You’ve read our classics, such as Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, Octavia Butler’s Kindred, the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., and James Baldwin’s Notes of a Native Son; and many of you know our current list, featuring books by Cornel West, Lani Guinier, Anita Hill, and Christopher Emdin—books that speak to the condition of the world, and add to our understanding of urgent social issues. Whether it’s the environment or race, cultural or class dynamics, we publish all our books with a purpose. Now you can meet the people who work at Beacon Press in our blog series “Beacon Behind the Books.” Each month, we’ll introduce to you a member of our staff and give you a behind-the-scenes look at what goes on at our office.
For the month of May, we introduce you to Bob Kosturko, our creative director!
What drew you to publishing, Bob? How did you find your way to Beacon?
I came to Publishing via a rather circuitous route. It began at Rutgers College of Pharmacy where I was accepted with a full scholarship. After two and a half years in the program, I had one of those “what am I doing here?” moments. After some serious deliberation, I decided to follow my true passion: Art. Three years later, I finally graduated from Rutgers University with a BFA in Studio Art and Art History. I did a brief stint with an advertising studio in NYC, which led to a position designing coffee table books for a book packager. From there I went on to work for Random House, Little, Brown and Co. and Houghton Mifflin. In 2004, I was hired by Helene Atwan as the Creative Director at Beacon Press.
How much of what you learned in college and/or graduate school have you found vital to your work?
Quite a lot, actually. While studying at Rutgers University, I took as many fine arts classes as I could: painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, even some very basic computer animation. Although Rutgers didn’t have a Design program per se, I did take classes in typography, and visual problem solving.
What current/upcoming projects are you excited about?
Redemption: The Last Journey of Martin Luther King Jr. by Joseph Rosenbloom. Also The Fearless Benjamin Lay: The Quaker Dwarf Who Became the First Revolutionary Abolitionist by Marcus Rediker
What’s your advice to someone interested in entering the publishing field as a designer?
Don’t start in Pharmacy School! But seriously, take as many visual art courses as you can. Even if you don’t intend to become a painter or a sculptor or a filmmaker, all of these disciplines provide you with unique ways of looking at the world. Round out your coursework with classes in typography, art history, creative writing. Then get an internship anywhere you can. So many publishing skills are learned on the job and aren’t taught in the classroom.
What helps you focus when you’re at work?
Listening to music has always helped me concentrate. It has to be instrumental music, though, because vocals are distracting, especially when I’m reading. Jazz, classical, ambient, film scores, post-rock. Anything sans vocals.
Favorite thing about Boston?
The abundance of culture and history. Boston has so many world-class concert halls, museums, sports venues, and historic buildings. If I had the time and money I’d be out every night of the week.
Best vacation destination?
Paris, without a doubt.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale for the first time. There’s been a lot of buzz about the Hulu miniseries, and even though I’ll probably watch it at some point I always like to read the book first.
In an alternate universe, what career would you have?
Musician. I read music, sing in my church choir, and play a bit of guitar and keyboards.
Favorite book ever?
Hard to say, but if pressed I’d have to go with J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’ve read it three or four times.
Name three non-office items on your desk and their significance to you.
A little wooden sign that reads “Make it Work!”, Tim Gunn’s infamous catchphrase from Project Runway. I was a big fan of the early seasons of the show. Watching the designers/contestants run around a hardware store or a candy shop in search of something, anything that could be turned into an article of clothing was quite inspiring. I admired their resourcefulness.
A homely piece of pottery affectionately known as “The Honey Pot.” (It was passed down to me by Beacon’s previous Production Director.) I try to keep it well stocked with treats for the staff. Beacon runs on sugar and chocolate!
A wrought iron letter opener with a handle in the shape of a fiddlehead. It was forged by a blacksmith on Cape Cod. It’s a nice reminder of a simpler time when most things were made by hand, not in factories.
About Bob Kosturko
Bob Kosturko joined Beacon Press in 2004. He especially appreciates the mission-driven aspect of the press’ publishing program. Bob and his wife Candace moved to Boston from Belleville, New Jersey twenty years ago. They live in a very small Beacon Hill condo with their quirky cat Chester.