Occupation: Research Scientist
Studied: Biomedical Science and English Literature
Why it’s so important for you to pick up a book...
Tell us a bit about @book_tings. What it is and why made you start it?
Book Tings is my wholesome little Instagram account that I use as a creative outlet and as a way to connect to other readers. As far as Instagram accounts go, it’s tiny, but I love the Book Tings corner of the internet so much.
I more or less started it because I really, really love books. I love reading them, talking about them, recommending and being recommended them, and I wanted a place to do that. During undergrad I studied English lit and biomedicine, and when I eventually decided to follow the science pathway, there was a little book-shaped hole in my life. Casually reading wasn’t quite enough to fill the void, so I started Book Tings as a way to celebrate books, discuss them, and make sure that I read a tonne of them. And now here we are!
Why books? What do you love so much about them?
What’s not to love!! I’ve always had a bit of an obsessive relationship with them… I went from Jaqueline Wilson (queen) to Lemony Snicket, to being a dedicated member of Team Edward, to entering my annoying adolescent existential crisis John Green era. Now, I read adult books, which thankfully I also enjoy.
Mostly, I love how books can transport you. Through the pages of a book I’ve learnt so many things, been so many places, and witnessed snippets of life from so many different perspectives. In this way, I think that books teach empathy. We are privy to other people’s life experiences, fictional or otherwise, which expand our thinking in a way that transcends our own direct experience. I do think this makes us richer, more open-minded people. I also love the beauty of books — how you can read a sentence, just an arrangement of words on a page, and it can take your breath away. I think it’s so amazing that people can craft language in a way that moves us so deeply. Last but not least, I love how the act of reading can feel like a form of meditation. It is a slow pleasure. Books require concentration, patience, imagination, and wholehearted attention, and they reward you for giving them that. Whether you read one or one hundred books a year, I think it’s a unique form of nourishment for the brain.
All this is to say that I love a lot about books. Having access to them and the time to read, shouldn’t be, but is, a big privilege. I’m very grateful for them.
How do you think reading helps you in your life? What do you take from reading that you are able to use in the ‘real’ world?
I think reading does so much for me on both a practical and personal level. Practically, I think it’s helped with my vocabulary, my writing skills, and my ability to focus and think critically. However, I think what it has taught me on a personal, emotional level is even more important. I mentioned it previously, but I think reading is the simplest tool we have for gaining empathy, which we should strive to carry around with us long after the book is done.
Following on from that, you’re so well-spoken which comes across in your content and public speaking. Do you think reading contributes to your ability to speak well, both in a professional sense and your everyday life?
Definitely! In a day-to-day sense, I think whether we’re conscious of it or not, reading helps with vocabulary and formulating critical thoughts, including those we choose to say out loud. And in a more formal sense, for me, the key to good public speaking is good writing, and the key to good writing is good reading. I’ve found that when I write a speech, if I feel confident in what I’ve written, I’ll feel confident in speaking it. I know that’s not all there is to it, but for me it helps a lot!
Thoughts on the current hustle culture, and "Girl Boss Era"...
As someone who makes time for her interests like reading and running @book_tings, whilst also working and studying at the same time, what are your thoughts on the current hustle culture and “Girl Boss Era”? What do you prioritise and why? How do you manage to find balance, if you do?
This is such an interesting question because I think that both good and bad things have come from the rise of hustle culture, particularly for women. On one hand, I love a good hustle. I am someone who is interested in a lot of things and ambitious about exercising those interests. I love routine and I like to pack as much as physically possible into my day. To put it simply, I wholeheartedly believe, as we are taught in this girl-boss era, that women can do it all.
However, on the other hand, I don’t think we should have to. I think hustle culture can be quite toxic, and I think social media exacerbates that toxicity. Hustle culture perpetuates capitalism and the productivity is profit/more is better mindset, which can lead to burnout and poor mental health.
Sooo what’s my answer? As you say, balance is important. There are two things I try to do every day to separate myself from the relentless hustle/work culture: exercise and read. I genuinely think these two things have saved my mental health during times when I was pushed to the brink at work or study. Women are so amazing at doing it all, but the most amazing thing we can do is listen to our mind and our bodies when they tell us to stop and slow down, which makes life a lot more sustainable and enjoyable. I think tapping out for a few crucial moments each day, in whatever way works for you, is the key to hustling with longevity, so we should prioritise it (easier said than done I know!!).
Lessons learnt and recommendations…
Favourite quote from a book?
“The most beautiful part of your body
is where it’s headed. & remember,
loneliness is still time spent
with the world.”
- Ocean Vuong
I struggled with this question so much because I have a lot of favourite quotes, but this is one I keep coming back to. It’s from the poem Someday I’ll Love Ocean Vuong by Ocean Vuong. His writing always leaves me speechless and this is one of my favourite examples of why he’s so special. To me, this quote is two of my strongest feelings about life distilled down into four lines: we have infinite potential and even on our worst days we are so lucky to exist.
A book you would recommend to the Buttermilk Girl?
I hope you don’t mind but I’m going to do three…
- Cleopatra and Frankenstein by Coco Mellors
This is a dark, arty, aesthetic novel about a group of Millennials living in NYC. It’s romantic, tragic, fast-paced and beautifully written.
- The Paper Palace by Miranda Cowley Heller
This is a gritty, cinematic novel about a family and those who surround them, set mostly at their Cape Codd beach house. It’s gripping, haunting and begging to be adapted to screen.
- Loop Tracks by Sue Orr
This is an extreeemely clever book set in Wellington, New Zealand (which we love) in the 1970s and 2020s. In brief, it’s about the downstream impacts of a teenage girl not making it to her appointment for an abortion. It’s an ambitious novel, spanning several decades, which include an election and a global pandemic. I thought it was a total masterpiece.
What’s something you’d tell your younger self?
That I’m really proud of her and she should be proud of her too. And not to quit violin. Speaking of violin… to save her busking money and invest it into Apple in the early 2010s instead of buying a Bratz bike and a pink iPod Mini. Also that Edward Cullen is actually heinously toxic so do not seek him out in future love interests x
And last but not least, favourite Buttermilk hair claw?
Definitely my Bella claw, which I have in multi check. It is wherever I am – at my desk, in my handbag, my gym bag… she comes with me always. Perfect size, perfect shape, cool design. Big fav. Also not a claw but I’m very obsessed with my Aimee headband. I can’t think of an occasion I wouldn’t wear it. It (along with the Bella claw, and actually the whole of Buttermilk) strike the perfect balance between being hugely practical while also very very stylish. I love it all.