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Regulars / Bookshelf

From Roth to Seuss: Pentagram partner Marina Willer shares her favourite books

Marina Willer is a Pentagram partner and filmmaker. She joined Pentagram in 2012, after leaving her role as creative director at Wolff Olins, and has since led her team to create identities and book designs for multiple clients, most recently including Art UK, Ludwig Seufert, a Pentagram guide to the London Design Festival and a book for Conrad Shawcross’ work.

Last year saw Marina create her first Pentagram paper, which was celebration of industrial design through neon-coloured rubbings of drain covers. She also spoke at Nicer Tuesdays at the start of 2016, where she talked about her project Red Trees, a powerful documentary about her family surviving the Nazi occupation of Prague and fleeing to Brazil.

With such an impressive roster of achievements, projects and design knowledge under her belt, we were eager to learn which books sit pride of place on Marina’s bookshelf. Here, the designer covers all literary bases from Dr Seuss to Philip Roth, with succinct explanations of their importance.

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Rohinton Mistry: A Fine Balanc

Rohinton Mistry: A Fine Balance

A Fine Balance is a masterpiece. You cannot stop reading, it’s one of those stories that links humanity through many layers and textures in a world that could not be more wrong, unkind and brutal. Strangely, in a shifting catastrophe the lives of a group of people become linked. Despite all the despair somewhere there is a mountain of compassion and hope.

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Dr Seuss: The Sneeches

Dr Seuss: The Sneeches

This book tells the story of The Sneeches. This is a lesson for grown-ups to stop being idiots. It’s a favourite bedtime story. For me, and for my nine-year-old twins.

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Philip Roth: Indignation

Philip Roth is one of my favourites living writers. But for some reason this book hooked me more than any of his others. It’s a powerful story of a young man escaping from structures of oppression, starting from his own father, and finding his identity in a country heavily defined by prejudice, repression, war and xenophobia. It’s a cry for freedom against the American way of living.  

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Andrey Tarkovsky: Sculpting in Time

Andrey Tarkovsky: Sculpting in Time

Tarkovsky is one of the greatest filmmakers of modern times, in my opinion. This book explains how the power of cinema comes from telling a story in its purest form, using respect for time and rejecting tricks or effects. 

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Sara Fanelli: The Onion’s Great escape

Sara is my best friend, so I am biased, but this is a triumph of imagination and craft. This book should be judged on its cover, it is an explosion of inspiration, charming, lovely, experimental and joyful at every step of its crazy journey.

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Laurent Binet: HHhH

It’s hard to be hopeful in the time of Brexit and Trump. In many ways we are recreating the conditions of pre-WW2 Europe, when xenophobia and intolerance became the norm. To me, this book is an essential read for all of us who don’t want to repeat the horrors of the past.

Taking place is Nazi-occupied Prague, it is a story of the Czech resistance which focuses on two young men who gave up their lives trying to take back their country from the Nazis by killing Hitler’s best man. 

HHhH is an inspiring lesson on how seemingly normal people can change the course of history and, especially at that moment it time, a heartbreaking reminder of what our society is capable of. Binet’s contemporary storytelling and extreme compassion makes this a book impossible to stop reading.