Girls At Library: What was the name of the first book you fell in love with, that turned you into a lifelong reader?
Lydia Turner: "A Wrinkle in Time" enthralled me like nothing else had ever done before. The image of the ant walking along the edge of a skirt to illustrate the “wrinkle” will always stay with me. I feel lucky that so many of the early books that influenced me were unexpected finds picked up from around my house, because my parents and my 3-years-older but very precocious sister packed the house with books. I discovered Ann M. Martin (yes, of The Babysitters Club), Edgar Allan Poe, Carl Sandburg, and Nikolai Gogol laying around our house and they all blew my mind in ways I'll never forget.
GAL: What is the power of story? Some ways in which fictional narratives have impacted you and your life.
LT: Reading, especially as a younger person, awakened me to the fact that there are infinite ways to live and experience the world. This helped foster 2 traits that I am always trying to nurture in myself: empathy and curiosity.
GAL: Is your design heavily influenced by storyline and narrative? How do story and graphic design interconnect?
LT: My philosophy of design and branding starts with storytelling—I always think of it as "world-building". If I can create an experience that is a microcosm with a potent set of laws and attitudes then I feel like I've done a good job. Every new project starts with writing about intent and story.
GAL: Who is your favorite author? You're welcome to name two.
LT: I am a passionate admirer of David Mitchell and Kazuo Ishiguro. When I think of these authors, I can instantly conjure the moods and feelings of their stories and am swept away without even cracking a book. That, for me, is the lasting gift of reading.
GAL: What is your current – or “forever” – favorite book?
LT: I could read “The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell from cover to cover and then start again.
GAL: What specifically do you love about historical fiction and why?
LT: Almost every scrap of knowledge and understanding I have about world history is from reading historical fiction or just older books. For me, there’s no better way to learn than through reading for pleasure. I was never academically inclined as a kid, but I was always secretly reading something under my desk in school.
GAL: David Mitchell's historical fiction also has a tinge of fantasy. What do you find most compelling about fantasy novels? The made-up world, the language, the characters?
LT: I read to escape and to feel that wonderful stretchy feeling of my imagination and my mind expanding. Science-fiction and fantasy provide that for me the most powerfully. Why get sucked into a world where you don't have magical powers or a portal to an alternate universe when you could surrender yourself to a world where you do?
GAL: If you were to write your memoir, what would you title it?
LT: "I Worked too Much and Then I Died"
GAL: Do you have a favorite reading spot?
LT: In bed! I've been an in-bed reader since I can remember.
GAL: How often do you read?
LT: About an hour a night before bed every night.
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?
LT: I love books, but I love reading more, so I prefer reading on a device—usually my phone. The feeling of carrying hundreds of books in my pocket is extremely satisfying. I also love that books don't have to be former trees anymore. I love not having the sense of where I am in a story. When I hold a book I’m always conscious of being at the beginning, middle, or end, but when I read on my phone, the endings of books sometimes sneak up on me, or I’ll think that a book is almost done, but then realize that I’m only in the middle. That just happened to me with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s beautiful, heartbreaking book “Half of a Yellow Sun.”
GAL: Which 5 fictitious characters would you invite to a dinner party, and why?
LT: Gus from “Lonesome Dove” because he’s the ultimate cowboy hero. I’m fascinated by the old West and life on the open range.
Shadow from “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman. He’s a god and he’s also a normal, relatable dude. (PSA: give Neil Gaiman a chance. I thought he’d be too whimsical for me, but I fell hard for his books after reading “American Gods.”)
Dana from Octavia Butler's “Kindred.” I struggle with the question of how we can reconcile ourselves with man-made atrocities of the past, like American slavery, and how they reverberate and affect us today, whether our ancestors were/are the perpetrators or the victims. Dana is a strong black woman living in the 1970s who goes back in time and lives as a slave in Maryland.
Tiberius Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus from “I, Claudius” by Robert Graves. He was a real person, but in the context of this book he’s an underdog character who is despised and underestimated, but who ultimately becomes Emperor. This book is mostly just a delicious soap opera, but it’s edifying because of all the ancient Roman history. I suggest you go read it right now.
Hermione from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. The consummate girl hero, the consummate scholar, and a fellow frizzy-haired gal. We could compare notes on hair care and spell-casting.
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?
LT: “The Autobiography of Malcolm X” by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
“The Rook” by Daniel O'Malley
“The Pursuit of Love” by Nancy Mitford
“Brideshead Revisited” by Evelyn Waugh
“Alice's Adventures in Wonderland” by Lewis Carroll
“Lonesome Dove” by Larry McMurtry
“The Bone Clocks” by David Mitchell
“The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro
“The Magicians” by Lev Grossman
Anything by PG Woodhouse
“The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley (my guilty pleasure.)
GAL: Are you planning on instituting reading time with your baby? Do you have a first book for him or her picked out?
LT: "Rootabaga Stories" by Carl Sandburg is a book I'm very excited to share with my baby to be. It’s a book of poetic, absurd American fairy tales with names like “Three Boys with Jugs of Molasses and Secret Ambitions” and “Never Kick a Slipper at the Moon”
GAL: Do you have a favorite book cover?
LT: Seymour Chwast's 1959 design for "We" by Eugene Zamaitin. Also a wonderful book.
GAL: Please share your favorite book about design that's also well designed.
LT: "Design as Art" by Bruno Munari
GAL: Please name three books you recommend reading, and the reasons for your choices.
LT: "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet" by David Mitchell is a gorgeous epic piece of historical fiction that is also a gripping supernatural mystery adventure. David Mitchell has this magical way of presenting a story in a way that feels small and personal and big and sweeping at the same time.
The "His Dark Materials" trilogy by Phillip Pullman are just about the perfect fantasy novels. I’m a sucker for any story about a child with a destiny to save the world from evil. I also love a trilogy or series of books, because when I get invested in a world I never want to leave. For me, a good book is always better when it’s longer.
"Wolf Hall" by Hillary Mantel is a fascinating take on the English Reformation, a period I love to read about, and is full of intrigue and wit and dastardly bad guys. It’s brimming with delicious historical detail that I’m a sucker for.