On My Bookshelf:  Susan Gregg Koger

By: Sarah Gordon

As the Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer of ModCloth, Susan Gregg Koger is one busy Matchbook girl. Based in San Francisco, Susan’s creative edge reaches into every aspect of the company and has been a driving force behind the view of ModCloth as a social-shopping community.

Susan took time out from her ModCloth duties to tell us more about her past reads and most treasured books. We can certainly see how her love of vintage extends to her bookshelf: 

I'm currently reading… Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace: The Private Diary of a Victorian Ladyby Kate Summerscale. It’s a historical novel about a married woman who chronicles her frustrations with her husband and infatuations with other men. Until that time in history, it was extremely hard to get a divorce in England, but her husband is able to prove adultery and therefore justify a divorce by reading her diary in court. I find it interesting to read about an era when this was all so taboo. I also love getting a peek into Victorian life in general — there’s so much in the details: what people wore, how they lived, women’s roles in society, and other limitations of early women’s rights. As a female leader, I can’t help but be fascinated by how far we’ve come through the centuries. 

Before this, I was reading The Age of Wonder: The Romantic Generation and the Discovery of the Beauty and Terror of Science by Richard Holmes. It’s about romantic era scientists, early discoveries and inventions such as the very first hot air balloon, and all these other “antique science” facts that have been inspiring my work at ModCloth lately. It was really interesting to finish this book and begin Mrs. Robinson’s Disgrace just after because the former leaves off where the other begins in time. It gave me a seamless view of life during those time periods.

The book that I'll never part with is... Poetica Erotica, an amazing vintage book I found when thrifting back in 2002. It was the summer when I bought ModCloth’s first round of vintage inventory, and I’d accumulated a ton of great finds including this book. It sounds racy, but it’s actually a collection of love poems, and the copy I found has this amazing inscription at the beginning that says, “Lest you forget - Bert” with the date March 29, 1941 written beneath it. The year makes me think the original owner may have given it to a loved one just before being sent abroad to fight in World War II.

A fictional character I admire... is Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I read it for the first time about a year ago, but I know I would have loved it as a teenager, too. Francie is super smart, reads a lot, and escapes into books, overcoming her rough surroundings. She has this childlike way of finding beauty in the mundane of life everywhere she goes.

On my coffee table I have... Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travelby Lisa Immordino Vreeland. It’s an amazing book chronicling Diana Vreeland’s life work as a fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and, later, at Vogue. It includes a ton of visuals including magazine spreads and fashion photography spanning more than 50 years. It’s so inspiring and beautiful, and I can’t help but smile every time I pick it up.

My favorite bookshop... would actually have to be flea markets! I buy books digitally on my Kindle a lot, but when I’m shopping for inspiring photo books and other visually rich books, I like coming across them in person. I recently bought a fashion photography book published in the 60s for 50 cents at a flea market, and I love it. When you buy digitally, you just can’t get that nostalgic feeling of thumbing through the pages of a dusty, old book that randomly catches your eye.

I love to read because... it allows me to step into someone else’s world. I’ve always been an imaginative person, and when I was a kid I read all the time — anything I could get my hands on. In high school and college, I read less for pleasure and more of what was assigned such as Catcher in the Rye, anything Steinbeck, other classics, and then a ton of textbooks after that, but I’ve always found what I was reading to be interesting and influential. As an adult with a career, I go through phases where I don’t always have the time to read for pleasure, and then when I get the chance to read a good book it’s as if I’m visiting an old friend. When you read something so well-written and with such rich details, it can be a wonderfully personal experience. It’s also really fun to share those experiences with others by reading the same book. I send my grandmother, who lives in Philadelphia, books after I read them, so she can read them too and then we can talk about them together. I’ve found that to be such an amazing way to connect with her from thousands of miles away.