WSIRN Ep 69: The library is running my life

Welcome to another Tuesday, readers! It’s time for a new episode of What Should I Read Next.

Today we welcome the marvelous Carolyn McCready to the show! Carolyn is one of my favorite people to talk books with, and I’m so excited to include YOU in the conversation today. As an acquisitions editor, reading is truly Carolyn’s job. In this episode, we take a little peek behind the scenes of the publishing industry, and of course we dive into Carolyn’s reading life—like how her reading journey began in a Baskin-Robbins (ice cream and books, does it get better than that?), This Is Us read-alikes, and the many beautiful, perilous ways the library might start to run your life. 

This is a good one, listeners. Let’s get to it.

What Should I Read Next #69: The library is running my life with Carolyn McCready

You can connect with Carolyn on Instagram.

Books mentioned in this episode:

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• The Brothers K, by David James Duncan
• Tender at the Bone, by Ruth Rechl
• Garlic & Sapphires, by Ruch Reichl
• A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
• A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeleine L’Engle
• Meet the Austins series, by Madeleine L’Engle
• East of Eden, by John Steinbeck
• News of the World, by Paulette Jiles (MMD book pick)
• Ruined, by Ruth Everhart
• Lab Girl, by Hope Jahren
• Author Rainbow Rowell
• Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
• Okay For Now, by Gary D. Schmidt
• Author John Green
• The Wednesday Wars, by Gary D. Schmidt
• What I Saw & How I Lied, by Judy Blundell
• An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
• The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World, by Michael Pollan
• The Mothers, by Brit Bennett
• My Mrs. Brown, by William Norwich
• Author Kent Haruf, especially Our Souls at Night


Leave A Comment
  1. I loved the callout to Kent Haruf! His books are so good.

    I think I’m going to have to give The Brothers K another try. I love some family drama! One Carolyn might like is We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas.

  2. Leigh Kramer says:

    Loved listening to this! One of my favorite memories from FFW last year was when the 3 of us talked books at Steph’s party.

    Carolyn, here are a couple YA recommendations:
    The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner (I’m in the middle of his second book Goodbye Days, which came out today, I believe. It’s also fantastic.)
    Heartless- Marissa Meyer
    The Sun Is Also A Star- Nicola Yoon

  3. Susan in TX says:

    Loved this episode. I especially love that Anne had to “dig deep” for good recommendations since Carolyn is such a big reader. It’s nice to hear recommendations that are a little more backlist, and not necessarily the current buzz.

  4. Elizabeth Brink says:

    I loved this episode, too! I grew up in Oregon and now live in Washington, so that was a fun flip-flop with Carolyn. I’m thankful to Carolyn for mentioning The Austin family books. I’ve long wanted to read Madeleine L’Engle, but A Wrinkle In Time intimidates me. I think because I saw a weird movie version of it as a child during library time.

    Like Anne, I’m guessing Carolyn might have read this one, but I love Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. It’s got a bit of science, lots of gardening, and great cooking descriptions. And fun stories.

    • Carolyn McCready says:

      Hi Elizabeth – It sounds like we would get along very well! 🙂 And you are right – I read and LOVED Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. In fact, I may even reread that one… Thanks for the recommendation!

  5. Kristin says:

    Hi Carolyn, I am an Oregonian too and loved your episode! I have heard really good things about Mink River by Brian Doyle. Have you read it? I also enjoy Ruth Reichl’s work and if Anne wants to reread, her audio books of her memoirs are great.

    • Tam says:

      Yes, Brian Doyle! I just finished The Plover and it was beautiful. Highly recommended to lovers of David James Duncan, even though it’s not an Epic Family Saga (which I love about The Brothers K).

  6. I don’t have any recommendations for Carolyn – she’s so well-read so it’s tough to come up with ideas for her. Although, in the event that she hasn’t read, “We Were Liars” she really should as that’s probably my all-time favorite YA book (although I don’t think it needs to be classified as YA as I think it would appeal to any reader in search of a good book!).

    I have a suggestion for you, Anne. Since you seem to have contacts with many people in the book industry, maybe you could consider doing a special series of interviews with people who work in publishing or other literary careers? I’m always curious to hear about what they do in their day to day jobs!

  7. Renee says:

    Every episode, I feel like “This is the best episode!”, but this time it might really be true 🙂 I also live in Oregon, I heard David James Duncan speak when I was in college & loved it. I have had a life long love of Madeline L’Engle — I don’t know anyone in my real life who has read so much of her work, and loves it as I do! I’m a science teacher, and I love the science in her work.
    I love Steven Pinker The Language Instinct for a science-y book about language acquisition. I also adore Michael Pollan, though I haven’t yet read The Botany of Desire, but Cooked was amazing!

    • Mairsydoats says:

      Madeleine L’Engle! I most love that all her books, including the adult fiction, are intricately interwoven. A Ring of Endless Light is my most favorite of all her wonderful works.

    • Carolyn McCready says:

      Thanks for the lovely comment, Renee. I can tell we’d get along well… And I always love to meet another Oregonian! 🙂 I am putting The Language Instinct on my TBR list!

  8. Sarah M says:

    It’s so fun to hear from an interviewee who shares your exact taste (and from your conversation, I know I “have good taste”!), and the Madeline L’Engle bit made my heart sing. It’s one of my favorite things to bring Walking on Water or the Crosswick Journals to my friends’ attention. I haven’t read The Brothers K, but loved the other two, and have a big distaste for Steinbeck, so I think it’s safe to say that I’ll probably enjoy it, even though it’s thick…which I try to avoid!

  9. Tacy says:

    Really enjoyed this episode. I did like East of Eden, but everything else was so similar to my taste in reading I almost choked on my tea. Being from the PNW I wonder if she hasn’t read Kristen Hannah… loved True Colors and several others by her.

    • Carolyn McCready says:

      I haven’t read any Kristen Hannah yet, Tracy, so thanks for the recommendation. Start with True Colors? I have wondered if I’d like her…

    • Carolyn McCready says:

      Ah, so many –
      Here are a few more: Truth and Beauty by Ann Patchett, The Tender Bar by JR Moehringer, A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, Leaving Church by Barbara Brown Taylor, A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel, When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi, Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes, Lit by Mary Karr… eek, there are so many good ones!

      • Hayley says:

        Wonderful! Will be adding some more to my list .. just finished When Breathe Becomes Air. Goodness! Sobbed like there’s no tomorrow, but was completely captivated by his words!

    • Carolyn McCready says:

      Hi Ruth- I loved your book and was so glad I read it. I did see it earlier in it’s journey toward publication and liked it then too, but you really did a beautiful job with the final version of the difficult but so important story. Thank you so much for writing and sharing it.

  10. Kate says:

    Funny Anne mentions Annie Dillard, because after Carolyn said Madeline L’Engle and then science, I immediately thought of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. I’ll also second the recommendation of Cooked by Michael Pollan, as well as The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which completely changed how I think about food.

  11. Jamie says:

    If you haven’t read it yet, I think that you might enjoy Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. Family drama, a bit of a YA feel since the main character is a teenager so it has the falling in love/parents don’t understand me angle to it, but also deep and profound. It may be a bit dark but the journey through the darkness reveals a lot about identity, relationships, and how much we truly know those closest to us. Also, I 100% back the Kingsolver recommendation. Such a good book!!!

  12. Kari Ann says:

    ‘What I Saw and How I Lied’ sounded interesting so I quickly downloaded the audio version from my library. (yeah- free!) It was not what I expected- in a good way. With twisty, noir elements it was not your typical coming-of-age story. It was a quick listen too- under 6 hours on 1.25x. Thanks for the rec!

  13. Samantha says:

    Hearing that Carolyn loves Madeleine L’Engle, I wanted to mention Where You Reach Me, by Rebecca Stead, just in case she hasn’t read it yet! I love to hear other people mention their Madeleine love.

    • Carolyn McCready says:

      This was a great book and I’d forgotten all about it, Samantha! Thanks for the reminder. I may go pick it up again right now. 🙂

  14. JULIE CASTELL says:

    Loved this episode! Yes, you have to read, read, read if you want to write. It was so nice to hear someone who loves their job so much, that is rare & a true blessing. Great ideas about authors & books I was unfamiliar with. As always, many thanks!

  15. Amy Marie says:

    I really loved this episode! I love writing and it was fantastic to hear tips from an editor. I suspect many of us excessive 😉 readers all love writing in a small way. I’d love more writing professionals on the show…so fascinating about what THEY are reading and looking for and what the world of publishing/writing is looking like at this time. Thanks, Anne.

    • Carolyn McCready says:

      I’d love more publishing professionals on the show too – one of the best parts of my job is sharing book suggestions! 🙂

  16. chouette22 says:

    SUCH a wonderful episode! I so enjoyed hearing Carolyn talk so very eloquently about her passion for books, for reading in general and for deep reading in particular. Bring her back soon!

  17. Rhonda Merrell says:

    I’m so glad you talked about East of Eden! I found Steinbeck late in life and I live in Central CA! I read and loved Grapes of Wrath and Cannery Row. I listened to East of Eden on audio and couldn’t finish it. I just didn’t care about ANY of the characters and grew tired of the darkness.
    I think this was my favorite podcast! I really like Carolyn!
    I can’t wait to read Lab girl and Tender at the Bone!

    • Carolyn McCready says:

      Ah, so nice of you. I think you will like both Lab Girl and Tender at the Bone! And I’m glad you had the same response to East of Eden as I did – nice to feel less alone. 🙂

  18. Ring of Endless Light is probably on my current “Top 3” list, too. If you like that one, I highly recommend Sea of Tranquility. It, too, feels YA, yet deals with loss in a manner that makes the book really valuable to an adult who is walking through a season of pain.

    • Carolyn McCready says:

      I just recently finished Sea of Tranquility – I think from a recommendation on one of Anne’s podcasts – and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks for the great suggestion!

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