We all read a lot. Books, newspapers, magazines, websites, even the radio. And while we consume a lot of materials, we each had favorites that stuck with us (sorry for the pun – see below!). So to wrap up the 2008 blog postings, we share with you some of our favorite reads. Not all of them are strictly work-related, not all of them came out in 2008, but all are recommended!
From James Chung:
Charlene Li’s Groundswell: Just named one of Business Week’s top books of 2008, Charlene’s book is a good primer for those of us too old to really understand what most of the rest of the younger world inherently knows. When Charlene first encouraged us to launch a blog, I had thought it was a ‘nice to do,’ but have since found out that our Museum Audience Insight blog is incredibly powerful way to exchange information with the field. When I finally broke down and activated my dormant Facebook account, I realized that it’s truly a game-changer, something that Charlene has been tracking longer and deeper than anyone out there.
Scott Kirsner’s Inventing the Movies: Scott is one of the nation’s top journalists covering ‘innovation,’ and his latest book is tracking how innovation has continually revitalized the movie industry, a book that he wrote at the urging of George Lucas. It’s a fun way to think out of the box about crazy ideas, how they tend to get trampled, and how they sometimes end up as the catalyst that awakes a field and makes it even more vibrant than ever. If there’s enough interest in the field about innovation as a topic for one of our future Museum Conversation calls, I’d love to get Scott to join as a guest. Let me know!
From Erica Donnis:
This summer, National Public Radio broadcasted a series of news articles about America's National Parks (“Summer Getaways—National Park Service") which really hit home with me. The stories weren’t fluffy—they dealt with some real challenges like global warming and the ongoing theft of national treasures. But they were somehow incredibly reaffirming about the importance of natural areas, historic sites, and museums in our lives, the dedicated people who staff them, and the visitors who love them. One anecdote in particular stood out: in a story about mule trips into the Grand Canyon, a patron talked about setting a goal for himself of losing 25 pounds so he would meet the weight limit to participate. That sparked my recognition of the phenomenon of the once-in-a-lifetime museum experience, for which many visitors will scrimp, save, reserve spots more than a year in advance, and yes, even go on a diet if they have to.
From Sally Johnstone:
I picked up Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die on a whim one day while browsing the business section of the bookstore. The duct tape on the cover attracted me – I’m a former Vermonter, rabid skier and snowboarder, and hew to the idea that duct tape is one of the five essentials of life, regrettably missing from the Maslow hierarchy. Lucky me, brothers Chip and Dan Heath had successfully signaled the fix that I needed. Anyone engaged in the art of communicating – and that’s all of us, excepting perhaps a hermit monk on a decades long silent retreat – can benefit from reading this book. A simple formula for sticky packaging of your ideas, so that your audience remembers and embraces them, is presented in an entertaining and easy to read format. The brothers’ suggestions, though simple, are backed by massive social science research and insightful analysis. The ideas presented are astonishingly sticky, and it’s a neat feeling to hear your ideas repeated by others. The authors write a column for Fast Company magazine, and have a blog.
The Little Fisherman by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Dahlov Ipcar. This children’s classic, reissued by Islandport Press this past May, was the first collaboration of two of my personal favorite Maine artists/writers. The Little Fisherman is a fun story contrasting the fishing trips of a big fisherman and a little fisherman…my son loves this book. Margaret Wise Brown, best known for Goodnight Moon and The Runaway Bunny, wrote some of the most unusual and interesting children’s literature I’ve read to my son. Anytime someone who knows me sees a book by Brown, they send it along. Dahlov Ipcar is simply a wonderful artist. Her pieces hang in major museums, and her fresh take on scenes from the Maine coast in this book is both perfectly appropriate for a children’s book and incredibly sophisticated. Ipcar wrote and illustrated a number of children’s books as well. (The dad in Lobsterman is very handsome.)
Malcolm Gladwell's latest offering, Outliers, begins with the "genius theory" -- that certain people are just smarter and more successful based on intrinsic characteristics. Gladwell argues that, instead of success being individually-driven, a unique set of circumstances allows certain individuals to excel. In other words, successful people don't do it alone, they are products of particular places and environments. His book looks at that "ecology" of success, which includes the social and cultural context of individuals that may explain their success.
Stumbling on Happiness was written by Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert, who attempts to explain why a huge portion of a very wealthy, very powerful country (ours) wanders astray when it tries to find contentment. Gilbert argues that the problem is that the human mind is hardwired to falsely remember how we felt in the past and to guess wrong about how we will feel in the future. We make wildly inaccurate predictions and assumptions which, in the end, cause us to feel dissatisfied with a result we once thought would make us happy. Gilbert's thesis makes a strong case for needing to stay very, very close to customers -- to see if you can help them set the right assumptions and be there when they are indeed happy with the outcomes.
From Susie Wilkening:
Convergence Culture, by Henry Jenkins, was probably the one book that totally changed my thinking about so many things. Dr. Jenkins begins by explaining how our society is shifting to a collective intelligence with different types of media converging to create cultural meaning. By page five I have the first of dozens of stickie notes popping out of this book, and already I am wondering how museums can, and should, change to fit in and be relevant in a new cultural mindset. Ranging from The Sims to fan fiction to fan reality fiction (who knew??), access is paramount, the world is changing, and, I believe, museums have important roles to play in providing the inspiration and information to thrive as our world changes.
Understanding Comics, by Scott McCloud. Nina Simon, the brilliant mind behind Museum 2.0, recommended this one to me. Comics, and graphic novels, have not been my preferred narrative experience, but this book clearly laid out for me why people do find them so compelling. And as we look at how narrative is changing dramatically, particularly for young people who are much more likely to want to play a role in the narrative, this book helped me understand how comics laid the groundwork for a more interactive, some would say personal, form of narrative. How? Because comic books make the reader work harder by utilizing the “gutter” (the space between panels) to force the reader to connect the panels with their own content, making comics a highly participatory form of narrative since the reader has to make some decisions within the overall story. I never thought of it that way. Nina – I eagerly await your next recommendation!
Happy New Year! And happy reading!