The Trailblazer Awards: 5-Minute Interview with Gauthier Van Malderen

The Trailblazer Awards: 5-Minute Interview with Gauthier Van Malderen

With this year’s Trailblazer Awards open and ready for applications, we thought we’d catch up with some of our 2020 winners. Next up is Gauthier Van Malderen, CEO and Founder of Perlego.

What was the last book you read, and where did you buy it from? 

The last book I read was Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, which was brilliant. I read it on Perlego following a recommendation from a friend, and I haven’t looked back since. I’m always looking to work on my personal development, and this book explains the best ways we can do this, focusing on how we can challenge our own assumptions and decision making. Ariely is incredibly insightful and explains in detail about self-defeating behaviours, procrastination and other aspects of our lives that we are often unaware of.

What’s next on your reading list? 

John Brockman’s Thinking: The New Science of Decision-Making. It’s essentially a collection of essays exploring the new science of decision-making and problem-solving. It provides various ideas, theories and explanations on the ways we think and why we are not as rational as we sometimes believe.

Which writer would you have loved to have met and why?

I would have loved to meet John Steinbeck, famous for the likes of The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men and East of Eden. Steinbeck is widely considered to be one of the greatest American novelists who ever lived, and his work is still so influential. When he was alive, he often spoke out about the ill-treatment of migrant workers in America, and his voice and influence contributed to the Government introducing changes to help the people who had suffered the most during the Great Depression.

I remember first reading Of Mice and Men when I was a teenager and being completely gripped by the book. If he were alive today, I’d want to know why he made Lennie die and what his thoughts are regarding the political climate in the USA at the moment.

You’re stranded on a desert island. What three books would you want with you? 

Ideally, I’d like to have a book entitled “How to Build a Boat When You’re Stranded on a Desert Island ”, but I think that’s against the rules. So, my top three books would be:

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare by Jonathan Bate. Since you can find all of Shakespeare’s work in one singular book, I believe this still counts. Filled with romance, tragedy, comedy, and more, this incredibly long book would keep me entertained for hours.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley. Being alone on a desert island would give me plenty of time to reflect, and this book helps to do just that. A timeless reminder of people’s ability for growth and change, helping readers to recognise our common humanity even in the face of injustice.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. This book depicts a decade of training as a neurosurgeon, who eventually gets diagnosed with lung cancer. It’s beautifully written and causes the reader to ask themselves important questions. When I first read this book, I was going through a major transition in my life, and it helped me a lot.

What is the one piece of advice you’d give to someone starting out in publishing today?

The one piece of advice I’d give is don’t just follow the crowd. The publishing industry has had incredible success, but that doesn’t mean to say it’s perfect as it is. When I first started Perlego, the concept was viewed as radical, as it went against the norm. But over the last few years, we have seen the benefits of digital transformation prove itself time and time again. Sometimes you need to be willing to say something different.

Which is your favourite bookshop or e-bookstore and why?

I love going to a bookshop and finding my next ‘can’t-put down’ read. One of my favourite places to find a good book is South Kensington Books close to the Tube Station. It’s a small independent bookstore which has been operating since 1996, and I find something new on every visit. Even though it is closed at the moment due to the current COVID restrictions, they are doing an at-home delivery service, which I’ve taken advantage of as I’m really keen on supporting small businesses.

What would be the title of your autobiography?

“My e-autobiography”

What is the silliest thing you have on your desk?

A stress ball! I find it really helps me re-focus and align my thoughts.

Who has been your greatest inspiration and why?

I find inspiration from a variety of people and things, but I would have to say the people who inspire me the most have to be my team at Perlego. Even though we are not in the office at the moment, my team has demonstrated nothing but hard work and determination since we started working from home in March. Their passion for this industry gives me the motivation to keep driving for success.

Has a book ever changed your life?

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle.

I hardly ever re-read books, but I’ve returned to this one multiple times over the years. This book has taught me that the majority of our problems are just made up ideas created inside our own minds. Problems can be either overthinking something that has happened, or stressing about something in the future, both of which can be thrown out of the window!  This book has taught me to live in the present and focus on the here and now, which has been incredibly helpful during lockdown.

What was your favourite book when you were a child? 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.

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