Book-Loving Alumna Puts Liberal Arts Degree to Work in Bookmobile

Most college graduates can probably point to an experience or an individual who played an instrumental role in helping them determine their path after graduation. For Julia Turner, it was a single question.

“One of the most serendipitous things to happen in my time at Tech was a conversation I had with someone in the School of Literature, Media and Communication,” she says. “I mentioned to an adviser that I was looking for jobs in publishing after graduation, and she said, ‘Oh, have you looked into some publishing institutes?’ It was an offhand comment, but it was probably the single most influential thing anyone said to me at Georgia Tech. That one moment probably was the biggest factor in where I am now.”

A 2012 graduate who earned a BS in Science, Technology and Culture, Julia later participated in the University of Denver’s Publishing Institute, where she met her friend and now business partner, Christen Thompson. When Julia moved to Charleston, SC, to work at The History Press after graduation, she reconnected with Christen over their shared love of books, publishing and independent bookstores.

“We kept talking about cool bookstores in Vermont or wherever, and how we wished there was a bookstore here in Charleston doing that kind of stuff,” she says. “There are a few booksellers in Charleston, but there’s not a huge selection of independent bookstores that focus on new books. Our dream of opening our own bookstore stayed on the back burner for a while. Then, around Christmas 2014, we just decided that either we’re going to do this or we’re both going to move on from Charleston. We had reached the end of our publishing career paths here, and so we decided to just do it. We started by pursuing the full-scale bookstore first as a bookmobile with low overhead and easy access to customers—start small scale and then build up.”

Thus was born Itinerant Literate Books , a bookmobile and pop-up bookshop serving the
Charleston area. The shop—a converted 1958 Yellowstone trailer—appears regularly at farmer’s markets, coffee shops and beer gardens around town. Customers are able to keep track of its whereabouts through social media and recurring engagements at specific locations.

Itinerant Literate Books regards itself as a general bookshop rather than one that caters to any particular niche or genre. The bookmobile also hosts special events, such as an all-day release party for the new Harry Potter book.
“We try to have a selection of books for every age group, from adults down to young adults, middle school titles, children’s books and early readers,” Julia says. “Then, from there, we try to pick books that we are excited about. More than anything, it has to do with what Christen and I are interested in reading and the recommendations we hear from other booksellers about what’s a great read or what sells really well.”

Another influence on the shop’s inventory was Julia’s experience as a student at Georgia Tech, where she says she read mostly nonfiction related to science, technology and psychology.

“It has really informed my reading preferences for nonfiction,” she says. “Personally, I have always preferred fiction, and now I’m more inclined to pick up something with science fiction than before I went to Georgia Tech. I believe it’s important to be as well-rounded a reader as possible—especially now that I’m interacting with and providing books to a wide array of customers.”

Overall, while Julia came to Georgia Tech knowing she wanted to go into publishing, she says her time here had a major impact on the way she’s looked at her career trajectory.
“I think Georgia Tech’s approach to liberal arts is different from most universities,” she says. “Seeing both liberal arts and technology educations at Georgia Tech was a really interesting juxtaposition that changed how I pursued opportunities after I graduated. I didn’t know quite how I was going to get into publishing, but I knew that was what I wanted.”

This influence and the crowd-funding provided by Georgia Tech friends and faculty – including Dr. Karen Head – have helped put Julia’s career plans on the road to success.

For fun summer reading, Julia jumps to two great recommendations:

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfield – a modern interpretation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice set in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman – a European bestseller about a passive-aggressive, socially awkward, absurdly pedantic busybody who finds herself managing a small-town football team.

If you’re looking for something more challenging and have an eye on self-improvement, she suggests:

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi – a Daily Show-feature novel about two half-sisters separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver.
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson – a New York Times bestseller about the bright days of early adulthood, the promise and peril of growing up, and the friendships that shape our formative years.

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