Welcome to #Spotlight. If you are new to the blog, this is the interview series where you read about the most amazing humans who love books and all things bookish.
Today’s #Spotlight is on Jay AKA @nookandabook. If you have been following the Spotlight Interview Series, you would have noticed a scarcity of men in my line-up. it’s not that men are not reading, they are. It’s just tough finding them on Bookstagram.
Jay’s feed on Instagram is what attracted me. His book selections and recommendations are so diverse and interesting. And I love the way his passion for topics he encounters always shines through his posts.
Enough about me, let’s meet Jay.
Where did your love of books /reading come from?
My father was an avid reader and had a shelf full of the most amazing books. Also, my early schooling had a lot to do with it. We had a well-stocked library and a dedicated library hour where we were encouraged to read more. So, these two reasons are equally responsible for the book bug that I am today.
Which genres do you especially enjoy reading?
I do not believe in the concept of genres. I believe that genres happen when great storytellers find the best way of putting their ideas on paper. So, I pick up the story and the idea that appeals to me irrespective of genre.
Although, I recently discovered that war/soldier stories are a definite no-no for me. I couldn’t get through one of the most well-written ones. Possibly because I am a pacifist at heart.
What moves you most in a work of literature?
The ability to wrench out emotions from me. The ability to make me feel things that I didn’t even realise were possible. I am a person who keeps my emotions firmly under lock and key. Books are a way of accessing my own emotions. So whichever book manages to do that in the most beautiful of ways will move me beyond words.
What’s the last great book you read?
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I don’t read a lot of non-fiction. But this recent read was all kinds of perfect for me. It was emotionally charged, and honest to a fault. And although it is quite alien (culturally) to me, there were many things I could translate and transliterate into my own culture, and thus was very relatable.
Is there a classic book you never got around to reading until recently?
Actually, most of them. Even though I’ve always loved reading, I started serious reading only quite recently. So, many of the classics that people rave about are still unread for me. Wuthering Heights is one book that I’m really hoping to pick up soon.
If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?
Currently, I read in two languages. English and Malayalam, which is the language I speak (and is a treasure trove of great literature). I love reading in Malayalam as it is the most relatable for me.
If I were to pick one more foreign language (apart from English), it would have to be either Kiswahili or Japanese. I love African literature. If I could have only one, apart from my own, I would definitely pick African. Japanese is my backup.
Genre you rarely read (but wish you did)?
Science fiction. I’m not averse to science fiction as I am to war fiction. But for some reason, I’ve always drifted away from it. I hope to read more science fiction in the future.
What is your policy on book lending?
If I lend you a book, I trust you with my life.
How do you like to read? Paper or electronic? One book at a time or simultaneously? Morning or night?
I’ve always been a paper and one book at a time person. But recently, I’ve started reading multiple books at a time, as life has become more hectic of late, and I want to get more from my bookshelf.
And I live in a city where, at times, traffic comes to a standstill for hours on end. I’ve decided to get my own back at traffic congestions by listening to audiobooks in the car. So currently, I read up to three books at a time. And I read paper as well as listen to audiobooks.
What book might people be surprised to find on your shelves?
The Mastermind Quizbook by Magnus Magnusson. I don’t think many people know that I’m an avid quizzer.
What’s the best book you’ve ever received as a gift?
Bleak House by Charles Dickens. In my opinion, it’s the best and most underrated of his works.
You’re organizing a literary dinner party. Which three writers, dead or alive, do you invite?
Arundhati Roy, George Orwell and James Baldwin. And (I’m cheating) Toni Morrison. Wow, just thinking about that party gives me goosebumps.
How do you decide what to read next? Is it reviews, word-of-mouth, books by friends, books for research? Does it depend on mood or do you plot in advance?
The time between books is my favourite. Because I don’t pre-plan my next read. I pick up whichever it is that I feel like at that moment. Of course, there would be a group of books to choose from. And those I choose mostly from bookstagram reviews. Those are the ones I trust the most.
If you could be born into history as any famous person who would it be and why?
Toni Morrison. It takes incredible courage to translate your worst experiences into indescribably beautiful works of art.
What do you want your tombstone to say?
I fought, I tried, I received, I gave back.
You discover a beautiful island upon which you may build your own society. You make the rules. What is the first rule you put into place?
Discrimination based on any quality is a punishable offence. As a member of a society where discrimination has been institutionalised, it pains me to see fellow human beings being considered as lesser, based on parameters that aren’t in anybody’s control. Like caste, skin colour, gender and sexual orientation.
Would rather sweat mayonnaise or have cheese for saliva?
I’d sweat mayonnaise. I’d rather have the choice of tasting.
What is your guilty pleasure Disney movie?
If you were known as a strain of cannabis, what would your name be?
Something I wish I had some minute idea about…
Is there anything you would like to add?
Bookstagram has been one of the best things that has ever happened to me. At a time when I was lost in a lot of ways, it was this wonderful community that got me back on my feet. I would forever be grateful for all of you wonderful people.
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