Meet Etaf Rum, aka @booksandbeans
With a huge Instagram following, this literature professor is making books into art
Book of the Month, Etaf Rum
As a company that sends our members hardcover books, we truly appreciate the aesthetic and uniqueness of a beautiful cover. So does Etaf Rum, also known as @booksandbeans. As a literature professor at Nash Community College in North Carolina, a yoga instructor, and an Instagram user with around 130K followers, Etaf knows a thing or two about beautiful books and hard-to-put down reads. We got some of her favorites in our conversation below. For more stunning images, and to find out Etaf's favorite Book of the Month selection each month, be sure to follow her on Instagram.
You're a literature professor, a yoga instructor, and have a huge following on Instagram, where you showcase beautiful pictures of books and coffee. How did you get into all of this?
I knew I had a love for literature ever since I read 'Lord of the Flies' in 5th grade English. My teacher had turned to me during a class discussion and asked, "Did you read that analysis somewhere?" I told her I had simply interpreted the story, but she hesitated to believe me. Her disbelief made me realize I had a special connection with books and eventually led me to pursue the study of literature. Years later, around the time I started teaching, I created an Instagram account to inspire my students to read. I rarely read without a steaming cup of coffee in hand (hence @BooksandBeans), and so I always brewed a fresh pot of coffee for my students and brought it with me to class. After reading and analyzing the course texts, students would ask me what I thought about certain books I had posted on Instagram and would even share fun facts about books they were currently reading. Then we'd end the class with a relaxing yoga pose. It is a wonderfully inspiring environment to be in.
What are some of your favorite books?
Some of my favorite books include 'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath, 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' by Khaled Hosseini, 'We Should All Be Feminists' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, 'Olive Kitteridge' by Elizabeth Strout, and, of course, 'Harry Potter'.
What are some of your favorite book covers?
My absolute favorite book cover of all time belongs to F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby'.
I also love the bold simplicity of Ta-Nehisi Coates' 'Between the World and Me'
as well as the fiery blue covers of books such as 'Fates and Furies' by Lauren Groff and 'All the Light We Cannot See' by Anthony Doerr.
What are your tips for taking a beautiful book image on Instagram?
There isn't a magic rule for taking a beautiful image, except, of course, singling out the most beautiful books. Add a creamy cup of coffee, a stark backdrop, or a vintage setting and you've created something eye-catching.
Where's your favorite place to read?
My favorite place to read is in a dimmed cafÃ©, by a window somewhere, preferably on a rainy day. Something about the smell of coffee, the quiet clatter of cups and spoons, and the distant trickling of rain against the window makes for the most soothing background noise while reading. I studied writing at Yale this summer, and I spent most of my time curled up in odd corners on campus watching the rain from behind glass as I wrote and read. (Picture below)
You have two adorable kids -- a girl and a boy - what are some of your favorite books to read to them?
Reyann, 6, and Isah, 4, are already book lovers. I read aloud to them while they were still in the womb, mostly Henry James and Jane Austen (books I was studying in grad school.) Then, when they were born, my husband and I began reading Dr. Seuss books to them before bed. Reyann is currently reading 'Harry Potter and The Sorcerer's Stone' while Isah is learning how to read 'Corduroy'.
What do you hope your literature students take away from your class?
Stories have the power to change us in ways information cannot. That's what I tell my students. Literature is designed to help us better understand the world, to bridge the gap between the text at hand and our own experiences and presumptions.
What have been your favorite Book of the Month selections?
Oh, where do I begin? I've enjoyed most of them so far. My favorites are 'My Name is Lucy Barton' by Elizabeth Strout, 'Fates and Furies' by Lauren Groff, and 'Gold Fame Citrus' by Claire Vaye Watkins.
Anyone you'd like to see serve as a Guest Judge for Book of the Month?
Khaled Hosseini. Or Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Maybe even J.K. Rowling. But one can only dream.