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Life-long learning, curiosity, and what we’re reading

Rosie Clifford
Wednesday, 3 June 2020 ( #977 )
In a recent Kitchen Table Mingle blog on virtual meetings, my colleague Melissa asked "Does anyone else find themselves checking out the books in other people's shelves during meetings?" My answer Melissa: every chance I get! Similarly, in the days before Spotify, when people actually collected music albums, I used to spend a large portion of time at friends' houses browsing their CD collections, as if this process would somehow reveal a rare insight into the collector's soul. I think learning about the random mix of books, podcasts or blogs that spark someone's interest at any given time offers a similar pleasure. So, I asked a couple of my colleagues about what they have been consuming lately: Ann: I have been subscribed to Monday Note for many years. The editor, Frederic Filloux, always shares interesting topics and ideas from the publishing world, social media platforms and technology. I also read a lot in The Conversation. They publish news stories written by scientists and academics. They explain all sides of a news story and give in-depth information. Their writers are volunteers and the publication relies on donations. They have multiple regional versions. I have subscribed to the Australian version as well as the French version, just for the fun of reading out loud in French (one of my hobbies ;-) There is one podcast I am almost addicted to - "The Thread". This podcast focuses on events in history, finding threads that interlink them, sometimes through many decades. The host, Sean Braswell, tells a good story and I love listening to his voice. My favourite series here is the one that somehow links the murder of John Lennon back through history - all the way to Vladimir Lenin's revolution in the early 20th century. I like reading. Good, flowing stories help me escape the challenges of daily life and find rest. I either digest easy-to-read French novels from the "Le Livre de Poche" series, currently going through a couple of Marc Levy books, or novels by Australian authors. I have just finished reading the "The Rosie Project" trilogy by Graeme Simsion as well as "Boy Swallows Universe" by Trent Dalton. Melissa: My reading list can best be described as eclectic: neither am I a big online reader, having just a few favourites that have been landing in my inbox for years and collecting on the left-hand side of my laptop screen: fastcompany.com, which discusses an eclectic mix of technology, leadership and design, and brainpickings.org, which describes itself as a weekly digest of articles on art, science, philosophy and creativity. For book recommendations and free previews of new authors, I have started following The Pigeonhole, thepigeonhole.com, "the book club in your pocket". For Blogs with great lists to other blogs and books, etc., I follow, Local is Lovely and Ill Seen, Ill Said. One of the most exciting things I have discovered over the last couple of month isn't a book, but are the amazing virtual tours you can go on and, to keep this blog on theme, JK Rowling's new children's book, which she has released free online. A great podcast I can't recommend enough is Richard Fidler's Conversations, a fascinating line-up of interesting people doing interesting things. And just to add my recent favourites into the mix: I have discovered a couple of sources that collate a whole lot of non-fiction authors from various fields (philosophy, business, psychology, marketing) and provide overviews that breakdown the core arguments from these authors and ponder what value these arguments might add to our day-to-day lives. The Farnam Street (FS) blog contains fascinating insights on a range of topics from mental models to decision making. The What you will learn podcast shares the main take-home lesson from the best (non-fiction) books the two podcasters have been reading. I am drawn to these two sources as they constantly spark my curiosity. I love falling down a virtual rabbit hole with an interesting concept or topic. I search for an article or podcast to quench this curiosity, which, in turn, raises more questions and takes me down another stream of content (leading further and further down the rabbit hole). This quirky stop animation from self-taught animator Georgina Venning, winner of the The RSA Student Design Awards, I think perfectly captures this process:
And just for fun - I recently bought a beautiful hard-cover book about the art of my boy's favourite author/illustrators and I have finally started reading a Stephen King novel after reading his exceptional part memoir/part writing manual, On Writing, years ago (a fantastic read for anyone, not just for writers). To circle back to the start of this blog, I wonder, if perhaps finding out about what people read (or watch, or listen to) is interesting because it illustrates life-long learning in motion, a continuous attempt to know more, driven by our intrinsically curious natures. What has been sparking your curiosity at the moment? We'd love to hear about what you have been reading, listening to or watching. Join the forum thread or drop us a line.