I was fortunate enough to recently hire somebody as an addition to my communications team for the company I work for. Communications within the organization have become a pivot point for much of the company's activity hence the need to grow the department.
But, while I'm confident the new hire will excel (he came highly recommended), I wish I would have asked him, "What is the title of the last book you read?" If only to get a little deeper look into his psyche.
Truth is, not many people read books. When I hear somebody say they hate reading or that they don't have time to read, I feel sorry for them - but not for long. Non-reading shows a couple things: a lack of imagination and a mind closed off to the nature of possibility. And that they probably get most of their information from T.V.
The worst non-readers are those who are proud that they don't read or that they haven't read a book in years or even decades. This "badge of honor" is an indicator of seriously flawed thinking.
The key isn't so much what people read, it's that they read at all. So if I ask the question, "What is the title of the last book you read?" - I don't care if the answer is a 1970s Sydney Sheldon potboiler or Tolstoy's War and Peace. In fact, if your mix of reading materials includes the pulpiest of fiction to the highest level literature to the most complex books on business trends, you'll probably show extremely well read if not intelligent, curious and eager. My thing? Don't cover up the pulp - wear it on your sleeve.
When I was in school (grammar school, high school and college), reading was emphasized. But it was also a household activity. As a kid, my family's house had a small attic room that acted as our "library" - walls were covered with hardcover and paperback novels ranging from the high to the low. I was 10 years old when I read my first adult novel. It was Bram Stoker's Dracula.
Since then, I have probably averaged reading about 2-3 books a month - not impressive when you're a 1-2 book a week reader but not a bad track record.
So what are the last few books I've read over the past couple months?
- Bringing Adam Home: The Abduction That Changed America - Les Standiford and Joe Matthews
- How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One - Stanley Fish
- Poke the Box - Seth Godin
- Just Kids - Patti Smith
- Who the Hell's in It: Conversations with Hollywood's Legendary Actors - Peter Bogdanovich
Based on that list would I hire me?
Well, at least as an interviewer, I'd be intrigued and would probably want to engage in a second conversation...