Today’s reader interview is with one of my triplet sisters, Toni. Toni and I are identical sisters, and we were brought up living very closely with each other – same bedroom, same family, all of the same school classes, same college, same university, and mostly the same groups of friends. We even worked in the same shop together for almost two years. In terms of the nature/nurture argument, theoretically we should have identical tastes! But the below interview proves that genes and environment do not necessarily dictate likes and dislikes, and also belief and faith. As you’ll see, Toni is now devoutly religious whereas I am about as atheist as it gets. Toni loves to read self-help books and travel writing, whereas I mainly read fiction. Read on to find out her reasons and motivations behind her book and reading choices.
Please introduce yourself and tell the readers a little bit about you.
My name is Toni and I am 24. I have always loved reading. My parents would comment that my sisters and I would have to take a book everywhere with us, even in the kitchen to make a sandwich! Since a young age I have been interested in science. It grew as I got older to encompass subjects involving the mind and universe, and 3 years ago I became a Christian, specifically, a Latter-Day Saint (commonly known as a Mormon). This dramatically changed how I viewed the world and influenced my reading tastes – not only do I love reading books that educate and entertain me but I am also fascinated to learn about other belief systems, and of course, my own.
What kind of literature/books do you read?
I have read books ranging from Sophie Kinsella- style (for relaxed entertainment) to books like Bill Bryson’s, still very entertaining but also educational. I have read several self-help books from Paul McKenna (the man is a genius). More recently in my life I have included books that strengthen my faith, including scriptures such as the Holy Bible and the Book of Mormon.
Why do these genres speak to you and appeal to you more than others? What is it you love about them?
When I was younger I discovered what people meant when they said you could get lost in a book – it can distract your mind and take you into someone else’s life, make you forget your own trials and tribulations for a while. I loved reading Sophie Kinsella because her books were very easy reading, and therefore relaxing, and also very very funny. Particularly during high school these books helped me keep my mind off my difficulties, and when my mind was whirring, it calmed me down.
Perhaps because of my own desire to improve myself, I began reading some self help books. Some were better than others but the end result was an interest in how people’s minds work, what motivates us, drives us, and helps us. It still continues now, while I read Paul McKenna, I also discovered Dale Carnegie, author of ‘How To Make Friends and Influence People’. Aside from this classic he has written others. When you read them it is like you have put on new glasses – your eyes are opened so much to the behaviour of yourself and others in your everyday life.
Books regarding my religion, and faith as a whole, appeal to me because they are so relevant to my life. Just as it is possible to feel weak emotionally, mentally or physically, it is possible to feel weak spiritually. We believe that just as your body grows weaker when it isn’t fed, so the spirit can grow weaker if not spiritually fed. This is why I read scripture and other books. They uplift me and strengthen my faith. As it is, there are some very funny authors within this genre who are also fantastic spiritual giants, making the genre both uplifting and entertaining at the same time.
When you read self-help books it is like you have put on new glasses – your eyes are opened so much to the behaviour of yourself and others in your everyday life.
Talk to me about some specific titles that are special or mean more to you and why. Is there a story behind why you value it? Did it make you feel a certain way when you read it?
It seems like an obvious answer, but the books that are most special to me are the Book of Mormon and the Bible. These I try to read every day even if it it just one verse. This is essential for my spirituality and I try to study them rather than simply reading. Sometimes I will read them like a novel- front to back, to get enjoyment out of them. This is how it started, and after I fell in love with the books, a desire to really study them grew. I wasn’t always great at this, and sometimes it slips. At these times I can really tell the difference in my life.
I first started when I was issued a challenge from a couple in my church to read the Book of Mormon in 3 months. There was a quote from one of the Presidents (Prophets) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. “the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion. This was the Prophet Joseph Smith’s statement. He testified that “the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion” (Introduction to the Book of Mormon). A keystone is the central stone in an arch. It holds all the other stones in place, and if removed, the arch crumbles.” I realised that no matter how many times I read this amazing book, I will learn something new every single time. There is such a depth to it, it is never ending. It gives me peace, hope and happiness as I read it. The people in it inspire me, It is a learning tool but also a protection and a guide through life. Its teachings are always applicable to me, and for that reason, it will be the book that I read over and over my whole life.
There are two titles that I have read within the last few weeks that have had a profound impact in my life. They are small, but life changing. Stephen E Robinson is the author of ‘Believing Christ’ and ‘Following Christ’. To any member of our church, they are incredibly educating, reassuring and uplifting. They clarify so much that can be confusing or sound complicated in our doctrine, and give you that ‘aha!’ moment. They make people have hope and feel good about themselves. The subject of the former inspired me to give a talk on the same topic at a recent conference, and many people commented that it really helped them. I would recommend them to anyone.
One non-religious book in particular that is special to me is Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’. It was recommended to me in high school by a science teacher. I read it and it utterly fascinated me – Bill Bryson is fantastic at that. He is incredibly funny and makes whatever his subject is gripping to the reader. I went on to study Biology at university, and there I found the book again at a book sale for a very cheap price. I have owned it ever since and have read it several times. This book led me to buy almost every book Bill Bryson has written.
I read it and it utterly fascinated me – Bill Bryson is fantastic at that. He is incredibly funny and makes whatever his subject is gripping to the reader.
Who are your favourite authors and why?
Is there a good fan base and/or community behind this work or this kind of book?
Sophie Kinsella books have a huge following. I have never been involved in the fan community, but I can believe a large one exists! Those kind of books will always be immensely popular.
As for Paul Mckenna, there are many community boards and Facebook groups, where people discuss their progress and give advice to each other on the work they are doing in that particular area of their lives with the help of his books. He is very successful, the books are very successful. He has a passion for helping his readers and his fan base recognise that.They are passionate about helping each other. The self help genre is huge, absolutely huge. It is a reflection on the way the world is and the way it is progressing. People are wanting to take control of their lives and create their own meaning and happiness. As everyone is different, I believe this genre will just continue to boom.
If you count church membership as a ‘fan base’ for scripture, then I will say that the Church has a membership of 15 million today, and many more people have read and studied the Book Of Mormon. The Bible, in it’s different forms, is said to be the most read book in the world. The specific titles I have mentioned- particularly ‘Believing Christ’ and ‘Following Christ’ have devoted readers, I am one of them!
The self help genre is huge, absolutely huge.
What do you think makes a good book in this genre?
I won’t pretend to know much about what makes a good author in a genre, but I know what I look out for in a book for myself. If I am entertained while being taught, being presented with something fascinating in a way that I can easily understand, then I will love it. Even better if I can apply these things into my own life, or share them with others. That is what makes a good book for me.
Where do you most like to buy your books?
I am most likely to buy my books from Amazon – they are cheap and I am happy to own second-hand books. If I can read the words and it doesn’t fall apart, it is good enough for me! I have had several books from charity shops, several of my Paul McKenna’s and Bill Bryson’s. Occasionally I will buy from Waterstone’s if I want to treat myself – I love the atmosphere and layout in there, their displays are lovely. The Works is also a good place for books, particularly when not looking for anything in particular!
If I am entertained while being taught, being presented with something fascinating in a way that I can easily understand, then I will love it.
How do you find out about new titles in this genre?
Paul McKenna’s books are very well publicized because of his huge commercial success. I will usually only buy the book if it seems applicable or helpful to me at the time, but many of them have been. They are often advertised when you go onto websites such as Amazon, and on billboards and shop windows.
Bill Bryson is a travel writer, and actually the only travel writer I have read. His books are usually advertised in Waterstones, as there is an anticipation for his books. The same applies for Sophie Kinsella – she is a bestselling author.
Books in my religious genre are sometimes quoted in talks given by our leaders, mentioned within other books within the genre and become quite popular in the church and are therefore shared by word of mouth. A couple of my books I have bought after seeing copies that belong to my friends, and a couple of them came from swaps at church. Amazon is very good at recommending similar books to the one you just bought, several have come from there. When I visited Utah 2 years ago, I visited the church’s book store, it is huge, and wonderful, I was in heaven! They also have 2 small LDS bookstores in England nearby our temples in Preston and London.
What are you reading at the moment/looking to read next?
My next book will be a kind of long-term project so to speak. It is called Jesus the Christ by James E Talmage. It is a very famous book in our church, and a great way to get to know our Saviour. It is quite a heavy read- lot’s of big words!- but one that is very, very much worth it.
I am hoping to have more time to read soon, and so I am looking for suggestions from the owner of this blog! I have already been recommended a book called ‘A Man Called Ove’, and so I hope to read that soon.
Coming soon: an interview with the third Cox triplet, Terri Cox. Look out for it!