What started as a closed Instagram project has become the dream job of Nelson wife Dana Light, 24, a book specialist at Paper Plus Nelson.
It’s fair to describe Light as the most avid reader – last year she set herself the goal of reading 125 books, which she says she had accomplished. This year she hopes to read the same number of volumes.
“I don’t have any other hobbies,” she said, and a little self-discipline helps.
“I’ve definitely found myself scrolling through things and I’m like, ‘I need to read a book, I really need to put this down’.”
She listens to about 10 percent of those books in audio form on the go, in addition to the physical copy.
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Light works full-time as a book buyer for Paper Plus, and although she doesn’t read on the job, she likes to make up her own mind about new titles.
Her Instagram account, @dlight_reads, was a pet project during a lockdown in Auckland 2020.
“I made the page… thinking ‘I have free time, I like books, I’m going to take some pictures of books and share my opinion about them’, opinions I didn’t really think people would care about being honestly.”
But as it turned out, people did, and publishers reached out to her directly to write reviews for upcoming titles.
When she saw the vacancy for a book specialist in Nelson, she ‘went for it’.
In her role, she chooses the books that enter the store and meets with publishers, book representatives and authors.
“I feel very happy. I didn’t know what I wanted to do for a long time, then I found this… I’ve never felt more suited to my job,” she said.
Ōtaki-based playwright Renée has a lot of feathers on her cap, having written numerous plays and nine fiction novels. (Audio was first broadcast in November 2021).
Setting up her Instagram page gave her more confidence to apply, she said.
“The fact that I could recommend books to a variety of people online got me thinking, ‘why can’t I do this in person in a store?’ I had learned a lot about books and I took that with me to my interview.”
She said she is also able to keep up with many of the books that are trending on social media in order to add them to the store.
Sometimes she has to make difficult choices, for example about books with different opinions about Covid-19.
“It’s very hard to decide, do I want this in the store? Is this something people want to read about? Or will it bring more negativity into the world?”
It turns out that Nelsonians have a penchant for historical fiction, and the city has plenty of literate youth.
Social media like TikTok sub-community Booktok are getting people reading these days, she said, noting that more of a younger crowd came to the store that had seen books online.
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In the age of Facebook, television streaming, apps and notifications, she has a few tips for those of us who struggle to find the time to read a single volume.
First, she tries to read for at least an hour a day and tries to finish 20 percent of a book the first time to “get addicted enough to continue.”
Finding a book you like is key, she said, back then it was “much easier to keep going.”
She likes to read on the beach, and a nice couch with lots of pillows and a blanket on a miserable day.
If you noticed that Nelson’s opshops were well stocked with books, you can probably thank Dana.
From time to time she will perform a cull and distribute literary delights in Nelson’s free libraries and charity shops.
Favorite genres are thrillers and romances. As for New Zealand authors, Deborah Challinor’s new book The Leonard Girls was a recent lecture she thought “great.”
While Omicron does the rounds, reading makes for a perfect quarantine activity.
“With the uncertainty in New Zealand and in the world right now, you don’t know if you’ll be going into isolation next week. It’s always good to have something to do at home,” she says.
“I stocked up just in case.”