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How to stay in love with reading this year, according to a CT-based book blogger

Fran Ovalle, una bloguera de libros dominicana que vive en Hartford, Connecticut.
Courtesy Photo
Fran Ovalle is an Instagram book blogger living in Hartford, Connecticut.

As February starts, keeping up with goals set out earlier in the year can be a challenge, and that can include reading.

Our Spanish news team ¿Que Hay de Nuevo, New Hampshire? talked with Fran Ovalle, an Instagram book blogger living in Hartford, Connecticut, to get some advice for staying interested in reading, her own goals for the year, and some of her book recommendations.

Ovalle, who’s originally from the Dominican Republic, is motivated by her love for books, stories, and the Spanish language. Her blog Fran y Los Libros started in 2014 on YouTube and moved to Instagram in 2016.

Fran Ovalle cuenta se enamoró de la lectura cuando era niña, motivada por sus padres, en un Santo Domingo donde pocos leían.
Courtesy Photo
Fran Ovalle
Fran Ovalle fell in love with reading as a kid, thanks to her parents, in her hometown of Santo Domingo.

“The world of books is magical, you get into it and discover other types of things, authors, people,” said Ovalle, in an interview in Spanish. “But, reading also brings you closer to reality”.

Ovalle said she convinced herself to read slower this year, prioritizing pleasure without pressuring herself to read a certain number of books. She believes this is a way reading can help her to grow mentally and see life from a different perspective. In a few words, 2024 for her is about quality over quantity.

These are some tips that Ovalle shared for aspiring readers and avid ones: 

1. Let your interests guide you

There's a lot to read about, and a variety of genres. Ovalle suggests picking a book that aligns with your interests, from animals, and nature, to history or film. The best book you can pick is the one that interests you the most.

“Pick a topic that you are passionate about. You can start with small books or picture books,” she said.

In recent years, Ovalle has gotten into feminism, which she considers a wide and complex subject, but reading has helped her learn about other experiences and points of view.

“It's something wonderful,” she said.

That's how she discovered French writer Annie Ernaux, the 2022 literature Nobel Prize winner. Her favorite Ernaux book is “Happening,” a story about a 23-year-old woman going through a clandestine abortion when it was illegal in France. Although Ovalle says the book is tough to read, but considers it a book to learn and reflect a lot about.

2. Create a bite-sized reading routine

Ovalle says the best way to start the reading habit is to not put pressure. She suggests starting reading five to 10 minutes a day and increasing it over time.

“That paragraph you read that day can leave you intrigued on knowing what happens next, and you'll want to continue with the book.”

This also means sometimes you may abandon a book you are not enjoying, Ovalle said. Which is fine! because “reading was meant to be enjoyed.”

3. Make it part of your self-care routine

Books have helped Ovalle to relieve feelings such as sadness or even loneliness. But, in case of a mental health crisis, contact the New Hampshire 988 hotline.

“We are immigrants, so for me, reading is a haven because, in that moment of loneliness, books are my company,” Ovalle said.

4. Read in your native language

For Ovalle, reading in Spanish is a way to connect more with her roots, although getting access to Spanish books in New England can be challenging, or getting any other book that is not in English. She shared some practical tips:

  • Order books online. Amazon, for example.
  • Visit your closest bookstore and ask for your specific language section.
  • Buy used books. She uses the website ThriftBooks.

5. Visit your local public library

Your public library may have a foreign language section that you have yet to hear about. Plan a visit, get your library card, and rent any book, audiobook, or e-book available. If you are lucky, you can meet another book lover with great recommendations!

If you don't get what you are looking for, ask the staff about the interlibrary loan, which allows you to borrow a book from any other library in the country. This is available at the Nashua Public Library, for example.

6. Find your reading community

Ovalle also suggests connecting with more readers or aspiring readers online to create a community, something that has enhanced her blog since she started on YouTube.

This allows her to leave her comfort zone when picking books. You can find more readers on any social network you feel comfortable with, either YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok. With luck, you may find a local book club.

You can also ask your local library if there are any book clubs there.

7. Ask for recommendations!

One of Ovalles's favorite books is “Tuesdays with Morrie” by Mitch Albom.

El libro que Fran recomienda a todos sus seguidores de Instagram.
Courtesy Photo
Fran Ovalle
One of Ovalles's favorite books is "Tuesdays with Morrie" by Mitch Albom.

“This is a book that I recommend a lot because it teaches you so much,” she said.

Other books that inspired her are “House of Spirits" and “Paula” by Chilean writer Isabel Allende, and “One Hundred Years of Solitude” by Colombian author Gabriel García Márquez.

For more recommendations, shoot us an email at quehay@nhpr.org, or text us via WhatsApp (Spanish titles included). 

You can also check out NHPR Reads, our monthly blog series with staff recommendations. 

Lee la versión en español de esta historia, aquí.

Maria Aguirre is a bilingual journalist that currently lives and works remotely from her home in Guayaquil, Ecuador. She currently writes and produces ¿Qué Hay de Nuevo, New Hampshire?