The Brain –and Face– Behind “Brain Pickings”

(c) 2012 Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times
(c) 2012 Elizabeth Lippman for The New York Times

An interview with Maria Popova, who’s job is “helping people become interested in things they didn’t know they were interested in, until they are.”

SHE is the mastermind of the one of the faster growing literary empires on the Internet, yet she is virtually unknown. She is the champion of old-fashioned ideas, yet she is only 28 years old. She is a fierce defender of books, yet she insists she will never write one herself.

At precisely 9:30 on a chilly Saturday morning, Maria Popova slips out of her apartment in Brooklyn, scurries down a few stairs and enters a small basement gym. A former recreational bodybuilder from Bulgaria, Ms. Popova is the unlikely founder of the exploding online emporium of ideas known as Brain Pickings.

Her exhaustively assembled grab bag of scientific curiosities, forgotten photographs, snippets of old love letters and mash notes to creativity — imagine the high-mindedness of a TED talk mixed with the pop sensibility of P. T. Barnum — spans a blog (500,000 visitors a month), a newsletter (150,000 subscribers) and a Twitter feed (263,000 followers).

There’s more…