Interview with Michele Leonardi from IBM Slovenija was conducted by Vita Godec MBA, Managing Director of Lenis Pharmaceuticals.

Michele, what does reading mean to you?

Reading means intellectual relaxation. People are very different, and the modern world offers even too many forms of relaxation. Some of us want a way to unwind that includes a bit of an intellectual challenge. Furthermore, reading is great for personal development, even reading fiction – when you dive into the characters that an author presents in their book, it has a huge effect on you. Some authors, like for instance Lojze Kovačič, describe themselves in their books, while this is less pronounced among other writers.

How to you keep up with your to-read list and what is the next book on it?

I don’t have a comprehensive list of books I’d like to read.  A few years ago I realized that there’s a whole heap of classics I hadn’t read, like War and Peace, or the Brothers Karamazov. I looked up the Guardian’s list of 100 best books ever. Of course not every title on that list is palatable (laughs). I picked out about 70 of them, some I’d already read in the past, and by today I’ve read around 50 from that list.

In general, I like reading fiction. How do I choose which book? Usually from some collection. If it’s a good collection (e.g. Zbirka XX. Stoletje from Cankarjeva Publishing House), then you don’t need to worry too much or filter through the titles; maybe one won’t be great, but the majority are great. Another that I really liked was the Kaif collection (from Založba /*cf. Publishing House). These are books written by authors from the third world, for instance Egyptian, Indian, etc. there’s an incredible book from Nigeria on the Guardian’s list, Thing Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe. I randomly stumbled across one of the books from this collection and then read even more of them.

As far as business books go, we get IBM’s e-newsletter at the office, which recommends a new business book every 2 weeks. Every now and again I read one that’s interesting. It’s true, though, that I read relatively few such books, maybe 5 a year. Usually these are quite general in subject matter (e.g. Irresistible by Adam Atler, which talks about our dependence on technology, or The Upside of Stress by Kelly McGonigal). I cannot fathom how some people read 20 or more business books a year. Every year.

Sometimes I come across a book online, like in one article I read about a historical monograph on the Habsburg empire (by Pieter M. Judson); it’s pretty exhaustive (500 pages) and I quite recommend it.

Do you take notes and if so how?

No, I don’t take notes. Using Goodreads somehow takes the place of that, but I don’t post my opinions or summaries there.  I don’t have any problem rereading the same book. For instance, I read Milan Kundera’s The Joke for the first time 30 years ago, and when I reread it this year, I didn’t remember almost anything. I enjoyed myself very much reading it the second time. There are several such books that I’ve read multiple times, like Bulgakov’s Master and the Margarita. Every time you go through a book again, you find something new. Sometimes you even find out that some didn’t age very well with time, or have become outdated (like Aldous Huxley’s works, with the exception of Brave New World).

What’s your favorite book? What did you take away from it?

I can’t single out a favorite. I’d say that that choice has changed over the course of my life. I can tell you which book had the greatest impact on me, that’s How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Through his own special narrative style the author teaches you empathy, how to work with people so you’ll be successful and satisfied with your life, so you understand your fellow humans better. The book is over 85 years old, and yet still every single word rings true today. It was crucial for me that I read this book at the beginning of high school, in the period of my greatest personal development.

What do you say to people who tell you they have no time to read (especially fiction)?

I read between 25 and 30 books a year, with 2 already this year [ed. note: this interview was conducted on 20 January]. We’re all different and everyone can decide what to do in their spare time. Some people just don’t read. Of course it would be for such people to read something every now and again. For instance, I’d recommend young parents read some literature about how to put their kids to bed. I tackled such subject too late, only after my third child!

How important is a good cover?

The cover is important, especially for a first impression. You see the book first, if you aren’t familiar with the collection. A book’s format and design is extremely important, not just the cover, but the font size, too – some business books are a catastrophe (to pinch pennies they try to cram as much information as possible into as few pages as possible) and are truly hard to read. The cover for a first impression and for a bit of enjoyment. If I were to publish books, I wouldn’t design the covers myself, but I would help the designers and tell them if I wasn’t feeling the cover.

Hard copy or e-book and why?

I don’t have anything against e-books, all that depends on your reading style. I read physical objects somewhat more easily, while my concentration can slip when reading an e-book after a couple sentences. Primarily, I keep my books in the living room.

How has the pandemic affected your relationship with books?

The biggest change was that, due to the pandemic measures, I began ordering books online, too. I still very much enjoy going to a bookstore. Perhaps I pick my books some other way, too. I didn’t read significantly more during the pandemic, as there were plenty of other forms of entertainment competing with reading.

Who is the next bookworm you recommend for an interview, and what book would you recommend to them?

I suggest Franc Bračun of NLB. The book I’d pick is Factfulness by Hans Rosling.