By Sol Noya Carreno
Bookstagram might just be one of the most wholesome corners of Instagram, seemingly populated with book lovers equipped with endless mugs of tea and mountains of fluffy blankets. I was able to track down two bookstagrammers who’ve attended Durham and currently live here: graduate Abbie Walker, of @ab_reads fame, and third-year student Harriet Brown, @madmenandminstrels.
Starting with the basics – college and course?
A: French and Italian at Josephine Butler!
H: I’m doing history at Stephenson!
Can you explain your account name to our readers?
H: It’s from a quote from Neil Gaiman’s novel Stardust, which is one of my favourites: “Every lover is in his heart a madman and in his head a minstrel.”
When did you start your bookstagram and what inspired you to start it?
A: In 2016, I deferred a year of uni. Up to then, I’d pretty much stopped reading for pleasure during term, and being reunited with my old favourites led me to the bookstagram hashtag and I immediately wanted to join this massive community of book lovers, especially since most of my friends didn’t read for pleasure.
What’s your favourite thing about bookstagram?
H: The community was one of the main reasons I joined bookstagram, and it’s what makes bookstagram worth it for me – it’s genuinely such a kind and accepting group of people! Other bloggers are very supportive and focused on connecting with other book lovers. It’s brilliant to connect with other people who are so passionate about books.
What has bookstagram taught you?
A: It sounds so cheesy, but being on bookstagram has really expanded my horizons in terms of what I read. Before starting @ab_reads, I tended to stick to the titles that main bookshops recommended. Being on bookstagram has really diversified my reading list and reading more diverse books can widen your perspective so much.
Does your degree influence your account in any way?
H: I really enjoy sharing my other passions on bookstagram, so I talk a lot about history on my account. Though historical fiction usually annoys me because it can be so inaccurate and so I don’t read it as often, I do post about my favourite historical women and non-fiction history books every so often.
What advice would you give to students wanting to read more?
A: Looking on bookstagram can be really useful for finding recommendations and hunting around charity shops can be good for finding older or rarer titles. I’d also encourage them to remember that reading for fun is so worth making the time for – when I was in college, I’d do my work and then binge-watch Netflix, but reading for pleasure can be just as relaxing. It really helped me to set clear boundaries for when I’d work and when I’d relax. And finally, pick up the books you want to read! There’s a lot of pressure to read certain titles, but if you don’t want to, there’s so much more to read out there.
How do you balance university and your bookstagram?
H: I don’t! (Laughs.) But I try – it can get hard because you want to post quality content but it’s easy to let constant posting take over your life. To be serious now – I use stories more often than posts to my feed because it helps me stay engaged with the community and they’re also really fun. I also believe in posting what you want when you want to. The main purpose of my account is that it brings me joy and it’s easy to get demotivated if you focus on numbers too much as the algorithm can easily mess with your engagement, so I try to ignore the numbers and post things I enjoy.
And finally, most important question – currently reading?
A: A Drop of Midnight: A Memoir by Jason Diakité as translated by Rachel Wilson Broyles and The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones!
H: For fiction, The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta which is so good! And for non-fiction, The Secret Diaries of Miss Anne Lister.
Illustration by Siobhan Gardiner