About Me

Helen Gambarota smiling into the camera with her little dog Roddy sitting on her lap

I’m Helen and I have been obsessed with books ever since I was a little girl and my mum first read The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe with me.  I can still vividly remember the wonder I felt when Lucy first went through to Narnia for the first time and pleading with my mum to keep reading.  That experience made me a reader for life and I would love to share my passion for books with you.

I’m now a mum of 11 year old twins, and I am still obsessed with books. Before becoming a mum, I had a varied career from banking (terrible mistake) to magazines (I was getting warmer) to an animal rescue charity (even warmer) but I never truly found a career that brought me joy.

Fast forward to 2017, I had just finished reading Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman and I desperately wanted to talk to somebody about it.  I happened to search the title on Instagram and the world of Bookstagram opened up before my eyes and I finally felt like I’d finally found my tribe.  The name Best Book Forward popped into my head and just like that my life as a book influencer started!   You’ll still find me on Instagram where I share book news and reviews and I’m often accompanied by my gorgeous dog Roddy the Maltipoo!

In 2020 as the world started to shut down and we went into lockdown I knew that books would be my safe haven.  I have always thought that books bring people together and I wondered whether there was a way that I could use Instagram to give people a little bookish escape from the uncertain and unsettling times we were in.  I had been harbouring an idea of doing a series of interviews, based on the idea of Desert Island Discs, where I talked to readers about the books that have shaped their lives.  The only problem is that I had always been too nervous to speak in public.  I finally bit the bullet and gave it a try and had a wonderful response.  Soon I was getting messages from people telling me how much they looked forward to them.  After chatting to other Bookstagrammers I decided to see whether authors might be interested in joining me and the answer was a resounding yes.  I was joined on that series by Libby Page, Sarah Winman, Rachel Joyce and many others. 

Once the world opened up again, I wasn’t ready to leave these interviews in the past so I launched my own podcast. Think “Desert Island Discs,” but replace music with literary gems.  Best Book Forward the podcast has been so much fun to host.  My guests so far have included Helen Paris, Nina Stibbe, Beth O’Leary and Matt Cain.  In each episode we talk about the author’s latest book before going on to discuss the five books that have shaped their lives.   In bonus episodes, listeners are treated to a reading from the authors and then we look more at their lives as readers and writers before they share a bookish secret with us.

As if that’s not enough, still driven by the idea that books bring people together I launched my free online book club in 2023.  It is a club where everyone is welcome and I know have book friends dotted all around the world.  Each month we vote for the book we’d like to read and then get together at the end to chat, often joined by the author.  Guests so far have included Sally Gardener, Emily Habeck and Lissa Evans.

In short, I’m a proud book nerd who is passionate about championing authors, helping readers fall back in love with books and basically celebrating how brilliant it is to be a reader!  I would love for you to join me in my bookish world, I truly think there is something so special about making book friends and I would for you to be part of this with me.

Follow me on Instagram (@bestbookforward), tune in to my podcast (“Best Book Forward“), or join the book club (BBF Book Club). Let’s celebrate the joy of reading together.

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