Behind the Bookshelf: Interview with a bookseller, Rebecca Joines Schinsky

rebecca headshot

Continuing the trend of people I'm really excited about, meet Rebecca! Rebecca Joines Schinsky is the director of content and community for Riot New Media Group, where she writes for and edits Book Riot and Food Riot  and oversees social media strategy. Prior to joining RNMG, Rebecca wrote about books, publishing, and the reading life at her popular literary site, The Book Lady's Blog, for four years.

I first stumbled across Rebecca a couple of months ago while on a quest for new book podcasts and am so glad I did. She has such an affable demeanor, and her enthusiasm for books is contagious. Scrolling through some of the recs she makes below, I'm also realizing there's a little bit of overlap in our book DNA (Margaret Atwood, FTW). I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I do!

What are you currently reading? Thoughts on it?

I’m in the middle of some good stuff! Merchants of Culture is a fascinating (if a little dry) history of the publishing industry. & Sons by David Gilbert is a gorgeous literary novel about a Salinger-esque novelist who reassesses his life and the mistakes he made with his sons after his lifelong best friend dies. Eloisa James’ When Beauty Tamed the Beast is a rollicking good time of a romance novel dressed up as a reworking of the fairy tale. The love scenes are pretty, erm, tame, but it’s a super fun story.

What books are you most looking forward to this year?

Margaret Atwood’s MaddAddam, the final book in the eponymous trilogy, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. I’ve read the latter already, and it was exactly what I wanted from a long-awaited Tartt novel.

Did you set any reading goals for 2013? If so, what are they?

My goal every year is to read more than I read the year before, measured in pages rather than books. I start a lot more books than I finish, so pages read is the most reliable measure for my activity. I also set a less measurable goal to read more books outside my literary fiction wheelhouse, to experiment with genre, and to get familiar with romance and erotica writing.

What three characters would you invite to the bar for a drink?

Fun question! I’ve been in a lot of bars with authors, but never with a character. Let’s see. Owen Meany because can you imagine how hilarious his VERY LOUD voice would be when he got drunk? Sugar from The Crimson Petal and the White because girl has got some stories to tell. And I’m going to cheat now and say the whole cast of Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow because it’s one of my all-time favorite novels, and I’d want to see the characters interact with each other IRL.

If you could convince any two authors to write a book together, who would it be? Why?

There are a million possible answers to this question! Today, I wish for a book by Cheryl Strayed and Terry Tempest Williams. Their books Tiny Beautiful Things and When Women Were Birds both made huge impacts on me, and I’m blown away by the prospect of what they could do together.

What's the most annoying book you see flying off the shelves?

Does not compute. What’s good for books and reading is people buying books and reading them. I’m not about to tell people their choices are bad or annoying. I’d rather use my time, energy, and voice to talk about the ones that are awesome and hope more people read them.

If you could give people one piece of advice to prep them for entering a bookstore, what would it be?

Trust booksellers, and let them do what they’re good at it. Walk into a bookstore and ask a bookseller what they’re really excited about right now, and buy that book. You’ll rarely be disappointed.

What’s your catnip, that familiar plotline or genre you can’t help but pick up and devour?

Oh man, I cannot resist a coming-of-age novel that features punk music. I also love books within books, nonlinear storytelling, and novels that present stories from multiple characters’ perspectives or with multiple lines of narrative.

Speaking of devouring, you appear to read a crazy number of books! I’m fascinated by how people read and how prolific readers retain details about what they’ve read. Do you have mystical powers or, you know, any tips to offer?

Nope, no super powers here. I try to read for at least an hour a day (there’s an alarm on my phone that goes off every evening telling me to “Go read a book!”) and for a couple hours a day on the weekends. I don’t always succeed, which is a great irony of getting paid to write about books. There are weeks when I go several days without reading time, and that's just life. No matter what tricks I try to pull, it seems that I read about 100 books a year, and that’s a number I’m happy with. In terms of retention, writing about what I read helps a great deal, as does talking about books on the two podcasts I’m a part of--Bookrageous and the Book Riot Podcast.

I notice you’re also involved with Food Riot, Book Riot’s sister site. Do you have any recommendations of novels for foodies?

I’m not so into novels for foodies, but I loooove a good food memoir. Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential is a classic. Ruth Reichl’s books are all fantastic, too. I like her first, Tender at the Bone, the best. If you like to eat as much as you like to read, don’t miss it.

[Serena here] I recommend all my bookseller friends read the archived Adventures in Bookselling series on Rebecca's old blog. You'll get a kick out of it!