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Polly Smith, Events Coordinator at The Bookseller

We speak to Polly about her 2020 book recommendations and her advice for getting into events publishing.

Hello! My name is Polly and I am the Events Coordinator at The Bookseller. I work with my fab team to bring you our conferences and The British Book Awards.

How did you get into publishing?

I only really knew that I wanted to get into publishing after some research in my third year of university. I was looking around at jobs available and came across Frankfurt Book Fair, the biggest publishing trade fair in the world. So, I drove out there on a business day and spoke to as many people as I could and asked lots of questions. I met The Bookseller there and started volunteering for them at one of their events the month after.

What is your advice for someone trying to get into publishing and, more specifically, events?

Make as many connections as you can – these can be virtual too! Publishing Twitter is such a wonderful, supportive community and you will be able to meet people at the same point in their career as you, as well as publishing gurus who have seen the industry change many times. You will most likely bump into all these people in the future if you get into events.

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 don’t think my attitude has changed. Maybe my enthusiasm for reading has grown, as well as the number of books on my shelves. My taste will always be for weird and wacky reads, whatever the genre.

Is there a project that you have worked on that you are particularly proud of? Why is that?

The project that I am particularly proud to have been a part of would definitely be this year’s British Book Awards. It was a huge task to turn the events into a virtual night and I learned so much.

Where do you buy or access your books?

I am a huge lover of but I am also a regular visitor to Bookmongers in Brixton. It’s a great second-hand bookshop.

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 have been reading a lot of strange books in lockdown, maybe as a distraction from reality. I have read Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, Barn 8 by Deb Olin Unfirth, The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld and a reread of The Bloody Chamber too. Lots to be said about my taste in those books alone, I’m sure!

What’s the best book you’ve received as a gift?

A signed copy of The Vorrh by B.Catling for my 21st birthday. I sobbed.

What is your most beautiful book?

I think the hardback edition of The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber is perhaps the most beautiful book on my shelf.

What surprises you about your bookshelves? Is there a book that you own that you were surprised to love as much as you did?

I am surprised that I do not own many books with photographs on the cover. It tends to be a turn off for me. I am drawn to books with graphic covers or illustrations more so than photographs of people or faces. I was surprised how much I adored Never Let Me Go because the cover I have features a photo of a lady dancing. It seems to have very little to do with the story but I can look past the cover.

Which authors or genres do you look forward to reading more of in the future?

Fantasy that breaks the mould. There are some great writers out there at the moment whose imagination baffles me. I always like falling into those worlds. Speaking of, there is a copy of Mordew by Alex Pheby showing up at my house today and I cannot wait to get started.

What are the best books you've read in 2020 so far?

The Testaments, Normal People (I know, I was very behind on that trend) and Boy Parts by Eliza Clark.

What are your most anticipated reads for the rest of the year?

I spotted a really great book coming out in November from Canongate. It’s a new translation of We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, translated by Bela Shayvich and introduced by Margaret Atwood. I have been meaning to read that for years!

Which books should everybody read?

All of Grayson Perry’s books, they’re charming and I could read them over and over again.

Where can readers find you online?

@bookcoma on Twitter


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