The Proust Questionnaire — Book Edition

Highlights from The Proust Questionnaire—The Book Edition

By The Editors, Designers & Books December 30, 2013

Some of the most (revealing) fun we’ve had over the past two months has been assembling the answers we’ve received from designers and other contributors and friends to our version of the Proust Questionnaire, which we called the “Book Edition.” Twenty-nine respondents replied to a set of twenty-five questions about their relationships to books. Among other things, they told us about where they liked to shop for books, their favorite childhood books and authors, the book that best describes them, and their intimate reading habits.

Here are a few of the highlights of what got said.

Your favorite childhood book (or favorite childhood author):
The Wind in the Willows. The first book I read in one sitting. (Angus Hyland)
Didn't read. (Peter Eisenman)

Your favorite book character:
Eloise. (Steven Heller)
John Yossarian in Catch-22 (Tony Brook)

Your favorite book title (because you like the sound of it):
On Bullshit (Sagi Haviv)
Will Happiness Find Me? (Tina Roth Eisenberg)
Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (Rick Poynor)

A book you could never finish:
Moby Dick. I am stuck at page 465. (Nicholas Blechman)

A book you will never start:
Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault. I just don’t think I’m ever going to be in the mood. (Michael Bierut)

The best “book as object” you own (how it looks over what it says):
Ford Treasury of Station Wagon Living. I do not want to live in a station wagon, but this book is persuasive—a 16-inch-thick (not kidding) dictionary covered in corduroy from the mid-1800s. (Todd Oldham)

Your most idiosyncratic reading habit:
I vowed at the age of eight that I would finish every book I started, and I’ve stuck to it ever since with very few (unconscionably bad) exceptions. (Alice Rawsthorn)
I often get horny when I read. (Marian Bantjes)
Reading massive Victorian novels (think Trollope) on my phone in the middle of the night. (Julie Lasky)
Looking at the side of the book to see how many pages I’ve read. It’s like looking at a tachometer. (Steven Heller)

If you could be any author:
William Blake. (Coralie Bickford Smith)
Jane Austen, of course! In my dreams I wake up one day and write the Pride and Prejudice of the contemporary design world. (Alexandra Lange)

If you are what you read, the book that best says who you are:
Lucky by Alice Sebold. (Debbie Millman)
Woody Allen’s Without Feathers. (Mark Lamster)
I am not what I read—that’s why I read. (Inga Sempé)

Your favorite writer of the gender opposite yours:
Julia Child. (Michael Rock)

If you have the chance to plan it, the last book you’ll read:
Goodnight Moon (Seymour Chwast)

Your favorite place to purchase books:
While Amazon was the go-to place to buy books for a number of respondents—for a variety of reasons (including Marian Bantjes’s “I live on an island without a bookstore”)—bricks-and-mortar stores, from museum shops to secondhand purveyors, won out in many cases. Some favorites were:
In Manhattan, Barnes & Noble Union Square (Sagi Haviv), McNally Jackson (Nicholas Blechman), Rizzoli Bookstore (Debbie Millman), and the Strand (Steven Heller); i
n Brooklyn,  BookCourt (Alexandra Lange and Harry Pearce) and Spoonbill & Sugartown (Nicholas Blechman); The Village Bookstore in Pleasantville New York (Michael Bierut); Moe’s Bookstore, in Berkeley, California (Rudy VanderLans); Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon (Nicholas Blechman); Rye Books in London (Coralie Bickford-Smith), Heffers in Cambridge, UK (Alice Rawsthorn); Walther König in Cologne, Germany (Monica Förster); and Konstig Books in Stockholm (Monica Förster).

View all answers to the The Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition.

The Proust Questionnaire—Book Edition is an ongoing feature of Designers & Books. Answers from new participants will be posted as they are received.

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