Bibliophile Turned Bookstagrammer
By Andy (@places_and_books)
Hi! I’m Andy, and I’m a bookstagrammer - apparently! How did that happen?
Two years ago I’d never even heard of bookstagram. So how did it get to the point where it’s a big part of my life, where I have a regular group of lovely people all over the world that I chat with about books, where #throwbackthursday #tribandtuesday and #socksunday are a thing, and where I’ve recently started my own blog site?
Where to start? Well, like the lady says… start at the very beginning, it’s a very good place to start…
What even is bookstagram?
Bear with me, even if you think this is an obvious one!
Basically, bookstagram is just a bookish corner of Instagram for all kinds of book lovers:
those that like to read, at one end,
those who appreciate the aesthetics of books, at the other end - and in between…
those that like to talk about what they read,
those that want bookish friends,
those that want recommendations, and also…
authors (Markus Zusak, Neil Gaiman, Jasper Fforde and others all have accounts and interact with their followers), publishers, wannabe authors, pocket poets, bloggers, merchandise sellers, photographers, etc, etc.
For me, I’ve always loved reading, and books, and it’s been fun to find a community that is there solely for a bookish chat – but honestly, whether you collect sprockets from Harley Davidson motorbikes, like crocheting cushion covers or taking pictures of books, there’s never been a better time to be niche and to find your community. And you can narrow it down. I like higher quality but diverse literature, and I have found a bunch of people with similar likes who comment on my posts, recommend me books and generally banter with me.
How I started
I’ve done a lot of funny things to engage with my kids – watching television I wouldn’t usually watch (Family Guy, Agents of Shield or even Made in Chelsea) so I can understand their references, as well as going to gigs I wouldn’t normally go to. Once I was the only male in 12,000 female audience at Wembley Arena for the Girl Guides Big Gig!
Social Media is similar. I began using Snapchat for fun interaction with my daughters and then started using Instagram as they both wanted me to like their pictures when they posted. I’d get a text or Whatsapp message saying “Insta like please!” when they put up a new post.
Having started an account I naturally connected with other close friends and family members that were also using Instagram, and then posted a couple of holiday pictures, then a few more, then countryside pictures from dog walking, etc – all with the setting firmly on ‘private’.
But I still saw the pictures my friends and family posted. Most were family or holiday pictures. Three of them were personal business accounts – for art, jewelry and design businesses. Interestingly though, one of my friends posted creative pictures of books he was reading, which made me think…. He had lots of people he interacted with, and I liked what he was doing. Hmmm…
So one day in September 2016 while I was on holiday near Lake Annecy I set up a second, linked account. It was just for me. Nobody followed me. After a week I followed a couple of people. I was lying in the sun by the lake, mountains in the background, turquoise water, azure sky, reading Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar. It was so perfect I took a quick picture and posted it. I didn’t use a caption or any hashtags. Nobody followed me, there was no point. It was a private account. I liked being anonymous.
Then a month later I took another book picture, Charles Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit in a pub in Abbotsbury whilst on a cycling break in Dorset. Then another, George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda, near St Pancras. On 6 December 2016 I gathered my courage, took the plunge and flicked my account to public. It started growing almost immediately.
Meeting other bookstagrammers
So, my account was growing, and I was chatting away to people. Chatting is my superpower, by the way. And then the opportunity for a meetup arose in the heavenly book town of Hay-on-Wye on the border of England and Wales. I was in the area, why not? Well, I had a bit of a shock. It is probably 85% female. I’m not entirely sure why that is. I believe overall Instagram users are about 50-50 male female. The demographic is also a bit younger than me – this is probably a social media / Instagram thing.
However, there are also plenty of bloke bookstagrammers out there and plenty of not-so-young people. I’ve met up with quite a few since I’ve been doing it. Not that you have to meet up of course – it’s fine to stay behind your profile.
That first meeting was at the inaugural bookstagram meetup in March 2017. The thing I found out about bookstagrammers is this: they are without doubt the most positive, welcoming, non-judgemental, supportive bunch of people you could have the pleasure to meet. I had a brilliant time.
And this led to other meet ups at:
Hurlingham Books’ warehouse in October 2017 an Aladdin’s cave of wonderful treasures. two million books!
Persephone Books in December 2017
Foyles in March 2018.
Hay on Wye (again) in April 2018.
A literary quiz in October 2018.
As you might imagine the conversation is very bookish!
And what next?
As mixing books and social media is so much fun I decided to keep going. Last month I launched my bookish blog site www.placesandbooks.com using the domain a friend kindly bought me for my fiftieth birthday. I’ve got a bunch of book recommendations up there, and four or five blogs (as of early November 2018) including a list of my top 100 books.
And the rest of the plan is just to keep on keeping on! More posts, more reading, more recommendations, more bookshops, more book reviews and more bookish chat. Bookstagram has enabled me to indulge my obsession, and to chat about random books and obscure authors, whenever I like, with a wide range of brilliant people who are both wonderful and similarly obsessed. Sorted!
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About the Author
Andy describes himself as "just a bookish bloke living in a country town outside London, England" and "not exactly young". He has loved reading for as long as he can remember and loves quality literature, though his tastes are wide and wild. He's happy to sample a range of genres, from crime to classics, young adult literature to thrillers, biography to essays, criticism to comedy, and from fantasy to dystopian. He set up his bookstagram account in Christmas 2016 and to his great surprise it grew and grew. Through it has made connections to people all over the world who like to talk about books and literature as much as him.
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