Friday, September 23, 2011

Meet ad executive Swapan Seth, the man who buys a book every day

Swapan Seth is a man after my own heart.

The chief executive of Equus, the ad agency, and author of This Is All I Have to Say writes in the latest issue of Businessworld that he buys a book every day. "I buy most of my books online," Seth writes. "From Amazon, and now Flipkart."

What does he read?

Everything. ... I also speed read. That allows me to wrap up books pretty fast. And I read three of them simultaneously. Currently, I am reading about smiles, shoes and one book on the state of America. I also read on the strangest of topics — pineapples, salt, wine and wisdom. Even pronouns. And genes.

The strange thing is that Seth came to books late:

For most part of my life, I was just not a book person. The only thing I would read about was the Royal Family of England. So I would go to the British Council and read whatever there was to know about them. To that end, I know more about Queen Elizabeth than, perhaps, Prince Charles does.

It was only at age 33, Seth writes, when he visited a friend at home, a friend whose house was just filled with books, that he lost his heart to books:

I was mesmerised. [Books] served as tables. They worked as stools. The smell of paper was captivating. I lost my heart to books courtesy [Kaustav Neogi] and his infinitely inspiring home. All that I have rigorously read has been read over this past decade.

Seth has his quirks. For instance, he says he does not read fiction. He also "stays away from Indian authors as far as possible", only reading M.J. Akbar and Tarun Tejpal because "they both make me feel like a worm. And I like that". And Seth never reads in bed (one of my favourite places to read).

But for all that Swapan Seth is a man to admire and a role model for many youngsters who have not yet learned to appreciate the uncountable benefits of reading. The message to be taken to heart here, perhaps, from a man after my own heart is that it is never too late to develop an interest in reading.

Read Swapan Seth's article in its entirety here: "Not by the book".
  • Photo courtesy: Businessworld
  • UPDATE (May 14, 2013): Yesterday Flipkart delivered a copy of Swapan Seth's book, This Is All I Have to Say. It will be placed in the Commits library ASAP.


  1. I completely relate with Mr. Seth's reading 3 books at a time syndrome. Please note, I am calling it a syndrome because 'normal' readers do not understand why and how we do it. :)

  2. I totally relate to this person. I never grew up on books. Books were for nerds. When I was 18, someone gave me J.D. Salinger...the catcher in the rye...i was converted. Now, i dont even switch on the television because a book keeps me more satisfied!

  3. Padmini (Greenhorn): I am reading eight books at present:

    1. Hiroshima -- John Hersey
    2. Frank Sinatra Has a Cold: And Other Essays -- Gay Talese
    3. Celebrating Peanuts: 60 Years -- Charles Schulz
    4. How to Travel with a Salmon & Other Essays -- Umberto Eco
    5. Interviews with History, Conversations with Power -- Oriana Fallaci
    6. The Writerly Life: Selected Non-fiction -- R.K. Narayan
    7. Fierce Pajamas: An Anthology of Humor Writing from the New Yorker -- ed. David Remnick, Henry Finder
    8. Hitch-22: A Memoir -- Christopher Hitchens

  4. Padmini (Greenhorn): Make that nine books. Flipkart delivered "The Copy Editing and Headline Handbook", by Barbara G. Ellis, last evening and I couldn't resist dipping into it right away.

  5. I have read 'This Is All I Have to Say'. He is so insightful.


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