“If I Could Tell You Just One Thing…” from the Perspective of an International Student


When I moved to the United States a couple years ago, I knew I’d have to readapt several things. What I didn’t realize was that my reading habits would be one of them. They say you should read about things that you like when you are learning a new language, so I bought a 448 page Frida Kahlo biography. Of course I never read it and to this day just staring at it makes me tired. I figured pretty quick that I would not be the same reader as in Portuguese.

It was at a rainy afternoon, when I arrived too early to an acting class, that I sorted out the perfect reading style for my re-adaptation in doing that in English: I was waiting for the class and didn’t really have anything to do so I went to one of these gift shops where you can find all sorts of things. I saw “If I Could Tell You Just One Thing…” by Richard Reed and thought it would be a good company for someone who was two hours early for a class.

Screen Shot 2019-02-27 at 1.50.31 PM
“If I Could Tell You Just One Thing…” allows the readers to gain a glimpse into the lives of fascinating individuals. BRUNA LAUERMANN / THE QUADRANGLE

I went to The Crooked Town, a tiny and traditional restaurant downtown, asked for a delicious cheese and tomatoes’ crepe and started reading. If I could tell you just one thing, it would be: switch your phone off for an old-fashioned date with yourself through a book.

Richard Reed, the writer, is a entrepreneur, philanthropist and radio host. He is also the co-founder of Innocent Drinks, the Innocent Foundation and JamJar Investments, as well as the founder of Art Everywhere. In short, he’s pretty well connected. Which is what made it easier to get in touch with all the people he interviewed from Simon Cowell to Bill Gates and Caitlyn Jenner to an Auschwitz survivor, as well as Nelson Mandela’s fellow Freedom Fighters.

However, Reed wanted more than just being close to important personalities. He wanted to absorb their knowledge as well. In his own words at the book’s introduction, “I made a promise to myself: whenever I meet someone remarkable, I’ll ask them for their best piece of advice. It always seemed more worthwhile than asking for a selfie.”

The book isn’t great just due to the fact that he interviewed fascinating individuals and gave us a sneak peek of the life of these important characters. The book is great because we realize they are just like us. That’s what makes the book extremely inspiring. If we can relate with these people’s thoughts, perhaps we are not so different from each other. If they made their way to the top thinking that way, we are not so hopeless about what we will end up with, as our way of thinking is very much alike. And even if we think in a completely different way, we could still use their words as a new perspective or an advice.

For me and all my colleagues in the communication field, the book comes with a plus. “If I Could Tell You Just One Thing…” is about what these extraordinary minds have to say, but it is also about how Reed makes them say it.

Screen Shot 2019-02-27 at 1.50.37 PM
“If I Could Tell You Just One Thing…” by Richard Reed is an easy, exceptional, and inspirational read. BRUNA LAUERMANN / THE QUADRANGLE

In a regular interview we usually have more than one question and very often we don’t get too many meaningful words. Reed however, with a single straight-forward question, manages to get substantial answers. How does he trick people who want to trick him? How does he get them to open up to him? How important is it to know about one’s personality prior to approaching them? Those are some of the questions that bugged my mind while and after reading. Interviews such as the one Reed did with “The Handmaid’s Tale” writer Margaret Atwood are good illustrations of how interviewing smart characters can be hard and fun at the same time. Reed’s writing style teleport us to the same room or feel like we’re in the same phone call. It’s a game, he knows how to play it.

“If I Could Tell You Just One Thing…” was an exceptional book for me because I couldn’t read for a long time without getting tired then, so its three-page story format really helps. It’s easy to stop reading and just come back later for more. It could be a good in-between read for classes’ homework as it doesn’t require too much commitment. It can also be a source of inspiration to keep going since they’re all success stories, without hiding the tough side. Ahead of every story, drawings by Samuel Kerr gives us a face behind the words we are about to read. And if you’re really into quotes there are pages where Reed highlights a handful of them.

I was right when I said that I would not be the same kind of reader here as I was in Brazil. But when I said it, back then, it was because I thought I wouldn’t be able to read meaningful stories with the same depth. Now I realize that it ain’t about how many pages a book has, or how important I believe the theme is. My reading style is being able to relate to the story and take something good out of it.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, “remarkable is something or someone worthy of attention.” “If I Could Tell You Just One Thing…” taught me that books are always a way to meet the most remarkable person one can ever meet in a lifetime: theirselves. In that afternoon I encounter myself in the Reed’s words. I remembered that I love to hear people’s stories. After eating my crepe I stopped reading and look to the others in my surrounding: the owner, waitress and some customers, all them had amazing things to tell me. In the end, anyone could be a remarkable person, as long as someone has the time and tenderness to notice it.