It’s a bookish girl fall, y’all. There’s something about brisk air and cozy nights (spent mostly indoors) that gets us feeling a little romantic about reading. In recognition of that wistful, I’m-about-to-read-for-six-straight-months feeling, we’re interviewing some of our favorite voracious readers, publishing professionals, writers, and book clubbers to learn about their reading history, habits, and routines.
Along with our friends at Book of the Month, we’re seeking to answer a big question – How do YOU find book picks that not only match your personal interests, but also highlight diverse voices in the literary space? Here’s how our very own Founder and CEO, Alisha Ramos, makes this a priority.
You started Girls’ Night In, and pretty immediately thereafter, launched the GNI Reads Book Club. What role have books played in your life so far?
I’ve always been the biggest bookworm. Growing up, my dad would take me to the bookstore or the library literally every single Saturday and that was our routine together. I owe much of my love of reading and learning to him. My parents also always joked, in a semi-prideful way, that I’d carry around one or two books with me everywhere. I remember bringing as many books as I could on long road trips. To this day, I can read for hours in a car or moving train without getting motion sickness.
I grew up absolutely loving the fantasy genre, which definitely plays into the escapism bit. My favorite series growing up were The Chronicles of Narnia, the His Dark Materials saga, Lord of the Rings, and the Harry Potter series. So yeah, huge huge fantasy genre nerd over here!
How do you keep up with your to-read list?
A big bonus of my Book of the Month subscription, actually, is that it’s a great source for both curation and getting the book in my physical possession. I love that I can count on BOTM to have a good mix of books that are both buzzy and incredibly well-written to choose from. Once I make my pick, the fact that it’s sent straight to me helps me keep reading top of mind, even in those moments when I don’t have a ton of spare “perusing” time.
What are you reading right now?
Right now I’m reading so many things (probably too many things) at once. I like to jump from book to book, depending on my mood, so I like having options. They are:
- Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. I’m not too far into this one yet but I’ve heard so much about it so I’m excited to dig in a bit more. At first, from the cover at least, I didn’t realize that it was nonfiction. The premise of the book is that a reporter follows three women over the span of eight years, and details everything about their relationships and sex lives. It’s fascinating so far because it does read like a novel.
- The illustrated Harry Potter series. They are stunning works of art by Jim Kay. I keep a copy under our coffee table and flip through it every chance my brain needs a little happy break.
- Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. This was gifted to me by the publisher because her next book in the series is coming out soon, and I had always wanted to start reading it. I know most people think it’s slow, but it’s one of the most delicious books I’ve read in a while. I studied history in college and so I savor all the small details she puts into each sentence, whether it’s the way she describes Cromwell’s will and the contents in it, or the fabric of Mary Boleyn’s dress. I love all those small little details, particularly when they’re so historically accurate.
- Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza. This is our October book club pick at GNI! So far it’s a fun one with very relevant themes with 2020 on the horizon.
Why do you read?
As a storyteller, I love to consume stories myself. I love stories at a high level and do appreciate a strong beginning, middle, and end; but I especially savor the ones where I can appreciate beautiful prose. It’s like an art form that, to me, can be appreciated in and of itself. That’s why I don’t particularly mind when a book “moves slowly” or doesn’t “have a point” or a grand conclusion. I can easily get lost in the style of writing and simply enjoy sentence structures and surprising word choices, and be happy and content with that.
What types of books do you connect with personally?
Definitely books with strong female protagonists, but especially if the character is flawed in some way and not perfect. It’s why I loved Circe so much. Recently, I read a passage in Wolf Hall that made me teary — it was about Cromwell’s grief after experiencing major personal losses due to sweating sickness. He lost his wife and two daughters in a short span of time. The passage moved me so deeply because Cromwell’s character is typically so rational, matter-of-fact, and typically removed emotionally in Mantel’s books. To explore his sudden waves of grief and loss was shocking to him as well as to me, as the reader. I love books like that, the ones that can move you to tears.
What book have you read recently that surprised you in some way? For instance, maybe you thought you wouldn’t like a specific genre, or maybe the plot itself was surprising.
Very Nice was surprising because when I first started the book, I didn’t love the style of writing. Like I said, I typically enjoy long sentences, flowery prose. Very Nice has a very short sentence structure. But as I continued to read the book, I discovered the sentence structure itself served a purpose and proved a very clever point.
What inspired you to start a book club?
Quite simply, our readers at Girls’ Night In asked for one! Reading is a great “staying in” activity, so it felt like a very natural brand progression. I love the idea of building community through gatherings like book club, especially amongst strangers. Our first book club was a virtual one, about two years ago, and the second was an offline book club in a few cities. Now, we’re in ten cities and it’s just the best.
Which book sparked your favorite book club discussion?
Circe by Madeline Miller! I’m biased because not only was it my favorite book of 2018 (and also Book of the Month’s Book of the Year award winner!), but I also got to facilitate discussions at our NYC and SF book clubs about it.
Who’s your favorite literary character and why?
Hermione Granger. She’s smart, confident, loves her friends, and will do anything to protect them. She is a force to be reckoned with!
Can you describe your “reading routine,” if you have one? And as a follow-up, what type of reader would you say you are?
I’m a before-bed reader. I try to read for at least 15-30 minutes before going to bed. It helps my brain slow down (I have a really active brain!) and brings me a sense of stillness that leads to better sleep. Lately though, I’ve been bringing books with me everywhere by keeping one in my purse at all times. So sometimes I’ll read while waiting at the salon, when I’m at the coffee shop by myself, or while I’m on the train. Once I also got a fancy dinner by myself in NYC, sat at the bar, and read a book. It was kind of the best and felt very empowering to take myself out on a date.
Do you have any tips for people looking to create a routine or habit of reading more?
I’d say bring your book wherever! Stash one in your purse. When you are tempted to grab your phone for entertainment, grab the book instead.
Okay, we have to ask (it wouldn’t be a GNI interview otherwise!) — can you talk about how you’re taking care lately? How is it going, and how has it evolved?
Truthfully, lately it’s been hard because work has been busy. Generally though I like to keep my weekends sacred and not do much work or answer work-related emails on the weekend. I’ve also practiced breathing exercises more, thanks to starting meditation with an app. It’s made me more mindful of when I’m holding in my breath due to stress, and it really does make a big difference.
One book or multiple at a time?
Multiple. At least three.
E-book, audiobook, or hard copy?
Hard copy all the way.
What are your top 3 favorite books of the last few years?
What are you reading this Bookish Girl Fall? Let us know in the comments, then try your first month of Book of the Month for just $9.99.
Photographed by Maya Oren.