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Meet Coll and Kay: Your New Favorite Bookstagrammers

You can use Instagram to follow your favorite celebrities, keep in touch with friends, and stay up to date with news, fashion, politics, and more. 

But did you also know that you could use the app to find a new book? 

I reached out to Colleen Ward and Kayla Blair, two recent UMass Amherst graduates, who created an Instagram account (@collandkay_readaway) in August to review their recent reads. Here’s what they said about their bookstagramming journey, and how you can embark on one of your own. 

The following responses are taken from an email correspondence and have been edited for length and clarity. 

How did you come together to create your Instagram account? Whose idea was it?

Kayla: I have to give all the credit on this one to Colleen. She reached out shortly after we graduated because she was thinking about starting a book club of sorts and asked if I would be interested. I was immediately intrigued and a few days later she texted me about “Book of the Month.” We both joined the club and exchanged books for a few months. Colleen then asked if I wanted to start a joint bookstagram and sent me a bunch of already existing bookstagrams she followed to give me an idea of what we would be doing. I agreed to do it, so we started brainstorming ideas of names, posts, etc. 

Colleen: I have followed an Instagram account for a few years now (@kaylarivoli), and the person who runs it is a bookstagrammer and speech-language pathologist (which is what I am going to school for!). I saw her post a lot about Book of the Month and the Bad Bitch Book Club (BBBC), and eventually I joined both (one is a subscription service, the other is a virtual book club). I set a goal at the beginning of the year to read 52 books in 2020, and I took advantage of the summer to get back to that goal (which I am still very behind on, by the way)! Through bookstagrams, I found so many recommendations and enthusiasm for other people who love reading, and I really wanted to give running my own page a shot! Like Kayla said, we had both expressed how we wanted to read more, and after trading books by mail for a bit, we thought this could be a fun thing to do together.

How do you decide which books to read? Do you find them yourself, go off of other recommendations, or find them some other way? 

Kayla: I choose my books from a combination of just about anything. From the bookstagram posts to Book of the Month (BOTM) to Friends to Lovers podcast to friends and family. I am always willing to take more recommendations and add them to my To Be Read (TBR) list. 

Colleen: From the time I was in high school, I have kept a note on my phone that has titles of books I am interested in reading. I used to get ideas from one of those quote pages on Twitter, but also from other social media posts or when other people talk about books they love. I’ve also always been a big one for the classics (the kind you read in high school English that no one else likes, lol), but since joining the bookstagram world and BBBC, I have seen a lot of recommendations for newer books and have started diving into those. That has been super fun!

Who is your favorite author (if you have one)?

Kayla: I would say my favorite author is JoJo Moyes. She has some great romance novels but she also has successfully transitioned into other genres which I think says a lot about an author.  

Colleen: I LOVE Mitch Albom! He is definitely my favorite author. I was introduced to his writing through Tuesdays with Morrie in my high school AP Language class, but since then have read all but one of his books (The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto is still on my TBR!). I find his writing to flow so easily and I typically find a ton of quotes in his books that I save. Also (and if you ask Kayla she will tell you this), there are a few of his books that are more well-known, and for anyone looking to read them I have the order in which you should do it all figured out!

Another favorite author of mine is Bob Goff. He writes beautifully about life lessons we all should take the time to learn in books like Love Does and Everybody, Always, and through reading his writing I always fall in love with so many quotes!

I think it would be too much for me to ask for your singular favorite quarantine read, so instead, what would your top three books be? 

Kayla: My top three favorite reads of quarantine include The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, and Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. The Vanishing Half and Untamed both have a lot of relevant and informative topics, especially regarding things going on in the current world. I was able to learn a lot and genuinely enjoyed the reads. Colleen helped me get on the Mitch Albom train as I am fairly certain she may put him as her favorite author, but I really liked this book. It pulled some heart strings, while giving so many important life lessons to think about.

Colleen: Oh boy. I would have to say my favorite quarantine reads (in no particular order) have been The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, Finding Chika by Mitch Albom, and The Beauty in Breaking by Michele Harper. The Silent Patient is one of the first thrillers I ever read and really got me into the genre as a whole. Finding Chika, besides being written by Mitch, is a beautiful memoir about a little girl who became a part of his family after being brought to an orphanage he operates in Haiti. The Beauty in Breaking is another memoir, written by a African-American emergency room physician who details some of her experiences as a medical professional on the East Coast of the United States. She tells stories about patients she has encountered during her career and how they have shaped her knowledge of the U.S. healthcare system, as well as her thoughts on life, loss, and love.

Do you note some of your favorite quotes as you read? If so, what are some of the most meaningful quotes that you have come across?

Kayla: This past month, I started logging my reads with the main characters names, my favorite quote, and my overall rating. Since this is a relatively new thing for me, I don’t have many quotes logged. 

Colleen: I do, yes! They end up kind of haphazardly anywhere I can fit them: on the book mark, a sticky note, a random scrap piece of paper, or my computer/phone. I find that quotes stand out to me because of the words used and how they go together, not necessarily just the meaning (I’m kind of a language nerd, so that is why!). Here are a few:

“When you’re unstoppable, you live your life loving others well.” – Bethany Hamilton (but I believe Bob Goff quoted her in Everybody Always!)

“Making sense of the senselessness.” – Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman

“Each day, in itself, brings with it an eternity.” – The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

“But I wasn’t convinced enlightenment struck like lightning.” – Looking for Alaska by John Green

“What the world needs is masses of women who are out of control.”  – Untamed by Glennon Doyle

Do you have any bookstagram accounts that you like to follow?

Kayla: We follow mainly other bookstagram accounts, which floods us with book recommendations. I personally love it. I find myself looking through our bookstagram feed before I look through my personal account. I particularly like to looking through other accounts that are also a joint account with friends, because I think it brings a little bit of a different take with multiple opinions. 

Colleen: Our booksta really only follows other bookstagram accounts, and it is so much fun! I mentioned the first book-related blog I started following earlier, but some more that I especially like are @magzreadz, @rileys.booksagram, @brooke.bookstagram, and @endlesslykels!

If someone were to start their own bookstagram account, what kinds of tips or tricks might you suggest?

Kayla: I think the biggest thing would be to look through popular bookstagram accounts that already exist to get some inspiration. It will help to connect with other accounts to get ideas for what content to post. Overall though, the bookstagram community is so welcoming and supportive and are intrigued to see what content each account has to offer, so be creative. 

Colleen: Totally agree with Kayla on this one! It is so important to just have fun with it! There were a couple of times I got worried that I “wasn’t reading enough” or that I wasn’t up to speed on all the new popular reads, but it is all about what YOU want to read and your own style. Be creative! A lot of bookstagrammers have semi-niche themes (for example, we follow one who gives a unique drink recipe with each book she reviews — @theboozybookshelf), so have fun with it and do your own thing! As Kayla said, everyone is super welcoming and supportive. Additionally, if you join BBBC, there is a subgroup for bookstagrammers; people post questions about increasing engagement, ideas for content, etc.

So whether you’re an avid reader or someone who is just trying to spice up their Insta feed, following a few booksta accounts might be exactly what you need to add to your media diet. And if you’re looking for somewhere to start, I’d personally recommend following @collandkay_readaway

Sophia Apteker

U Mass Amherst '23

Sophia is the former editor-in-chief of the UMass Amherst chapter. She is double majoring in journalism and integrated marketing communication. When she's not laughing at her own jokes, she can be found curating niche Spotify playlists that make her feel like the main character.
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