Sisilia’s page, @sisiliareads, gives off a distinct warmth difficult to convey through a screen, much less through the veil of insincerity on social media.
The delicately lit photographs of numerous colorful books, shoulder to shoulder on wooden shelves, and her grey cat Monty urge you to curl in the corner with a good novel on a Sunday morning.
Waxy green leaves drip from mazes of vines draped delicately over the corners of bedposts and tables, adding a touch of life to the photos that otherwise resemble soft, inanimate oil paintings, ruined simply by running a finger through it. Even her favorite book covers, the Faber & Faber editions of Rachel Cusk’s books, reflect the same casual yet attractive simplicity as her account.
This Taurus sun and proud Swiftie started her Bookstagram account in March, around when her hometown of Calgary, Alberta first went into lockdown.
“I used to post about travel and such on my old account, but I couldn’t really post on there for the foreseeable future as I wouldn’t be traveling at all anymore, so I decided to post about my other favorite thing, which is books,” Sisilia said.
Sisilia, originally from Fujian, China, centers her identity in her content, even lying about reading the book Lolita.
“I pretty much know what happens in it and quite frankly don’t want to read more books by white men about terrible white men, especially because the narrator, Humbert, is so unreliable,” Sisilia said.
Books on her TBR list are quite the opposite of Lolita and reflect her love of diverse reads. She’s currently reading The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah and plans to follow up with Split by Cathy Linh Che and The Marks Left On Her by Di Lebowitz.
She ultimately wants to use her Bookstagram to amplify the voices of BIPOC poets, fiction, and nonfiction authors, which she said she didn’t see highlighted as much in the Bookstagram community.
Some of her favorite authors include Jenny Zhang, Jeanette Winterson, Chris Kraus, Madeleine Thien, Mary Ruefle, Don Mee Choi, Zadie Smith, Elena Ferrante, Deborah Levy, Lydia Davis, Maggie Nelson, Jenny Offill, Yoko Tawada, Patrick Modiano, Eileen Myles, Clarice Lispector, John Berger, Han Kang. Keep in mind that she forced herself to stop the list there, for fear of going on forever.
Though, given the chance, she’d take a selfie with Eve Babitz (“I love her glamorous Cali life, she generally just seems super cool!”) or Joan Didion, both the epitome of the effortless it-girl.
Sisilia makes sure to remain authentic in her content, avoiding falling into line with the current favorite novel on Bookstagram for the sake of good engagement. Even her fictional crush may seem idiosyncratic, as she opted for dead poet Frank O’Hara rather than a dark-haired, enemies-to-lovers heartthrob.
She encourages other Bookstagrammers to enjoy their reads and make sure to have fun with their account, while staying honest in their reviews, expressing how they truly feel about a book in their captions.
For Sisilia, Bookstagram resembles more a community than a space for content, where she can share her love for books with others in a way that she only did so with one or two best friends in the past.
Although she hasn’t read it in a while, The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera remains one of her favorites.
Unlike her list of favorite authors, her favorite Bookstagrammers is rather manageable.
“I love @ab_reads, she has pretty much the same taste in books as I do! I’m always dying to read all her recs,” Sisilia said. “Same with @heathereatsbooks, she’s absolutely stunning, and her feed is gorgeous!”
To supply her never-ending need for material, she’d look to Fitzcarraldo for their beautiful editions or Wave Poetry who never disappoints.
When she’s not posting to her account every weekday morning, and when travel is more acceptable, she might be stopping by her favorite bookstores, City Lights Books in San Francisco or Three Lives & Company in New York City.
Aside from taking care of yourself and taking breaks from social media, Sisilia advises aspiring Bookstagrammers to not put so much stock in the numbers.
“Ever since the algorithm change after Facebook bought out Instagram, I know the app hasn’t felt the same for a lot of us because engagement doesn’t come as easily anymore, but ultimately, growing your account won’t be hard if you’re putting thought into each post,” Sisilia said.
“It’s also important to never be a passive scroller, engage with others, comment and chat because the Bookstagram community is amazing, there are so many lovely and kind people, and talking about books will always be more crucial than the number of likes and follows.”