A Novel Idea: Instagram for Books

Minh Le

Staff Writer

Minh is the author of Let Me Finish! a debut picture book that will be published by Disney-Hyperion in 2016. By day he works in early childhood policy and in 2010 helped design 826DC‘s Museum of Unnatural History (the only place you can both support youth creative writing and get your daily supply of unicorn tears). He also writes about children’s lit at Bottom Shelf Books and occasionally for the Huffington Post and others. Follow him on Twitter @bottomshelfbks.

Through the magic of Instagram, the average person with a cellphone camera can take a normal picture and add depth, grit, and even a sense of made-to-order nostalgia. Now imagine an app that would let you apply this same capability to literature. Something that would allow you to–with just a few swipes on your smartphone–take a pedestrian piece of prose and instantly transform it into something more memorable.

For example, let’s take “The Hunger Games.” Its popularity is unquestioned, but it was not particularly renowned for the complexity or beauty of its language. What if we could take a passage from this book and apply some preset filters to approximate a more classic style?

Instagrammed Hunger Games

Original: No Filter

“When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold. My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim’s warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress. She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother. Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping.”

Filter 1: Austen

“She wakes to find the opposing bedside cool to the touch. Fingers outstretched and searching for the warmth of her sister, she is initially distressed to find only rough-hewn canvas bedcovers. However, this was to be expected following a night of a fitful slumber. Youngest Prim, her constitution being of such a delicate nature, would of course have vacated their sleeping quarters, compelled into the arms of their dutiful mother. For today there shall be no occasion for youthful gaiety or festive balls. Today, the less illustrious members of society shall gather in solemnity as the children realize their destiny as the rightful property of the aristocracy.”

Filter 2: Hemingway

“I wake up cold and alone. Death is in the air.”

Filter 3: Finnegans Wake

“wakeup, th’otherside o’ the bed ise chilled, oust retched fingers, aseekseekseeking Prim’s warmthe finding only (wrooooom-hahoahoahhoah!) the rough canvassy coverlings of: Mattress. Thy knight mares avoice from within bellowsed and laid down to rust with ma (o’ course She did!) for this day is fore the Reaping, Eye! Eye! Not Ay! Aye!”

Filter 4: Seuss  

It’s cold in the bed / And there’s no time for sleeping / Her dreams filled with dread / Today is The Reaping!


I was going to try Zora Neale Hurston and David Foster Wallace filters, but decided to stop before making a complete fool of myself. What other filters would you want included in such an app? And what would we even call this thing? Lit-stagram? Instagrammar? Bookstagram?


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