Photos by Savanna Keifer
Holly is a copywriter by day, editorial writer by night. Holly, along with her best friend Mina Douglas and fiancé Wolfgar Coleman created Bibliofeed off of the question that looms over us all, “What should I read?” Bibliofeed is best described as — a kind of Instagram book club / recommendation hub. It’s filled with beautiful photos and thoughtful captions from weekly contributors around the globe — each eager to share and discuss their favorite reads. We are lucky to catch up with this well read GAL about what she reads!
GAL: What is the power of story? Describe some ways in which fictional narratives have impacted you and your life.
HH: This takes a bit more thought – there are so many ways to answer it and all of them could fill pages. The power of story has, on the surface, impacted my life in that it has steered me toward a degree in English Literature, my career as a writer, and to Bibliofeed. But what is its power exactly?
Last night, the answer was beamed to me on a 40-foot widescreen behind a symphony orchestra, toward the end of a 2-hour musical tribute to Star Trek. (Full disclosure: I’ve only seen one Star Trek movie and fell asleep halfway through.) My fiancé tells me that this quote doesn’t make as much sense in context, but it was like a revelation to me when I heard Q speak these words to Captain Picard last night: “For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence.”
THIS, the exploration that awaits us through charting the unknown possibilities of existence, is the power of story. Those brief moments when it expands the horizons of our minds so that we can discover the endless possibilities outside of our own paths – communicating the viewpoints of others, opening up new ways of thinking and options we had never before considered, and bringing a slightly clearer understanding of ourselves and the world into focus.
GAL: What was the name of the first book you fell in love with, that turned you into a life long reader?
HH: I fell in love with the act of reading first. My mom and I used to take “magic carpet rides” when I was little. These involved a rug for each of us, a few pillows, and a book to read that would carry us away to a faraway land in our imaginations.
The first book I fell in love with is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, but not because it of the story – I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the plot line other than that (spoiler alert!) the boy’s two dogs die in the end. I must have been about six or seven and the possibility of an unhappy ending had never occurred to me up until that moment. I was devastated. It was the first time a book affected me so deeply and from that moment on I was a lifelong reader.
GAL: How often do you read? Everyday? Six hours a week?
HH: I read every day. The amount of time I spend reading varies significantly. There are usually a few short articles on weekdays from 9-5 in between my writing assignments at work – I feel like these help to reboot my brain before approaching a new job. The Paris Review’s daily blog is especially great for this!
As far as books are concerned, it’s usually all or nothing depending on what I’m reading. I’ve never felt guilty about tossing a book aside if it hasn’t grabbed me after giving it a reasonable amount of time to do so. I know this is unthinkable to some people, but every time I sit down with something new what I’m really hoping is that it will completely consume my thoughts and all of my free time until the last sentence comes and goes and I’m left with that empty feeling that only comes with finishing the best of the best. These finds are few and far between, but that’s what makes them so special – and the main reason that Bibliofeed exists, as a way for people to share the books that have touched them on this deepest level.
GAL: Who is your favorite author?
HH: Joan Didion.
GAL: Do you have a current – or “forever” – favorite book?
HH: It’s a weird feeling when you first read something written by a stranger that somehow organizes your own innermost thoughts so eloquently and exactly as you could never have put into your own words. When you’re able to return to that piece of writing throughout your life and it does the same thing repeatedly, each time in a new way that fits differently but nonetheless just as perfectly, that is a lifelong friend and forever-favorite book.
Without a doubt, Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem is mine.
GAL: We have a friend who has a “Sanity Shelf” dedicated to books she returns to again and again, to reread for pleasure, knowledge, and solace. What books would be on your Sanity Shelf?
HH: I love this idea! Most of the pieces I return to again and again are short essays and poems, sometimes quotes – pills that are quicker to take and digest when you need their wisdom the most. My Sanity Shelf would include bits and pieces from T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway, Rainer Maria Rilke, Carl Sagan, and, of course, Joan, among others. It would also include wine and Twizzlers.
GAL: Do you have a current favorite reading spot? Where is it?
HH: My bed, especially if my cats are sleeping next to me.
GAL: Or – can you read anywhere - place is not important?
HH: It depends on what I’m reading, but I prefer to read someplace cozy with minimal distractions.
GAL: Is it important for you to physically hold a book you read? Or can you read on a device with no problem and no impact on the experience?
HH: I can’t imagine that the experience would be the same for anyone when the two are compared. I bought a Kindle years ago and was admittedly looking forward to the convenience of carrying an entire library around in my bag and the ability to purchase and start reading a new book whenever I wanted to, but it wasn’t the same. I missed the smells and the feel of the pages between my fingers, and even seeing the books on my bookshelf or waiting for me on my nightstand – all of the things my Kindle could never give me. I do get the appeal, but it’s not for me.
GAL: We saw in your interview with Need Supply you get a lot of recommendations from the guests on Bibliofeed, your Instagram project. Do you have a favorite guest? Or, what was your favorite book recommendation?
HH: Almost all of my reading recommendations come from Bibliofeed now! We ask a new person every week to narrow down their top forever-favorites to just seven choices and explain why each one made the cut, so you know that each day’s recommendation has been carefully selected and well thought out - which already makes it a better resource than most lists you can find online. The best part is the incredible variety we’ve gotten from all of our contributors.
I don’t think I could choose a favorite guest, but many of them have led me to discover new favorites of my own, most recently The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.
GAL: When you pick the books you want to purchase or rent, what bookstore or library do you head to? What are your favorites? Feel free to explain your choices.
HH: I love everything about used bookstores and Chamblin Bookmine is my go-to in Jacksonville. Try to imagine over 55,000 square feet filled with more than two million used books – it’s paradise from floor to ceiling. I don’t think I’ve ever not gotten lost inside, which is a good thing because it means I’m always discovering something new. Choosing which books to take home requires some extra thought at Chamblin because there are so many variations of covers and other things that start to factor into the decision-making process. I tend to go for the copy with the most interesting inscription written inside.
GAL: Do you prefer non-fiction to fiction? If so, why?
HH: I go back and forth between these two genres in bursts, so I can’t choose one over the other. It’s less about preference and more about my state-of-mind.
GAL: What genre do you prefer?
HH: I’m all over the place, but lately I’ve been reading about design and aesthetic just because I find it interesting – especially when you think about them as forms of communication. Leonard Koren’s Wabi-Sabi (an Andi Teran recommendation from her GAL interview!) and Arranging Things are both on my nightstand right now, as is Interaction of Color by Josef Albers.
GAL: If you were to write your memoir, what would you title it?
HH: I would hate to write my memoir now! How about, The Best is Yet to Come.
GAL: Please name a few books you recommend reading, and the reasons for your choices.
HH: Here are three of my favorite recommendations from Bibliofeed. Each of these captions had me racing to find a copy of my own.
The Blue Monday Book by Jennie Day Haines:
The Blue Monday Book is selection of quotes compiled and arranged by Jennie Day Haines. This copy is from 1905. It is divided into Mondays of each month with quotes to cheer you up. "...every Monday may be a Blue Monday- when the soul is so enveloped in the 'blues,' that life can only be viewed 'through a glass darkly.' A specific remedy for each of these blue-letter days is hereinafter presented." - @minanicole
Madness, Rack, & Honey by Mary Ruefle:
If you haven't yet heard of Wave Poetry from Seattle, consider this as your introduction. Madness, Rack, and Honey is a series of written lectures by poet/genius Mary Ruefle.
Read it, read it, read it. You will find a life's worth of wisdom in these essays. - @invrses
What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsund:
“Words are effective not because of what they carry in them, but for their latent potential to unlock the accumulated experience of the reader.”
You might recognize Peter Mendelsund’s Kafka cover redesigns over at Knopf. Pianist turned designer, I admire his work and diversity. A graphic designer myself, I have always been attracted to the broad and multidisciplinary field it is. What made me choose What We See When We Read above other books on design is that it is in the spirit of what design strives to be: communicative and accessible. This is not a book just for designers, but for anyone who reads. - @missmalena