Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Books That Change Our Lives

When my dad was a child in the 1940's he read a book called Mickey Sees the USA -- Mickey Mouse touring the country in a car pulling a trailer. This book changed my father's life forever. He, too, wanted to see the USA by car. I grew up spending two weeks every summer in a car pulling a trailer, seeing the country. My parents now have a bus-like motor home and they go around the country every fall on their way to their RV home in Happy Trails, Arizona. To this day, that faded old book rides around the country in that motor home.

The book that has had the most impact on my life is Please Understand Me by David Keirsey and Marilyn M. Bates. When I was in my early twenties, right out of college, I played trivia every Tuesday night at a local bar with a group of friends from work. The average age of this group was around 50, so these people were much more experienced in life than I was. While all the people my own age quickly became bored with the Tuesday night group, I loved it. For the first time in my life, I was socializing with what I would call "intellectuals". Why did I prefer this group over the party-loving people that made up most of the other groups I knew? One night at trivia, one of the men told me I must be an NT to love going to trivia every week. NT? What the heck was an NT? They gave me this book to read and I was hooked. It explained so much about me and why I always felt different from everyone else. It's based on the Meyers-Briggs assessment which I'm sure anyone who's ever worked in a large corporation has taken at one point or another. If you've never taken the test, you can do so here. I am an ENTJ (there are 16 types) -- women of this type account for less than 1% of the general population. The book jokingly refers to this type as Stranger in a Strange Land. There are many more books and tests based on this research and I have read most of them. They provide a great framework for anyone trying to understand the people around them -- particularly if you're like me and no one around you is like you :) When I was working as a manager, I tried to get my people to take the test so we could all communicate better. No luck. Most people are intimidated by this sort of thing, so I then found the book The Art of Speedreading People by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger. It shows you how to recognize a person's communication style without having to administer a test. How perfect is that?

Okay, you're thinking, that's a weird look at Kelly's quirkiness, but what does any of this have to do with FictionDB? Well, a lot, actually. I've been spending a lot of time lately visiting all the other book information sites on the web and trying to figure out what kinds of people they appeal to. Someone like me goes to a book social networking site and freaks out and runs away. "Where's the order? The consistency? It's not organized. Where's the organization?" Now, someone else goes to that same site and thinks "Cool, I can see all these people and what they're reading. I don't care about organization, I just want to meet people." So chances are, if you're a frequent FictionDB visitor, you probably have a J at the end of your Meyers-Briggs type. J's account for 50% of the population and are characterized by orderliness.

Given that I only read 1 or 2 non-fiction books a year, it's pretty funny that the book that changed my life is non-fiction.

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