The Books That Made Me: Babette Kulik

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Ahead of the opening of The Society Club's Shoreditch incarnation, founder Babette Kulik reveals her most influential reads – from Tom Wolfe to Dorothy Parker

In 2011, Babette Kulik, a prominent fixture of the Soho literary scene, decided to fulfil a lifetime ambition: to set up her own bookshop. "Books and collecting have always been my passion," Kulik explains of her decision to launch The Society Club, a unique space which serves as a public book purveyor by day, and a joyfully eccentric private members club by night. "After the death of a very close friend, Sebastian Horsley, who died of an overdose in 2010, I decided to follow this passion and, with the help and support of friends and a loan from my mother, The Society Club became a reality just a year later." 

The shop specialises in out of print and rare titles, spanning 20th century literature, art, fashion and photography, all of which are hand-selected by Kulik and stand as testament to her erudite approach. Meanwhile, the members club boasts a superb cocktail bar selling drinks with a literary twist, including Hemingway's Daiquiri and a Kerouac-inspired Margarita. This month will see Kulik team up with Michael Selzer for the opening of The Society Club's second instalment, bringing all the romanticism of the Soho shop to number three Cheshire Street in Shoreditch. Ahead of its opening, we sat down with Kulik to discover the books and poetry collections that have remained a prevailing source of inspiration over the years. 

The Poetry of Stevie Smith
"Deceptively simple but achingly beautiful, Stevie Smith’s poems penetrate straight to the core of my heart. 'Love me, Love me, I cried to the rocks and the trees, And Love me, they cried again, but it was only to tease…'"

D.H. Laurence, The Virgin and the Gipsy
"This book was the turning point of my youth and awoke the sexuality in my adolescence. Interestingly the manuscript was not discovered till after D.H. Lawrence's death in 1930 and was immediately recognized as a masterpiece in which Lawrence had distilled and purified his ideas about sexuality and morality."

The Poetry of Dorothy Parker
"Throughout my life, Dorothy Parker’s poetry, with it’s acerbic wit and cynicism, have been my constant companion, my go-to balm and comfort after many a broken relationship.

'By the time you swear you're his,

Shivering and sighing.

And he vows his passion is,

Infinite, undying.

Lady make note of this --

One of you is lying.'”

Nathaniel West, Miss Lonely Hearts
"This short novel, infused with hallucinatory poetic fever, lay for years unread on my bookshelf until a dear friend came to stay one weekend (the now sadly deceased Sebastian Horsley). Every time he came to stay he reread it, but the dark irony is that both Nathaniel and Sebastian died tragically young."

Tom Wolfe, Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers
"A brilliantly funny book consisting of two essays that examines the conflict between black rage and liberal white guilt. The first essay, Radical Chic, recounts the meeting between New York's wealthy socialites and members of the Black Panthers at Leonard Bernstein's Manhattan apartment."