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Talking About Reading One Book a Week for a Year, the Interview | DesignNotes by Michael Surtees

Talking About Reading One Book a Week for a Year, the Interview

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 While a lot of people are living in an outdated model to pursue ideas, Inaki is embracing everything and anything which I highly respect.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

Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

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?

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  • inakiescudero

    Thank you Michael. Your post is a perfect ending for this personal challenge.
    The respect and the inspiration is mutual.
    I hope you do it in 2010, I'd love to share lots of book recommendations with you.

  • http://www.newfangled.com/chris_butler_blog Christopher Butler

    Michael,

    This would definitely be a challenge for me. I just counted the books I read in 2009 (I add each one to my Google Books list as I read them); I read 32 this year. Adding another 20 must be possible… we'll just have to see.

    Some highlights from my list:

    Against the Machine: Being Human in the Age of the Electronic Mob‎, By Lee Siegel
    Massive Change, by Bruce Mau
    On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction‎, William Zinsser
    The Light of Other Days‎, Arthur C. Clarke
    What Got You Here Won't Get You There‎, Marhall Goldsmith
    The Sparrow, Mary Doria Russell
    The Numerati, Stephen Baker

    – Chris

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    My pleasure Inaki! Thanks for sharing your book list chrbutler. Let me think over the day for a couple fav. books of mine for the year. This also is the first time that I'm seriously thinking of getting a kindle once I've finished reading all my review books that are starting to pile up.

  • http://s.rvxn.org/ sui solitaire

    Wow, I'm going to do the same thing in 2010! Rock on 🙂

  • kajalnoire

    What a great idea. Using this for my new year's resolution

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    Okay I'm going to do it. Kind of scared to see how it will turn out but it's worth giving it a shot. Emigre No. 70 will be week one for me http://52booksin2010.tumblr.com/

  • http://thecreativeapprentice.blogspot.com/ Sarah

    Wow, what a fascinating idea…
    I might try to give it a shot!
    Last New Year, I tried out Vegetarianism for one month. That went well (I'm Vegetarian to this day).
    Hopefully I'll have the same luck with this challenge.

    Much respect 🙂

  • Valbee

    This is really inspirational. I'm thinking about doing the same thing but with art.

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    that sounds interesting—what did you have in mind in terms of art? Are you going to make something once or week or would it be something else?

  • Valbee

    Yep, one piece a day. Could be canvas, wood, paper ect. I think what Inaki did was great. I figure this could be a way for me to knock down some of those 'blockers' I've been having.

  • http://yummyyarn.indus3ous.com/ MJ

    52 books in 52 weeks is a great goal and certainly one that anyone can do! It started out as a meme some 6 years ago and spread quickly through the blogs. I'm not surprised by its longevity, actually, because people who read LOVE to read.

    I've been keeping book lists on mine since 2005, with some of those books being selections I've made based on other book lists' comments. If you're interested in fiction, I'll recommend Frank Herbert's Dune series, Jeff Long's The Descent and Deeper, and Michael Kodas' High Crimes: The Fate of Everest in an Age of Greed.

    Happy reading!

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    Thanks for passing those along!

  • Vibeke

    Hah – you may not believe this, but I'm a 45 year old woman livig in Oslo, Norway, and I've read at least a book a week since I was about 11-12 years old. Some good and some bad and everything in between. Fiction and non-fiction. Yes, I recommend it and yea I grew up in a very bookish family. And also I feel like an alien in more or less every social situation because of my great big rumble sale of a mind.

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    That's truly remarkable! Thanks for sharing that.

  • http://www.peter-donaldson.com/ Peter Donaldson

    Great personal project to take on. I could be tempted myself.
    I did a drawing project during the 2007/8 financial year called '366drawings', and published it on the web at http://www.366drawings.com during the 2008/9 financial year. It was comprised of 366 drawings or one drawing a day for a year and a day. I found it a very fulfilling project and didnt have too many problems keeping up with the work load.

  • http://designnotes.info/ michaelsurtees

    Sounds like an interesting project. I'm trying to click on the url but it's not working. Is the site still up?

  • mamareeba

    I am 60 and live in Minneapolis. I read AT LEAST one book a week and have since I was quite young. I have a running request list at the library which I update as I read book reviews. I also frequent half price book stores, rummage sales and thrift stores and exchange books with friends. Most of my family are big readers, we are unbeatable at Trivial Pursuit and Jeopardy.
    Some of my latest favorites are:
    Crashing Through: The Extraordinary True Story of the Man Who Dared to See by Robert Kurson
    3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
    Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder
    The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Anne Barrows
    An Echo in the Bone by Diana Gabaldon(9th in a series, read the first 8 in one summer)
    Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
    I also like the Best Short Stories and Best Essays of the year

  • fabianaetcovitch

    A book a week is totally feasible! I have been reading a book every other day for almost two decades now. And yes, I have a very active social work, and love life! I guess the secret is carrying books with you at all times (I take the lighter ones in my purse and leave the heavy tomes for bed time). Five minutes while waiting in line gain me two or three pages of quiet laughing while everyone around look bored and look at me like I'm nuts. Always nuts for quality time!

  • fabianaetcovitch

    Way to go!

  • mamareeba

    I always have books with me too. When my daughter learned to read I told her that she would never have to be bored again in her life.

  • http://www.collentine.com @collentine

    inspiring! I plan to start reading more as well, hopefully I can learn some speed-reading as well to be able to devour the books quicker…

  • fabianaetcovitch

    It will certainly stay with her forever!