When I chose non-fiction for March, I knew it would take a little longer than the fiction months had taken. I read about five non-fiction books a year and they always take longer. Partly because I’m usually less anxious to pick them up and partly because I need to really think through what I’m reading.
A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer with Charles Fishman was no exception. As I write this, deep into April, I still haven’t finished it. Let’s unpack why.
It’s a hardback book that sold for $25. I ordered it May 6, 2015 with three other non-fiction books: Rise: A Soldier, a Dream, and a Promise Kept by Daniel Rodriguez. He’s a veteran who returned from war and played football at Clemson; Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose, who, I suspect, has never been kicked out of book club; Save the Cat by Blake Snyder.
On that same order were fiction titles The Naked and the Dead by Norman Mailer and The Almond Tree by Michelle Cohen Corasanti. Neither of which have been read. Apparently in 2015 I had plenty of money for books I had no intention of reading.
A Curious Mind is Brian Grazer explaining how his success in Hollywood has come from asking questions. It’s part memoir, part how-to and every now and then so completely deaf only a white man could have written it. In his defense, it was 2015, so before we were asking white men to expand their world view to include women and people of color. Nonetheless, when he talks about such different stories all of which starred a middle-aged white man, I’m a little bit like, “WTF, dude?”
One of the other things that slows down my non-fiction reading is writing in all the margins. I did that on this one, too. He had some good “nuggets” as my writer’s group lead, Ginny, would say.
What I loved
Grazer wants to share this secret with us. He wants us to be better about asking other people for their perspectives and stories. He says, “We can teach people to ask good questions, we can teach people to listen to the answers, and we can teach people to use the answer to ask the next question.” That spoke to the educator in me, especially homeschool mom Kasie who tends to lead Hollie through education like it’s a big Socratic experiment.
He also identified “management curiosity” which has been my style with our Redesign Work platform and now (thanks!) has a name. It consists of asking contributors if the work they’d busy with is the right way to spend their time and energy. It treats all business functions like creative functions by asking, “Are we doing this the right way?”
What I Disliked
Grazer’s book suffers from that practitioner habit of repetition. As if there wasn’t exactly enough to say for a whole book, but we’ll repeat some key tenets so we get to the page count.
The style is conversational, self-deprecating in places, and only a little patronizing. I might have liked more personal stories about friendships, lovers, and children. But the focus was very much on the extraordinary career he’s had in filmmaking and sometimes seemed like a lot of name-dropping.
That said, Grazer is genuine and when he suggests Universities staff a faculty member whose expertise is curiosity, I wrote in the margin, “Mr. Grazer will you endow my Chair at the University of South Carolina’s business school on ‘Curiosity in Management’?”
Have you taken the Off the Shelf Challenge in 2021? What are you reading?