We speak to Hannah about her favourite second-hand bookshops, discovering audiobooks over lockdown and working with recycled materials in children's publishing.
Hello! I’m Hannah, and I’m a Senior Production Controller within children’s book publishing. I oversee orders from the conception of an idea, chatting with designers and editors, gathering details, pricing and samples from printer in the Far East, seeing the book through the process of production, sending off orders for numerous different customers ensuring correct materials are used and the correct quantity is printed, right through to making sure the book is sent to the correct destination. It’s great being able to see an idea though to an actual physical book!
How did you get into the publishing industry?
I studied English Literature and Creative Writing at university in which one of the units we looked at was careers in publishing. That got my attention. I also worked in Waterstones for numerous years which just enhanced the passion for reading and books! Once I graduated I began applying for every single entry-level career that was available, not really knowing what Production was (which I believe is how every Controller starts!) I sent my CV in for an International Sales Administrator job which covered foreign rights reprints, upped sticks from North East England, moved to London a week later. That was, almost, five years ago and here I am!
Is there a book or project that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of?
I work on a lot of novelty board books, such as Slide and Seek Stomp, Stomp and Bear and Mouse Birthday Party which have sliding mechanisms. They were tricky but the hard work paid off! I always have fun sourcing different materials, I am particularly proud of our First Nature title, Hatch, which is made from 100% recycled board; the colours are printed on brown board rather than your usual white board, giving them a unique shade. I love that the board is recycled too! I am incredibly fond of our pun-infused books You Complete Me and Peas on Earth, they’re fun, bright and just brilliant. I really love working with the Caterpillar team at Little Tiger, their skills are exceptional and I’m proud to be a part of that.
Where do you buy or access your books?
I use Waterstones a lot, but I also use Bookshop.org, BookBar, second-hand bookshops and charity shops – you can always find a treat in there! I do have a Kindle and although it is very handy for holidays (rather than packing a suitcase 80% full of books!), I do prefer having a physical book to read. I have recently moved house and am really looking forward to browsing in my local independent bookshops now that they're open: Herne Hill Books and Tales on Moon Lane. Barter Books in Alnwick is also in my top 5 favourite bookshops.
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’ve been reading a mix of genres during lockdown and have found myself drawn to classics more recently. Paired with this, I have started listening to more audiobooks. Great Expectations got me into this (Eddie Izzard’s reading was incredible); I’d picked it up on multiple occasions and really struggled to get past chapter 5, my boyfriend suggested I listen to Dickens rather than read him and it’s really opened my eyes to all these wonderful books that I wouldn’t necessarily read. Not having that office buzz was difficult too, which meant having something to listen to really helped that transition into lockdown. I have just finished Mythos by Stephen Fry, that was incredible and…something else!
What is your most beautiful book?
In terms of aesthetic value, I am a huge fan of a clothbound classic and think either my Middlemarch or War and Peace is my favourite, along with my folio edition of Hardy’s Jude the Obscure. But I love my classic The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes too! In terms of prose, Laurie Lee’s Cider with Rosie is one of the most captivatingly beautiful books written.
What surprises you about your bookshelves? Is there a book that you were surprised to love as much as you did?
Maybe the variety of books there are now; a few years ago there probably would have been solely YA and crime novels which is just what I needed at that time, but I can see how my bookshelves have grown with me and that is what is so fulfilling about books.
I’m surprised I rated Man’s Search for Meaning (Viktor E Frankl) so highly, I didn’t think I could say I loved it as it’s a piece of work that came from such abject misery; although written in the most horrendous of conditions the message of hope out of desperation and anguish is so compelling and admirative that, during lockdown especially, it was an eye-opener.
What are your most anticipated reads for 2021 and do you have any reading goals?
I set myself the target of 60 books last year, which I just managed to hit but I did find myself focussing on the number rather than the books I was reading. So this year I decided to read fewer, more substantially sized books. My first goal: War and Peace. I am really surprised at how much I am loving it! And on my reading list this year are: The Lamplighters (Emma Stonex), Difficult Women (Helen Lewis), The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (Robert Louis Stevenson), The Female Eunuch (Germaine Greer), A Promised Land (Barack Obama), Jude the Obscure (Thomas Hardy), The Portrait of a Lady (Henry James), Dearly (Margaret Atwood), A Vindication of The Rights of Woman (Mary Wollstonecraft) and A Christmas Carol (Charles Dickens).
What are your ultimate book recommendations?
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Absolutely hands down my favourite book. Of all time. I have a lot of books I can say I’ve enjoyed and love, but this one will always be in my number one spot.
Where can readers find you online?