Khyati Gautam, otherwise known as @bookish.fame on Instagram (Bookstagram), speaks in a way that will automatically put you at ease. The conversation flows like water, especially when she talks about her love for books, her interest in mental health and how fiction allows humans to experience complex stories.
“Reading fiction is never a waste of time. Reading fiction makes you human.” Having completed her engineering, Khyati now juggles multiple roles, including that of a book blogger. Bookish Fame, Khyati’s account on Instagram, has over twenty-one thousand followers.
Icy Tales sat with the young creator one afternoon to document her journey from an engineer to a book blogger. Here are some snippets of the conversation with Khyati Gautam:
Q. You have had quite the journey here on Instagram. Could you tell us something about your journey? What began your life-long affair with books?
Khyati Gautam: I’m Khyati, known as @bookish.fame, as a blogger on Instagram and otherwise. So I have been into book blogging for almost five years now, wherein I have collaborated with publishers and up-and-coming authors to review and market their books on social media and (on) my blog (Bookish Fame). Besides this, I work as a freelance content writer. I am also a content manager for a mental health care startup.
I am from Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh. Regarding my relationship with books, I think I grew up loving books. So when I was a child – just around 3 or 4 years old, I would go to the houses of my relatives and acquaintances, and I would ravage their bookshelves. I didn’t have books at home – apart from academic books, of course. I just wanted something to read. I would search for books – hunt them down wherever and whenever I could find them and read them.
Back at home, I had access to newspapers or those periodical magazines we get – Champak magazines. So I used to read them, and I used to derive pleasure from them. But slowly, we got introduced to the school library. Got around reading books there. We got access to that. And slowly, this entire love affair with reading grew.
I didn’t have books until my teens. So in the second year of my engineering in 2017, a friend introduced me to the entire ecosystem of book reviewing and blogging. Before that, I didn’t know about it at all. It was then that I got introduced to the whole thing. I started reviewing books. Slowly got into collaborating with the publishers as well.
And then, I started building my library. And now I have so many books that I don’t have as much space to accommodate them. It’s been an incredible journey with reading books and having them all around me all the time.
Q. What is the story behind your username – bookish fame?
Khyati Gautam: When it comes to bookish fame, I think it just came out of the blue. Initially, I thought about naming (it) “all about fame.” Because my name is Khyati, and it translates to fame in English. All about fame doesn’t sound very interesting and very catchy, so bookish fame. As a blogger, I’m known for being a very passionate book nerd – I read so much. I feel like my entire being is made of books. So I thought to name it bookish fame. I think that has done very well in the long run.
Q. How would you describe Bookstagram to someone that doesn’t know anything about it?
Khyati Gautam: When I started on Bookstagram, specifically in 2018, I didn’t know what Bookstagram was. But when I got on the platform, I realized it combines books plus Instagram.
Instagram used to be a platform for sharing photos. So Bookstagram essentially means (a place) where you share aesthetic pictures or not-so-aesthetic pictures of books. You share reviews of your books and create content around books. Bookstagram is a close-knit community of a lot of readers and so on.
Q. You have amassed a following of over 20 thousand followers on Instagram. What motivated you to start a Bookstagram?
Khyati Gautam: I feel you get to connect with a lot of readers. In real life, you may not have as many reader friends. But on Bookstagram – it’s all about readers. And you get a variety of recommendations. I think my reading has become very diverse. There are so many books that I would never have come across without a Bookstagrammer. People read books from different continents and cultures, and it’s beautiful to come across these recommendations. Try them out whenever you can and enjoy them. I think you get a lot of diversity in your reading.
Secondly, you get to share your thoughts with like-minded people, so I think that’s a lovely aspect of Bookstagram. Also, I don’t think Bookstagram should be limited to books. If you love writing, talk about it. If you have a hobby, talk about it. Let the artistic side of you grow. Everyone is going to accept you.
Q. What is something that you don’t like about Bookstagram?
Khyati Gautam: I think Bookstagram has been a pleasant and warm place. The competitive feeling is not there. People are very welcoming to you. They see you as readers, and they see you as part of their tribe. So that’s a beautiful thing about Bookstagram.
(But) Bookstagram is also like social media. Social media itself has its flaws. So there could be a clash of opinions, conflicting ideas, and the urge to prove yourself right and the other person wrong.
These kinds of small things keep happening, which shouldn’t be a big issue. So when it comes to Bookstagram or any content creation, I think it gets overwhelming. This is a part of the process. But otherwise, Bookstagram is an excellent place to be. You share your thoughts on the books you read, and (you) get a sneak peek into others’ minds.
Q. Who were your favourite authors as a child? Who are your favourites now?
Khayti Gautam: I didn’t have a favourite author growing up. I didn’t have a favourite book growing up. But some of my favourite books are Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom – a book that I never stop recommending to anyone.
My second favourite would be To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and – it’s so hard to come up with book recommendations on the spot. These two are always on my list. I like reading Hindi literature as well. I am very much in awe of Premchand. This would be it – these are the ones I can recollect right now.
Q. You often recommend Sudha Murty on your page. What connects you to her works?
Khyati Gautam: I had read a book – Three Thousand Stitches by Sudha Murty ma’am. It’s a collection of stories from her own life and experiences that she has shared. What inspires me about Sudha Murty ma’am is her humility and her simplicity. And that itself reflects in her very simple and relatable stories.
I feel so warm about it that there is a lady out there who doesn’t care about how people see her. She’s very focused and dedicated to her work. And this entire devotion toward writing and work – reflects beautifully in her stories. And when she shares stories from her own life – how she braved the challenges and continues to work for the betterment of society. So I think if you have not started reading this author – please do read Three Thousand Stitches.
Q. In your account’s Q & A highlights, you mentioned wanting to either write a book or maintain a blog on mental health. How do you think reading has affected yours?
Khyati Gautam: I am very deeply passionate about mental health. I am working at a mental healthcare startup now. I think the association is pretty strong here. Growing up, I was a very introverted person. So for me, communication has been one big obstacle.
Mental health comes into the picture when you’re unable to express yourself as clearly as you want, or you cannot just talk about it. Most of the days, I felt alone – lonely, growing up. So that was when I started seeing books as my friend. I had people around, but I never felt that kind of connection with them. Because you want to fit into the crowd, but you’re unable to because you face some issue. That happened to me, and the lack of communication got to my head. Hence I have been going through a bad phase on and off again.
So when it came to books, I think I just felt at home. Because growing up, I felt that I had to have communication – this connection with people. I have to be around people because that’s the norm. But as I said, when I got access to my school library, I realized it is not always like that. It’s not essential to be around people all the time.
You can enjoy your own company and be comfortable with that. So I remember sitting in my school library then and spending hours reading books – all by myself, with nobody to interrupt. And I never felt like an odd one out there. So I think reading books has given me comfort and a place of peace, and I feel that I’m much happier now after reading books.
Q. Can you recommend some more Bookstagram pages that you look up to and that have inspired you to create content?
Khyati Gautam: One of my favourite bookstagrammers is Vidhya (Vidya A. Thakkar) – her handle is @reader_viddh. The second is Krutika (Krutika Puranik) from @askthebookbug. Then there is Ayushi from @_penandpapers (Aayushi), @soultouchreads (Mandar), and @booksmakemewhole (Neelanjali) – these are a few accounts that I can recall for now.
Q. Being a digital creator comes with its quirks. Who’s helped and motivated you through your journey?
Khyati Gautam: I think I’m going to credit myself here. Because when I started – I’ll be honest – as a digital creator or blogger, I didn’t have a lot of support from the people around me. My parents took a lot of time to accept that there was something that I was doing.
And which at least has a 0.1% value attached to it. It took a lot of time for me to find my tribe on Instagram itself. But when people around me started showering support and love on me – they still tell me that whatever you’re doing is good and is helping others – I think those beautiful messages keep me going.
As for the credit, I will give it to myself. I have not given up on my passion for doing things. There are dark days, there are bad days, there are low days, and there are beautiful days. But you know, despite everything that happened, show up every day because that’s how you progress ahead in life.
And besides that, I have a few of my close friends who have always given me extended support when they could. And I am very grateful for all of that. I am grateful to those people who continue to follow me, and you know, to support me. These small things keep me going.
Q. Booktubing in India has not seen as much traction as Booktubing in the U.K. Do you think it’s because reading anything, especially fiction, other than academic books, is often seen as a negative trait?
Khyati Gautam: Probably yes. I think Bookstagram or book blogging is a very niche community in India. And it is up and coming even now. When you talk about fashion content, lifestyle content, and travel content – you will see a lot of interest in those things. But when it comes to book blogging, we don’t get an audience as quickly as they would because not many people want to spend time reading books or consuming content around books. I think that’s a very big challenge.
I think reading is supported in many households in our country. I think it will take some time for us to be comfortable with it and support the people who are doing their best to promote the reading culture. But when it comes to pursuing it as content creation, then it becomes a problem as it is a very niche community.
Q. Are there any exciting future projects you’d like to share with us?
Khyati Gautam: I look forward to venturing into Booktubing. I have been on Instagram for a long time – clicking good pictures and writing captions and all of that. I should get into Booktubing and start putting more out there. So that is one thing that I would like to take up sometime very, very soon. Second is the field of podcasting which is picking up right now in India and, I think, across the globe. I want to understand how it works and maybe start with that.
Q. So the podcast will revolve around bookish content?
Khyati Gautam: I don’t want to niche it down to books. I want to include mental healthcare, self-development, and positivity.
Q. There is a narrative that nonfiction is often better than fiction. What is your take on this? How can fiction help you grow as a person?
Khyati Gautam: I understand that people feel that nonfiction gives them a lot of food for thought. That it gives them the power to develop their brains and gain knowledge. And I don’t think that they are entirely imaginative. But I think we are humans, and we connect with stories. Fiction is a story. The person who is writing fiction is writing from the world around them. So there could be stories dealing with cultural shifts, relationship issues, and generational issues. Many things can come into the picture when it comes to fiction.
Reading fiction is never a waste of time. Reading fiction makes you more human. It gives you an understanding of how humans function. Humans are very complex beings. A lot goes on with their emotional and mental health side and how they interact with each other.
All these small things we may not pay a lot of attention to are something that fiction brings out beautifully. So fiction is an escape from reality because you are transported to a different land altogether, and you will enjoy it. But it also brings you closer to what is happening around you. Fiction exposes you to many diverse ideas, and that’s the beauty of fiction.
You can connect with Khyati Gautam on her social media profiles here:
Blog: Bookish Fame
Check the interview with Khayati Gautam on our YouTube Channel.