In conversation with

Modern Lit

Book club

Introduction

Introduction

Modern Lit are a trio of women who want to get you into reading. How? With an Instagram that makes books look as appealing as a night out with your friends, and as fun as debriefing the morning after. Set up by three unique women with a shared love of literature – Amile, Daniella and Louisa – the platform provokes thought and opens up conversations on some of their favourite books (without looking at all what you’d call ‘bookish’). 

The best part? They’ve set up an IRL meet-up called Chapters at Town Hall Hotel. “Initially we thought we would have an online book club where everyone would read a select book and message us online,” say Modern Lit. “However it takes out the most exciting part of finishing a book together – the satisfying back and forth that a conversation brings.” We spoke to the women about the stories that inspire them, the writers that they follow and how reading impacts their day to day life. Perhaps unsurprisingly this is one of our longest storylists yet.

Images: Barbara Premo

Question and Answer

What’s the first book you remember really resonating as young women?

Daniella: GirlBoss by Sophia Amoruso was a key book for me at the time I read it. I was living in NYC, with literal pennies in my account and surviving on dollar slice pizza and gifted pilates classes. I somehow read the book three times. Sophia made me realise I could achieve anything I wanted if I worked hard and put my passion where my mouth is. I left NYC, came back to London, started my agency and began working with brands I’m passionate about . I’ve never looked back.

Louisa: I wish I could give you a more deep and intellectual answer. However, the one that most clearly resonated with me was Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I experienced the thrill of being thrust into a new job and being all alone in a big city. This also was topped off by the cruel blow of heartbreak! Through the  story of the imperfect heroine (who I fully recognise as being frivolously indulgent), I found meaning and clarity and some stillness in the noise.

Chimamanda is someone you shout out a lot on social media. What have you learnt from her writing? Why does she stand out as an author?

Amile: I was in my teens when I first came across Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. My dad (who instilled a love for reading in me) had a copy of her book Half of A Yellow Sun on his bookshelf. I was keen to learn more about my Nigerian heritage, so quickly got stuck in. Chimamanda has a gift of telling stories that are vibrant, clear and encompassing of the complexity of the human condition. I like that she brings a degree of humour and charm to her characters even when they’re difficult to warm to… like Ifemelu in Americanah. Not only is she a great writer, she is a great speaker. If you haven’t checked out “The Danger of A Single Story” or “We Should All Be Feminists”, please kindly do your Googles already!

"Chimamanda has a gift of telling stories that are vibrant, clear and encompassing of the complexity of the human condition"

How does your book club work?

L: Initially we thought we would have an online book club where everyone would read a select book and message us online. However it takes out the most exciting part of finishing a book together – the satisfying back and forth that a conversation brings. So we started an IRL bookclub event series called Chapters (held at the gorgeous Town Hall Hotel in Bethnal Green). We discuss various aspects of modern adulting using excerpts from our favourite books and articles. Our first event was on female friendships, our next one will be on the theme of ‘Taking Up Space’. And when we can get it together, we’ll bring out a newsletter.

How do you decide which books to read next? Anywhere you go for recommendations?

A: I pass by a bookshop everyday on my way to work, so sometimes will pop in to check out covers, blurbs and those cute handwritten recommendation notes that booksellers write. That being said, I tend to choose books depending on my mood, a glowing Instagram review or what I’ve been interested in recently.

You all have very different careers. How does reading benefit your individual jobs?

D: (Creative Entrepreneur) It’s amazing, I love being from such a different walk of work than the girls. I’m a politics graduate so I’m obsessed with race relations books but also have a few businesses so anything business and self-development I’m all over too. We can recommend books to each other we’d never usually pick up, and take away such different leanings.

A: (Doctor) My job gives me access into the intimate lives of people usually when they’re feeling vulnerable. It’s easy to communicate well with patients who have a similar backgrounds to you. What takes more work is being adaptable to those who are different to you. Reading allows me to access different stories and build compassion for various experiences. Books like Being Mortal by Atul Gawande have exposed me to new ideas and challenged the way I behave as a doctor.

L: (City Worker) In different ways, depending on the genre! I have a keen interest in leadership, business strategy and corporate intelligence. These types of book help shape me into a more resilient and effective leader. I’m also fascinated by emerging thought leadership and disruptive technology within healthcare. There is a book out there for everything! Reading gives me access to the challenges and opportunities that my clients encounter. Just knowing more means that I can facilitate deeper and more meaningful conversations.

What's the biggest impact reading has had on your life?

L: It’s given me the power to connect. Reading is: letters from loved ones, a commonality between new friends and a connection between old ones. It’s also access to knowledge and all the power that comes with it. I never take my literacy for granted, and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunities it has afforded to me. According to Unesco, of roughly 800 million illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds of them are women. As women in particular, the impact is not just on us but on society when we are empowered to contribute, innovate and take the lead.

“I never take my literacy for granted, and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunities it has afforded to me. According to Unesco, of roughly 800 million illiterate adults in the world, two-thirds of them are women”

Who are some readers/writers on Instagram that we need to follow?

D: I love Emma Gannon, I’m a fangirl. Everyone knows this!

L: Emma Dabiri, Rupi Kaur, Chimamanda Adichie, Alexandre Elle @alex_elle & Charlie Mackesy, @charliemackesy.

A: Authors I follow include Afua Hirsch, Dorothy Koomson, Reni Eddo Lodge and Roxanne Gay. Some bookstagrammers that I follow and love are: @reggiereads, @literandra_ ,@naominess, @naveedaroufi and @booksandrhymes.

emma gannon new book
"I love Emma Gannon, I’m a fangirl. Everyone knows this!"

What would be your desert island book?

L: The Bible – food for thought for all eternity. Or Shantaram, so that I can actually get around to finishing it.

A: It would be a toss up between On Beauty by Zadie Smith and Memoirs of A Geisha by Arthur Golden. I’ve read both of them countless times.

Modern Lit's Storylist

Books

  1. How To Stay Alive by Matt Haig
  2. Alex by Pierre LeMaitre
  3. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah
  4. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
  5. Deep Work by Cal Newport
  6. Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo Lodge
  7. Between The World & Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  8. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
  9. Becoming by Michelle Obama

Magazines

  1. Courier
  2. British Vogue
  3. The Gentlewoman
  4. The Economist
  5. Kinfolk

Websites

  1. The Cut
  2. SheerLuxe
  3. Tech Crunch
  4. GirlBoss
  5. The New Yorker

Podcasts

  1. Black Gals Livin’
  2. The Receipts
  3. CTRL Alt Delete by Emma Gannon
  4. Serial
  5. In Good Company by Otegha Uwagba
  6. Over The Bridge
  7. She's Obsessed
  8. Jocko Podcast
  9. Women Tech Charge
  10. Life After The Letters by Dr Amile & Dr Suba
  11. Super Soul Conversations by Oprah Winfrey
  12. How I Built This by Guy Raz
  13. Where Should We Begin by Esther Perel
  14. Jesus and Jollof by Luvvie Ajayi & Yvonne Orji
  15. Still Processing by The New York Times

Newsletters

  1. My Beauty Stack by Sharmadean Reid
  2. Women Who by Otegha Uwagba
  3. Race Related by The New York Times
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