We speak to Georgina about working in publishing alongside her MPhil/PhD and her love of cookery books.
Hi, I’m Georgina, and I’m an Assistant Editor working on Cambridge University Press’ Humanities and Social Sciences Journals. I manage a list of my own journals, as well as doing some assistant work on the politics and international relations list and on some Open Access titles. In September 2020 I began a part-time MPhil/PhD in the Department of Information Studies at UCL, researching the censorship of translated literature for young people in contemporary Russia.
How did you get into the publishing industry?
After figuring out during the later stages of my undergraduate degree that I neither wanted nor had to become a solicitor or a management consultant, I took a year out and worked in admin before starting the Publishing MA at UCL in 2017-18. After what felt like an eternity of sending out cover letters and CVs, I successfully applied for an Editorial Assistant role at Cambridge University Press about four months after handing in my dissertation. I was an Editorial Assistant for a year in the HSS Journals team before a chain of secondments meant that my current role opened up.
Has your attitude to reading changed since working in the publishing industry? How has it
changed your reading taste or the genre of books you usually read?
I’ve always read very widely, but I felt a lot of pressure when I was applying for jobs in the industry to keep tabs on so many campaigns in case I’d need to reference them in a cover letter or an interview. It did mean that for about three years my book recommendations for family and friends were particularly accurate, but it just wasn’t sustainable, and my personal reading has become much more centred on what I really want to read; it’s now rare that I pick a book I don’t want to finish. A side effect of working, rather than working in publishing, is that I now read a lot more non-fiction because I find it easier to interrupt my reading across the workday. I still love fiction, especially fiction in translation, but I usually prefer to read it all in one go, and so tend to save it for weekends and holidays!
Is there a book or a project that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of?
My current job is quite removed from the content being published, and is more about project and relationship management, but I was very proud to be involved in an exciting collaborative translation project when I was an undergraduate, where my tutorial group and I translated Voltaire’s De l’horrible danger de la lecture for Tolerance: The Beacon of the Enlightenment, an anthology on free speech which was published in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attacks. The translation process was incredibly enjoyable, and it was brilliant to be able to be involved in something that’s so important to me.
Where do you buy or access your books?
Before the pandemic, I would have described myself as a compulsive book-buyer that couldn’t walk past a bookshop without heading in and buying something. I desperately miss being able to wander around London enjoying all the bookshops; one of my early dates with my boyfriend involved a tour of the bookshops on and near Brick Lane, complete with explanations of their various virtues. As a way of getting a handle on how much of my outgoings went on books, I also joined the library in late 2019 and began requesting books at a possibly terrifying rate. Sadly, I have since moved and the local library is sadly no longer a convenient four minutes from my front door, but I’m hoping to head to my new library once we’re out of lockdown. I’ve ordered several poetry pamphlets and collections direct from their publishers, as well as a few things from my parents’ local bookshop. I also occasionally use the Kindle app to scope out books that I think I might want to procure a hard copy
of (mostly cookbooks).
What books have you been reading in lockdown? Do these books typify your usual reading
taste, or have you found yourself reading other genres and authors?
I was surprised to discover at the end of the year quite how much non-fiction I’d been reading in 2020 from my The StoryGraph stats. I was aware that the proportion had increased since starting work, but I hadn’t realised that it was up to nearly 70%! Another pleasant surprise was that my most-read genre was poetry (I have taken to sending friends pictures of poems I’ve enjoyed without introduction or context). My cookbook collection is also increasing exponentially as I try desperately to fill all the empty hours stretching ahead of me in the evenings and weekends.
What’s the best book you’ve received as a gift?
My mum gave me a copy of Nigella’s Feast when I moved into my first flat with my best friend in London after uni, which I still love, both for the recipes and as a reminder of the feeling that this was my first real space of my own in which I would be able to cook for people and celebrate with them.
What is your most beautiful book?
It lives at my parents’ house but as a child I was given a copy of the Folio edition of Kay Nielsen’s East of the Sun and West of the Moon by my great-uncle. It’s got this really simple but striking cream cover with gold foiled lettering and decorations, and gorgeous illustrations inside. I was absolutely captivated by it as a child, although I chose to keep them to myself and read the more gruesome Grimm’s Fairy Tales aloud to my younger sister instead.
What surprises you about your bookshelves? Is there a book that you were surprised to
love as much as you did?
The thing that surprises me the most about my bookshelves is that I’ve actually read most of the books on them!
What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of 2021?
In terms of my TBR, I’m really looking forward to sinking my teeth into Eliza Clark’s Boy Parts and Shoshana Zuboff’s The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. A couple of 2021 releases I’m planning on getting hold of at some point are Luster by Raven Leilani and Pandemonium by Andrew McMillan.
What are your book recommendations?
My mind tends to go blank whenever I’m asked this question in person! Some things I have enjoyed recently are: Mudlark by Lara Maiklem, English Pastoral by James Rebanks, A Warm and Snouting Thing by Ramona Herdman, Salt Slow by Julia Armfield and In the Kitchen: Essays on Food and Life.
Where can readers find you online?