I have so many wonderful people in my life who are just as crazy about books and reading as I am! I thought I’d put together some reader and blogger spotlight posts to highlight some of the folks who I love talking books with. Getting the ball rolling…
Meet Eugenia! My friend Eugenia is someone I know from real life, an avid reader, and one smart cookie. She’s recently joined the book blogging world, and I’m thrilled to be able to chat with her about her new blog, Jewish Books Are Awesome:
Introduce yourself! Who are you, what’s your background, hobbies, interests, etc..
My name is Eugenia, coming to the web waves courtesy of Shargorod, Ukraine and Berkeley, California. I am a Jewish accountant (one of several in my family’s current generation) working for a Jewish Bay Area organization. I have absolutely no background in literature other than my abundant twenty-five years of love of reading and few dozen essays I had to write in college. I haven’t had an interest in writing books since my teenage years of poorly written poetry. I read. That’s what I do.
Why did you decide to start a blog? Why “Jewish Books Are Awesome?” How did you come up with the name, and what does it mean to you?
I started this particular blog as a bit of a joke initially. I’ve written in diaries for as long as I can remember and I have every single one I’ve written since the age of 13. I experimented with online diaries back in the ’90s and early ’00s with the help of Open Diary and LiveJournal, but those blogs had no real purpose other than spewing out my inner thoughts and experiences onto the world. They gave me an opportunity to share myself behind the anonymity of a computer screen, but eventually life got in the way and I found less and less time to talk about myself. And yet, the nagging thoughts continued. At one point about three years ago, I almost had it when I thought that I could turn my reading obsession into something tangible and started a generic book review blog…..but I got lazy and it never went past 4 entries. It may still live somewhere in the web clutches, but I can’t even find it. 🙂
Anyway, enough history (as if such thing is possible – I LOVE and LIVE history). About six months ago, I was having a silly conversation with my best friend (who is like a sister and is a rabbi!) on Facebook. Prior to this, I had started giving her Facebook community group Judaica book recommendations. She had recently self-published her first book and was telling me about an idea to promote her book. She offered bloggers a free copy of her book in exchange for a special feature on her author page complete with blogger bio and photo. So she says to me, “So it would look something like this – Example: Eugenia, Blogger at JewishBooksAreAwesome.com and provide link to their site.” I being the giant nerd, thought the name was brilliant and for some infernal reason decided to right then and there create a blog with that name before it had been taken. So really, blame my sister.
Can you tell us a bit about your blog? What’s your main focus? What types of posts might we expect to see?
Ultimately I had started a blog because I felt I had something unique to say. As a Jew I am very proud of my people and my heritage and it felt so natural to want to show the world, those who may know a little about us and those who may know a lot, that we are not just characters in news headlines and protests. Jews as a people have four thousand years of culture to offer the world. I wanted to try and offer a tiny slice of that. And what better way to share it with the world than through my love of reading? What better way to show the world that Jews are awesome than through written word?
My focus is specifically Jewish-themed books. These are books about Jewish culture, Jewish history, Jewish art, Jewish characters written by and large by Jewish authors but that is not in any way a requirement. So far I’ve done an even mix of fiction and non-fiction works and would really love to continue maintaining that mix. I noticed that I enjoy not just writing a single post about a book of choice, but often write a mid-read reflection of it as well. Occasionally I do throw in posts about my love of reading in general, I try not to be too partial to memes but sometimes they capture how I feel about reading so much that THEY MUST BE SHARED!
Has anything about blogging taken you by surprise?
I have been most surprised by the amount of work blogging takes. I used to think that I could just pick a book, sit down, read it, and then go right to talking about it. Book reviews are actual legitimate work. I found that I can do most of the above mentioned things easily (though reading a book in one sitting is a bit of a stretch) except the last. It’s rather hard to just get to talking. It’s hard to talk without any kind of a framework because without some form of structure, I feel that the reviews just become babble. No one wants to read a disorganized mess. In line with that, I was surprised by the fact that in order to have a structure in my reviews, I actually needed to take notes. Kind of like where I was in college. Notes about the characters, notes about the events I thought pivotal. And the odd curious quote.
What’s been your best experience as a blogger so far?
I am very easy to please. All it takes is the little WordPress notification at the top of my tablet toolbar and I am happy as a clam. I’m just excited people are giving it the time of day. I knew that with a niche blog like mine it would be a challenge getting people interested, but I’ve had the pleasure of knowing that people on multiple continents have dropped in on my blog. Australia, India, UK, Philippines. How cool is that? It just blows my little heart that people are interested in what I have to say.
What book that you’ve featured on your blog has meant the most to you or had the strongest effect on you, and why?
When one reads books about Jews, one can never escape the specter of the Holocaust. Three Minutes in Poland has had the most profound effect on me and my readers’ reactions to it have reassured me that I was on the right path with this blog and its purpose. I wouldn’t want to turn this particular answer into yet another discussion of the book (ok, I actually would but I don’t think we have time for that so here is a link to the review instead.) But let it suffice that reading about Glenn Kurtz’s doggedly determined search of the people featured in his grandfather’s film shows to me how relevant history still is. They always say “Never Forget” and yet, we are human so we do. Books like Three Minutes serve as more than a testament to the dead, they are reminders of our relevance as a people and how extremely important it is for people to continue to be educated about what could be. One should never ever stop learning.
Tell us about your reading habits – what do you read for fun?
FYI, I do not just read Jewish-themed books. I’d probably lose my mind a bit if that were the case. I’ve been trying to read a non-blog book while reading something for the blog. I have been known to indulge in chick lit though I have my standards. I am a big fan of Marian Keyes and Jennifer Weiner.
What’s your favorite reading spot?
I like to read in bed the most but I have been blessed with the ability and desire to read just about anywhere. In a passenger seat of a moving car, standing on a packed commuter train, walking through a hallway at work, occasionally in the bathroom…..
Do you have any requirements for when you’re reading (music, location, no talking, etc.)?
If I am really focused on a book, I can’t handle much noise. Music generally isn’t a good idea though I can handle talking around me as long as no one is expecting me to fully pay attention to the conversation. I’ve been known as a child to read in the presence of classmates while ignoring them completely.
Besides the books you feature on your blog, what’s your favorite book from the last 12 months?
I’ve really fallen in love with Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series. I think I wolfed down all 8 books in less than three months.
LOL. “Wolfed” down. Oh, that’s awesome…
What book do you find yourself recommending most often?
Other than Three Minutes in Poland? You might think I am a bit of a weirdo, but Great Mortality by John Kelly was fantastic. It’s the history of the European Black Death aka the Black Plague that took out millions in the late 1340s and beyond. I am also a huge fan of Mary Roach’s work, especially Bonk. Anything by Lisa See and Jim Butcher. Hands down.
Any books you regret reading?
I haven’t thought much of Jane Green’s and Sophie Kinsella’s last -oh I don’t know- 3 books each? Either I grew up or their story telling ability just went out the window.
What are your hopes and dreams for Jewish Books Are Awesome?
I hope people keep reading and enjoying my musings. Now is not the easiest time to be a Jew and I want to continue conveying to people how fascinating my people and our stories are. We are the People of the Book (Shout out to Geraldine Brooks!) and it’s only appropriate that through books I can share our history and culture.
Anything else curious readers should know?
I can read in two and a half languages! I am also a pretty bad-ass embroiderer and a halfway decent crocheter.
Thank you, Eugenia!
Don’t forget to check out her reviews and musings at Jewish Books Are Awesome!
Did you enjoy this post? I did! I plan to continue shining a spotlight on the readers and writers in my life, whenever inspiration strikes (and I can find willing victims). If you have suggestions for future spotlight posts, please let me know! And I’d really love it if you’d leave a comment or two on my chat with Eugenia. Thanks!