What should you read next?

For thou­sands, the per­son to ask is Anne Bo­gel

The Peterborough Examiner - - Arts & Life - AN­GELA HAUPT

Anne Bo­gel isn’t a li­brar­ian, a teacher or a book critic — and yet hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple seek her ad­vice on what to read.

In 2011, Bo­gel launched what’s be­come one of the most pop­u­lar book­ish blogs on the in­ter­net, Mod­ern Mrs. Darcy. The site, which draws more than 900,000 page views a month, fea­tures rec­om­men­da­tions, ad­vice and quirky lists such as “17 Books I read in 24 hours or less;” read­ers can sign up for classes on book jour­nal­ing, join a book club and sub­scribe to a monthly news­let­ter. In 2016 Bo­gel started “What Should I Read Next?” a weekly pod­cast where guests share their favourite — and least favourite — books — and hear sug­ges­tions about, well, what to read next.

In 2015, Bo­gel left her part-time of­fice job to turn her evolv­ing read­ing empire — sup­ported by ad­ver­tis­ing and spon­sor­ships — into a full-time gig. And last month, the 40-year-old mother of four re­leased her sec­ond book: “I’d Rather Be Read­ing: The De­lights and Dilem­mas of the Read­ing Life,” a charm­ing med­i­ta­tion that draws on her years study­ing read­ers’ habits. (Her first book, “Read­ing Peo­ple: How See­ing the World through the Lens of Per­son­al­ity Changes Ev­ery­thing” came out last year.)

“My un­der­ly­ing goal is to help peo­ple get more out of their read­ing life,” Bo­gel said in a phone in­ter­view from her home in Lex­ing­ton, Ky. “Be­cause I re­ally think if you’re able to get more out of your read­ing life, you can’t help but get more out of the rest of your life. When you talk about books with peo­ple, it’s such a short­cut to talk­ing about what re­ally mat­ters — life and death and love and loss and ques­tions of iden­tity and de­ci­sion-mak­ing.”

Bo­gel, who has a de­gree in Chris­tian ed­u­ca­tion, has found pod­cast­ing the most grat­i­fy­ing way to an­swer her fol­low­ers’s most com­mon ques­tion: Can you rec­om­mend a great book? She treats each guest’s picks thought­fully, an­a­lyz­ing the sub­tle threads among a read­ers’ favourite books.

“I don’t want to say, ‘Oh, you like World War II his­tor­i­cal nov­els, let’s pile on a bunch more of those,” she says. “I’m look­ing for what you may not per­ceive but is def­i­nitely there, and that of­ten has to do with tone, char­ac­ter and theme.”

For ex­am­ple, one re­cent guest’s favourites were “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexan­dre Du­mas, a Cana­dian mystery se­ries and a Gretchen Ru­bin hap­pi­ness book. Su­per­fi­cially, they don’t have much in com­mon. But Bo­gel dis­cerned a ten­dency to­ward books that ex­am­ined what was hap­pen­ing be­neath the sur­face of the char­ac­ters’ lives.

Her rec­om­men­da­tions in­cluded “Bal­lad of the Whiskey Rob­ber” by Ju­lian Ru­bin­stein, a truth-is-stranger-than-fic­tion book about a Hun­gar­ian hockey goalie in the late 1990s; “The Like­ness” by Tana French; and “Morn­ing­side Heights,” the de­but novel by Ch­eryl Men­del­son, best known for her writ­ing on house­keep­ing.

So what books stand out to the woman who’s made a ca­reer of read­ing — and logs about 150 books a year? She names her favourites eas­ily: “Cross­ing to Safety” by Wal­lace Steg­ner; “Han­nah Coul­ter” and “Jay­ber Crow” by Wen­dell Berry; and “Sta­tion Eleven” by Emily St. John Man­del. She hes­i­tates to share a book that didn’t work for her but set­tles on Emily Brontë’s “Wuther­ing Heights.” Her most re­cent reads in­clude “Un­shel­tered” by Bar­bara King­solver and the text­book-like “The High Cost of Free Park­ing” by Don­ald Shoup.

Bo­gel says she’s proud that her work has helped fos­ter a com­mu­nity of read­ers. “Some­thing I’ve been re­ally pleased to hear from read­ers is know­ing that they truly aren’t alone,” she says.

“I'd Rather Be Read­ing: The De­lights and Dilem­mas of the Read­ing Life” by Anne Bo­gel, Baker Pub­lish­ing Group

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