Your Well-Read Life

Your Well-Read Life 

Your Well-Read Life




Steve Leveen is also the
CEO & co-founder
of Levenger


Author of The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life

A well-read life as defined by Steve Leveen is something that all of us can attain. What's most important is not which books you read or even how many. Instead, says Steve, it's "whether you are in book love today, tomorrow and next week."

And yet it's only been in the past few years that Steve started to fall in book love and learned how to stay in book love. It's ironic, given that Steve is the CEO and co-founder of Levenger, the retailer offering "tools for serious readers." But he readily admits that he himself was late to the bookshelf, and only recently has considered himself a serious reader.

A personal odyssey with a how-to epiphany

It was, Steve says, "pangs of missed opportunity" that motivated him to write The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life. He had devoted his years to business and family but gradually realized that a full life

He readily admits that he was late to the bookshelf, and only recently has considered himself a serious reader.

would also have to include a life filled with books. His Little Guide recounts a personal odyssey that most time-starved, overscheduled, rather-be-reading, want-to-be-living people can relate to.

Steve's epiphany as a reader didn't come from a book that he read—at least not in the conventional manner. Rather, it happened when he listened to his first audiobook, Elephants in My Mailbox, by Roger Horchow. That was the beginning of his rebirth as a reader, a baptism of desire that immersed him in the delights—and time-shaving benefits—of reading with your ears.

He now ristens (i.e., reads by listening) when he's at the gym with his older son, washing the dishes, washing the car, and waiting in long lines at the airport.

Giving voice again to reading

Recently Steve ristened to The Great Gatsby, a book he had read in the  conventional manner 22 years ago when he and his wife, Lori, were on their honeymoon in

Steve's epiphany as a reader didn't come from a book that he read. Rather, it happened when he listened to his first audiobook.

Maine. It is one of a number of books he has read with both his eyes and ears.

Through audiobooks Steve came to appreciate and practice another form of reading, and one that Winston Churchill urged his children to do: memorizing poetry. Robert Frost and Pablo Neruda are two favorites. Steve finds it takes him about a week to comfortably commit a poem to memory. "It teaches you to appreciate writing in a way nothing else can."

Dostoyevsky's accidental reward

He has also come to grips with the classics, realizing that like other books, not every classic is right for every reader.

Two-thirds of the way through Crime and Punishment, he finally gave up ("not enough crime and too much punishment"). And he came to a simple but startling realization: it's okay not to finish a book you don't love. It's more than okay, in fact: you should be giving up on more books because that means you're sampling more of them.

The athletic reader

This sampling is part of the active approach to reading that Steve advocates: to be the athlete rather than the spectator. Instead of having a few books to read, you develop an ample Library of

Asked who should read The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, Steve will tell you: "Someone who wants more from their books—and from their life."

Candidates: carefully chosen books that map with your interests, aspirations, dreams and goals. In his home in Delray Beach, Florida, he devotes an entire wall of his study to his candidate books; biographies feature prominently. Another wall is dedicated to his Living Library—the books he's read.

While a graduate student at Cornell, Steve wrote letters to Lewis Mumford after reading his Technics and Civilization, and then to Ray Bradbury, praising There Will Come Soft Rains. As part of his well-read life he has revived the practice of writing short letters to authors whose books resonate with him. (He keeps a copy inside their book.) Some of the more recent recipients include Anne Fadiman, Ann Patchett and Malcolm Gladwell.

Books as connectors

Gladwell's Tipping Point is one of the books Steve gives to friends and acquaintances. He finds that sharing in this way helps him connect (and reconnect) with people. Reading may be a solitary pursuit but it can be highly social. Witness the growth of reading groups in the past few years.

Steve devotes a chapter of The Little Guide to reading groups, a phenomenon he was initially skeptical of but that won him over because of their sense of fellowship. He started his own group and found reading Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl more rewarding because of the group's discussion, which was, he says, "an amazing, heartfelt conversation."

His group of 12 men meets every two months in a restaurant for an early dinner and extensive conversation. Steve christened the group The World of Mules Book Group, borrowing from Ogden Nash's couplet, "In a world of mules/there are no rules."

The Well-Read Life campaign

Asked who should read The Little Guide to Your Well-Read Life, Steve will tell you: "Someone who wants more from their books—and from their life." That's the reason for the three-year Well-Read Life campaign that Steve has embarked on. He wants to help others who are seeking what they correctly sense is waiting for them.

"My life changed from black and white to color when I seized my well-read life," he says. "Have you ever wished you had more time to read? You may as well wish you had more time to live—and you do." There's no time like the present to fall madly, deeply, joyously in book love.

There's more to enjoy. Read our interview with Steve. Click here