Hello, Reco! I’m loving this new app for book lovers like me on the go

Need to find a book to read that you'll actually love? Hello, Reco! #HelloReco

Need to find a book to read that you’ll actually love? Hello, Reco!
#HelloReco

On Monday, I’m headed out on a 16-day trip with stops in 4 different cities…and I need good books to read.

If you’ve traveled at all this summer – or, at all, EVER – you can relate.

And, if you’re a regular reader or social media follower, there are 3 things you know I need to make me happy at the end of the day:

  • A glass of rich, red wine with dinner
  • A long, hot bath at the end of the day to wash the stress away, and
  • A good book I can read in the tub and fall asleep to in bed, still holding the book in my hand as I drift off to dreamland.

My new favorite app, Reco, helps me with that last requirement for happiness…especially when my calendar is jam-packed with travel! Created by book lovers for book lovers, Reco holds the belief that the “best book recommendations come from people you trust.”

(*Editor’s note: pronounced like “RECOmmendation”)

Reco has taken the recommendations of your favorite literary-fan friends and monthly book club fellows, and found a place for them all on the interweb, and most conveniently…on your phone.

I downloaded the app, loved it, and then contacted the co-founder of Reco – and EVP and strategy officer at Indigo – Krishna Nikhil to learn more about how they came up with this genius idea for the book lovers of the world, like me.

DAWN:            Krishna, as a book lover, I LOVE Reco! It is SO my jam. What inspired you to come up with it? I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for this!

NIKHIL:            Well, thank you! You know, the inspiration for us was really things that we’ve been hearing both as book sellers and from our customers: that there is really nothing better than receiving a recommendation for a book a friend has loved. That makes you want to read it, and then maybe after you read it, you also want to share that recommendation with someone else. And, personalized recommendation unquestionably makes the best book reading experience, and everyone acknowledges it, yet we all spend a little bit too much time, you know, browsing online and reading reviews from strangers or looking at bestseller lists. So, we wanted to find a way to really bring personalized book recommendations to people in an improved way so that people could just read better books all the time.

DAWN:            Well, I love that. And what was your background? How did you decide “I’m going to do an app for this?”

NIKHIL:            This – like so many startups – really began as something on the side. My full time role at Indigo is as our head book merchant. So I’ve got a team of book buyers. We’re the ones who pick the books that we’re going to feature, and do all of the things to make our bookstore amazing. And during the many conversations that we’ve had as a team and with our customers, we saw this opportunity to create something special.

DAWN:            Which is so important, because I think we know with apps, people –. We joke that if your app isn’t engaging, then you’re going to get apathy. So, putting the “app” in apathy.

NIKHIL:            I like that word! Our app is really about taking the stress away from your life and just being really easy to use and visually pleasing.

DAWN:            Okay, let’s get personal. What is your first memory of a reading experience with a book – a reading experience that still really resonates with you to this day?

NIKHIL:            The one that still stands out to this day is the Hardy Boys series. You know, I had an older brother as well, – like Frank and Joe Hardy – and I sort of always likened myself to the younger Hardy Boy. And, there was just a bit of competing with my brother to see who would get through these books and the entire series as quickly as possible. So, that still stands out to this day for me.

DAWN:            I so get that. Nancy Drew for girls like me! Now. What 5 books have inspired you that you think everyone should read – or at least have on their bookshelf? But, um, preferably reading!

NIKHIL:            These lists are so personal. On my list I have To Kill a Mockingbird (just an incredible all-time great classic), and The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho (a beautiful lyrical story that I feel like I can read every year). There’s a beautiful quote from that book – “It’s the possibility of a dream coming true that makes life interesting.” And you know, that’s a quote from that book that just stays with me. Another one that is very relevant to me is the Steve Jobs biography by Walter Isaacson – just a powerful story of a genius level creator that is so relevant for our time and anyone who inspires to be an entrepreneur. A more recent favorite Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. I think so much of reading is about putting yourself in other people’s shoes and I think that in that book he puts you into the black male experience in the U.S. better than I think anyone has, and it’s so relevant to so much of what is happening right now. And then the final one – this one is a bit of a Canadian choice – but it’s The Orenda by Joseph Boyden – it’s a really visceral, powerful story about the founding of Canada. Takes place sort of in the 1700s/1800s and it’s told from multiple perspectives – not just the European voice but also the native Canadian one as well. And, “Orenda” means

DAWN:            Oooh. I love me some magic. What character from a book you most identify with?

NIKHIL:            That is a really hard one. Whenever I sort of read a spy novel, I try to identify with those characters, but I think – realistically – Aziz Ansari, in his book Modern Romance. I feel like there’s an Aziz Ansari inside of me wanting to break out.

DAWN:            What was the best gift you have received in book form?

NIKHIL:            For me, it was very recently getting to meet Phil Knight – the founder of Nike – who just wrote his memoir, autobiography, Shoe Dog. It is just such an incredible story about the founding journey of Nike –and, not the glitz and glamor part of Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Andre Agassi – but more about the, you know, a founder with a dream of inspiring more people to run and be athletes, and started this sneaker company from nothing. Getting to meet the man in real life and seeing what a humble, incredible person he is and having an inscribed copy of that book is a treasure

reading it then.

DAWN:            What is the best rec you’ve received through Reco as of now?

NIKHIL:            I think you can sometimes have these moments where you don’t realize there are these great books out there that your friends are reading and you want to be part of that conversation – and that’s done so well in other mediums. When you think about the Netflix effect — they release House of Cards [and] every single person is watching and talking about House of Cards. I can’t think of many books where that effect is the same. It’s true when a new Harry Potter book launches, its true when a Game of Thrones book launches. But it’s true of such a small number of books. And what I find Reco is creating in my own social network is a bit of that effect of all of my friends want to be reading the same book at the same time. Like we all went through this recently with a book called The Girls by Emma Cline. Not a book that I would actually normally gravitate to, but I saw so many Recos.

DAWN:            With your busy life, how do you make time to read?

NIKHIL:            I think more people need to read for entertainment and for a broad set of reasons versus a lot of people – and I think this is even more true of men – feel like, “Well, when I’m reading I’m going to read a business book or a biography.” People don’t sort of get into various genres and types of books in order to truly enjoy the reading experience, versus it sometimes feeling like work. During the week it is that last thing I do. It’s okay, I’ve gotten everything I need to get done and now I can enjoy this book for – it could be an hour, it could be 15 minutes – before going to sleep. But then there’s also that vacation reading experience where you’re sitting by a pool or on the beach and you just get to kind of soak in the book for a much longer period of time. It might be the one where you’re working but you’re on a plane and you have that time between take-off that you can read. So, for me there are so many different special moments with books that I think it’s amazing. I actually think books are probably the last place we can go to truly unplug and disconnect and as much as what we created is a mobile app and we want people using it on their iPhone, I also just value so much that moment with a book where you’re a bit distraction-free.

DAWN:            Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s very true. I always say to readers and social media followers that, you know, some people say “I don’t have time to read” and I’m like well, what I do, even if its 10 minutes, I think it’s important to have a ritual with a book. And I personally can’t read on Kindle. I have to have books because if not I will drop it in the tub as I’m taking a bath.

NIKHIL:            Well, what all the research is telling us is that reading real physical books is better for you in that you retain the plot better, you sleep better when you read a physical book versus an e-book. I think there was just a study I saw today that reading extends your life by two years, and it was a Yale study. There’s also so much on the importance of literary that how it has both health and sleep benefits. All those things.

DAWN:            Something to remember, something to remember! Fun question: If you could go back in a time machine, what advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

NIKHIL:            I’m pretty sure my 15-year-old self would not take any advice from me. I think it would just be follow your passion. I think I’ve had lots of different things that I’ve done in my career and education. You know, I started my education as an engineer. That wasn’t really passion-driven. That was, you know, new immigrant to Canada, my parents basically said you’re doing something science and tech. And so engineering it was. But, you know, I also think the journey is what is important and all of those things that I’ve done to date are kind of what got me here. Yeah. Follow your passion. And then it’s about really looking ahead to the amazing possibilities.

DAWN:            Oh, absolutely. How would you like to see people using Reco?

NIKHIL:            What we have found is that the most important thing at the start is to follow a few people. It’s a little like Facebook or Instagram where if you’re not following a good number of people then you’re not getting interesting enough Recos into your feed. And so what you’ll see right when you join is a list of people who we think are making some of the best all-around recommendations, and then also some people that are handpicked for you based on what you selected as your interests are. So if you selected when you join up, “I’m interested in celebrities, self-help and art” then the app will show you users who share those interests so you can follow them. So, right out off the bat if you follow eight to ten people your experience on Reco is for sure going to be better; you’re going to get some really interesting books in your feed, and then you can decide whether you want to add more people or unfollow some. So, that’s the number one thing. The second one is to put some recos out in the world and there’s two ways to do that. One is to say you love this book, share it with a short little blurb, and the other way is to create a list. So, we’ve had a lot of people creating the five best books to read this summer. It’s another way to get onto the platform and share and engage and, you know, it is like any social media platform. You get out of it what you put into it.

DAWN:             It has been SO good dining and dishing with you, Krishna. And, well, I’d better go…because it looks like I’ve got some reading to do!

*This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Reco. While products or compensation were provided, the words and opinions are all my own. I never post about something I don’t believe in 100%. That’s just not who I am. Thank you, Reco, for letting me – an avid book lover – try out and promote your joy of reading-inspiring app.

Friday Friendspiration: Jolie Williams Augustine

Friday Friendspiration is all about living a life you love, within the life you have been given.

Today’s Friday Friendspirer, Jolie Williams Augustine, does just that.

Friday Friendspiration with Jolie Augustine

Friday Friendspiration with Jolie Augustine

This is Jolie girl to me: the totally COOLEST girl ever. See, I met Jolie when I was in 5th grade, and she was dating my big brother, at the end of their senior year. When you’re 11 – well, let’s be honest – anyone older is cooler than you. So, when I moved out to LA in 2000, and discovered that Jolie lived out here, I was eager to see if her “coolness” had, well, kept.

It had.

I have been friends with Jolie for over 15 years now – going from a puppy-like girl, just wanting to impress her (as one of my big brother’s old girlfriends), to a fellow woman who admires this beautiful (editor’s note: Jolie would never refer to herself as “beautiful,” but I think it’s fine time she accepts the truth), fun, free-spirited, thoughtful, generous, music-loving, and, yes – COOL – woman, who lives in this same crazy world of Los Angeles that I do.

Jolie and me…at a show, no doubt. I wanna say this was Counting Crows? Wallflowers?

Jolie and me…at a show, no doubt. I wanna say this was Counting Crows? Wallflowers?

A teacher, she has taught me so much – not in a classroom – but through heartfelt conversations, musings over mimosas, and dozens of hours spent boogeying down to our favorite bands. That’s probably my favorite thing about Jolie: she’s always up to dance with you at a show, like all good Texan girls should be.

I’m so privileged to be on this journey together with her.

That’s Jolie girl in my words.

But, this is Jolie girl in her own words.

May her love of life, giving heart, spontaneous spirit – and perpetual willingness to dance – sing some music into your life, today.

***

The Friendspirer: Jolie Williams Augustine

Creating space. I live in Los Angeles, and have been teaching in public schools for 20 years, and recently took a two-year break for various reasons. I am very good at “keeping with the program” and life threw me some curve balls these past 2 years. The loss of my parents left a weirdly-shaped hole in my heart. I recently saw these words: “Instead of asking why they left, now ask, what beauty will I create in the space they no longer occupy?” Whoa. Parents take up a very significant space. So with them being gone and taking time off, life has felt a bit unnerving – and very peaceful – but also has made me ask myself “what do I want to do with this time – and, essentially – my life?” This answer is a work in progress, as we all are.

The world according to Jolie

The world according to Jolie

On the “glamour” of teaching. I have enjoyed the lifestyle teaching has given me, which includes: watching teenagers feel awkward, making them laugh…and listening to them, making music playlists (see link to her playlist gift to you at bottom), and playing music in class, read and discuss literature and most importantly, yes, time for travel and breaks. Working with teenagers is far from glamorous, and there is no room for ego or perfection. Parents and teachers know this and I have decided that working with young people, although humbling, is also a profound gift, and the rewards are subtle but many. One of these is pictured below. A former student wrote this about me 5 years after I had her as a student. I am not sure she was in my class the entire year but it’s nice to know she connected to me and the class. She is now majoring in Literature and Medicine!

 

* A former student wrote this about me 5 years after I had her as a student. I am not sure she was in my class the entire year but it's nice to know she connected to me and the class. She is now majoring in Literature and Medicine!

* A former student wrote this about me 5 years after I had her as a student. I am not sure she was in my class the entire year but it’s nice to know she connected to me and the class. She is now majoring in Literature and Medicine!

On wanderlust: cool things will follow. I have bit of a wanderlust and thankfully, my husband of 17 years tolerates my wishes to go somewhere or come along and make it an adventure. Yes, I love hotels and massages but I would much rather go somewhere where I don’t know where to go, maybe the people don’t speak english and cool things will follow. It know that most people my age do have tremendous responsibilities but some have lost the willingness (and maybe have fear?) to try something new, go somewhere different or meet new people. Thankfully, I have a small group of friends who do enjoy going to music festivals. YES, the average age is 15 at these festivals, but there is something exciting for me in seeing new music OUTDOORS, walking around and watching all the people. Most people my age cringe at the thought. I guess my friends and I have found a way to keep it simple, be comfortable, stay hydrated! and still get our groove on.

Jolie, getting her groove on

Jolie, getting her groove on

Keeping creatively inspired & California love. I have found that meeting new people, going to new places, and getting out of my comfort zone has kept me creatively inspired. I find new restaurants, music, books and places that I may never have found before. I don’t get wrapped up in details of things (maybe, that’s not a good thing?) but I know that especially today, people have appreciated my commitment to having fun and getting things done. I tend to make music playlists for people I have just met and will take up an offer for a visit. I love showing people around the city and California. Visits to a Korean spa,hiking, eating our way to Joshua Tree, Boyle Heights, the beach and Idylwild are all on the itinerary.  All the stressing and freaking out about the small things get you nowhere. Read any book by Cheryl Strayed, Anne Lamott, Jenny Lawson, Mary Karr, or Joan Didion and you will know this is true. Throw in David Sedaris, Sherman Alexie and Augusten Burroughs and you have my humorous life teachers.

 

Jolie and her "little sis" from Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters

Jolie and her “little sis” from Catholic Big Brothers Big Sisters

Little sisters and homeboys. I spent the past year volunteering at Homeboy Industries, a gang rehabilitation organization, as a GED teacher and it reaffirmed my passion for teaching and connecting with people. I’ve lived in LA for 20 years and I have grown to really love and appreciate the good and bad of LA. It is very easy to separate oneself in LA based on neighborhoods and jobs but I have found the beauty being with people who make up a very significant part of LA and California and are generally overlooked. I have also been a part of the Catholic Big Brothers and Big Sisters Program for 7 years. I  met my  ‘little sis” when she was 11. It has been challenging at times to know how to help but sometimes I just need to know a visit to a bookstore, museum, a walk or getting ice-cream with someone can be just the thing needed. 

Jolie at 15, who probably wouldn't have listened to 44-year-old Jolie…but should.

Jolie at 15, who probably wouldn’t have listened to 44-year-old Jolie…but should.

Dear 15 Me. I know that when I was 15-years-old (see evidence above), I probably wouldn’t have listened to advice from my 44-year-old self. I was having too much fun thinking of boys and listening to Duran Duran. But I would share:

1. Be kind to the kids people make fun of.

2. Live in a a foreign country once in your life.

3. You’ll find a boyfriend. Don’t worry.

4. Salads are actually good. Put down the Doritos.

5. Keep having fun even when you get older.

***Editor’s Note:
Jolie’s gift to you. 
Our first friendspirer to offer a gift to our readers, Jolie wanted to share her “Feel It” Spotify playlist with you all, HERE. As someone who has been introduced to numerous bands and countless songs by this music aficionado, I can say that it truly is a gift…so OPEN IT UP !

For you!! Jolie's "Feel It" playlist on Spotify

For you!! Jolie’s “Feel It” playlist on Spotify

Thanks for the friendspiration, Jolie. If we inspire one person today, we have done our job.

Jolie and Rosie

Jolie and Rosie

xoxo,
Dawn