This time, it is my good friend Francine McKenna, author of the widely read re: The Auditors blog which explores the role of the Big 4 accounting firms in the global capital markets.
“My favorite hobby? Dreaming I am deep sea fishing in Cabo San Lucas, attending the couture fashion shows in Paris, or learning to cook at a private villa in Tuscany. I used to travel quite a bit. Mostly for business – over several years with JP Morgan and Bearing Point in Latin America.
Some day I will get to Tuscany…but for now, let me tell you about another hobby that I’ve had since I was a very young child: Reading.
I spend quite a big chunk of my budget on books and reading materials. I reach for books to relax, to learn, to be stimulated to action, to visit far away places. I’m one of the five or so people who goes first to the bookstore’s “New Voices” shelf and takes the staff’s recommendation to buy anyone’s first novel. I buy books of photography and lots of literary biography. Every poet must know my name, since I’m a sucker for poetry.
I usually have at least two books at bedside, two in my computer bag, and several others on the coffee table. When I travel I bring short stories for bedtime and a business book for the plane. I write in Spanish quite often, so if I’m doing something extensive I also bring along a couple of dictionaries. You can imagine the looks I get from bellboys and taxi drivers when they pick up my suitcases. “Is that a dead body in there, ma’am?” I’m a good tipper.
Technology has impacted this hobby in enormous ways, but I am not very significantly influenced by these changes. I still buy only hardback books. I have only two audio books and they’re both by John Cheever. Probably the most profound change over the last twenty years has been amazon.com If I hear about a book on NPR, see a book review on C-Span, or read a review in any number of printed and on-line book reviews and journals, I often order it immediately on amazon before I forget. I love getting a delivery from them. Makes my day. amazon has enabled me to feed my obsession with instant gratification. I still buy books at the physical Border’s and Barnes and Noble, as well as at a number of independent bookstores in Chicago such as Women and Children First. When I travel, my all time favorite alone activity is browsing the local bookstore, Starbucks venti vanilla latte in hand, especially in college towns like Washington, DC and Cambridge.
But while I love amazon, not sure about their Kindle. Don't expect me to post a video of myself opening the box the day a Kindle arrives. I read too much on-line as it is. Still like the feel of paper and hard bindings. And I pride myself at getting interesting autographs at author book signings all over the world. In a way, I suppose the proliferation of on-line content, especially in relatively specialized sites such as Arts and Letters Daily, has changed my habits. Instead of reading a physical book in bed for an hour or so to get sleepy and promote vivid dreams, I sit up much too late clicking on links and following the conversation in Twitter. I wander to far away places and look at strange and funny things until my eyes can’t stay open any more, then crash.
I’ve got Nickel and Dimed, Demons in the Sky, and Division Street in my bag right now after a recent trip to DC. I barely touched them. When I got back to my room after days of meetings and lunches, I immediately opened up Twitter.
How can I defend 140-character Twitter habit? Hey, I probably read more now. But seriously, are there exercises like Pilates for the brain? Or a book to re-teach the pleasure of a long story? I'll be first in line to buy it.”