Photography by Laurel Golio
Kelsey Hunt is an incredibly artful human. Her arresting style and warm demeanor charmed us from the get-go. Not only is she an accomplished visionary, but the amount this GAL reads is enviable! She took us on our first ever tour of the Jefferson Market Library - which thanks to her playful warmth and the beauty of the library itself- we won't forget. Kelsey is currently a merchandise expert at Etsy, but in her spare time she dances, creates objects, and designs costumes.
GAL: What was the name of the first book you fell in love with, that turned you into a lifelong reader?
KH: I have an incredible aunt who encouraged me and my cousins to start a book club. The first book we read was Five Little Peppers & How They Grew by Margaret Sidney (my aunt’s favorite book). We dreamt up plays and art projects for our book reports and it really sparked a love for stories, how they could inspire my other creative pursuits: art, acting, and costume design.
GAL: What is the power of story? Describe some ways in which fictional narratives have impacted you and your life.
KH: My obsession with stories started when I was very young. I use reading as a way to learn about someone else’s reality, to experience something or someone’s truth that is different from my own. I love the beauty in the similarities, and I learn from our differences.
GAL: How often do you read?
KH: I read about one to two hours a day during the week and more on the weekends…unless I’m close to the end of a book. Then, I read those last 100 pages, no matter what time of day it is. In total, I spend about 11 hours a week with my head in a book plus four hours listening to audiobooks on our round trip drives upstate.
GAL: Do you prefer non-fiction to fiction? If so, why?
KH: No preference. I get just as much satisfaction from reading a creative story (cough, young adult adventure, cough) as I do from non-fiction. In both cases, I’m learning; either taking a look inwards and learning about about myself or learning from someone’s experiences.
GAL: If you read non-fiction, what genre do you prefer?
KH: What most people consider boring, I find fascinating. I love biographies, books on current events, historical events and popular sociology because I find myself learning and gaining confidence in ideas or concepts I wouldn’t normally seek out.
GAL: Do you have a current – or “forever” – favorite book?
KH: Little Women.
GAL: Who is your favorite author? (If impossible to choose, please name two).
KH: Roald Dahl.
GAL: How do you choose the books you read?
KH: I am a total parasite reader. Anything Vanessa Bailey, my aunt Hillary, or my best friend Michael Monzo recommends, I read.
GAL: We have a friend who has a “Sanity Shelf” dedicated to books she returns to again and again, to reread for pleasure, knowledge, and solace. What books would be on your Sanity Shelf?
KH: In the Shadow of Man by Jane Goodall. My fifth grade dream and yearbook career prediction for my future self was to follow in Dame Goodall’s footsteps…
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. One of the first books I took from my dad’s bookshelf when I moved out. It comforts my homesickness and makes me laugh.
Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer. Although, it’s hard for me to digest too often (pun intended).
Emma by Jane Austen. I could read this (or watch Clueless) at any time of day.
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. It reminds me to stand up for what I believe in.
And the Pursuit of Happiness by Maira Kalman It makes me happy.
GAL: Do you have a current favorite reading spot? Where is it?
KH: In the bathtub in our house upstate.
GAL: Or – can you read anywhere – place is not important?
KH: I read everywhere, which can be a hazard — walking into corners, poles, people…
GAL: Is it important for you to physically hold a book you read? Or can you read on a device with no problem and no impact on the experience?
KH: I prefer physical books, so The New York Public Library app is my favorite. You can put holds on books at your nearest library, and it alerts you when the book is ready: yay, technology! The routine of going to my local library branch, Jefferson Market, is one of my favorite weekly to-dos, because the library is a converted church and it feels magical. I also borrow e-books with the NYPL app, which helps me travel a little lighter.
GAL: If you were to write your memoir, what would you title it?
KH: Happy Feet, which was my first AOL screen name from the '90s. I can’t sit still mentally and physically, and these happy (big) feet have kept dancing and helped me stand tall through the good and the bad.
GAL: Please name three books you recommend reading, and the reasons for your choices.
KH: The Principles of Uncertainty by Maira Kalman. Her illustrations and text excite and inspire.
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. A good look on how we interact with social media and others.
Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Because we can all benefit from a little magic.