When Bayside resident Robyn Bonavita started her “bookstagram” — a portmanteau of the words “book” and “Instagram” — she gained about 1,000 followers in her first month.
Now, Bonavita, also known as @Robyn_Reads1, has amassed a following of more than 5,250 fellow book lovers who enjoy her honest approach to book reviews.
“I try and do my page a little bit different than a lot of bookstagram pages because I try to be really true to my personality,” she said. “I don’t have an eye for aesthetics. I can’t set up a pretty pillow and make it look like a studio shot. I just post funny book memes and I post my reviews with my real, honest opinions. I really try and engage with the other people that are on bookstagram. It seems to be working.”
She started the account as a way to rediscover herself in the midst of COVID-19 and being a mother to two young children. The book reviewer told QNS that running the account has helped her stay true to her own interests and “not follow what everyone else is doing.”
“Starting this bookstagram has just opened up a whole new part of me [and] it made me feel like myself again. I followed my heart for the first time in a really long time,” Bonavita said.
Growing up, the lifelong Bayside resident shared that both of her parents were “huge readers” and their quality time as a family centered on making regular trips to bookstores or the library. Since her family did not own a car at the time, Bonavita and her father would walk about a mile to the nearest library on Saturdays.
“There’s a 25-book maximum that you could take out and every week I would take out the 25 books,” Bonvita said. “[My dad] always encouraged it. He always wanted me reading as much as possible and we would read together all the time.”
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Long before starting her Instagram account, Bonavita reviewed books for print magazines like RT Book reviews, which became defunct as the internet grew in popularity.
These days, she still considers herself a professional book reviewer since publishers regularly send her books to read.
“There’s this thing called NetGalley and [it’s] where you go on and you request the books that you want to read from the publishers. If the publisher likes your credentials, they approve you for the book. Now that’s what I’m doing. Because I am on bookstagram and I’m writing the honest reviews, I have authors reaching out to me asking me to review their books,” Bonavita said.
When reading a book she intends to review, Bonavita said that the flow of the story is the most important feature she looks for.
“If I can put a book down and not think about it and not want to pick it up, then I know there’s a problem. For me, the flow is everything about a book because I don’t want to be slogging through it; I want to be excited to pick it up again,” she said.
Second to story flow is character development and she said that good stories have characters who are “fleshed out.”
“I can not like a character — that’s totally fine, as long as they’re a real person to me. I want to know backstory. I want to know why the character is the way they are. If you give me that, I’m happy.”
At the time of the interview, Bonavita said that she had read 32 books since January and she was on track to read between 120 and 125 books for 2021. Some of her favorite authors to read include Karin Slaughter, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Jude Deveraux, Jennifer Crusie and Lisa Lutz.
She said that her love of reading is something she got to share with her daughters.
“I have two daughters. One is 3, so she just sits there and flips through the books and pretends she’s reading. But my 7-year-old loves books, so we try to have reading time every single day where we all sit on the couch and we read our books. Her teachers are always telling me how much she loves reading and how well she’s doing with it,” Bonavita said.
Her advice for those who want to start reading when they have not found books they enjoy is “don’t stop.” She suggests aspiring readers to try different genres and authors in order to find something that interest them.
“I personally have started to believe that you can’t finish every book. If you don’t like the book, just stop,” Bonvita said. “There’s so many good books out there; don’t waste your time. If you’re not feeling it by page 100, you’re probably not going to. I always say, ‘What are your interests?’ because once you know what your interests are, you can find that and translate that to book form.”
Find Bonavita on her Instagram page @Robyn_Reads1.