It's Lit! "Book Obsessive" Abigail Bergstrom On What She's Reading Now

Photographed by Holly Whittaker
Welcome to It’s Lit – a series of discussions about books. Join us every month to find out who’s reading what.
“My idea of the perfect afternoon is sitting in a hot bath and starting a new book. I’m very rock and roll like that,” says 28-year-old Abigail Bergstrom. Head of publishing at the talent agency Gleam Futures, Abigail represents “digitally minded writers” like Zoella, Caspar Lee and Tanya Burr. She launched the agency's literary division Gleam Titles earlier this year and is always on the hunt for “interesting projects online that could be converted into books.” It’s hardly surprising, then, that when she’s not reading in the bath, she spends a lot of her free time online. Her literary-skewed Instagram account @abigailbergstrom is testament to that.
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Abigail got her start in publishing working as a senior book editor at Simon & Schuster, commissioning non-fiction. "The first book I published was Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates," she says, "I wanted to find subversive, brave and exciting voices." These included the multi-award-winning reporter Sue Lloyd-Roberts’ The War on Women, the Orwell Prize-longlisted Hibo Wardere’s CUT: One Woman’s Fight Against FGM in Britain Today and a series of books with TED Talks.
“I’m lucky because my job involves meeting with book editors who are constantly telling me what they’re excited about and what they’re heartbroken they missed out on,” she says. “I often badger them for proof copies because I’m too impatient to wait until things publish.”
Who taught you to read?
My mum. I’m a competitive beast, both of my big sisters could already read so she said I was keen to get going.
What are you reading right now?
I’m rereading Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter and I’m just finishing a three-generational memoir by Nadja Spiegelman called I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This. I’ve also just started The New Girl: A Trans Girl Tells It Like It Is by Rhyannon Styles.
Photographed by Holly Whittaker
Photographed by Holly Whittaker
Do you always have more than one book on the go?
Always, because what I feel like reading is reflective of the mood I’m in. I think I read more because of it – there’s always something on the nightstand that I fancy picking up.
Where and when do you read?
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Everywhere, I never go anywhere without a book. But always before bed and always in the bath.
Do you prefer reading fact or fiction?
I crave the escapism that fiction offers but I’m a voyeur of emotion so I’m addicted to memoir and reading real-life stories.
When did you realise you wanted to work in publishing?
I suppose back when I finished my degree. I always knew I wanted to study English Literature because I loved reading and after that I was due to start my law conversion course. I remember spending my entire time at university doing law internships, exhausting every contact I had. But I couldn’t walk away from books – I chose what I loved over what felt like the safer option.
Can you name three up-and-coming authors you think we should know?
Olivia Sudjic’s debut novel Sympathy publishes this spring, a dark read about identity and obsession in the digital age. Yomi Adegoke and Elizabeth Uviebinene are publishing their highly anticipated Slay In Your Lane: A Black Girl Bible next year. I’m also eager to read Gail Honeyman’s debut, Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which has already sold rights in over 20 languages.
Do you have a favourite bookshop?
Ti Pi Tin is one of Hackney’s best-kept secrets. I also love Stoke Newington Bookshop, it feels like exactly how a bookshop should be.
Photographed by Holly Whittaker
How do you organise your bookshelves?
By weight. I put that bookshelf up myself so it could come down any day now.
Which magazines are you faithful to?
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The Sunday Times supplements are my weekly staple, ELLE is my monthly fix and I indulge in Dazed and Confused or The Gentlewoman.
Have you ever belonged to a book club?
Yes, my friends and I have a book club. It’s great because we all lead such busy lives now but no matter what, we know we’ll all be in the same room at least once a month. Unless the book is terrible... then suddenly everyone has to work late or they start claiming they’ve a suspicious ailment.
What do you use as a bookmark?
Nothing. I’m not precious with my books so I just fold the pages over. I also scribble on them so I don’t forget my favourite bits, crack the spines and christen the pages with tea/wine stains. I like my books broken in.
Which book would you save in a fire?
I had a short-lived romance with a guy when I was living in Hong Kong. I moved back to London, he moved back to Iran and we haven’t been able to meet in person since. But some friends of mine saw him recently when they were out in Iran on their honeymoon. He sent them back with a gift: the collected works in translation of The Divan of Hafiz – Hafiz is their most treasured poet and his works are a pinnacle of Persian literature. Most books are replaceable, but not that one.
Which three books would you recommend to a stranger?
All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman, which is the most delightful and thought-provoking little book. Anything by Angela Carter. Everything by Miranda July. And one more, Girl Up by Laura Bates, because everyone knows a young woman in their life who would benefit immensely from reading that book.
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Which book-related Instagram accounts do you follow?
I love Copenhagen-based artist @Johandeckman’s irreverent and therapeutic covers. @PerfectBound_ is visually pleasing. And I’m weirdly obsessed with @pagesandpaper, a woman who posts pictures of books with her pet snake, cat and dog. It’s just so strange, yet intriguing.
Photographed by Holly Whittaker
Abigail’s Reading List
Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
I’m Supposed to Protect You from All This by Nadja Spiegelman
The New Girl: A Trans Girl Tells It Like It Is by Rhyannon Styles
Sympathy by Olivia Sudjic
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
The Divan of Hafiz by Shirazi Hafiz
All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman
The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter
No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
Girl Up by Laura Bates