In addition to writing, talking to people, listening to podcasts and giving lectures, one of the most important activities of an author and speaker is reading. And that is reading a lot.
Already as a child, I buried myself in comics from the 2nd hand comic store and in newspapers, even though I wasn’t officially allowed to read the latter. My father initially didn’t want me to read them, but my mother always secretly slipped them to me. Until the day when my father officially handed me the newspaper for the first time and I was no longer forced to read it in secret.
No wonder that in the family apartment we moved into in Vienna in the early 80s, the bookshelves and family books suddenly found their way into my room. Collecting books did not stop, and has even gained more momentum over time. Today I have a library that certainly contains around 3,000 books. There is not much order, but at least I have been maintaining an online list for a few years now, which probably contains about one third of my books.
After sharing a small snapshot of the books I read this year on social media – see the 2016 pile below – I started to maintain a meticulous list for 2019, conscientiously listing all books divided into categories such as non-fiction, illustrated books, biographies and so on, as well as comics and magazines.
The books I read are partly a reflection of my current work topics. In 2016 I had just finished The Silicon Valley Mindset Book and had already made the first drafts for my book on the automotive industry. This can be seen in some of the read works, which should give me an overview. You can also see the first traces in the titles of my book about future thinking, which was published in 2019.
But you also notice that I read books that have nothing to do with my current topics. In fact, today I have the rule that every other book has to be from a completely different discipline and often the best impulses for new approaches and perspectives or even new book ideas result from this.
But back to the literature I read in 2019. Thanks to many business-related flights I was able to read a lot on the plane. I manage to read between three and four books per trip between the continents. With reading times in coffee houses, at home or on vacation, this year I had read no less than 215 literary works. Among them were 56 non-fiction books, 3 biographies, 3 illustrated books, 2 children’s books and 2 novels. Besides 31 magazines I also read 117 mainly French-language comic books.
I took the trouble to at least bring all the non-fiction books read in 2019 together again for a group photo, and here they are!
A good one and a half meter dead trees are united here. In the background to the left you can see my comic book shelf. From the titles you can already guess what topics I was working on in 2019: a lot about artificial intelligence. There alone, I have certainly worked through 30 works over the last two years. And the result will be available in bookstores in February 2020 (in German): When Monkeys Teach Monkeys: How Artificial Intelligence Is Making Us Even More Human.
But I don’t just read through the books, I mark interesting places with little Post-It stickers. After reading a book, it usually looks like the back of the stack of books shows: a colorful little world has been created in the books.
I chose Post-It-Notes because there is nothing worse for me as a book lover than to describe a book, to bend it or to put dog-ears in it. One of my acquaintances is such a book killer, by the way. He brought his copy of my book The Silicon Valley Mindset with him and I almost fell off my chair. Dog-ears all over the place.
I didn’t come up with the Post-It idea alone. An acquaintance once showed me his notes in another of my books. He even had a plug and color system for the notes. Different colors indicated to him whether they were important or less important elements, or for example quotations.
Probably the most decisive book 2019 for me was the biography of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. It gave me unexpectedly the idea for the book I am currently working on: Future Angst. But more about that will follow this year.