BOOK’D: TEMITOPE OWOLABI aka ECLECTICTOPE
I stumbled on Temitope’s Instagram eclectictope sometime last year and I was just pulled in by the quality of her photos and her captions. She seemed like the perfect guest for BOOK’D! So of course here we are. In this interview, she shares her trick for reading in a moving train if you usually get dizzy. She also talks why she’s alll about the paper when it comes to reading and her obsession with keeping her books shiny forever.Then, she tells us the one word, in her opinion that encompasses classic literature. I found most interesting her thoughts on how Han Kang’s The Vegetarian impacted her and now my interest in the book has been piqued.
Enjoy as Temitope gets BOOK’D!
1. What are you currently reading? Do you usually read more than one book at a time?
I’m currently reading Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker and The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. 2016 was the year that I began to read more than a book at a time and sometimes I did up to four books at once. However, I won’t call it the best practice or a thing for me as I usually have to be totally immersed in a book to completely enjoy it, so I stopped. For some reason though, I seemed to have picked up the habit again late last year, I think because I was trying to finish all the books on my list and reading more than one at once meant that I finished more books in a shorter time. It is not something I actively do though.2016 was the year that I began to read more than a book at a time and sometimes I did up to four books at once. - @eclectictope Click To Tweet
2. Have you always been a reader? What is the first book you remember ever reading? What drew you into reading/why do you read?
I guess I have. Maybe not as voraciously or as much as I do now but I remember a childhood of several Enid Blyton’s and Pacesetters (was it pacesetters??) and teenage years of Danielle Steel. What’s weird is that I currently do not own any Danielle Steel book and would probably never buy one. It’s what was readily available at the time I guess.
I’m not quite sure I know what drew me into reading, it was just something I preferred doing to watching TV or playing games. When I had an eye test as a child, the doctor asked me if I liked reading, if I always put the book so close to my face. When I responded and said yes, she smiled and replied that people who have myopia read a lot. I don’t know if she was trying to make me feel good as a kid about the idea of wearing glasses but well, I have myopia and I actually do like reading.
3. What is your philosophy on reading? (for example, some people have to finish every book they start)
Philosophy? It’s not that serious. If it is good I’ll finish it. If it is not, I don’t know. I’ve finished some books that I didn’t like, for instance Ali Smith’s Autumn. And I’ve also dumped some others just because well, there’s way too many books on Amazon to be getting a headache over, so it mostly depends on if I have something else to read, which I always do.If it is good I’ll finish it. If it is not, I don’t know. I’ve finished some books that I didn’t like, for instance Ali Smith’s Autumn. Click To Tweet
4. How often do you read? And how do you fit it into your day?
I read every day. It’s part of my daily life, pretty much like brushing my teeth really. I have a regular mid day and bed time routine for reading. Outside of this, I read on the go from social media and news links. There’s a book in my bag at all times too. So, during commutes, waiting for an appointment, waiting to board a flight, I read.
I read every day. It’s part of my daily life, pretty much like brushing my teeth really. I have a regular mid day and bed time routine for reading. Click To Tweet
5. Where do you like to read? Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever read a book?
I like to read on my bed mostly. I already have a tried and trusted angle for pillows for my back and neck so there’s that. But I can pretty much read anywhere there’s relative quietness. I’ve also recently cracked the code of being able to read in a moving train, especially trains moving in the opposite direction. This used to be a huge, huge problem for me as I would always get dizzy and light headed but I seem to be coming round to it now. So, yay. The trick, (incase anyone else experiences that dizzy feeling) is to raise your head up slightly and bring the book to your forehead level rather than bringing the book to your eye level. You’ll probably look weird to others but who cares?
6. What makes a good book, in your opinion?
The style, the language, the message.
7. Who are your favorite authors to read?
I used to think I could answer this question easily, but the truth is that there are so many fantastic authors out there, some not necessarily published in print media but who write and I just want to eat their words, literally. I’m drawn to authors for different reasons. For instance, Khaled Hosseini and Chimamanda Adichie for fantastic story telling. Jhumpa Lahiri for her delicateness with characters, Margaret Atwood for her use of words, Joan Didion for emotiveness. It’s hard to pick a favourite.
8. What is a book or who is an author you wish more people knew about/read?
Jhumpa Lahiri. She’s won a Pulitzer so of course I think people do know her. I just need them to know her more. lol
9. E-book, audiobook or paper? How do you feel about making notes/highlighting books?
I’m a paper girl, all day, every day. If I don’t have a paper copy, I don’t have the book. I’ve tried the audio route before and may try again for specific books like comedy themed ones. I work as an editor which means reading on a screen a lot, so my own personal reading is good ‘ol paper and ink.I’m a paper girl, all day, every day. If I don’t have a paper copy, I don’t have the book. - @eclectictope Click To Tweet
Highlights are alright, as long as it’s not someone else making them in my book. I do have a few books I’ve marked, but I make notes a lot on my phone which is actually quite inconvenient to be honest but I just never want to stain my books especially the fiction ones covers face I’m so particular about the state of my books, it’s almost a kind of disorder. Like I don’t even carry my hardback about with the jacket on so that it doesn’t get rumpled. When I finish, I put the jacket back on and put back on the shelf so it’s still clean and shiny. I don’t make dog ears to note a page. If I don’t have a marker, that’s it, I close the page and take the pain of looking for the page again. (I always always always have a page marker though).Highlights are alright, as long as it’s not someone else making them in my book. Click To Tweet
My books get the same respect and love I give to my shoes.
10. Fiction vs Non-fiction?
This is a tough one. It depends on the author I think. For instance, I’d rather read Chimamanda’s fiction than read her non-fiction. This doesn’t mean that her non-fiction isn’t great or that I wouldn’t try to buy it if I saw it. I’ld also rather read Joan Didion’s non-fiction than read her fiction, but oddly, her fiction sells better than her non fiction. Then, there are authors who obviously don’t or can’t do both but are super in their chosen genre. So basically, if the book appeals to me, I’ll give it a shot.I’d rather read Chimamanda’s fiction than read her non-fiction. This doesn’t mean that her non-fiction isn’t great or that I wouldn’t try to buy it if I saw it. - @eclectictope Click To Tweet
11. What happens to you when you read a good book? (at the beginning, during and after the experience?)
I sink into a place that I can’t explain unfortunately. A good book is a fantastic experience in the way eating your exact best meal is. After the experience, you just want to sort of keep that moment lingering for as long as you possibly can.
12. Do you reread books? Why?
I think I did when I was a kid. Now, I’d probably do it for the purpose of research maybe, or to go back to understand something again, especially with non-fiction. I don’t actively reread my books though. I’d imagine those who do this do it for lack of a new book and they desperately want to keep up the reading momentum? I take notes that are valuable or speak to me so if I have to go back I don’t have to read the whole book.
13. What book do you wish you could experience again for the first time?
Without a silver spoon by Eddie Iroh. It’s the only book I remember re reading from front to back more than twice.
14. What was the last great book you read?
Last great book would mean I’ve been reading crappy books since after that one great one. I don’t believe I have. I’ll say even books that didn’t live up to my expectation were great in their own way, not just great for me. And to be honest, that a book was great for me doesn’t necessarily make it a great book.
15. If you had to choose three books that everyone should read, what would they be?
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
by Paulo Coelho
I say these three not necessarily because they are the “best” published works but because no matter the genre you like, no matter how short your attention span is when it comes to reading, everyone can get through these three books.
16. What book(s) are you embarrassed to have read? What books are you embarrassed to still not have read?
I don’t think I’m embarrassed to have read or not read any book. It would be silly in my opinion to put myself under such unnecessary pressure. I see this a lot in the bookstagram community, you know… “You’ve not read so and so…what have you been reading then… blah blah blah.” I find this so disgusting, as though reading is supposed to be a competition.
Amos Tutuola’s Palmwine Drinkard comes to mind as a book you may not want to tell others that you actually sat through and finished. The language is horrible, the plot is upside down and many believe even a 5 year old would do better with regards to style, but it is what it is. That’s his style. My being embarrassed does nothing.
On the flip side, I’ve never read , even though I can have a pretty decent conversation around it. I’ve read many other books by Achebe, but as popular as it is, Things Fall Apart has never been on my radar. I do have it sitting in my shelf but I’m neither embarrassed nor in a rush to read it. Indeed, you must read, but you must read for your own self, not because some people have decided a book is “where to begin if you are looking to explore African literature”, or “the ultimate feminist guide”.Indeed, you must read, but you must read for your own self, not because some people have decided a book is “where to begin if you are looking to explore African literature”, or “the ultimate feminist guide”. Click To Tweet
17. How do you feel about ‘classic’ literature?
18. How do you feel about book clubs?
I don’t know, never quite been in one. Infact, in the year that I lived in Lagos, I considered starting one but ended up focusing on a kiddies book club instead. They seem interesting, it may be nice to be part of one but I’m so anti-social. Beyond discussing books on social media, I’m not sure I have the energy to argue in real life if a character should have begged for forgiveness or been granted forgiveness or should have died or if an author did a good job with character development and plot etc. juz tew mech.Beyond discussing books on social media, I’m not sure I have the energy to argue in real life if a character should have begged for forgiveness or been granted forgiveness or should have died... Click To Tweet
19. What book(s) have remarkably changed your perspective on a given subject or life in general and how?
Han Kang’s The Vegetarian. Exposed me a little more to the funny world we live in where something as simple as not wanting to eat meat can cause you to be looked at and treated as different. I didn’t eat much as a kid and what I went through in the hands of people, including strangers because of that was quite distressful. I’m grown now and wondering was it really that serious? I was called names, used as a metaphor for things like leaves and feathers. Just completely unnecessary.
It also made me learn to always pause for caution and compassion. Anything can cause anyone pain but it’s not you to decide what’s hurtful, it’s whoever is feeling the pain.
20. How do you choose books to read?
I choose based on what I want to know about. Sometimes I just use broad topics like mental health, immigration, civil war etc and look for whatever is currently buzzing across genres in those topics and then pick the one I think I might enjoy. Social media reviews too, especially from people who have actually read the book, not those using it as ads. After a few months, you kind of find someone who somehow enjoys the same books as you.
21. What books are currently on your to-be-read list?
Rebecca by Daphne du Murier.
How Fiction Works by James Wood.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
*Whatever wins the Women’s prize this year.
*Whatever decent book I find on mental health and parenting (These two are very important to me so I do random searches often)
Temitope Owolabi is a writer and editor.
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