Today we travel to Ottawa, Canada to chat with book blogger, Christopher Adam, about how living in Budapest, the Berlin Wall, a handwritten journal, being an author, long-form book reviews, Oscar Wilde, visiting Transnistria, having lunch in the town of Chernobyl, and being pen pal to a couple of inmates come together as part of Christopher’s past and current life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I live in Ottawa, Canada, where by day I work as the director of a charity, which runs a soup kitchen, a day program for marginalised populations and outreach to those who find themselves on the edges of our community. By night, on weekends and whenever I have a moment and some tea or coffee readily available, I read, write and try to reflect on both. I am fortunate to have travelled overseas frequently during my undergraduate and graduate studies and also to have spent my formative teenage years living in Budapest, Hungary, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Seeing a society go through such a dramatic transition with my own eyes, even at this young age, is an experience that has stayed with me.
(Lost in reading in Budapest)
The charity you direct sounds like a great benefit to your community. What a wonderful organization to be involved with.
Why did you choose to be a book blogger or how did you come to be a book blogger? How long have you been bookblogging?
I blog to share with others my reflections on what I’ve read and to suggest books that have left an impact on me, as well as to create a personal written record of my own development as a writer, reader, thinker and as a person. More than two decades ago in high school, one of my teachers had us keep a handwritten journal. We would paste in a news article and then include our observations on what we’ve read. At the time, sometimes it felt like an onerous task. Decades later, however, I see so much value in maintaining a log of our impressions on what we have read and tracking how reading has the capacity to form and change us.
I began book blogging shortly after I published my first collection of fiction, I Have Demons, in November 2018. I experienced firsthand the difficulties of getting that book into the hands of book reviewers who really care about what they read and who took pride in what they wrote. I recall how encouraging it was to receive meaningful feedback on my work. My own passion for reading seemed to cross paths with the value I saw in sharing thoughtful book reviews. That’s how I became a book blogger.
Are you accepting requests at the moment? How do you prefer to be contacted?
I am always open to reviewing works of literary fiction and literary nonfiction. I do work full-time during the week and writing book reviews is a hobby — so it may take a little time for me to get back to you. Take a look to see if your book is a good fit for my site and if it is, please use the contact form on this page to reach out to me: http://christopheradam.ca/contact/
What information do you want to receive with the request?
In addition to sending me your book’s synopsis, please share with me how your book is a good match in light of the types of books I review and my book blogging style.
What types of book blog posts do you offer? Reviews, interviews, book spotlight, guest posts, etc.
I try to offer thoughtful and reflective long-form book reviews. Most of my reviews are over 1,000 words in length and I aim to give each book a close, careful read. Sometimes, I’ll draw connections between books, I will look for literary devices and techniques, I will see how each book may be relevant to what we are experiencing in the world today and I will seek to share details about the author whenever this knowledge adds depth to the post. To that end, I may reach out to you with some follow-up questions.
What is your preferred book format to read? If digital, what digital file do you prefer?
I work best with paperback, hardcover or a PDF version of your book. If you send me a paperback or hardcover version, I will donate the book after reviewing it to my charity’s modest library.
Do you only participate in official blog tours or do you accept requests from authors? Do you accept requests from indie authors, or indie publishers? Would you like to share a few of your favorite blog tour operators?
I usually communicate directly with the author and occasionally with the publisher. Indie authors, emerging authors and established ones are invited to contact me if their literary fiction or nonfiction is thematically and stylistically complementary to the type of books I usually review on my site.
What is your preferred genre? Do you read nonfiction, memoirs, or any style of poetry? What genres do you NOT read?
My preferred genre is literary fiction with a philosophical, existential or theological perspective, and books that reflect critically on society. What does this mean in practice? If we take the classics, some of my favourite authors are Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh and Oscar Wilde. Each of these authors approached their writing from a thoughtful, broadly speaking Catholic perspective. These authors compel me to think and reflect on my own life and beliefs, and as a reviewer, I feel that I can work meaningfully with the themes that they cover. I don’t review books that are simply religious tracts or those that proselytise. I look for works that challenge, are thoughtful, paradoxical, critical and maybe unorthodox.
I do consider literary fiction that may explore other themes. I would not, however, be a good fit as a reviewer when it comes to works of fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction or romance.
Do you write a review if you did not like the book? Do you use a star rating system for reviews you write?
If I agree to write a review, I will complete it even if I did not especially enjoy reading the book. I don’t use a system of star ratings for my reviews, as this rarely does justice to the book, nor does it allow me to capture what I really thought in a nuanced way.
Once contacted, when can the author or blog tour operator expect to hear from you?
I try to respond within five days. If the initial email and the book synopsis really catch my attention and seem to be a great fit for my site, I will often respond sooner. Please know that if I do review your book, I will spend time reading it closely and I will try to give much thought to the review itself. This reflective approach, combined with the reality of a full work week, means that I have to be selective when it comes to the books that I agree to read and review.
What is your favorite aspect of bookblogging?
Book blogging helps to level the playing field for indie, emerging and established authors. On my site, I love reflecting on the works of a classic or established author one week, only to follow it up with the debut work of an indie author later the same month. There is a morsel of justice in this for the talented, diligent and thoughtful indie author.
I appreciate that you have a mixture of classics and indie authors on your book blog. So wonderful of you. Can you tell us 3 interesting facts about yourself?
1. I visited a country that technically does not exist, namely Transnistria, and spent a rather surreal day wandering the Soviet-flavoured streets of Tiraspol.
2. I visited the abandoned town of Pripyat, in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone and had lunch in the town of Chernobyl itself (mercifully, the food was brought in from the outside).
3. For a number of years, I have been a pen pal to a couple of inmates in the United States. We often discuss books and one of them is better read than I am. On many occasions, he has given me book tips.
Definitely interesting facts, Christopher. I just had to research Transnistria, so I’ve included a map for everyone else. I bet it was unlike any other experience to visit Chernobyl.
If you could have a fantasy tea or coffee date with an author from the past or present, who would it be and what would you ask them?
I think that I would have to choose Oscar Wilde. I imagine that he would select a splendid restaurant or café in either Britain or France for the occasion, order for us something decadent to drink or eat and all I would have to do, in terms of asking a question, is turn to him and say: “So then, how’s it been going?” and he would likely offer a perfectly fulsome response.
It was wonderful and incredibly interesting to have you be a part of MTA. Wishing you all the best, Christopher! – Camilla
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