Meet Hari Krishnan Prasath, an Indian bookstagrammer who was featured on the BuzzFeed website. His Instagram handle @theobviousmystery is focused on book reviews and has thousands of followers. He is an MBA graduate, who has made a career in marketing. He loves talking about books and suggesting books to like-minded readers. His mission is to encourage more people to pick up books and for the right reasons. Let’s dive into Hari’s journey as a successful book reviewer.
Salini: Let’s start with your early days. What are your first memories of reading? What was your favorite book as a child?
Hari: I’ve always indulged in stories from a very young age. I say stories and not reading because storytelling often takes shape in different forms, be it textual or verbal. I remember picking up a lot of books from my school as well as my public library. I remember bunking art class, sneaking off to the public library, and sitting in the dark corner so make sure no one catches me. It’s nostalgic. A few of the books I remember enjoying were the Secret Seven, The Famous Five, Greek Adaptions for Young people, Goosebumps, and so on.
Salini: What’s the book that’s sitting on your reading desk right now? Or is it a stack of books? 😊
Hari: I wish I had the time and patience to read multiple books at the same time. Unfortunately, I don’t. At the moment of giving this interview, I am swimming in the deep ocean of high fantasy called the Nevernight Chronicle.
Salini: What are your favorite genres? Are you a fiction or non-fiction reviewer, or do you do both?
Hari: Nonfiction and I do not mix. I can force myself to read it once in a while but I would rather not pick it up. Fiction has always been a truer friend. Fantasy, especially high fantasy is my go-to genre. Apart from that, I also enjoy crime, thrillers, and historical fiction. I also test the waters of the other genres but not that much.
Salini: How was your transition from a reader to a book reviewer? What was your inspiration to take up this unique role of a book reviewer?
Hari: Even before Instagram, I used to make annotations and write my thoughts out on goodreads. But goodreads did not give me what I really wanted, a community where I could put something and get something back. When I did discover bookstagram, I decided it would be good for me to take a plunge, and here we are. Also, to be honest, I don’t think I’d call myself a book reviewer. In my opinion, a review requires a certain degree of critical analysis. I do critique but I do not offer depth and at the moment, my posts are opinions and nothing else. Think a digital journal, that’s what my account is.
Salini: Tell me a bit about your reading habits. Which one do you like, eBooks or paperbacks? Do you have any specific reading place/time?
Hari: My inclinations would tip a bit in favor of paperbacks but this doesn’t mean I am an enemy to eBooks. I love them both. My kindle is one of the best things that happened to me this year. I think my preference for physical books comes out of a need to collect or hoard. I’m a mood reader really, I can start reading anywhere at any time except when in a moving vehicle. Now that makes me nauseous).
Salini: Is there any role-model for you when it comes to book reviews/critique?
Hari: I look up to a few people.
Ekta from @booksmendbrokenhearts,
Simon from @footnotesandtangents,
Aayushi from @myheadfullofstories,
Krutika from @askthebookbug and
Sakshi from @every.turn.a.story! The way they do it is phenomenal.
Salini: How do you usually rate a book? Do you have any strict set of rules, or does it vary from book to book?
Hari: I think I have an instinct when it comes to rating books. I can’t express it. I just know that the book is a 5 or 4 star one on completion.
Salini: If you are given a chance to meet a writer, dead or alive, who will that be? And Why?
Hari: I’d really love to meet George RR Martin, thank him for A Song of Ice and Fire. I’d also like to meet JRR Tolkien and talk to him in length about building complex worlds with its own dynamics and physics.
Salini: Being a book reviewer, you might have come across many indie writers. Is there any new writer who astonished you with their talent?
Hari: I recently read a self-published book called the Sword of Kaigen by ML Wang and it blew my mind. It still is one of the best books I read in 2020. Apart from this, I also read two books out of three from the Silrith series, namely The Vengeance of Hope and King of the Republic by Peter J Berman which took military fantasy to a different level.
Salini: When authors approach you for a review, what information are you expecting from them?
Hari: This is awkward. I don’t accept review requests anymore. I did once upon a time and realized that all my effort is going into books that I wouldn’t really read instead of books that I would. I also don’t offer promotions to books that I have not read.
Salini: Tell us how a reader could benefit from reading your book review? Do you give any specific pointers?
Hari: My write-ups about the books tell my readers what they should look out for and what they shouldn’t. I usually refrain from going in-depth about the ‘what didn’t work for me’ part of the book. what might not work for me might work for someone else. That is for them to judge. I highlight the things that did work for me for people to associate with and then maybe pick up from the book.
Salini: What are the takeaways the writer can gain from your reviews?
Hari: A different perspective. No matter how hard on tries, the blinders are always there. Not everyone can see everything at the same time. So maybe a perspective that they haven’t come across.
Salini: On your journey as a book reviewer, what are the challenges you faced? Was it a smooth ride?
Hari: I did meet a few people who were toxic which did mentally drain me but other than that it was a smooth ride
Salini: What was one of the highest points of your journey as a book reviewer? Any unforgettable experiences?
Hari: The best moment in my journey would be being named as one among India’s top bookstagrammers by Buzzfeed!
Salini: Which is that one book you think every human being should read? And why?
Hari: Why limit it to one book? I think every human being should try to read as many books as they can. It might sound cliched by there’s truth behind my words when I say that only through exploration can human beings be able to understand one another.
Salini: Are you strictly a reviewer, or do you write too? If yes, where can we read you? (website links/published stories)
Hari: Whatever I write, I post on my bookstagram. I don’t have any other channel yet.
Salini: We all like to have a good laugh. Could you please tell me about a book that really made you laugh?
Hari: I read this book recently, Zeus grants stupid wishes – A bullshit guide to mythology by Cory O’Brien. As the name suggested, it was pure bullshit, vulgar but with a lot of underlying facts. It gave me a good laugh but, fair warning if you don’t have an open mind, you might get severely offended.
Salini: How do you juggle your day-job and book reviewing? (if you are a part-time reviewer)
Hari: Like I said. I don’t see myself as a reviewer. My bookstagram is more of a personal journal. So it is something I do because it gives me happiness, a hobby of sorts.
Salini: As a community, do book reviewers have any groups or collaborations? Who is a fellow book reviewer (of your circle) you greatly respect?
Yes, we have book clubs, readalongs, buddy reads, and so many other things. I really respect Krutika from @askthebookbug. She introduced me to bookstagram and has always been a personality to look up to.
Salini: Please tell me about a common point of improvement you come across in the work of new writers. From a reviewer to a writer, please give me a generic tip to become a better writer.
Hari: The first draft of anything you write is basically your mind throwing up. Everything is out there, you just have to pick up the pieces and put them together. This is not easy but doable. Newer writers have managed to put together these pieces in various combinations to get that unique texture out there. My suggestion is to broaden your horizons and look forward cause anything small, can give you the biggest result.