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A lucky guy in every respect
Peter Mayer Publisher
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I loved studying, I loved school, I couldn't get enough of it.   I particularly loved reading.  We had a home that was a book home.  My mother was not a great reader, she read popular fiction, but my father read seriously and my grandparents read seriously.  Because we didn't have very much money, we came to America without means, I was taken early on to the public library in Richmond Hill in Queens, very close to Kew Gardens where we lived.  I remember that we were allowed to take out on our library card five books a week, and by God I took out five books a week; outside of whatever one I had to read for school, I read five books a week.  I was a great reader.

But my mother, who was not, as I say, a great reader, and she was a great athlete – she had been a runner and jumper in Germany before the war – and she was a great encourager of sports, and I was a skier and tennis player and baseball player and all of that, and my mother was always saying, why do you study so much? The answer was I loved it.  I never thought of it particularly as work.  Why don't you go out and play more baseball?  So I had… I had both.  I was a lucky guy.  I was a very lucky guy in every respect. 

[Q] I have a feeling you were an only child, is that right?

And I was an only child, too, so I wasn't spoilt materially, there was nothing… there was no material to share particularly, but my parents, or my father, did quite well after the war.  He was a glove manufacturer, but they had lost everything in Europe.  So I wasn't spoilt materially, but I got a lot of attention. I got a lot of attention. That's more valuable than being spoilt materially.

Peter Mayer (1936-2018) was an American independent publisher who was president of The Overlook Press/Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc, a New York-based publishing company he founded with his father in 1971. At the time of Overlook's founding, Mayer was head of Avon Books, a large New York-based paperback publisher. There, he successfully launched the trade paperback as a viable alternative to mass market and hardcover formats. From 1978 to 1996 he was CEO of Penguin Books, where he introduced a flexible style in editorial, marketing, and production. More recently, Mayer had financially revived both Ardis, a publisher of Russian literature in English, and Duckworth, an independent publishing house in the UK.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: school, reading, books, sport, only child

Duration: 2 minutes, 31 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2014-January 2015

Date story went live: 12 November 2015