Believing in books: Felicitas von Lovenberg

German publisher and literary critic Felicitas von Lovenberg turns books into must-reads. After working as a journalist for the FAZ, first in the art market section and later in the literature section, she now leads the Piper publishing house in Munich.
Today we met her to talk about how valuable books are for our well-being, how they can inspire us and how she gets the best reading tips from social media.

IRMA: Piper has a great variety of subjects, from fiction and non-fiction to travel, romance, fantasy, etc. You are in charge of all the content. Can you tell us about your daily work as a publisher?
FELICITAS VON LOVENBERG: My daily work is all about communication: I talk to our editors about new book projects, to our authors about their work, to my colleagues in sales, press and marketing about our strategy for each title. As there is no “one size fits all”, it is extremely varied and always exciting. What I love about the job is that it is always proactive and positive: We believe in our books and their authors, and everything we do is geared towards generating that enthusiasm. A constant pile of manuscripts keeps me company in the evenings and at weekends.

Piper Verlag’s Felicitas von Lovenberg and Jasmin Khezri from Irmasworld

IRMA: You have written a manual on how to read in the age of Netflix. I think this is a very important issue today. Have we forgotten how beneficial reading is for our well-being?
FELICITAS VON LOVENBERG: I think many people have lost the habit of reading, of immersing themselves in a story and forgetting everything else. We are constantly distracted by our mobile phones, emails and social media, so more and more people are finding it harder to concentrate on ‘just’ the page in front of them. The beauty of reading is that you cannot do anything else at the same time. When you read, you read – and that means you’re centred in some way, you’re comforted, you’re exhilarated, you’re fascinated, you’re seeing the world through someone else’s eyes.

IRMA: There is a popular saying “books give you wings”. Is reading mental hygiene?
FELICITAS VON LOVENBERG: Absolutely! It has even been scientifically proven that readers are more stable, suffer less from depression and are better at communicating their feelings.

IRMA: What do you think can be done to make books more popular again?
FELICITAS VON LOVENBERG: There is probably only one way: Through our own reading and through discussions with others about books that have an effect on us. We need to remind people that reading is cool.

Piper Verlag’s Felicitas von Lovenberg

IRMA: A lot of brands are starting book clubs these days, like Chanel, Summer Readings with Charlotte Casiraghi. Why do you think books are becoming more important again in our society?
FELICITAS VON LOVENBERG: During the pandemic, people suddenly had more time to read, and many experienced first-hand how much they enjoyed this way of reflecting on the complexities of life. Books have substance and I think that is something we all need and strive for.

IRMA: Tell me about the benefits of holding a printed book in your hands with a well thought-out cover design?
FELICITAS VON LOVENBERG: If you’re a book in a bookshop and you’re trying to get someone’s attention among hundreds of other titles, it’s often your look and your cover that decides whether someone actually picks you up rather than the book next to you. Also – again, a fun scientific fact – we remember books we read better as physical books than as e-books. We can take it off the shelf years later and remember who gave it to us, or the summer we read it, or that there was a great love scene in the middle of a left-hand page.

IRMA: I love to give books to friends. What do you think is a good tip for finding the right book?
FELICITAS VON LOVENBERG: Give books that you have read and really enjoyed – or at least a book that you have bought for yourself. That is meaningful. Don’t give books to look smart.

Piper Verlag’s Felicitas von Lovenberg and Jasmin Khezri from Irmasworld

IRMA: Your favourite platforms to find out about new books, print and social media?
FELICITAS VON LOVENBERG: Instagram is a treasure trove for book lovers. There are so many wonderful readers who share their thoughts on books and give great recommendations, whether they are booksellers, editors, journalists, bloggers or just avid readers – my firm favourites are Frank Menden, Johanna Adorjan, Tobi Schiller (@tobiborns) and Buchhandlung Lehmkuhl, for great style in every way Piper author Eckhart Nickel and for great advice on almost everything Adam Grant and Your Pocket Therapist. I find these kinds of personal yet concerted tips really appeal to me.

IRMA: What is your personal reading list for spring?
FELICITAS VON LOVENBERG: IRobert Seethaler, “Das Café ohne Namen“,which will be published in April. From our own spring programme I am particularly looking forward to “Moral – Die Erfindung von Gut und Böse” by the young and brilliant philosopher Hanno Sauer and Joel Dicker’s new novel ” Die Affäre Alaska Sanders”, a sequel to his bestseller “The Truth about Harry Quebert”.