Bookstagrammers of Durham

By 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. 

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If you've been feeling down lately (so literally everyone), then allow Talia Hibbert to make you feel better – if you haven't already! I realise I'm extremely late to the party, but if you're a fellow late party-goer then pick up a copy, stat! I'm still not sure how I feel about the steamier parts of romcoms being read out-loud to me… but the audiobook experience is also excellent, Adjoa Andoh is a fab narrator. . After a near brush with death, chronically ill computer nerd Chloe Brown decides she needs to get a life. So she does what she does best: makes a list. The first item is moving out of her family's mansion and renting her own place. But she soon realises she might need a little help with some of the other items on her get-a-life list. So she recruits Red Morgan (superintendent by day, artist by night, looks intimidating but has a heart of pure gold) to give her some guidance – and a ride on his motorbike (item 3 on the list). . Okay, I'm still fairly new to romcoms so I don't have an extensive frame of reference, but Talia Hibbert writes sexual tension SO. WELL. The steamy scenes were 👀🔥 But the cute scenes were equally well written – Red is such a sweetheart! And I 100% want to be best friends with Chloe! I took my time listening to this one because it made me feel so happy and I wanted to parcel out the happiness. There was a chapter made up of email exchanges between Chloe and Red and it made me want to cry with happiness as they bantered back and forth. But then towards the end Hibbert got VERY real and ended up making me cry for real which??? I don't remember giving her permission to do that but I immediately forgave her. . And if you're like me and can’t stand when half the plot hinges on miscommunication, fear not! These characters might be stubborn and snarky but they talk to each other, even when things get tough. And this book has received so much well-deserved praise for its representation and handling of fibromyalgia, which Chloe suffers with, as well as domestic abuse. Hibbert does a brilliant job balancing the more serious side with the fluffy side! . Long story short: read this book, be reminded that there is joy in the world ❤

A post shared by Abbie 📚 (she/her) (@ab_reads) on

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. 

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