Interview With a Bookstagrammer - November 2020
It's time for November's 'Interview With a Bookstagrammer' and this month we spoke to the wonderful Safa (@tea.books.magic). Make sure to check out her feed if brilliant book reviews are your thing!
Thanks so much for chatting with us, Safa!
How did you first become involved with the bookstagram community? Can you remember the moment you decided to create your account?
I started my bookstagram account the summer after I finished my A-Levels. I had just finished dedicating about four years to studying—often sacrificing my reading for absorbing information from my textbooks. When all those years of work came to end and I was just waiting for university to begin, I picked up my love for reading once again. After finishing a book I adored, I went in search of a community that loved books the way I did. I found bookstagram and decided to take the plunge one summer day.
What’s your favourite part of the bookstagram community and why is it so important to you?
My favourite part about the bookstagram community is the openness and the diversity. While the books that are supported may not always be the most diverse, the people reading them can be. I’ve loved connecting with people from so many different backgrounds and hearing their perspectives about a book or a character or a theme. The openness in the community allows you to strike up a conversation with anyone, knowing that you’re likely going to find someone who wants to rave about books with you.
Has your content evolved over the years, tell us more about that! What opportunities has bookstagram brought you?
I definitely think my content has evolved over the years. Picture-wise, I used to spend a great deal of time agonizing over the perfect photo. Now I’m far freer with my account. I don’t stick to themes, I like each of my photos to have an individual touch that is curated towards the cover, content, character, or genre. Content-wise, I enjoy reviewing books the most, so those have been consistent.
Do you have any other hobbies alongside books and reading? We’d love to hear more about them…
This might be a cliché, but I love writing. I’ve loved writing for as long as I’ve loved reading. I don’t remember a time where I wasn’t jotting down a plot to a story or spilling words onto a page. Writing aside, I also enjoy baking and cooking. Specifically, I love baking and cooking food that has come from a book I’ve read or is inspired by a culture I’ve read about. My most recent experiments have been: Apam Balik (inspired by The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf) and Aish-el-Suraya (inspired by We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal).
Have you always loved books? Tell us the book that cemented your love of reading! Any particular author who’s a huge inspiration?
I didn’t always love reading—I hated Narnia (don’t kill me!) which was a book that put me off reading for a while. For a long time, reading was a chore or a requirement of school. When I hit Year 5, my love for reading really blossomed. The first series that I loved was The Famous Five by Enid Blyton. After that, I read everything I could get my hands on. I read through the classics to murder mysteries to romance novels to teen fiction. My love for fantasy started with Harry Potter, which at the time was one of the most accessible fantasy books. There are two authors that have been a huge inspiration for me, one is Leigh Bardugo and the other is S.A. Chakraborty. Leigh Bardugo reignited my love for fantasy and gave me a cast of characters that I always return to whenever I’m feeling low. S.A. Chakraborty’s City of Brass was the first fantasy novel I’d read by a Muslim woman. This series has such a profoundly important place in my heart—S.A. Chakraborty continually inspires me to write and to hope that more stories from Muslim voices will be heard.
Let’s talk about favourite characters! You can invite three fictional characters from literature to a dinner party, who are they and why did you choose them?
What a tough question! I have so many favourite characters but if I were having a dinner party, I’d invite Nina from Six of Crows, because she’d be hilarious and would need a stack of waffles—which I love. I’d invite Dara from City of Brass because I’d love to hear his stories and just because I love his character. Finally, I’d throw in a wildcard and invite whoever I loved from the book I was reading at the time—inevitably one of the characters will end up being a favourite (if it was right now, it would be Rin from The Poppy War, which is another character and series that I adore).
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last year?
Again, such a tough question! I’m going to cheat a little and give three from my top three genres. My favourite fantasy novel has been The Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang, my favourite contemporary has been Charming as a Verb by Ben Philippe and my favourite middle grade has been The Girl and the Ghost by Hanna Alkaf. I’d also like to give a special shout out to The Invisible Life of Addie La Rue by V.E. Schwab which tore my heart apart.
Tell us your favourite account to follow! What do you love about it?
I have loads of favourite accounts but the two I love the most are my go-to buddy readers: @may.firstofhername and @justzoe_withbooks. Both these accounts have gorgeous photos, wonderful reviews and are always open to chat about books whenever!
Okay final hard hitting question… Dog ear or bookmark?
Confession time, I used to be a dog-ear kind of reader as a kid before graduating to bookmarks. Honestly though, I just end up remembering the page number because I never seem to have a bookmark on me when I need it.
Anything else you'd like to add or tell us about?
I’d like to add that if any of you are considering joining the bookstagram community and are nervous you won’t fit in or it’s too big of a community to make a mark on, I’d advise you to jump in. The bookstagram community is open for everyone and we’re always needing more readers, more thoughts and more perspectives.
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