It’s Friday, which means it’s time for another Meet the Bookstagrammer post! Today’s incredible bookstagrammer? Nadia from @the.storygraph!
Have you heard the news? Nadia is building a website perfect for mood readers called The Storygraph (currently in beta mode)! Not only is she a computer expert and incredible conference speaker, she is an avid reader too! Without further ado, check out our fun chat below.
What came first, your bookstagram or the idea for your website? What inspired you to start both of them?
The idea for my website definitely came first. In December 2018, a startup project I was meant to move to the States to work on fell apart rather suddenly. I decided that I still had that entrepreneurial drive in me and wanted to have a go at building my own thing. I had two long-running side projects that I decided to look at in January 2019. One was to do with running and the other was to do with tracking and sharing reading lists. I started with the reading lists project, and essentially I couldn’t stop working on it- that project has morphed into what The StoryGraph is today.
The Bookstagram came in March 2019. I started to become familiar with Bookstagram (via my personal Insta account) when I started working on the company. However, it wasn’t until a couple months after starting The StoryGraph when I realised that I should create a dedicated account to properly immerse myself in the community and learn more about what avid readers cared about. Also — I’d always loved reading so it was going to be personally exciting and valuable, whether the company and product succeeded or not.
What was the thought process behind your username/website title?
Actually, the name came before the website or the Bookstagram, in 2012.
At uni, I started a creative writing e-publication (which you can now see at thestorygrapharchive.com) with a friend, Andrea. We published the stories of university students around the world and commissioned artists to produce custom art for each piece of writing.
We came up with the name The StoryGraph because back then we saw our publication as almost being like a digital newspaper, and ‘The StoryGraph’ felt like a newspaper-style name. Also, we discovered that ‘storygraph’ was a term for a type of storytelling that combined illustrations and other media with the writing, and Andrea and I had this vision of The StoryGraph eventually being a more media-rich, immersive story experience.
So, The StoryGraph Ltd. is a company I’ve owned since 2012. It lay dormant for about 5 years after we ceased running the publication, and then I reinstated it when I started working on my own entrepreneurial projects.
It’s a rather funny and brilliant coincidence that the name fits the product I ended up dedicating all of my time to so well!
Your beautiful website, which is currently in beta mode, is meant to help avid mood readers. What mood are you currently feeling, and what book would you recommend for someone in that mood?
I just finished a reread of The Secret History this morning, which is very dark and rather sad. Therefore, I’m in the mood for something more lighthearted now. My favourite lighthearted read of 2019 was Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare, so that’s what I’d recommend!
What is your first book-related memory, and/or your favorite books as a kid?
I’m afraid it’s the obvious ones — Harry Potter!
I remember my dad saying to me one day: check out these books, all the kids are reading them nowadays. And when we went to the library, only Chamber of Secrets was there and my dad said: it doesn’t matter, just read it, and we’ll buy you the others. So I read book 2 first, before book 1, and then book 3. The adult, “I like everything in order”, “absolutely no spoilers” me now shudders at the thought that this happened. But I guess it didn’t matter and I remember falling in love with every single book.
In fact, I’m going to start my first ever reread of them today. I noticed a lot of people do that on Bookstagram and since they’re probably my all-time favourite books I figure I should rediscover the magic!
What is your favorite bookstore or book-related place in the world?
I studied at Oxford University and I’ll never forget the first time I discovered the Blackwell’s store there. You walk around the ground floor and you think: nice, this is a neat, normal bookstore. And then you start following signs for something called the Norrington Room, and when you first come out on the landing it’s breathtaking. It’s essentially, a vast basement, with a landing that goes all of the way around it, and everywhere you look are books!
I later learned that there’s 150,000 books down there and that it’s the biggest bookselling room in the world!
You often host “get to know” Instagram stories with people around the world! What inspired this, and what are your favorite things about these chats?
My #meetthebookstagrammer live shows had two purposes.
First, it was to start to build a profile and brand around The StoryGraph. Founding a startup, it’s important to have an initial group of people that are aware of what you’re doing and are start to feel interested and invested in its success.
Second, it was for me, and others in the community, to learn more about our Bookstagram friends. I noticed that the #meetthebookstagrammer posts were very popular, but they’re also limited. It’s hard to ask follow-on questions and for posters to respond to every single one, and sometimes you don’t want to sit there and read through all of the comments to see what other people asked and what the response was.
The live shows are a way for everyone to get together and kinda have a catch-up where the focus is on one person. Because it’s live, people watching can feed into the discussion and I love that part so much.
Besides reading and being a brilliant website creator, what are your favorite things to do in your free time?
Haha, thank you!!
Well, my number one hobby outside of reading is dance! I take class at least a few times a week and I do all sorts of styles: commercial, hip hop, urban, lyrical, heels. If you want to see more, you can check out my personal Instagram: @nodunayo!
I lift weights three times a week, and love small dinners out or coffee dates with friends. I also love singing, tennis, and watching films, but I don’t do a lot of either of those anymore.
This is a weird question, I know, but I live my life as if I have an awesome movie soundtrack going on in the background. If your life was a movie and had a soundtrack, what would your entrance song be?
Ooh, it would probably change each quarter, haha!
A few songs come to mind, but I’ll settle on “BROWN SKIN GIRL”. It’s all about celebrating people like me and it makes me feel like a queen when it comes on and I’m walking through the street. Especially Beyoncé’s first verse!
Okay, back to bookstagram! I don’t know about you, but I’ve found some pretty great books through my fellow bookstagrammers! What are your favorite books that you’ve found through bookstagram?
I’ll call out two that I hadn’t heard of pre-Bookstagram, but that I bought and read on a whim after seeing reviews I was drawn to.
One was John Boyne’s A Ladder To The Sky, a gripping read about an ambitious writer who will stop at nothing to be world-famous. @ab_reads’s raving 5-star review is what caught my attention.
The second was Karen M. McManus’ One Of Us Is Lying. @hansbookshelf posted a review that fit exactly the mood I was up for and I downloaded it on my Kindle right there are then and started reading it in bed that night.
Both books I ended up really enjoying!
I know in the approximate year I’ve been on bookstagram, I’ve gotten some pet peeves- do you have any bookstagram pet peeves and if so, what are they?
I mean I’m sure nobody likes this but I HATE when people comment on my reviews and imply I’m wrong or I misunderstood what the author was trying to say, when it’s often nothing more than a difference of opinion. This doesn’t happen often, but when it does it’s frustrating and I’m trying to be better at not caring so much and feeling the need to respond or justify my thoughts.
While obviously there’s some negatives of bookstagram, it’s also an amazing community of people. What is/are your favorite thing(s) about bookstagram?
It’s so amazing. My favourite thing is just how open and welcoming everyone is. I remember when I started and I had under 100 followers for a long time. Still, people started supporting me and the product, they agreed to come on my live show, they took part in customer research sessions, they checked in regularly. I was pretty much a stranger and people were being so friendly and generous.
One of the loveliest things that happened to me on Bookstagram was that Ellis of @whatellisreadnext had said she’d lend me a Japanese book that I had said I really wanted to read and she ended up securing via Netgalley. However, she’d given it to her mum and her mum wasn’t done with it by the time I was about to go on a trip to Japan. By then the book had been published and Ellis surprised me by ordering a new copy direct to my house.
The friendships I’ve made on Bookstagram now go beyond the platform and that’s really special.
What advice do you have for bookstagram newbies, or people looking to engage more over books (since honestly, that’s one of the highlights of your website)?
Use my website! JUST JOKING!
I would say focus on forming some real relationships with people who read similarly to you and with people who may read differently to you but that you get on with. Be an engaged follower. Set aside time to read your friends’ posts and meaningfully engage with their captions. Think about your captions and try and ask questions that you’re not asking for the sake of it but because you’re actually interested in the answer. This also makes it easy for you to have longer discussions and strengthen your relationships.
If you stay true to who you are, a community will start to gravitate around you and you’ll never be short of quality book recommendations again.
But when you are, then there’s obviously The StoryGraph! 😀
I know this is probably an impossible question BUT I’m still going to ask you: (to you), what makes a great book/read?
I do love a good plot. It doesn’t have to have a huge twist, but there should be one or two moments of surprise, whether subtle or in your face, or points that make you pause to reconsider what you thought to be true. Of course, you want characters that you care about or at least feel invested in their story, and finally writing that’s a balance between straightforward and evocative.
And finally, what are you currently reading?!
On the nonfiction side of things, I’ve been slowing working my way through Steve Blank’s The Four Steps to the Epiphany.
Regarding fiction, you’ve surprisingly caught me in between books. As I mentioned earlier, I finished my second read of The Secret History (how I love that book!) this morning, and I’m due to start my Harry Potter reread, but I might sneak in Volume 3 of Saga instead!
Y’all, not only is Nadia an amazing bibliophile like the rest of us, but she’s also a wonderful supporter of the bookstagram community and the people in it! Follow Nadia over at her bookstagram here and if you’re interested, check out the beta site for The StoryGraph here. I’ve been using it in the new year and I’ve found it’s been really great to not only identify moods of books and find books to match my moods, but also reflect on the books I’ve read and my feelings around them (seriously y’all, this one’s a game CHANGER)!
Until next time…