Kate Gavino is almost literally the poster woman for authors and independent bookstores. She shows her love by going to readings, and, inspired by what she sees and hears, she illustrates authors with quotes of theirs that strike her. Her first book, Last Night's Reading: Illustrated Encounters with Extraordinary Authors (Penguin, Nov), is her ode to bookstores and authors.
She first got the idea to make the drawings at a reading by Junot Díaz back in 2013. Gavino started a Tumblr blog (also called Last Night's Reading) to share these drawings, and since then it has grown into a robust blog with hundreds of followers. Some of them ask her for book recommendations (which she happily supplies with hand-drawn covers in a slideshow: "It's one of my favorite things to do"). She started out going to two or three readings per week, and in the blog's first year, posted 150 drawings. Now she attends four or five readings a week.
Gavino went to art school, where she studied mostly creative writing, which makes her a kind of hybrid artist/writer. She is a champion of bookstores and authors, and believes live events "add another element to why you love that book. When you find out that the author has an amazing personality, is very intelligent or has insightful things to say, it adds another dimension." Her book, kind of a "graphic essay," is based on her Tumblr, but with new drawings, about "half of the drawings not on the blog." She says they showcase "The New York literary scene, the quirks of going to readings, weird things that happen, like when I met Toni Morrison and couldn't think of anything to say to her." She keeps a map of all the book readings she goes to, and "every time I add a new pin, I feel like I know the city a tiny bit better."
Gavino loves experimenting with form and uses multiple panels (comic book style) to showcase longer quotes or amazing stories that authors tell. The book makes it clear she is a lit lover. "It's really my love letter to bookstores. They are just as important to me as the authors." If you're lucky, you can catch her out and about in New York City; she recently spent a couple of hours at the Strand, drawing customers with their favorite books.
Gavino signs full-color samplers of Last Night's Reading at the Penguin Random House booth (3119), 2:30–3:30 p.m.
This article appeared in the May 27, 2015 edition of PW BEA Show Daily.