I would like to thank my parents for my very early immersion in the wonder of books, which has helped to shape my interests and skills as an adult.
The following self-interview is adapted from Short Stories and Sustenance, whose work I’d found as the featured blogger on 20sb, which was repeatedly mentioned in early commentary on my go-to source of hilarity and insight, Hyperbole and a Half.
What am I reading right now?
I just finished re-reading Swim, the short story appended to the trade paperback edition of The Next Best Thing by Jennifer Weiner. I think I’ve read everything that she’s published so far because her writing is smart, funny, relevant and immersive in the way that the books of my childhood had been.
Do I have any idea what I’ll read when I’m done with that?
I’m anxiously awaiting the release of the first book by Hyperbole and a Half blogger Allie Brosh but will need to find something else to fill in my time for the next six weeks.
What five books have I always wanted to read but haven’t gotten round to?
I don’t really keep a list like that. I have a few non-fiction things waiting on my Kindle but I have to be in the right mood to explore them.
What magazines do I have in my bathroom/lounge right now?
Last year’s Ikea catalogue and the movie magazine from last month’s visit to the cinema.
What’s the worst book I’ve ever read?
Many of the titles that I was forced to read in high-school English.
What book seemed really popular but I didn’t like it?
Lord of the Flies was considered popular and was generally well-written but it had one of the worst endings that I can vaguely recall. I was so mad at the characters just rolling out to the beach and being ‘saved’ by the adults. I wanted the kids to work things out for themselves. I think I threw the book across the room at that point.
What books do I frequently recommend?
For its incredibly unique voice: The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Mark Haddon).
For time-management skills that seem so desperately needed for victims of always-on culture: Eat that frog! (Brian Tracy) and The Myth of Multi-tasking: How “Doing it All” Gets Nothing Done (Dave Creshaw).
For newbies to social media and learning Social media for trainers: techniques for enhancing and extending learning (Jane Bozarth)
For introverts and those who love us: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain)
For ideas to counter complexity: Insanely Simple (Ken Segall)
What are my three favourite poems?
I was never that crazy about others’ poetry (again with the high-school impositions) even though I dabbled in writing some myself during my teenage angst.
Where do I usually get my books?
Amazon (digital) or Chapters (print).
When I was little, did I have any particular reading habits?
Yes, I recall having a huge appetite for reading ‘anywhere’. This included reading the back of cereral boxes or any other printed item at the breakfast table and wandering down the hall into the bathroom without missing a word of whatever book had me engrossed.
What’s the last thing I stayed up half the night reading because it was too good to put down?
I get tired way too easily to do that but I often stay up an extra 15-20 minutes to finish a good chapter.
Have I ever “faked” reading a book?
As much as I was a ‘good student’ In high school, I definitely faked reading a few books, or at least faked finishing the whole thing. I hated being forced to read what someone else expected me to read just to pass some quiz or exam. As an adult, I’ve learned to put a book down and not finish it if I don’t want to (thanks, Gretchen Rubin!)
Have I ever bought a book just because I liked the cover?
Not that I can recall.
What was my favourite book when I was a child?
Ah, so many, often about some kind of adventure:
In my very early days, I loved Golden Books including The Pokey Little Puppy, Tootle the Train and Scuffy the TugBoat. A little later, I enjoyed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, The Tootpaste Genie by Sandy Frances Duncan, various editions of Mrs. Piggly-Wiggle and Mrs. PepperPot, and Pippy Longstocking. I was also a big fan of Judy Blume (Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing), Gordon Kormon’s early work and Beverly Cleary (Ramona and Beezus, The Mouse and the Motorcycle).
What book changed my life?
Whatever was the first book I was able to read, at age two, according to my father.
What is my favourite passage from a book?
The one that helped me to find my beloved: “That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”
- Charles Dickens, Great Expectations
Who are my favourite authors?
Fiction: Jennifer Weiner, Stuart McLean and all of the children’s authors above
Non-fiction: Brené Brown, Susan Cain, Gretchen Rubin, Ted Kerasote
For what book am I an “evangelist”?
I think everyone needs to read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Susan Cain).
What are my favourite classic books?
Winnie the Pooh, Anne of Green Gables and The Little House on the Prairie series.
Five other notable mentions?
I couldn’t think of any others – feel free to note your own!
Ah, the question that tires me most: “what’s new?”
That question is an immediate red flag, warning me of an extrovert who wants to make small talk and hasn’t remembered enough of my details to ask me a better question. The person seems to forget how literally I take things. I panic for a few seconds as my mental gears grind through which items to report as ‘new’ since the last time I saw my enquirer. After all, I like to be precise and accurate, linear and focused. I’m also a horrible story-teller in person so that doesn’t help things.
Therefore, the balance of this post isn’t just ‘what’s new’. Ask me what I’ve read today, what I found compelling, relevant, relatable and interesting.
The answer contains three good reads on self-identifying as introverts, what makes us tired, and what makes us feel good when we are understood by those who love us, work with us and spend time with us.
Enjoy and please share your reflections, if you wish.
One word that best describes how you work: focused!
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
- Electronic calendar reminders
- Desktop sharing software
- SharePoint for work
- Skype and iPhoto for life
- Zebra Sarasa gel pens, post-it notes and paper
What’s your favourite to-do-list manager?
At work, I rely 100% on Outlook reminders. I put everything in the Calendar so that I can make time for it and I don’t use Tasks at all. At home, I rely on my electronic calendar to remember upcoming events and I use pen and paper: one for groceries, one for all the other running around.
What’s your workspace like?
At work: fairly tidy, 99% electronic. At home: about 50% electronic/50% paper and the paper side will often become cluttered if I don’t stay on top of it. I hate all those little bits of paper that need to be filed or shredded.
What’s your best time-saving trick?
- Schedule time in my Outlook Calendar for preparation before and after meetings.
- Stay on top of email, always, always, always.
- If you can do it in less than a minute, do it now.
- If it’s not worth $0.50/minute to do something, ask yourself if it’s really worth doing (e.g., returning a very inexpensive item to a store will take more time, gas and effort than simply giving the item to someone else or throwing it out). I thank a family member for this wisdom.
Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without?
My digital camera.
What everyday thing are you better at than anyone else?
Synthesizing notes during live virtual meetings. I can type almost as fast as I think so letting others see my notes through desktop sharing helps us all to stay focused on the discussion. My virtual meetings show no mercy for people being distracted by email, crackberries, etc.
What do you listen to while you work?
Other people nannering on the phone, which makes me wish I could work full time from home. Like Clark, I can’t listen to music while working because it’s too distracting for me.
Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?
What’s your sleep routine like?
A bit of reading and then lights out around 10:45. Up around 6:30, much to my dislike. I’m very jealous of Phil Libin’s abilities in this domain.
Fill in the blank. I’d love to see _______ answer these same questions.
My co-workers. I’d much rather talk about how we work than what we work on.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
- The most powerful word in the English language: choose. (From the film “Dangerous Minds”)
- Own the advice, not the decision.
- Treat job applications like a sport and apply for ones you don’t care about just so that you can get used to the process.