- Applicant must love books (not just "like to read books" but actually love books).
- Must occasionally feel a nearly undefinable, overwhelming, and ethereal connection to a story or an idea.
- Must periodically rant on the verge of incoherence about how beautifully a favorite author turns a phrase or constructs a sentence.
Recently, Barnes and Noble Chairman Len Riggio had lunch with African peace activist Leymah Gbowee, author of "Mighty Be Our Powers." As a result of this meeting and the viewing of a documentary film that featured the author, Riggio decided to finance the author's book tour. On his own. As an individual. Out of his personal (granted, very deep) pockets.
When asked why he chose to finance Gbowee's book tour himself, Riggio said, "If you met her, and she said, 'I need some money to help get my message out', I guarantee you would write her a check."
Say what you will about the Barnes and Noble Chairman (and former CEO), but you can't deny that Len Riggio is a book guy (and a book guy with a heart).
Dating back to at least my time at Barnes and Noble in the late 90's, Mr. Riggio has occasionally shown himself to be personally devoted to supporting a very special book that touched him as a reader or moved him as a human being. These titles were not just books that possessed unfulfilled selling potential, and not just new releases that were over-hyped by a major publishing house. They were books that mattered.
(Certainly, this kind of commitment to specific book titles was commonplace among Borders employees as well, but seldom, if ever, did it happen at the Chairman or CEO level of the company - unless you include self-published ego-projects about the Grammy Awards or business books that were hyped solely to promote the reputation of a big company investor.)
In his forty-plus years as a bookseller, Len Riggio has proven himself to be skilled at making the decisions that drive positive financial results. He owes his success to more though, than just being forward-looking and strategically apt. By picking up the costs associated with Gbowee's nationwide book tour, expenses that typically belong to a publisher, Riggio has demonstrated belief in something bigger than profitability. Leymah Gbowee tapped into something pure and personal in Len Riggio, and ironically, the passion and generosity she inspired in the Chairman is also deeply rooted in what makes a bookstore and a book company successful.