I’ve been friends with Inaki Escudero for almost a year now. He’s a creative’s creative in that he’s extremely genuine, curious and open to new ideas. While a lot of people are living in an outdated model to pursue ideas, Inaki is embracing everything and anything which I highly respect. Many months ago he told me about how he was going to read one book a week for an entire year. The year is now up and he has indeed read 52 books. Inspired to perhaps try such a thing myself in the new year I had to find out more about how he accomplished the readings and why. Below is our email conversation.
Michael Surtees: How did the idea of reading one book a week happen? What were you hoping to gain from doing it?
Inaki Escudero: The idea came from the combination of two different events. In October my wife @hazeliz gave me for my birthday all the books that I had in my cart at Amazon.com. There were about 25 books that I had been “saving” to read for years.
Also, last December, I saw an article n the New York Times by one of the press correspondents on board of Air Force One. He talked about the personal relationships that the press develops with the president and how the president and the reporter had gotten engaged in a private reading battle, to see who read the most books in a year (Bush 28, the reporter 36).
I remember thinking: Wow, if the president can read 28 books… being so busy… why not me?
52 books in 52 weeks is really a consequence of chance. My wife bought the books, the president gave me the challenge. At the beginning I just wanted to read as many books as possible from the pile I had at home, but I also wanted to remember what I found interesting in each book, that’s why I created the blog at http://52on52.blogspot.com/. I have a horrible memory and I wanted to be able to go back and remind myself of what I had learned from each book.
MS: How did you actually read one book a week. What sort of process did you have, did you read a certain number of pages a day, or read at different speeds?
IE: Each book was so different that my early attempts to having a method or process disappeared quickly. Some books I couldn’t put down, and I would read 60-100 pages a day. Other books were slower to read because of the subject or the style and I would read 20-50 pages per day.
I read mostly during my commute; 30-40 minutes each way, Q line: 7th ave -23 st. Train delays and unexpected stops became friendly “events”.
Whenever the day gave me “down time” I had to be ready to open my book and read. Having the Kindle for the iphone (free app) also helped me a lot. First I thought that it would be impossible to read an entire book in such a small format but I ended up reading 9 books on the kindle. They are cheaper (sometimes even $15 cheaper) and more convenient than the printed form, but I still prefer the real thing.
MS: What were your top five books and why.
IE: I have been asking myself that question too. Which ones were the best?
The honest truth is that I learned valuable lessons from the 52 books. They all revealed something to me that made me think differently about the world. The books with the most impact are the ones that cause that effect more often.
These 6 books helped me have a wider and richer perspective about our country and Lincoln’s leadership, the incredible intellectual depth of a comic, the new world of communications, humans (good) nature and understanding innovation.
Lincoln by David Herbert Donald
Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott Mccloud
Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide by Henry Jenkins
Moral Clarity: A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists by Susan Neiman
Weird Ideas That Work: How to Build a Creative Company by Robert I. Sutton
MS: Would you recommend other people doing it? How did you stay disciplined?
IE: I highly recommend it. Its a fascinating challenge. Selecting the books, reading them, knowing that there is another one coming right after… the sense of dedication, commitment, discipline… I loved it.
What I’ve learned during this year is that if you like doing it, you can do it everyday with passion. I love reading, I’m curious and I love learning, so reading so much wasn’t necessarily a question of discipline like say, training for a marathon in the winter.
MS: How did you choose your books?
IE: I didn’t want to overwhelm myself with rules, so I decided to have just two… don’t start a book until I finished the previous one, and don’t select the next book until I finished the previous one.
I guess I did this to stay focused on the one book I was reading, trying not to get ahead of myself… but it really worked well for me.
Looking back, I have collected lots and lots of intelligent quotes, everyday wisdom and insightful observations, but one comes to mind that relates to this: if you don’t use your ability to read, then it’s as if you couldn’t read.
I know we don’t see it as a privilege anymore, but if I’m able to read, why not put it to practice?