on books by clem macleod

Books and reading have always been a big part of our babaà world. In our new series we ask friends of babaà about their reading style, favourite books, and emotional connection to the written word. 

For our fourth in the series we talk with Clem MacLeod, the founder of Worms Magazine, the most brilliant and generous magazine celebrating writers and all things literary with a focus on community. Clem, who is based out of London, first turned to reading as a child needing an escape from her anxiety and now, as an adult, always seeks out the feminist theory section of the bookstore first.

You can check out more about Worms Magazine here and here.

Tell us a bit about Worms and how it was founded.
I actually started Worms as my final project at Central Saint Martins in 2019. I was studying fashion journalism and we were tasked with producing a magazine at the end of the degree, and Worms Magazine was mine. I never really thought it would become what it is today, but it was all so organic and now we have a podcast, workshop series, magazine, online platform and publish books too. My original intention was to celebrate female and non-binary writers, but now we’ve expanded to platforming all underrepresented writers, regardless of gender. Our intention is to bring these voices to the literary topsoil. I’m honestly just so grateful to be working with such inspiring people though, and I’ve got such an incredible team working with me on all aspects of Worms now. I feel like it’s been a really beautiful community building tool.

And the compost library?
Pierce Eldridge (Worms’ Managing Editor and Partnerships Coordinator) and I founded The Compost Library at the beginning of this year. It’s an open access social enterprise curated by Worms with the aim to help individuals discover how to reap the personal/social/political benefits of reading and writing. With a focus on tender participation and co-creation, we gather, share, listen and collectively imagine literary futures in workshop settings. We lead each workshop off of the teachings of Julia Cameron, bell hooks, Octavia E. Butler, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Simone Weil, Joy James, Audre Lorde and others.

How do you organize your books?
I try and do it thematically, but it ends up being quite chaotic. I have many piles of books in my house. Mainly ‘to be read’ piles and things I’ve been sent from publishers, and then my shelves are more ordered… but barely! Whenever I try and sort them out I put them in piles on the floor with themes written on sticky notes but I end up getting overwhelmed and I’ve never completed the task of fully organising them.

if you had to pick- do you prefer reading emotional or intellectual books?
Intellectual.

The last book that made you laugh?
Earth Angel by Madeline Cash.

Describe your ideal reading environment.
In nature, in the sunshine, with a table, comfy chair, coffee and a notebook

What was your relationship to books growing up?
I was incredibly anxious and books were always very effective escapism.

Is there a certain emotion you’re looking for when picking out what to read?
Inspired! I always look for books that will inspire me to write.

You have 12 uninterrupted hours to read right now, what do you reach for?
Lydia Davis’ ‘Essays‘ or Susan Sontag’s biography by Benjamin Moser

What is the book that has made the biggest impression on you in the last 5 years?
Autotheory as Feminist Practice in Art, Theory and Criticism by Lauren Fournier. SUCH a beautiful, eye-opening and clever book. Wish I’d written it myself…

You walk into a bookstore…what section do you go to first? How come?
Feminist Theory – It’s the most likely place I’ll find Chris Kraus and bell hooks, my two favourite writers

What are you planning to read next?
(just turned to look at the mammoth pile on my desk) ‘Video Green’ by Chris Kraus

Name a few new writers that you find particularly interesting
Madeline Cash is brilliant. Very witty and a very poignant social commentator.
Sheena Patel, again, is brilliant. Her writing is very honest and vulnerable.
Phillipa Snow and Estelle Hoy are both amazing art critics that write theory that is very relatable and funny.