Cultivating Connection: Marinna K. on Capturing the Essence of Books

Cultivating Connection September Books

I have spent a lot of time lately thinking about what kinds of content I want to have on my blog. When I initially sat down to create blog “categories,” it was important to me not to pigeon-hole myself into anything too specific. For instance, I absolutely ADORE being a Mama. I love the idea of writing my memoirs of motherhood in this space. Sharing ideas and bonding with others over the joys and challenges of motherhood. Yet there are many other parts of who I am that are significantly important to me as well. I want to be sure to create space for those parts too.

One of my earliest ideas for this blog was to create a conversation series aimed at cultivating connection.

I decided this should involve occasionally having guest bloggers and interviewing people I admire and find inspirational. Connection is a theme that is so incredibly important to me. It is one of the main reasons I wanted to embark on this adventure of blogging in the first place. I believe in being intentional and authentic. These are two qualities that I feel lay the foundation to lasting friendships and connections.

I’m fortunate to have some very interesting people in my life from whom I am constantly learning new things. Starting a series like this, aimed at connection, seemed like a wonderful opportunity to share some of these special people with you. I want to introduce you to people who inspire me with their ideas, personalities, and creative energies. Through their words, talents, and passions. People I admire for their intentions, authenticity, kindness, and the genuine way they live their lives.

My hope is that this will offer various ways to share our stories and deepen our perspectives. To relate and connect with one another, support and encourage each other. And get to know different people through genuine and candid conversation.


Many of you know I am a big time book lover. You may have read my earlier post about starting a virtual book club. Today I introduce you to someone I have known for almost 30 years. Though we have a lifetime of deep connection, one of our greatest commonalities is our love of reading. She has been very influential to me and has made some incredible book recommendations to me over the past few years. She recently started a “Bookstagram” social media account where she shares her love of books, reviews and recommendations, and engages with her audience to create a connection with fellow book lovers. I hope you will find her passion for books as captivating as I do.

Without further ado, I am so happy to welcome my youngest sister Marinna K. into our online space today. Please get cozy and come read along with us!

Books Marinna K

My questions and comments are in bold. Marinna’s responses and answers are in fine print.


Yay! I’m so excited we are doing this! I guess we should probably start by having you tell our readers a little about yourself.

My best friend once described me as ‘eloquently quirky,’ which I think is the best compliment I have ever received and sums me up in a nutshell. I’m married to the funniest human whose love for our dogs lets me take a backseat in the puppy parenting role, which gives me more time to do my favorite thing…read!

You read so many books! And from all different genres! I’ve always admired how diverse your tastes are and how well read you have become. Tell us more about how you got here and about your book-loving process.

I think our parents did a good job of raising us all to be readers, although when we were young, I always thought Kati [our middle sister] was the biggest bookworm in our family. I know they didn’t set parameters on what we could and could not read, which always made me feel special and mature (and what kid doesn’t want that?) and that my mom took us to the library a lot (probably because it was a place where we had to be quiet–ha!). Both of our parents also love reading themselves, so we all got to see it being modeled in the household. I think this combination of things helped develop us all into the readers we are today.

How do you decide what you are going to read? How do you organize your to-be-read piles?

It varies! But, right now, I’m trying to pick four books for my monthly To Be Read pile: one book I feel like I should read (like a classic or a book I’ve owned for a long time but am never motivated to pick up), one book I really have been wanting to read, one nonfiction, and one young adult. Then, I let the rest of the books I read that month be serendipitous, whether they be a hold that just came in from the library or a random selection from my bookshelves.

How many books do you read at one time (on average)? Do you consider yourself a fast reader?

I usually read about three books at a time. Ideally, I would be reading one fiction and one nonfiction and listening to an audiobook. I only really like mystery/thriller or young adult on audiobook, so I read those genres primarily through that format. 

Books Marinna K reading

Are you a person who finishes any book you start? And if so, how do you motivate yourself to get through tougher reads?

I almost always finish the books that I start, although I’m actually trying to not be so rigid about this. (There’s a finite amount of time and a million books I want to read and all that…) I usually wonder if the book will end up surprising me somehow so I push ahead, even if I’m not loving it. To motivate myself, I try to set some sort of deadline for finishing the book. I set the deadline based on how much time I can devote to reading the book per day.

Do you set reading goals for yourself or reading challenges on any kind of timeline?

I set a reading goal for every year. This year my goal is 65 books, which is the highest number that I’ve ever set. Fingers crossed!

Any specific things (like apps or websites) that you would suggest to readers that they might find useful or fun?

I track my reading on Goodreads. Goodreads is a social media website whose mission is to help people find and share books they love. It allows you to create a Read bookshelf, a Currently Reading bookshelf, and a Want to Read bookshelf. When you finish a book, you can write a review and give the book your rating between one and five stars. I have had GoodReads since 2012, so I love that I have a record of all of my reading for the past seven years. I also enjoy looking at the feed to see what my friends have read and enjoyed.

Bookly is a newer app I’ve been using. Essentially, you track your reading time and pages on Bookly. With this information, Bookly can tell you how long it will take you to finish a book. I use this to gauge how long it will take me to get through a current read.


You started a book-focused instagram account back in April of 2018 cleverly named @booksinsix. Your very first post was a six-worded 5-star review of the book Beartown by Fredrik Backman. And you currently have over 1,500 followers.

Books Marinna K bear town

For those who don’t know much about Instagram, can you explain a little bit about the concept of a bookstagram?

Bookstagram is a sub-community on Instagram where readers create an Instagram handle that is devoted entirely to sharing insights into their reading lives. Of course, since it is made up of book people, it is a kind & encouraging little corner of the Internet universe.

What inspired you to start @booksinsix? And how did you decide on this unique style of reviewing books?

I was inspired to start a bookstagram because of a college friend, Lauren (@booksonherbrain), who has had a bookstagram since 2017 and currently has 20.7K followers. Her posts always inspired me to want to read more, and I often turned to her feed to find good recommendations. I wanted to create a space to record my reading life and, hopefully, provide recommendations to my friends and family!

I decided to review my books in six words because I wanted my reviews to be short and simple. However, I soon realized that six words, while perhaps capturing the essence of a book, does not encapsulate a review. I now write my six words as a bookish memoir, along with a few more details on my thoughts on the book.

What are the qualities you find in a book that influence your rating system?

My favorite books are what I call ‘non-traditional page turners.’ I like books that are not flagged as “page turners,” but that I find myself sneaking out of parties or skipping the gym so that I can return to these reads. For me, these books are usually about characters who I love that have found themselves in unfortunate situations out of which I’m not sure how they should, or if they can, escape. If an author can offer particular insights into humanity, I’m sold.

I can only imagine the amount of time required to read as many books as you do. Much less to review them.

Books Marinna K book thief

Overall, how much time would you say you spend simply creating content for @booksinsix? Including taking/staging photos, actually writing your reviews, and general planning? What is your favorite part of the whole process?

I try to set aside an hour a week for planning my posts for my account. I wish it was more flippant, in-the-moment posting, but I’m far too Type 1 for that. My favorite part of the process is when I take a picture that I really love – a photo that communicates the beauty of the book or cozy feeling of the reading life.

Who do you consider to be your “targeted” audience? And what do you hope to offer them through following your account?

My favorite thing about having my account is that some people that I know IRL (in real life) use my account to get book recommendations. There are so many bookstagram accounts, so I know I’m not changing the Instagram world with my little corner but I like knowing that people I know and love trust me with choosing their next book pick. Other than that, my “target” audience is probably people who have similar reading tastes as I do.

As a High School English teacher, adoring Aunt, and avid book lover – what advice would you give parents and caregivers who are hoping to cultivate a love of reading in their children?

Let your kids read what they want and don’t worry about the content. If the content is too mature, it will go over their heads; more likely, even if you think the content is too mature, it might touch on things that your child is going through and seeking answers through books is a good avenue. 

Read in front of your kids. Let them know that it is a pleasurable way to spend time by modeling it in your own life. I don’t have any children, so my other piece of advice is – do what works best for you.

Books Marinna K aunt

Before we move on to the finale part of this interview, I’m sure everyone would love to know… What are a few of your favorite books?

This is really an impossible question. So, I am going to dodge and instead say my favorite three books of 2018 and 2019 (so far).

  1. Beartown, by Fredrik Backman. This would be my answer over and over to this question, and this one might actually be in my top three of all time. Backman captures humanity (the good, the bad, and the ugly) in such a poetic way that I found myself reading this book with a lump in my throat. Do yourself a favor and go read it!
  2. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, by Matthew Desmond. This book was so eye-opening about the system of poverty through the lens of rental properties. It has definitely been the best nonfiction I’ve read recently, and I think it would be an interesting read for a lot of different audiences. 
  3. Frankly In Love, by David Yoon. I had to put a young adult in here because it is one of my favorite genres! This book is a sweet romance that touches on more complex themes like racism and familial loyalty. I loved the narrator so much that it was a 5 star read for me.

Okay, now for the part I have been eagerly anticipating!

I know you’ve been inspired to try your hand at book-match-making since you love Anne Bogel (also known as Modern Mrs. Darcy) who hosts the What Should I Read Next Podcast. You’ve already tried it out with a few friends and now you’ve offered to do it for me! Tell us more about how it works? 

Anne Bogel calls what she does literary matchmaking – don’t you just love that? She asks her guests to tell her three books they love & one book that wasn’t for them. Then, she and the reader identify “themes” in the reader’s reading life, which Anne uses to make book recommendations. 

Ok, sounds intriguing! Here are 3 of my favorites:

  1. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    • You said you liked this book because of the morals and lessons that it encompasses within a well told story. You also said that characters were important to you in a reading experience. But these characters were particularly important because you felt like you could identify people in your life who mirrored the characters. I’m also wondering if have characters that you can root for is a must-have in your reading life. 
  2. Cider House Rules by John Irving
    • Again, you noted that the morals in this story were a part of the reason it stuck with you, especially how true life takes place in the gray spaces. You also like John Irving’s quirky style and were interested in the medical aspects of this book. 
  3. Life of Pi by Yann Martel
    • One of my favorites too! You liked how the author cared for his characters and how the ending surprised you. I also love a surprise ending! But one that feels authentic, not like the author put in the twist at the end just for the sake of having a twist. I bet you liked that about this one too. 

And my least favorite is: The Devil in the White City by Eric Larson

  • I’m wondering if you didn’t like this story because the characters aren’t lovable; in fact, they’re pretty disturbing. You also said you didn’t enjoy the writing style and that the details bogged you down.

I’d say you hit the nail right on the head with everything you said there. A lot of people have been surprised that I didn’t love Devil in the White City. But I just couldn’t bring myself to enjoy it even though we lived in Chicago and it was a favorite recommendation of several book-loving friends!

Ok let’s see you do your thing… I’m so excited to see what you recommend for me! I’ve really enjoyed the last several books you have suggested for me so I know this is going to be fun!


Okay, I’m the boss here, so I’m going to start with a book that does not actually match the descriptions of things you love from above, but I know you PRETTY well so I think I can make this leap. You love self-help books, like I do, and I’m pretty sure you are an Enneagram 4, so my first recommendation for you is Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown.

Brene Brown is a transformative researcher who studies the power of vulnerability and how to harness our vulnerability to improve our lives. I LOVE this book; it is a five star read for me and, possibly, my favorite self-help book of all time. It influences how I interact with my students, my friends, and my husband, and I think it would have a big impact on you too.

My second book recommendation is one where I want you to step out of your comfort zone. It’s an oldie but a goodie and it’s unusual for you because it is a young adult novel. It is The Giver by Lois Lowry. In this book, society is “perfect.” There is no pain, no suffering, no grief, no fighting, no problems! When kids turn 12 years old, they are assigned their jobs based on their personalities and experiences.

Our main character, Jonas, is selected to be The Giver, an elusive and highly respected role. As he embarks on this new adventure, he learns the secrets of his community and his life is never the same. You will definitely root for Jonas, and this book will force you to ask yourself questions that tap into the idea of seeing the world in black and white. It’s one of my favorites!

Finally, I’m going to recommend a book that is a relatively new release and was one of my favorite books from last year, Circe by Madeline Miller. Miller takes a minor character from Greek mythology and gives her a platform of her own. Circe is an unwanted creature, the daughter of Zeus, but a witch rather than a goddess. Because of an act of compassion, Zeus banishes her from Greek society to an isolated island where Circe forges her own twisty path to success and happiness.

I think this book is a good pick for you because it is a slow burn like some of your other choices. It touches heavily on themes of family and feminism in such a unique world that I think you will be totally drawn in, just like I was!

This has been so fun – thank you for taking the time to share so much about your love of books with us. Can’t wait to dive into these new recommendations you made for me! I will be sure to follow up and let you know what I think.


I really hope you guys enjoyed this interview. Marinna and I would love to know what books YOU might recommend or have been loving lately?!?! I would also appreciate any feedback you have about this format/series idea and certainly any specific topics you would like to connect over in the future!

xx yours truly,

Eliza B.

Most of the photos in this post were shared by Marinna K.

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