Sunday Morning Book Chats has finally reached the double digits!! Today is the tenth part of my Sunday Morning Book Chats series, where each weekend I sit down with a different bookstagrammer and chat about life and literature. This week’s guest is the incredibly lovely Carole Ann from @booksnourish_caroleann, who is one of the most kind and genuine people I have had the pleasure of talking with on bookstagram. Without further ado, let’s get to the questions!
The General Questions
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, how long you’ve been on bookstagram for, and what you like to do when you’re not reading books, photographing books, or just generally thinking about books.
I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I had a difficult childhood without much of a feeling of security or nurturing which I believe is why I became a reader at an early age. I loved the small bookcase in our apartment and visiting the school library. Sitting alone in a quiet corner, I could leave my environment and go anywhere and spend time with fascinating characters. It was my soul’s balm. No one ever told me that certain books were beyond my age group; I had complete freedom in the shelves and they opened up a new world to me. I remember reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith at about eleven or twelve years old and it was a life-changing experience. It was the first time I realized that I could see some of my own life and feelings written in a book!! Reading books was one of the most important parts of my young life and continues to this day. I am now retired and enjoying life with more time to read now that I no longer have a long work week. Aside from reading I love to exercise at the gym, sail with my husband and spend time with two of the most adorable toddler grandchildren. I married later in life and have a wonderful supportive husband, who is also my best friend. We have a sailboat and spend as much time in the summer sailing and living on the boat – each with our own bookshelf on the boat – of course!! His side is almost all non-fiction and my side is all fiction. I have been on Instagram for less than a year; I began my account last September and look forward to that one-year anniversary.
2. How did you discover the bookstagram community, and what you made you decide to start your own account?
My niece has a beautiful style IG account (@popandcircumstance) and she introduced me to Instagram; telling me how creative and engaging the experience can be and she encouraged me to join. When I decided to create my Instagram I knew immediately that my account would be focused on books. Reading is a solitary activity; it is just us, in a chair with a book; becoming involved in the lives of characters who touch us, teach us or act as a mirror to our own inner selves. And yet, we long to share our reading experiences with like-minded people. I have never had a group of friends or colleagues who read the same books that I do and my reading life was not only solitary, but lonely. I had no idea what to expect when I started my account, but it has turned out to be one of the most enriching experiences I have ever had. For the first time, I have a group of reading friends who really ‘get it’ when I love or recommend a book!
3. In all your time on bookstagram, are there any moments in particular that stand out to you or any experiences you’ve had because of bookstagram that you’re particularly grateful for?
YES, I have two answers to that question. When I was very new on IG and had about twenty-five followers (9 of whom were immediate family) I was stunned one day to see the lovely @literaryjourney give my account a shout-out!! I had eighty new followers that very day and my account grew steadily from there. It was an enormously generous act and I will be forever grateful. Secondly, I have found that the Bookstagram community from around the world is not only well read, but generous, supportive and always willing to give an encouraging word. We not only share favorite books, we share moments in our lives and build friendships. I didn’t know what to expect but I never expected this experience to be as personally engaging and as rich as it is.
A Bit More Specific…
1. Are you the type of person who likes to read multiple books at a time, or do you like to pick up one book and stick with it until you’ve finished it?
I can only read one book at a time. I have tried to read two or three at a time, but I find that one book always dominates my attention and the rest get neglected. Especially if I am reading a really good book that is well written; i just want to completely lose myself in the story and appreciate the writing. However, I do sometimes have a book of essays or short stories close by; it is so easy to dip in and enjoy a short piece when i have an extra half hour, or want to read something short before bed.
2. What are you currently reading, and what books are you excited to start reading soon?
I am going to answer this with a category rather than a specific book. This past year I have made an effort to include international writers in my reading. Since we believe that literature can express universal truths , I want to explore the ways in which people from cultures very different from my own express their lives, their longings, joys and sorrows. I have read Patrick Modiano, Naguib Mahfouz, J. M. G. Le Clezio, Rabih Alameddine, and Clarice Lispector. I really look forward to continuing to read writers from outside my country. And the Bookstagram community is the best resource for discovering those writers. Currently I am reading The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud, a retelling and conversation with The Stranger by Camus. It is a fascinating retelling from the Arab’s point of view.
3. On a scale of 1-10, how intimidating is your TBR pile?
I try to keep my TBR from being intimidating by keeping a small notebook with a list of books that i want to read, and include the Bookstagrammer who recommended it. I usually only keep a stack of four to five books as a physical TBR and when the pile is down to two, i will buy a few more. Psychologically it is much more relaxing. I also keep a list rather than buy books because what I want to read next constantly changing!! There are so many wonderful book recommendations on IG that quite often a recent post will bring that book to the top of my list of future reads.
4. Who are your go-to authors?
Annie Dillard – for her deep insight into nature and our place in the world. She is profound, but has a charming sense of irony.
Alice Walker – for her beautiful gentle soul, but also her fierce fighting spirit. She always soothes my spirit
Virginia Woolf – for her novels and her essays. I always see or learn something new every time I read her work.
5. You’re hosting a tea party and you can invite three famous people, either living or dead. Who do you invite and why?
I would invite Grace Paley, Lydia Davis and my favorite literary critic James Wood to guide the questions and discussion. I would serve the tea and scrumptious pastries and just sit back and listen.
6. Let’s talk about reading slumps: do you get them, and if you do, how do you get yourself out of them?
It has been many years since i have had a reading slump. But I am retired now and and those solid blocks of reading time are one of the true benefits of retirement. There are times when life’s responsibilities take over and i do not have as much reading time during my day, but i always manage to find time to continue a good book.
7. What are five books you think everyone should read and why?
- A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf – an early book that discussed what it meant to be a writer and write as a woman. It is an important book and influenced literature by women who came after her
- I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou – an inspirational story of courage, persistence and rising out of difficulty, without bitterness. Maya Angelou is a woman who I admired immensely, she wa san amazing human being
- Toni Morrison, it could be any one of her books – Her books are the best representation of the black experience in America, with beautiful language and insights for all of us
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte – because it’s Jane Eyre!!
- The Abundance by Annie Dillard – this is the best of her essays, chosen by her for this collection. Her essays always make me see the world around me with clearer eyes and I find myself paying attention more to nature. She also writes some of the most amazing sentences I have ever read. There are so many times that I stop to reread a sentence or paragraph and marvel “how did she do that?”
8. I know how bookstagrammers love a good quote, particularly for the captions of their photos, so can you share one of your favorite quotes with us?
“Reading is a provocation, a rebellion; we open the book’s door, pretending it is a simple paperback cover, and in broad daylight escape! We are no longer there: this is what real reading is. If we haven’t left the room, if we haven’t gong over the wall, we are not reading.” Helene Cixious, a French feminist and writer.
Speed Round! What is your favorite…
Movie? “Out of Africa” and “A Man and a Woman”
Color? French Blue
Reading spot? In Winter I have a great cozy chair, in Summer I love to read on our boat.
Ice cream flavor? Chocolate Chip
Song? Respect by Aretha Franklin
Fictional character? It is so hard to choose ; it is like asking who is my favorite friend or family member! But, I will say that I like strong intelligent woman who know who to navigate their lives, whatever the circumstances. They inspire me to live life as my best self.
Thank you so much for joining us on Sunday Morning Book Chats! Before you go, do you have any tips for anyone looking to start their own bookstagram account?
TIP: Whatever theme for a new IG account, and i know this is a cliche, but be true to yourself, let your personality come through. People not only want to see your photos, they want to engage with you and find out who you are! Trust me, you will find new friends who respond to you and understand you. It is very rewarding.
A massive thank you to Carole Ann for her wonderful answers and agreeing to take part today! Make sure you go check out her beautiful bookstagram account over at @booksnourish_caroleann, and join us next week for an interview with Stephanie from @bookishsteph1. 🙂