Readers, it’s a weird time to be in the market for a new book. It’s safer to stay home, and many libraries and bookstores have temporarily shut their doors to the public. What’s a reader to do… but turn to their home bookshelves! Over the years, PLENTY of you have written in comments and emails about your overflowing TBR shelves, and readers, those shelves’ time has COME! 

Today I’m chatting with Karla Osorno, a WSIRN listener whose 600+ precious unread books have been weighing her reading life down. 

Not only is Karla searching for her next read in these stacks, but she wants to lighten the mental load by eliminating the titles that just aren’t right for her. You heard me — today we’re talking about what Karla shouldn’t read next! I hope you’ll come away from today’s episode with questions and ideas you can apply to your own book collections, and that your shelves are a true source of solace when the going gets tough. 

Let’s get to it! 

You can connect with Karla on her website.


[spp_transcript]

Books mentioned in this episode:

Some links are affiliate links. More details here.

The Stationery Shop by Marjan Kamali
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett
The Lake House by Kate Morton
Kurt Seyt and Shura by Nermin Bezmen
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
The Stand by Stephen King
The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
The Enchanted Hour: The Miraculous Power of Reading Aloud in the Age of Distraction by Meghan Cox Gurdon
Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously by Julie Powell
Twenty-One Truths About Love by Matthew Dicks
The Girl Before by JP Delaney
On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction by William Zinsser
The Elements of Style by E. B. White and William Strunk
The complete novels of Jane Austen
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
Before We Visit The Goddess by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni
Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl
This Must Be The Place by Maggie O’Farrell
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
Atonement by Ian McEwan
Abigail Adams by Woody Holton
Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning To Say by Kelly Corrigan
Devotion by Dani Shapiro
Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love by Dani
Hum If You Don’t Know the Words by Bianca Marais
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Confusion of Languages by Siobhan Fallon
●  The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
The Overstory by Richard Powers
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Also mentioned:

● The Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club
● The What Should I Read Next Patreon community
● The She Speaks conference in North Carolina

Thanks to this week’s sponsors:

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What do YOU think Karla should read next?

31 Comments
  1. Kathryn neale 11 months ago

    I especially loved this episode. I really enjoyed your insights into her current reading life and how past picks might not be instep with her life now

  2. Sarah 11 months ago

    Great episode, very practical tips for letting go of books. And she reads the kind of books I like!

  3. The second I read the blurb about this episode, I started listening immediately! Karla sounds like she could be my bookish twin! The last time I counted (four years ago), I had 536 books that we owned that I’d never read. And I’ve since added even more!

    I did finally come up with a system for helping myself to drastically cut down on my book buying. A lot of the reason I was able to cut down was because I rediscovered my love for the library, so I no longer felt like I needed to go out and buy every book I wanted to read.

    My current rules for book buying are:
    1 – I have a very defined system for how I rank my books, and for a book to get 5 stars from me, it needs to be a book I’d want to read again. So I’ll often buy those, no guilt attached.
    2 – There are a lot of nonfiction books I want to be able to to mark up and reference later, so if I enjoyed a certain book a lot (something like Gift From the Sea), I’ll buy it just so I can mark up my own copy.
    3 – Any books I want my children to be able to have ready access to at all times.
    4 – If the book has excellent ratings from a reader I trust with similar taste and I just know I’ll love it too (with the possibility of it being a 5-star or at least 4-star read), I’ll sometimes buy it, especially if our library doesn’t own it.

    All of this means that I tend to buy drastically more nonfiction nowadays than fiction, but seeing as I still have well over 500 unread books (mostly fiction) left, I’m not too worried about it.

    Such a fun episode! I had to laugh at the Julie and Julia comment because I would say the exact same thing—watch the movie, skip the book, lol.

    • Karla Osorno 11 months ago

      Yes to being book twins! I love Gift from the Sea and your Buying decision system is great. Based on Anne’s insights and recommendations my system is greatly simplified now too. 😊 WSIRN is such a blessing to us – readers of all kinds.

  4. Janet 11 months ago

    This was so good!! I’m a 5 too and have always used books to start conversations. This was one of my favorite episodes! Thank you!

    • Karla Osorno 11 months ago

      Hello, fellow 5! I would never have said that was what I was doing. Yet now it seems so clear. 🥰

  5. Laura 11 months ago

    I felt like you were looking right at me during this episode! My home library is overflowing and I’ve finally started to clear it out because it’s become something of a burden (albeit a good one). Starting a little free library has helped tremendously in the letting go process. Also, check out the Unread Shelf project blog and IG with Whitney Conard from a previous episode. She’s got great thoughts on when a book has passed its “best by” date.

  6. Christine 11 months ago

    This is one of my favorite episodes ever. I live in a very small 3 bedroom house, no basement. I had hundreds of books. Most read once. Then I got a job where I had to have an office in my house. I am not a re-reader except for the occasional book challenge. I decided to let them all go. Donated, gifted, sold. I still have a rotating TBR of about 50 books but now I read and then move it out. If I ever had a big house, I’d love giant bookshelves. But here, they were stress inducing and I am glad the books are being enjoyed by others. No regrets.

    • Karla Osorno 11 months ago

      Great work Christine. It does feel great to know others are benefitting from books we have loved but are no longer reading. After the show I donated so many books. Now the remaining books are ready to be read or re-read.

  7. Émilie Weidl 11 months ago

    I do not relate to this at all and I just want to know if there is anyone else like me. Once I buy books, I put them on my TBR stack. New books go to the bottom of the stack. I therefore read books (roughly) in the order I buy them–while keeping with a pattern of alternating fiction and non-fiction. I also try to acquire books in the order in which I put them on my goodreads TBR (i.e. I am currently reading books I added to my TBR like three years ago, and won’t read the books I’m adding right now for three years). That way, every book has an equal chance of being read by me. Yes, I am an enneagram One.

    • Karla Osorno 11 months ago

      Emilie, I love your discipline, your system, and your self-awareness. Thanks for reminding us that we are each created uniquely. Reading joy is the goal, not sameness. And your system works so no need to change a thing. I hope others speak up too.

  8. Suzie 11 months ago

    I used to have a rule that I only bought a book, or kept a book, if I’d already read it and loved it. It had to be something I’d reread or recommend/lend to a friend. But in the last couple years I have been able to pick up so many books for $2 or under, that I’m buying way more that I haven’t read yet. Many are recommendations from you or books I’ve heard about on the podcast! I’m not in the 600+ category yet, but I need to watch it—I only have so much room and they do overwhelm me a bit. Still, it feels like a delicious problem!!

  9. Shea 11 months ago

    While I would love to spend a week with Karla’s bookshelves, I would turn into a shaky mess eventually. I get jittery looking at the 10 or so unread books on my Kindle! I’m a devoted library user (or I was pre-COVID… ours just opened back up for pickups, thank goodness) so don’t own a ton of books. I loved your recommendations and advice for her!

  10. Rebecca Merrell 11 months ago

    I loved this episode and it made me think…perhaps Karla needs to apply the The KonMari Method! Does the book bring you happiness or do you think it will? Does it spark joy? Best consult “The life-changing magic of tidying up” and it may help clean out some of those old books! As for me, most of my books doesn’t earn a spot on my shelves unless its been read or partially read. The others (TBR) usually stack up on a footstool or in a box until they make the rite of passage 🙂

    • Karla Osorno 11 months ago

      Thanks Rebecca. I read the Art & Magic of Tidying Up book several years ago and remember thinking I liked everything she said except about books. My teen daughter is obsessed with her so our home feels the wonderful effect. Based on the WSIRN episode I did ask myself a few questions in the same spirit which helped to cull my shelves. I now understand Marie Kondo’s thinking about books. 😉 Your suggestion is a good one.

      • Karla Osorno 11 months ago

        Oops! The actual title is The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organization by Marie Kondo.

        More recently I read the second book in the series called Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying.

        Anne’s direct input was the key for me!

  11. Laura Corsi 11 months ago

    I loved this episode. It was so helpful for me in thinking about organizing my own shelves. Sometimes, like Karla said, we just need permission. I would love if your next book was about organizing and sorting our shelves!!

    • Author
      Anne 11 months ago

      I’m so happy to hear it! Thanks for listening.

  12. LoriAngela 11 months ago

    This episode really spoke to me. I’ve fallen off listening because I’m trying to read from my shelves and kindle. Great ideas. I’m going to set up a summer reading shelf

  13. Brandee 11 months ago

    I was very excited to hear a fellow Nevadan on the show! 🙂

  14. Molly 11 months ago

    I have very limited bookshelf space, and I need to see what I have available to read. Most of my books are in boxes in the basement (gasp! I know!) So every six months or so I go through the bookshelf and remove what has been read and will likely not be reread, put out books I have and want to read, and repack anything that isn’t likely to be reread anytime soon but I want to keep. There are a few exceptions to this, but they are primarily resource materials. Maybe seeing a smaller number of yellow stickers on the books she is most excited about could help Karla. If a book doesn’t make it to the shelf in a certain amount of time she can give herself permission to let it go.

    • Karla Osorno 11 months ago

      Worth considering for sure as the sea of yellow stickers overwhelms me sometimes. Reducing the quantity of books certainly helped. I am using a book cart in my primary reading spot with the books Anne recommending and that has helped me focus. Your solution seems to be working well so I will think about it. Thanks so much, Molly.

  15. Rebekah in SoCal 11 months ago

    Great episode. I have probably 50 unread books (those cheap kindle and audible deals add up). Our library has been open (pick up only) for a month. It is interesting to reflect on how our reading is different because of the virus. I would have expected to move through my TBR more quickly, but I have instead been purchasing through independent publishers or listening to the free audible books.

    (I’ve been getting cookbooks from the library.)

  16. Jana Botkin 11 months ago

    Karla, you were a delight to listen to! As a fellow #5, I paid close attention. You inspired me to check out the audio version of “The Stationery Shop” and begin listening immediately. I also subscribed to your blog. Thank you for being on WSIRN.

  17. Karla Osorno 11 months ago

    Jana, thank you. I am so glad you liked the episode. It was a fabulous experience and opportunity. Already Anne’s suggestions have improved my reading life. I can’t wait to hear what you think of the audiobook. We will stay in touch. 🥰

  18. Karla Osorno 11 months ago

    Thanks to everyone who commented with ideas, opinions, and encouragement. WSIRN is my favorite podcast and it was a dream to participate. Can’t wait for the next episode as I learn something new and enjoy every single episode. We appreciate you, WSIRN team! 😍

  19. Denise MIllstine 11 months ago

    I, too, loved this episode. I particularly appreciated the concept of “seasons of reading” – and the recognition/acceptance when that season has passed even if the purchased book has gone unread.
    I do want to counter the suggestion not to read “Twenty-One Truths about Love” by Matthew Dicks. I am not a fan of the romance genre – I’ve tried…. but to no avail. This book, however, is cleverly written in a series of lists – which shouldn’t work but totally does. I’d encourage you to keep and read this one when you’re interested, as a writer, in exploring alternative formats. Happy reading!

  20. Stacie Kizer 10 months ago

    I loved this episode, it felt so freeing! Thank you so much!

  21. Theresa Johnston 10 months ago

    I am a little behind so I just listened to this yesterday and it’s been on my mind ever since. I LOVE this podcast so much and this episode made me love it even more. It’s obvious that talking with you took a lot of psychological weight off Karla. You were so kind and compassionate and gentle. It was really terrific. Thank you for being a light in this crazy world!

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