Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Meet Our Book Blogging Partner, "Devourer of Books"

Over the last year, we've been partnering with Jen Karsbaek, an area book blogger known as "Devourer of Books." Maybe you've met her at some of our author events and parties, or seen her book blogger bookmarks inside her favorite books at the store, but here's a chance to get to know her better.

Jen is a 20-something wife and mom to an adorable little boy named Daniel (seen in the photo "reading" Pat the Bunny). She's a former history major who grew up in California, but came to Chicago to teach in the inner city with Teach for America. She currently lives in Palatine.

This gal can read! The folks at The Bookstore read a lot, but even we're no match for Jen. She has a passion for reading and a depth of knowledge that spills out in every conversation -- no wonder we're such good friends! We rely on her to give us a heads-up about books she's loved, authors to watch and publishers to meet. In turn, she spreads the good word about independent bookstores. Once she even came to The Bookstore as "Bookseller For A Day," which she found "exhausting but fun." We recently sat down and had a chat.

Margie: How and when did you ever get the crazy idea to be a book blogger?

Jen: I first heard that there were people who wrote about books on the internet from a thread on Library Thing and I basically thought "Hey, I love to read! I have opinions! Everyone in my real life is sick of hearing them all the time, maybe the internet would be interested!" This was January of 2008, and I started my blog in February of that year, after poking around a bit to see what people were doing.

Margie: How many books can you devour in a good week? A bad week?

Jen: Last week was a good week and I finished six books, but that is a bit misleading because I had two books I'd been working on and had almost finished at the beginning of the week. One was also an audiobook -- and one was "Mockingjay," which I stayed up late to read. I don't think I can read much more than that in a week. A bad week I'll finish two to three books and one of those will definitely be an audiobook. I consider a month 'good' if I read eighteen or more books, generally.

Margie: How do you manage to get so much reading done with a one year-old? Any tips? Mothers will want to know!

Jen: My number one tip is to have a book with you at all times. Daniel has a habit of falling asleep in the car from time to time, and that is prime reading time. I always make sure I have a book in my purse I can pull out. I make time to read: I'll do it instead of turning on the TV, and I'll often choose to settle down with my book after he goes to bed instead of picking up his toys. He's just going to get them out tomorrow anyway, and I'd rather get some reading time in than have a clean floor for ten hours overnight. Also, audiobooks! I have about a 40 minute commute each way to work, that used to be wasted reading time, but now I grab an audiobook and that's an extra book per week that I can read. Plus when I do break down and clean everything up, I throw in my audiobook to make it a more pleasurable experience.

Margie: What has been your biggest discovery you've made while book blogging?

Jen: The magic of publishing houses and their imprints! Finding an editor/imprint that you love is like finding an author you love, only much more prolific. Some of my favorites are Amy Einhorn Books, Harper Perennial, Algonquin Books, and Unbridled Books. I am also discovering W.W. Norton at the moment. Before blogging I never paid attention to who published the books I was reading, and I was really missing out.

Margie: What are your top 3 (or so) books that you've read since you started blogging, if possible?

Jen: Not even possible, I don't think. I've read too many great ones. Some of my top reads of the last few months have been Nobodies Album by Carolyn Parkhurst, Red Hook Road by Ayelet Waldman, and The City and The City by China Meiville.

Margie: And of course, what about Daniel's favorite books?

Jen: Babies Nose to Babies Toes is his number one, he's loved it since he was 3 months old and still does at 14 months. He had a deep and abiding love for Pat the Bunny, but not quite so much anymore. Lately he has been enjoying Just Like Daddy, The Very Busy Spider, and The Baby Bathtime Book. Also, his entire room is decorated in The Very Hungry Caterpillar decor.

Margie: I guess I'll let you go, I'm sure I'm holding you up from a really good book right now! Thanks for sharing.

Jen and The Bookstore are planning to collaborate on a special Chicago Literature Month in October. For more information, go to Jen's blog. We're planning reviews of a wide variety of Chicago area authors, including John McNally, Kevin Guilfoile, Sara Paretsky, Charlene Baumbich, Joelle Charbonneau, Laura Caldwell and more. Stay tuned for news about two very special Chicago Author Events at The Bookstore in October!


  1. Such a fun interview, and it's nice to hear how one of the bloggers who inspired me to start blogging got her own start. Also: yay for bloggers and booksellers working together! Can't wait to make a trip to Chicago and the store soon.

  2. Jen is amazing and such an important part of the blogging community so it was fun to read a little more about her.

  3. I love the idea of the partnership between bookstores and book bloggers! It would be great to see more stores following this lead and definitely makes me wish I lived a little closer to Glen Ellyn. Great interview!

  4. I love her book blog, thanks for interviewing her!

  5. I love Jen's blog! And I love this partnership. It sounds like a win/win!

  6. What a great interview! The relationship you have with Jen is the perfect example of why bloggers and booksellers should work together!

  7. Great interview. I think it's fantastic that you have found a good relationship that benefits everyone. Plus, Jen is just kind of awesome.

  8. GREAT interview! Both of you make me want to move back to the Chicagoland area. Your partnership is amazing and a testament that together bloggers and independent booksellers can make a difference!

  9. Aww. I loved getting to know more about Jen. That picture is adorable, too!


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