In this interview with The Uncorked Librarian, we’ll meet Christine who blogs about books and booze. After finding her blog and following her travels, I wanted to know more about her! So I reached out and happily she agreed to an interview! So grab a mug, or a pint, and let’s meet Christine.
What prompted you to start literary travel themed blogging?
Ever since I can remember, I loved reading books as a child and writing fantastical stories. Plus, growing up, I never had the opportunity to travel outside of the country. We only visited states on the east coast like Maine and Massachusetts. With a book, though, I could travel anywhere and learn about places that I hoped to see one day.
Not everyone has the finances, means, or accessibility to travel. Books transport you outside of your home, small town, state, and country. Books show you just how big the world really is. Stories connect us as humans and prove that while we are different, we are also the same.
I remember plodding my way through high school madly in love with English and history—both of which I majored in during undergrad. While I loved reading about places, I felt that I didn’t fully understand these destinations without seeing them in person.
Yes, you get a feel for Anne Frank’s life in the attic and can imagine the obliteration of Pompeii. However, it is not until you travel to that location that their impact reverberates through your bones. Until you walk up the stairs behind the bookcase in the Anne Frank House, you can only imagine her small living quarters and where she penned an uplifting yet heart wrenching masterpiece.
With that said, a literary blog essentially matches my passions and interests: Blogging should be a combination of what you love while also providing information that fulfills a need for readers.
I constantly promote adding value and meaning to life. For me, literary travel, travel in general, books, and reading are powerful ways to see, experience, and understand the world. Books inspire and enhance travel, which is the meaning and contribution that I wanted to add in this lifetime.
Where does your love of books come from?
I lived in a home filled with books. In fact, one of my childhood bookshelves still exists and is in CT. I am pretty sure that I could read before kindergarten. Being an only child is hard sometimes. You learn to entertain yourself and have plenty of quiet time.
For me, I passed the time with my nose in a book. I loved stories like Are You My Mother? and characters such as the Little Critter and Berenstain Bears. I even began writing my own stories about a mouse named Moe.
As I got older, my new favorites became A Wrinkle In Time along with Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables. What little kid wouldn’t want to be transported to magical lands and new places? Of course, I wanted to be a princess and meet unicorns too.
Attending school, I began to not only love books and my English classes, but also the history behind those places. I always pictured myself as a teacher or historian. I ended up as a librarian with my MLIS. Go figure. You can bet that I took all of the literature classes in Library Science school too.
As an adult, I now find books helpful to inspire my vacations and also as a way to relax and unplug. Bloggers, especially, need to learn to digitally detox. In addition, we just moved to Asheville, NC. My hammock is getting great use; my weekends are filled with book reviewing.
Plus, reading in general is an education in itself. Reading increases vocabulary, makes you a great conversationalist, and teaches you about people, places, and things. What’s not to love?
You recently traveled to Latvia; tell us about one book which took you there and the number one bookish location you’d recommend visiting.
Let me first say that the Baltics—Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, are incredibly unique and a hidden gem for bookish travelers. I struggle to pick just one Baltics book, but Ruta Sepetys is a Baltics writing goddess. Her books aren’t solely in Latvia but focus on the effects of WWII on children in the Baltics and Poland.
Sepetys sheds light on lesser known parts of history and people, especially powerful women and youth. Two of her most famous titles are Salt to the Sea and Between Shades of Gray.
Salt to the Sea follows 4 teens’ stories as Stalin and Hitler fight over the Baltic territories. Readers see what it is like to be a part of Hitler’s youth. Other main characters are refugees fleeing for their lives. With today’s political issues, the story is especially relevant and heartbreaking.
Historical fiction lovers also gain insight into the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff where more than 9,000 people perished. Sepetys begs the question that while we all hear about the sinking of the Titanic, why is the Gustloff history so unknown?
As my husband and I prepared to travel to the Baltics and read Sepetys’ works, I was most excited to visit the Castle of Light, The National Library of Latvia. Even better, one of their staff agreed to an interview to talk about librarian requirements (which always worries my husband, hehe), a special papal donation, and the role of libraries during the war. This visit was a birthday present to myself too. In Latvia, this library represents their national pride and history—it’s inspiring and stunning.
I also never knew that the Baltics offered so much travel for literary lovers. You can find libraries, bookstores, restaurants, exhibitions, and streets all related to books. Who knew?!
Out of all the bookish locations you’ve covered on your blog so far, do you have a favorite?
The craziest thing is: I never used to have a favorite destination. Of course, Dublin is perfect for brews and books. The Long Room at Trinity College is how I spent another birthday and the completion of my MLIS. Paris has the historical magnificence better known as the Shakespeare and Co. bookstore. We stayed at a hotel with a library bar in Amsterdam. Salem covers The House of Seven Gables. However, it wasn’t until we landed in Iceland that I knew I was in love.
Iceland boasts of powerful waterfalls filled with legends and glaciers with playful seals. Plus, I saw the Northern Lights for the first time. Iceland is stunning.
While I actually didn’t go lit crazy in Iceland—Mother Nature stole my heart—I fell in love with their bookish traditions. I also read as many books set in Iceland that I could find. One of the most famous stories, Burial Rites, is based loosely on Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person executed in Iceland. Accused of murder, readers judge Agnes’ character and role in the crime.
Next to Icelandic literature, what I love most about Iceland are their Christmas bookish traditions, the Christmas Book Flood. Two Icelanders offered all that they knew about the gift giving of books for the holidays. Who doesn’t love the idea of giving books as presents or a Black Friday of books? Don’t let those Iceland memes foul you either…
Can you tell us about a time you picked a destination first and then found related books? Did you end up reading books you never would have otherwise tried?
I actually mostly pick a destination first and then read the books set there, although I am hoping to change this up since I plan on doing more local travel in 2020—moving is hard, y’all. I am pooped. I also love picking up local books that you cannot find online while abroad.
I definitely read up and looked for book suggestions for North Carolina before moving here. I wanted to get a feel for the state and learn more about its history. Finding new local authors is also important to me.
Currently, I am reading The Last Castle by Denise Kiernan. I grabbed a copy after seeing it recommended at the incredibly popular Asheville-based bookstore, Malaprop’s. Kiernan is a historian and shares the secrets behind the building of the Biltmore. We definitely plan on being annual Biltmore passholders.
Similarly, I feel like without my travel to the Baltics, I would have never picked up some of those titles, especially since the translated and more obscure local books are harder to find in the U.S. Our local libraries don’t seem to have the funding to focus on international and sometimes indie reads. They also tend to be pretty Eurocentric with a focus on blockbuster locations like Paris and London.
You also write about boozy destinations. What’s the best bookish boozy destination in the world?
I have to say, if you come into Asheville, the Battery Park Book Exchange is the perfect combo of books and booze. They make literary cocktails that you can sip between the stacks. Of course, you can buy any of their eclectic books as well.
Tell us about a surprising experience you were able to have thanks to your blog.
The best part of blogging is the friends that you make and the like-minded people that you can connect with.
I love how blogging makes me step outside of my norm. Sending emails to admin in Latvia for interviews or finding local Icelanders to talk about their culture are amazing opportunities because of The Uncorked Librarian.
Selfishly, though, I will say that the coolest part about blogging is finding your name on the back of a published book like you are the New York Times Book Review or Oprah. A few authors have reprinted their books and sent me copies with quotes from my reviews on the jackets. This recognition always makes my day.
Lastly—clearly, I have more than one surprising experience, oops—I own a business because of blogging. The day I created The Uncorked Librarian LLC, I transformed super cape and all into an empowered female entrepreneur. Who know that this little English major and rogue librarian would own a business one day? NOT ME!
Are you partial to ereaders, print books, or audio books?
I will always love print books the most. Holding a fat book is literally the best. Most days, I don’t leave the house without a spare book in my purse.
However, I listened to a ton of audiobooks when I had long commutes to work. I could finish at least two books a week. And yes, listening to books is still reading. I am also really getting into podcasts lately.
Ebooks are fantastic for when you cannot get to the library or don’t want to haul heavy books while traveling.
Can you tell us about any exciting upcoming content? Or the top place on your bucket list?
Since we recently moved to Asheville, North Carolina, I am super excited to launch a sister blog to The Uncorked Librarian. Not that I am not busy enough… The new site, Uncorked Asheville, will focus on Asheville-specific travel. I will, of course, represent literary and boozy travel but also add in hiking, waterfalls, the Biltmore, food, and where to stay. As a local, I want visitors to love the city as much as I do.
As for my bucket list, I am dying to go to South Africa for some wine tasting. Book-wise, I’d love to do a worldwide book tour of famous libraries.
You can find Christine, your boozy sommelier, at The Uncorked Librarian, where you’ll find books and booze to inspire your travels.
Have more questions for The Uncorked Librarian? Ask away in the comments below!
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