I read ‘Goodbye, Things’ at a time in my life when I felt weighed down by material possessions as well as expectations.

Interview with Alexander Sandberg

A book without readers is paper. Paper packed with thoughts, adventure, intent, advice, and emotion, but it takes a person to make sense of it, to feel it. They are the ones diving books into the atoms that make up stories, ascribing their subjective meaning and adding their own personality to the words. They are literal, #weareliteral.

We think that different viewpoints deserve their own hashtag, collecting the stories of readers and their love for books here on Literal. We’re looking at the reader behind the paperbacks or Kindles. Like Alexander Sandberg. Taking a peek at his shelves on Literal, two things become clear – he likes non-fiction books but seems to inhale every novel by Murakami that’s out there. More in the following interview.

Starting with an existential question: Why do you read?

As you’ve already noticed, I’m a big fan of non-fiction. I’m a curious person that loves to learn new things. Books are one of my sources of new knowledge. I, of course, also like the occasional fiction book as it’s a great way for me to relax and take my mind somewhere else for a bit.

What was the book that impacted you most in your life? Can you describe it in one sentence?

I would have to say Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki, which­ I would describe as a guide on how to live with less and appreciate the space that the absence of things gives you.

… and why do you like it so much?

The timing of reading a book is important. I read Goodbye, Things at a time in my life when I felt weighed down by material possessions as well as expectations. I was a proponent of minimalism before, but after reading Sasaki’s book I found a new personal meaning in his philosophy. It helped me regain peace of mind and changed many areas of my life, from finances to relationships.

My favourite quotes from the book are “If you lost it, would you buy it again?” and “It’s actually open space, left empty, that gives us peace of mind”. These words perfectly sum up the essence of Sasaki’s writing.

Going back five years – what did twenty-two-year-old Alexander like to read and how has your reading behaviour changed?

I always found non-fiction interesting, because I’m a curious person always looking to learn new things. I was reading books like Tim Ferriss’ The 4-hour Work Week. I don’t think my reading habits have changed a lot. But I do enjoy more fiction books these days. And I also recently found a new love for physical books after primarily reading e-books for a few years.

If you could only recommend one book ever to other readers, which one would it be?

As I already mentioned, the timing of a book is important, so that’s quite a difficult question. A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine, because I think that every reader can find something for him- or herself in stoicism. It’s a philosophy with a lot of great principles and advice that can be applied to life.