An interview with Melissa Chan

How did you start Literary Book Gifts?

I’ve always loved to read. Throughout my years of reading, I have often pondered the point-of-view of the author as an artist. Literature and narrative is arguably one of the most powerful platforms of art and self expression. Some great titles, many of the best known classics such as The works of Shakespeare, The Divine Comedyby Dante Alighieri, and Jane Austen’s novels have been around for so many years that we can really get an idea of how some great works can be even more well known than the brand new bestsellers of today.

Beyond the theoretical aspect, I started the online store with just a website and a few designs. I’ve learned so many skills along the way and it has been a challenging yet fun experience.

Why does the collection center around classic novels?

From a young age I always read classic novels. I was unaware back then about who the authors were or just how long ago these books were published. But over time, as I read classics interchangeably with their contemporary counterparts, I slowly gravitated towards titles and authors that were considered classics. With some of my favorite reads of all time being Bram Stoker’s Draculaand Jack London’s The Call of the Wild.

 After reading, and as I grew older, listening to audiobooks. I had a tendency to want to collect these books, even if I had read them initially as a library or digital copy. I’d spend hours at the local used book store trading in books so that I could build up a small collection of lovely hardcovers. Occasionally these books had illustrations but they all had an antique feel to them with matching typography and layout within. Sometimes I would eventually read the book again or tag up a few of my favorite quotes in it for quick referencing, but for the most part they simply sat in my collection where I could see them day-to-day.

Why books on t-shirts and tote bags? 

I think it was this material attachment that I had to the physical copies of books that led me to want to create a collection of designs for these novels. What I love about physical books is that you can swap copies with a friend and after reading each other’s books, have a chat about the ideas you’ve just read. The artwork on shirts and tote bags is the perfect platform for doing this as well. It allows one to seamlessly add a fun item or two to their wardrobe that also has the potential to start some positive conversation about books and reading. I find that compliments, especially those on clothing and accessories are not really about the items themselves, but about connecting with one another and generating rapport.

I hope that the designs can bring about some excellent book recommendations and hopefully pass on these amazing titles to the next generation of readers.

What is one your favorite designs in the collection?

I love the Howards End design. E. M. Forster is not as well known as some of the other authors in the collection but I’m glad that I am able to include one of his works in the collection. I’m a big fan of his books as well as the movies that were made out of them. His stories are simple in structure yet very sophisticated, in addition they are a lot of fun to read. The design depicts a cottage, meant to be Howards End, where many of the key scenes in the novel take place. I like looking at the details of the cottage and imagining the characters living and interacting there.

What is a good book you’ve read recently?

I’ve recently been introduced to the work of Flannery O’Connor through, probably her best known work, Wise Blood. I have never read anything like it before. It was suspenseful, funny, and fascinating all at the same time. The plot itself is unlike any story I’ve read yet it carried itself through all the way to the end. I’m excited to read her second novel The Violent Bear It Away!

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