD asked are you earning more money from books or the parts of your business? What’s the added value in writing a book? Oh. Other parts of the business for sure, and as for added value, I don’t know if there’s added value but I really enjoy I mean obviously if you know about what we do with the blog and the podcast and our Modern Mrs Darcy book club community, we’re just talking about Patreon, now writing books, I really enjoy doing reading across a variety of media and I don’t know if it brings financial value to the business, but I find it valuable to go through that process and write a book. I think it makes me a better writer. I really enjoy engaging with readers that way, and I love to read.

[00:47:07]

We got a lot of questions about what it’s like to read for a living, going all the way from I want to, how can I? to oh, Anne, how do you keep the joy in your reading life? Like here’s how Laura put it: I want to know if it’s still fun? Has it started to feel like a job? And Libby said, how often do you get to pick up a book just for fun since now reading is also your job? And in general how do you keep your love of reading kindled while it also pays the bills?

I do really love what I do, and I feel really grateful that I get to do it. In many ways it is work. Some of your questions spelled it like a job, like J-O-B, and somedays it feels like W-O-R-K, but so much of what I do is not just reading. I mean a lot of what I do some days it feels like I’m writing emails. That’s not the same as getting to read novels you love. My dad told me when I was young that you know, there are parts of every job that are just not going to fill your heart with joy. Everybody has them. Everyone, and that is okay. I think about that sometimes.

But I do really love what I do, and I think one of the reasons that yes, like, I do love to read and that has not changed and it doesn’t feel like drudgery to me is that I am very protective of my reading life and I am very aware that is could possibly begin to feel like work and I don’t want it to be. So when I’ve talked today about keeping the right mix of books for my reading life and being very cautious of how I mix things up and going for a walk when I don’t feel like reading, I mean those are all things I’ve proactively do, so I do get to keep reading as a hobby and not just a job because it does feel like something I love to do because I do it. When I pick up a book at 9 o’clock at night, I never feel like I’m working unless I have an author interview at 9 AM the next morning, in which case, I might.

Also it’s no accident that Modern Mrs Darcy, the blog, and What Should I Read Next are structures that inherently have a lot of variety. I get to choose the booklist that go on the blog, which means I get to choose what to read for them. I want to talk to a great variety of readers on the podcast, but that feels very expansive to me to get to discover new books and to get to push into not immediately hospitable to me genres. So I appreciate you looking out for me, but it’s not ever the reading that starts to feel like a chore, but the emails. That’s another story.

[00:49:32]

Although Mama Cardan asked a question that may sound that I’m going to contradict everything I just said: don’t you get tired of reading so many new books before they’ve been weeded out by time? And the answer is like yes, that’s definitely a big pitfall I see and when I do go astray in my reading life and it does start to feel like work, that is often the culprit. And it’s seasonal. Every year I read hundreds of titles in advance for the summer reading guide, which obviously doesn’t have hundreds of titles in it. I’m reading a lot of books before they come out without the benefit of that word of mouth, talking to other readers. Now certainly I get to talk to some people about some titles, but when you’re looking for under the radar books, you don’t have as many people to talk about them. So as much as it can be a real thrill to discover a book that you feel like deserves more attention than it’s getting because it seems like no one is reading it, you have to read a whole lot of books to get a book that you love enough to like shout from the rooftops that’s not currently being talked about and again what I do when I’m going through that season which goes from about now to April of just reading a lot of contemporary fiction is being very, very cognizant of how many older books I’m mixing in to what can feel like a constant flood of new releases.

I’ve screwed this up in the past a few years ago. I did get really burned out on contemporary fiction, and I don’t just mean books published today. I mean books being published two months from now because I wasn’t as aware of what reading all that contemporary fiction in a row does for my reading life, but luckily in the reading life, you can course correct and I have and now I hope I’m less likely to go astray in that particular way because I’m just so mindful of how easy it is for me to do so and what it felt like when I did in the past.

Now we get to close with a lightning round. You all wrote in with a variety of questions that were interesting and surprising and I’m just going to dive right in. Stacey Whittenberg asked, if you aren’t reading or creating literary content for a living, what would you be doing? When I started this work I was working in the legal field, though I can’t imagine that I could have held out in that field for this long. Back in college I was entranced by the subject of public health, how human behavior shaped for the greater good. It just fascinates me. And I’ve had a lot of what if moments in 2020 because of all the attention being paid to public health, I’m sure you can imagine.

Julia asks can you recommend a great nightstand to nest all my bedtime reading? Real question, any brands or styles you like? Julia, I love a good nightstand as much as the next person, but I mean, mine is like a hand-me-down end table from maybe my dad’s old office from the ‘80s, so I may not be the best person to ask that. I mean, it works, it holds the books and you can’t even see what’s under it because it’s so covered.

[00:52:21]

APRodriguez asked usually a book is better than the movie, is there an example where you actually prefer the movie to the book? Uh, yes. In book club we recently watched Julie and Julia, the adaptation of contemporary memoir Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously, which was so much better than the book. Not the My Life in France but better than the contemporary memoir, and then I love the Merchant Ivory, A Room With a View, so much.

Avirds1 asked what would the perfect bookshop look and feel like to you? Ooh, okay. I want quantity because that means they’re more likely to have what I’m looking for and lots of books with the covers facing out and curated into interesting displays because that means I’m likely to leave with a book I didn’t know I was looking for, plus of course, nice and knowledgeable staff who love to talk books and see that customers leave with something they’re excited to read next, and coffee and big comfy chairs never hurt.

Books with Becca ask what advice do you have to reader who wants to read classics but is struggling with the language? I would tell that reader that language sounds a lot more accessible when spoken or performed. So audiobooks and movies are a way into the classics for a whole lot of readers. I’m sure some of you need your smelling salts right now ‘cause I just told you to start with the movie instead of the book, but seriously, when it comes to that classic language that can be so hard to wrap our tongues and brains around, in this era, it helps so much.

Okay, Nancy said I’ve been needing comfort reads this year, what are your go-to comfort rereads? We got this question several times and I disagree with the premise. Like I know that many people reread for comfort, but that’s not typically where I go. I love to reread for structure with a pen in my hand, like a big nerd. That’s what pulls me back. Or sometimes I just like a good story. It would be embarrassing to tell you how many times I’ve read The Pelican Brief and I was just contemplating a reread of Winter Solstice, uh, Rosamunde Pilcher.

CoolColorPurple asks will you be doing any more episodes of One Great Book? Definitely maybe. Rebecca asks where do you find the best crossword puzzles that are easy to medium difficulty? I don’t look for crossword puzzles. One of my pandemic purchases was a New York Times crossword subscription, and you get easy to medium on I guess Monday to Thursday, and then you get really hard on Friday and Saturday, and somewhere in between on Sunday, but those are the only crosswords I do and they bring me joy.

StruckE1080 says considering the amount of books you’re reading, do you use any speed reading techniques? No. I do not. I know I’m a naturally fast reader. I always have been. I’m a naturally slow runner, so I like to think that balances out somewhere in the universe.

[00:54:55]

Okay, Slug025 says I have also lost a loved one recently, was there anything you read that helped your grieving process? You know, I didn’t turn to books for knowledge. I turned to books for distraction. I did turn a lot to music that was really helpful, but I did read a book years ago that changed the way I understood grief and just internalizing the things I learned back then has I think really helped me now. That book is called The Grief Recovery Handbook, and we actually did a Patreon bonus episode on that not because my dad was dying, but we did it earlier in the year in 2020 because of the pandemic. Just identifying that grief was an emotion that so many people were feeling right then, and because I thought that would be so helpful for so many people, our team decided to make that public, so anyone can listen, not just patrons. Patreon.com/whatshouldireadnext. It’s bonus #48. It’s called “bibliotherapy for the times we find ourselves in.”

CorporateMonkeyCo writes with a very important question she says in all caps, what do you write in pencil so that you have enough use pencil to have a pencil collection? I for real wonder this every time I see one of your pencils. My journal. My to-do lists. My grocery lists. And that about covers it.

MaryMaryMJ says once when we can travel again, where do you most want to go? Oh, I want to go to the places we had family trips scheduled that go cancelled. Those would be to Asheville and Mexico. I want to go to Alinea in Chicago, and I want to go to all the bookstores I didn’t get to go on my book tour this spring.

Margaret Todd asks do you have other hobbies and interests? How do you balance that? I’d like to say of course I do, but if you’re just into reading, listeners, I’m okay with that too. I love to puzzle. I love to walk and hike and run. I love to do general outdoorsy stuff, and I like to play games. And I do have some strange niche interests that I really enjoy reading about. As for balancing, I don’t have a better answer than I just do what feels right and also some of those things pair very nicely with audiobooks.

WisdomTownBeal says how do you feed your people? What is your routine, including meal planning and grocery shopping? We have a roll of craft paper on our kitchen wall that holds what people are interested in eating and getting from the store. I usually do the grocery order for delivery. We … Except for Costco, we have been delivery people for a long time pre-pandemic, and then we mostly get our recipes from one site. We rely heavily on the New York Times Cooking. We pay for a subscription. You can find everything you need, but they also curate options down so there are fewer things to choose from. That is really working for me in 2020, and then Will and I balance that together. He does a lot of the prep. I do the grocery ordering most of the time, and we make the kids come up with ideas for what’s for dinner, too.

[00:57:32]

MrsBranch2016 says I’ve heard you say read cookbooks like novels, what are your favorites to read? Well I’ll read almost any cookbook like a novel. We talked about comfort reading a minute again. Cookbooks are totally comfort reading to me, but recently I loved Ina Garten, Smitten Kitchen, and the two Vivian Howard cookbooks I just read back to back for the first time. I really like the newer one that’s less text driven but the text in there was really fun for me.

AMazinki says what do you wish you had learned earlier? Um ... [LAUGHS] boundaries. Also two strongly reading related things I wished I had learned earlier are that it’s okay to not finish that book you are reading, and that in the long run, it really benefits me to buy the books I want for work. I tortured myself for years thinking like oh, should I wait and get it from the library, can I borrow it from a friend, I just … I didn’t want to purchase books for my business that I would benefit greatly by reading just because I didn’t want to bring more books into the house because then I may have to get rid of them, and ugh. Just now I buy the books I think I need for work. Period, the end, and I buy them from my local indie.

Super Awesome Katie says what are your pet peeves in books? I hate when a nonfiction book has obviously been padded. It probably started as a magazine article, and that was good, and maybe that was all it needed to be, but then it needed to hit 200 pages so it got a bunch of fluff added in that didn’t belong …. Not fluff, filler. I hate marketing copy about the shocking twist you won’t believe! And then I really hate how some authors write about sex in a really cringy, realistic way. Lots of people like these books. I just don’t want to read it, and I’m thinking specifically at this moment about Curtis Sittenfeld. She’s really good at what she does in this area, which is why it’s just … Eugh. No thank you.

Lee Doyle asks did you go to the Governor’s Scholar program at Centre College? I’m pretty sure I remember you. Lee, it’s a small world. That was me. Penny Lane So says can you recommend any favorite books you turn to for creative writing inspiration, also any favorite writing process books? This may seem counterintuitive but for creative writing inspiration what I actually turn to are books not about writing but about creators who aren’t writers. Musicians, painters, choreographers. I really appreciate the distance that comes from reading about the creative process in a field that is not my own, and find it actually helps me think more expansively about my own work. Like I get ideas reading about other kinds of creators that I just don’t get from reading writers. I think maybe I’m too close to see it when it’s about other writers.

[01:00:00]

Favorite writing process books? Ooh, I really like the one by John Truby that everybody just called The Truby, and I love John McPhee, especially his most recent compendium called Draft No. 4.

[CHEERFUL OUTRO MUSIC]

Readers, that’s it for questions and answers today, I hope you enjoyed hearing a little more about my reading life and what we do here at What Should I Read Next. Thanks again for submitting such great questions. We have A TON of links in our show notes today, including frequently asked questions and those answers, blog posts related to what I talked about, extra book lists, and more. That page is at whatshouldireadnextpodcast.com/266.

Subscribe now so you don’t miss a thing in Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and more. We’ll see you next week!

If you’re on twitter, find me there @AnneBogel. Anne with an E, B as in books -O-G-E-L. I’m 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 get our free weekly delivery.

And don’t forget to check out that new youtube channel. Be sure you’re subscribed because we have plans to start adding new videos here in the new year.

If you enjoy this podcast and want to support it, please share it with a friend, leave a review on Apple Podcasts, or to support it in a tangible way, join our patreon community; become a supporter at patreon.com/whatshouldireadnext, or purchase one of my books, including I’d Rather Be Reading, for yourself or a friend.

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 for submitting your questions!

And as Rainer Maria Rilke said, “ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.” Happy reading, everyone.

Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links. More details here.

Johnathan Strange and Mr. Norell by Susanna Clarke
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
• Fredrik Backman (try A Man Called Ove)
• Stieg Larsson (try The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo)
The Neopolitan Quartet by Elena Ferrante
The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design by Roman Mars & Kurt Kohlstedt
• Wendell Berry (try Jayber Crow)
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
Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell
A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
The Pelican Brief by John Grisham
Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher
The Grief Recovery Handbook: The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses by John W. James and Russell Friedman
• Ina Garten (try Modern Comfort Food)
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes and Wisdom from an Obsessive Home Cook by Deb Perelman
• Vivian Howard (try This Will Make It Taste Good: A New Path to Simple Cooking)
• Curtis Sittenfeld (try Eligible: A Modern Retelling of Pride and Prejudice)
• John Truby (try The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller)
Draft No. 4: On the Writing Process by John McPhee

Also mentioned:

Anne’s favorite audiobook narrators:
• Bahni Turpin (try Children of Blood and Bone)
• Scott Brick (try This Tender Land)
• Joshilyn Jackson (try Never Have I Ever)
• JD Jackson (try The Nickel Boys)
• Julia Whelan (try The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue)
• Emily Woo Zeller (try This Is How You Lose The Time War)
• Elizabeth Acevedo (try With the Fire on High)
• Robin Miles (try The City We Became)
• Adam Verner (featured in WSIRN Ep 31 and Ep 200)
10 favorite audiobook narrators (plus 30 excellent audiobooks they narrate)

Past What Should I Read Next episodes:
Ep 89: Ask Anne Anything
Ep 124: The challenge of making your reading life your own, w/ Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival
Ep 149: Ask Anne Anything
Ep 254: A plethora of political(ish) book recs, w/ Sarah and Beth of Pantsuit Politics

Patreon bonus episodes:
Bonus 48: Bibliotherapy for the times we find ourselves in

Questions answered in MMD blog posts:
• What are your favorite re-reads? 10 of my favorite books to read over and over again
• Do you ever think a movie is better than the book? 8 movies that are better than their books
• I read everything by Louise Penny — what now? What to read next if you love Louise Penny
• What are your favorite indies? 7 favorite independent bookstores that are doing great things
• Do you have a favorite jigsaw puzzle? 16 jigsaw puzzles to brighten up your winter days
• What are your favorite cookbooks? 10 shelf-worthy cookbooks
• How should I decide whether to buy or borrow a book? Buy or Borrow? (Here’s How I Decide)
• How can I make more time to read? 7 simple ways to read more this year
• How do you feel about star ratings? Why I changed my mind about star ratings

MMD Book Club classes:
Book School (Abandoning books, tracking your reading, assessing your reading life, conquering your TBR, how to review, & more)
Back to Book School (Reading with a literary lens, story structure, what makes characters great, literature with lasting impact, & more)

Thanks to this week’s sponsors:

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9 comments | Comment

9 comments

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  1. Kacey says:

    Hello, Anne! I absolutely love your podcast and recently read your newest book. So enjoyable! May I offer you a small observation? As a listener, your voice is beautiful. I often cannot hear you, however. Your voice tends to drop to whisper or trail off at the end of your sentences. I do turn up the volume, but then most of your guests’ voices are booming so loud. It is a constant struggle with the volume button. I appreciate your podcast so much and just don’t want to miss a thing. Thanks for listening to a bit of respectful feedback.

  2. Aimee says:

    Hi Kacey – May I recognize you for a rarity these days – respectful, kind, civil, useful feedback – way to go! Podcasts have made me realize this past year something I had not paid much attention to which is inflection and other vocal qualities. I’ve noticed that many men go to this looowwww point and I find myself leaning forward in my car while driving as though that will help me hear them better! Also, with people recording in separate studios (read: pandemic), the quality of each of their audio can differ greatly which really affects the podcast. Anyway, let’s pray 2021 is full of civility and kindness.

  3. Amy says:

    Anne, I am currently reading a book that may be the perfect combination of both public health and city planning for you. The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson. It describes the London cholera epidemic in 1854 and how city structure and lack of planning created the opportunity for the epidemic. It then discusses infrastructure changes that the epidemic prompted. Despite a lot of science and sociology, the style is overall rather narrative. Perhaps one warning is necessary: as a physician I was not bothered by descriptions of cholera symptoms or the cesspool and sewer systems of London, but some may be. I hope you check it out! I was led to this book after reading a middle grade historical novel with my kids about the same topic: The Great Trouble by Deborah Hopkinson. It also was very good, certainly more accessible than the adult nonfiction option, but doesn’t include as much of the city planning info.
    Thank you so much for all that you do! My reading life has been encouraged and inspired by your work!

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