I’ve always maintained that I’m an accidental reviewer, writer and editor. These paths, almost exclusively volunteer, opened up when my professional life imploded in my mid-fifties. But I have always been a reader. The best part of this unexpected second-life has been the many enthusiastic readers, talented translators and dedicated small publishers I have come to know from around the world. Many I’ve been lucky to meet in person as, for the first time in my life, I travelled beyond North America. To South Africa, Australia and India.
A common connection between many of the readers and translators I’ve come to know over the years is the inimitable Seagull Books in Calcutta. Thanks to an intriguing post on a blog I follow, I bought my first Seagull—The Loss Library by Ivan Vladislavić—sometime in 2015 and was instantly impressed by the presentation and the unique content. Before long I was a committed fan and in early 2018 I made my first “pilgrimage” to visit their office. At the time they were coming up on their thirty-sixth anniversary, celebrating a slow and steady climb from very humble beginnings to their present status as world-class publisher of international literature—all while maintaining their humility and remaining close to their Calcutta roots. An interview I conducted with founding publisher, Naveen Kishore following my visit was published at 3:AM Magazine. One year later I was back and, had Covid not intervened, I would have been back again by now.
Now,in 2022, Seagull Books are celebrating forty years of producing beautiful books, many that would never have been picked up by other publishers, and supporting and encouraging writers, translators and independent publishers in India and around the world. The occasion has been marked by awards, interviews and articles like this recent one about their stunning office and bookstore in Architectural Digest India.
As an avid supporter of my friends at Seagull I also wanted to do something special to honour this milestone. I have, I confess, amassed a healthy collection of Seagull books over the years, many as kind gifts and many more with the assistance of my credit card, so I’ve set myself a reading goal for the balance of the year. Now, to read and review forty books would be ideal, but I’m not that fast a reader and it’s already September. However, I have read and reviewed nine of their books so far this year and I hope to add at least another eleven by year’s end. Twenty for forty. With this little side project I hope to call some attention to the range of books they publish. And enjoy plenty of good reading, of course!