Author, illustrator and Caldecott Medalist David Macaulay describes what’s on his bedside table.
It’s the last stop of the day and, if energy permits, my launch pad into the night. A humble little table, sturdy, time worn. Above a drawer so filled it’s hard to open, sits a changing pile of books. Some are there for a while – a long while. Others spend only a night or two.
I’m currently wrestling with a book on ingenuity and invention, I think. Books like Volume 4 of the Oxford History of Technology: The Industrial Revolution c. 1750–1850 and Robert Friedel’s A Culture of Improvement follow me from the studio. Without any distractions, I can dip into the OHT one last time to clarify something I may not have completely grasped while jumping from sketch to sketch at the drawing board.
Friedel’s book reminds me that it is possible to make technology not only interesting but compelling by connecting the various subjects with their creators.
Your Medical Mind: How to Decide What Is Right for You by Jerome Groopman, M.D. and Pamela Hartzband, M.D. is the newest arrival on the platform. It might seem like an odd choice for bedtime reading but I’ve recently agreed to help organize and run the design part of a course intended to find ways of making information more accessible and therefore useful to people who have important decisions to make about their health or someone else’s. This book is one of the texts for the class so I’m getting a head start.
Occasionally, I just need to escape from my work or be reminded of the comparative bliss of my own life so I pick up a novel. Richard Ford’s The Sportswriter is the current candidate. For better or worse, there is never more than one novel or work of fiction on the pile at a time and often not even one. This is a book that was recommended to me over 20 years ago with great enthusiasm. I’m finally getting to it. Anyone who has sent me reading material over the years and is still waiting for a response need only do the math here. It isn’t personal.
Eyewitness: The Rise and Fall of Dorling Kindersley by Christopher Davis happens to be the smallest book on my list. It is also my favorite. Davis shows us what it means to follow your passion for something. It is inspiring, funny, and poignant. The joy of building a publishing business from the ground up, of watching it grow and thrive, only to have it destroyed by greed and a loss of focus. Why would I read such a book before going to sleep?, you might ask. The answer is Chapter 14. Mammoth Sales. It’s the story of The Way Things Work, a DK book to which I have great nostalgic attachment. It is the only book I’ve worked on over four decades that everyone seems to know. Chapter 14 is very flattering to yours truly and, just between the two of us, I think gives me too much credit. But Chapter 14 reminds me of a lot of hard work, wonderful colleagues, and ultimate victory.
Making books is hard work. Some books are of course more demanding than others. After a particularly taxing day when I feel like I’ve nothing to show for my efforts and begin to doubt I’m even on the right track, I reread Chapter 14 and sleep like a baby.