Michelle Martin | Bookstagrammer and Photographer
Michelle Martin is a Bookstagrammer and photographer living in Boston, Massachusetts. We talk about the positive vibes in the Bookstagram community, her first ever book hangover, and how she quit TV for books. Her Instagram account is my go-to place for book recommendations and beautiful photography. A big thank you to Michelle for sharing her bookish world with us.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BOOKSTAGRAM. WHERE DID IT ALL BEGIN?
I have been posting over at @michellereadsbooks for six months now, which is crazy to think about! I started my account right after the start of the New Year. I had stumbled upon a couple of #bookstagram accounts through my personal Instagram account @michellekmartin and thought it might be a nice creative outlet to start my own. I had no idea it would turn in to such a big part of my life and take off. There are two things I'm enjoying about it: first, the people. I have met so many lovely people through my account and the whole community is really positive and engaged which is refreshing on social media. The second is that I have found SO many new authors and books that I previously would never have found out about. I walk into a bookstore now and see so many books and authors I recognize from #bookstagram. This also means that I have added way too many books to my TBR stack.
WHAT IS YOUR EARLIEST BOOKISH MEMORY?
In elementary school, we had book fairs once a month. It was always so exciting to look through the catalogue and pick out what books you liked and then go to the fair and buy them. My mom was always quite generous and let me pick out a few books.
Another memory that comes to mind is from fifth grade. My fifth grade teacher had a cabinet of books in the back of the classroom that we were allowed to pick from to read during our one-hour Silent Sustained Reading (SSR) period. I remember reading Ella Enchanted and being devastated when it was over. My teacher brought me to the book cabinet and tried to help me pick out another book, but I was too sad that Ella Enchanted was over. I suppose this would have been my first experience with a book hangover.
SOMETIMES I FIND CHOOSING A BOOK AN IMPOSSIBLE TASK. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE STRUGGLING TO FIND THEIR READING MOJO?
I’m in a bit of a book slump right now, so this is a timely question! I think the most important thing is to just follow your heart. Especially since I joined bookstagram, I find that it is quite easy to get caught up in the hype of the newest book or feel inundated with a thousand options for books to read. When I find myself unsure about what to read next, I usually head to my favorite bookstore and just let myself browse and see what catches my attention. Then I’ll either buy the book there or see if my local library has it and get it from there. Or, other times, I’ll treat myself to a book that I have wanted to read for a while and start it as soon as I get home. I find that if you sort of ride the wave of excitement of a new (to you) book that can help!
HAVE THERE BEEN ANY WRITERS THAT HAVE CHALLENGED YOU OR SURPRISED YOU RECENTLY?
I have been reading more short story collections this year. I recently picked up Awayland by Ramona Ausubel. I had never heard of her before, but I saw that she was compared to Helen Oyeyemi, one of my favorite authors, so I gave her a go. She surprised me so much! The stories were wonderful – dreamy, strange, sorrowful, and beautiful all at the same time. She has such a way of describing things that you have to keep going to see where she is taking you. It’s been my favorite new author find of the year so far.
YOU IDENTIFY WITH BEING A NEW ENGLANDER. WHAT IS IT YOU LOVE ABOUT THIS PART OF THE COUNTRY?
I could go on forever about everything I love about New England! But one of my favorite things about it is that I live in a city but can easily be in the rural farmland of Vermont, the mountains of New Hampshire, or the beaches of Maine in under three hours. There is such a variety of nature here that it’s wonderful. I also love the commitment to local – New Englanders have a lot of pride and I love seeing that manifest itself in enthusiasm to support local – whether it be an artist, a farmer, a small business owner, etc. I feel like I’m constantly discovering new nooks and crannies of New England, plus, nothing can beat fall in New England!
YOU GAVE UP WATCHING TV RECENTLY FOR MORE TIME WITH BOOKS. HOW HAS THIS IMPACTED YOUR LIFE?
As our New Year’s resolution, my husband and I decided to give up watching TV. We still go to the movies and occasionally watch movies at home on the weekends, but we have switched over to books as our prime source of entertainment. I was very wary at first. I felt like I was going to miss out on so much, but honestly I don’t miss it at all now! Typically, after dinner, we get settled on the couch and then usually read for two hours before going to bed. It’s been wonderful in the sense that I have been able to read so many more books than I ever thought was possible. I also love the idea of less screen time, especially after staring at a screen during the workday.
YOU MENTION A.M HOLMES AS A FAVOURITE AUTHOR. TELL US WHAT YOU LOVE ABOUT HER?
I first encountered A.M. Homes in college when I came across her book Music for Torching. Here is one of my favorite quotes from that book:
“She lies on the stripped bed, looking up at the pinhole in the roof. The sky is blue. Clouds pass over. Sky, air, clouds, the sun and moon; it’s fine. It’s the same as it ever was. She stares at the small spot of blue. She sleeps. She dreams. She wakes up feeling a little more and a little less like herself.”
What I like about her writing is that she has the ability to write about the mundaneness of everyday life in a really interesting way, often by exposing a little bit of the darkness. Her novels and stories usually focus on the modern American dream and the sort of sadness and emptiness that can accompany getting older. I find her storytelling beautiful and re-assuring that her characters often have similar thoughts to mine. She is also a master of getting you into the heads of her characters, and that’s something that draws me to a book. I love when I get to really get inside a characters head and feel connected to them.
WHAT'S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVISE YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN?
Oh, this is a tough one! I think the best advice I come back to time after time is to remain true to yourself. As I have gotten a bit older, it’s been really refreshing to embrace who I am as a person and not try to change that. This goes for what I like to read, my tastes in clothing, my personality, my interests, everything! It feels good to accept myself for who I am and what I like.
IF YOU COULD HANG OUT WITH A CHARACTER FROM A RECENT READ, WHO WOULD IT BE AND WHY?
This one may be kind of silly, but I recently read Summer of Salt by Katrina Leno and I would definitely want to hang out with the main character, Georgie. She’s an 18-year-old girl living at an inn on an island off the coast of New England with her mother and twin sister. She is discovering her magical powers, coming of age, and is a total badass when it comes to not caring what other people think. She sticks up for what is right and seems like an admirable person to meet!
YOU'VE SPOKEN BEFORE ABOUT YOUR TRAVELS TO ICELAND AND IRELAND. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES FROM THESE PLACES?
Yes! I travelled there for my honeymoon about two years ago now. It was my first time in both places and I loved them each for different reasons. Iceland was visually stunning – like no landscape you have ever seen. You feel like you are on an alternate planet. One of my favorite experiences during our time there was hiking up a mountain to a glacial swimming hole and swimming with the mountains surrounding us. Reykjavík was such a cool city – I loved all the design, coffee, and record stores there.
Ireland was absolutely beautiful. We spent a few days in Dublin and then drove west to County Clare to spend a few days in the countryside in a small cottage. I loved wandering around Dublin, all the lush greenery, wildflowers, friendly people, and quaint seaside villages. My favorite memory there was walking the Cliffs of Moher and having tea at the Burren Perfumery surrounded by the wildflowers.
YOUR INSTAGRAM IS MY GO TO PLACE FOR BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS AND BEAUTIFUL PHOTOGRAPHS. ARE THERE ANY INSTAGRAMMERS YOU ARE INSPIRED BY?
And the list could keep going on forever!
WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR DREAMS AND AMBITIONS FOR THE FUTURE?
So many things! Besides reading, I love photography and do that as a freelancer on the side of my full-time job. I would love to eventually work for myself and do that full-time. I love doing travel & lifestyle photography so it would be so great to be able to combine my love of travel and photography with my career.