Thursday, August 27, 2009

Dr. John Jordan - Technologist

Dr. John Jordan is a clinical professor in the Department of Supply Chain & Information Systems at Penn State University, where he teaches IT Strategy in the MBA and undergraduate business programs. Formerly a principal with Ernst & Young/Capgemini, he directed research at the Center for Business Innovation then in the Americas Office of the CTO.

His work has been cited in the International Herald Tribune, Investors’ Business Daily, the Wall Street Journal, and Fast Company. John holds a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan as well as a master’s from Yale University, and graduated magna cum laude from Duke University. He is currently completing book manuscripts on global business model innovation, and on human-centric information fusion.

Which books did you read (or were read to you) as a child that you remember best and why?

Dr. Suess was brand new and we wore through at least two copies of The Cat in the Hat. My favorite, then and now, was Paddle-to-the-Sea, a gorgeously illustrated yet richly factual story of a hand-carved wooden canoe put into the water in the Canadian north woods that makes its way eventually to the ocean. I still know that Lake Huron looks like the silhouette of a fur trapper with a heavy pack on his back and Lake Superior is shaped like a west-facing wolf's head.

Which books had the most influence on your thinking and character?

Supermarkets used to sell encyclopedias a volume per week, but we never bought any. Since volume 1 was the teaser and we had freebies from two or three series, I read a lot about things that begin with A; atoms were a big favorite, but I had a harder time with astronomy. In 6th and 7th grade I also went to the big public library and read World War II books about the Normandy invasion particularly, but cannot remember any by name. Getting a PhD in history was no surprise given that start.

Beyond kids' books, Donald Hall, Fathers Playing Catch with Sons is truly wonderful and sticks with me as I transit parenthood. Walker Percy, esp. The Last Gentleman, so affected me that we named a son for him. James Agee, both fiction and non-fiction, was a vast stylistic talent who raised hard questions.

Are there any books you have read to your children which you would recommend?

Bill Bryson (In a Sunburned Country, Thunderbolt Kid, A Walk in the Woods); Artemis Fowl; Eva Ibbotson; The Runaway Bunny; Little House on the Prairie; Hello Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle; Roald Dahl; Where the Wild Things Are; Friday Night Lights; Ender's Game; Eppie M. Says; Leo the Lop; Eloise; The Happy Prince; Muffin Pigdoom and the Keeper; I Love You As Much . . .; Love You Forever. In young adult, we named our daughter after the girl in Catcher in the Rye, so it has to be included.

Are there any books related to your profession or calling that you think children ought to consider reading?

Foer, How Soccer Explains the World; McCourt, Teacher Man; Studs Terkel, Working; Chouinard, Let My People Go Surfing

What books are you reading and enjoying today?

Atul Gawande (esp. Better); foodie lit (Ruhlman, Buford, Bourdain, Pollan); Crawford, Shop Class as Soulcraft; Jan Morris, Coast to Coast; Coram's biography of John Boyd; Thaler and Sunstein, Nudge; Zakaria, The Post-American World.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

What were you reading and how did you become a reader?

Please let us know. See the Sample Submission for an example and a description of what we are looking for here. Respond in the comments section with your answers. Many Thanks

Sample Submission: Charles Bayless - Management Consultant

I was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in October 1959. My father's career was in the international oil industry and so, after a couple of months, my mother and I returned to Venezuela where we were actually living at the time. With an older and younger sister, we lived all over the world while growing up: Venezuela, Houston, Libya, Nigeria, England (several times), and Sweden. My own career has been in management and systems consulting and included stints in Australia and again in the UK. I have three children.

Which books did you read as a child that you remember best and why?

For all that we moved a great deal and never had a large volume of household possessions, we did have a core collection of children's books that went everywhere with us. Among the earliest that I recall were Watty Piper's The Little Engine That Could, Judy Varga's The Dragon Who Liked to Spit Fire. Seuss' The 500 Hats of Bartholemew Cubbins was also a favorite. The anchor to our family collection of books was a multi-volume, Children's Encyclopedia which was divided into volumes of Folk and Fairy Tale, Tales from Distant Lands, Famous People, etc. Other picture book favorites flit at the edge of memory. Certainly there was a beautifully illustrated children's book of Bible stories at my grandparents which was happily reread over many summers. Also a realistically illustrated book of a chipmunk? squirrel? Something on that order. A realism which included, if memory serves, the rodent or one of its siblings being consumed by a hawk. Gripping! Finally, there was some much loved version of The Night Before Christmas.

As I grew older and could read to myself and pick my own books from the libraries of wherever we were living, I particularly recall reading and rereading Pippi Longstocking, Coral Island and Jules Vernes' Mysterious Island. Doyles' Sherlock Holmes was a hot streak of reading for a good long while as well. A handful of reference/science books also were solid standbys including the Time Life series and another book with a title along the lines of Can Elephants Swim? Bridging the gap between fiction and non-fiction, I can't overlook the Ripley's Believe It or Not! books.

Somewhere in here I also came across Walter Lord and his books, starting with his account of the the sinking of the Titanic, A Night to Remember.

As a young adult, in my mid teens, my father's favorite author was P.G. Wodehouse who in turn became a staple in my reading. I also read my way through all the works of the animal collector Gerald Durell. In these young teen years, I also read my way through any book on archaeology, or Egyptology in particular, on which I could lay my hands. Other favorites included Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki and true adventure books of that ilk.

Which books had the most influence on your thinking and character?

Honesty wrestles with embarassment. While every book influenced me in some way and sometimes I can even remember in which ways, there was one book in particular that lured me into considering just which limits I might wish to accept of myself. Richard Bach's Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Not deep philosophy I know but it came across my horizon at just about the best age to make the most impact on me, perhaps thirteen or fourteen. I was fascinated by the implied idea of not accepting limits imposed by others.

Are there any books you have read to your own children that you would recommend?

Both I and the children have enjoyed most of the books by William Joyce such as Rolie Polie Olie, Bently & Egg, Santa Calls and The Leaf Men. Also books by the illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky such as Rumpelstilskin and Rapunzel. Others: When Jessie Came Across the Sea, and The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey.

Are there books related to your profession or calling that you think children ought to consider reading?

Unfortunately I cannot call to mind any books that have a management consultant as the heroic protagonist. Kind of a gap in the market I would say. But in terms of the path not taken, for many years up to the time of college when the practicalities of supporting oneself intruded, I wished to be an Egyptologist. While I read everything I could find in the field with unbridled enthusiasm and probably as little discernment, three books stick in my mind: C.W. Ceram's Gods, Graves, and Scholars, Desrosches Noblecourt's beautifully illustrated Tutankhamun, and Heyerdahls Aku-Aku.

What books are you reading now?

Books that I am reading right now and enjoying? There is always a stack of 20-40 books beside my bed, all to be gotten to at some time. A couple of books by Bill Bryson, Thomas Sowell's Conquests and Cultures, David Landes' The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, Dan Gardner's Risk, and I am in the process of re-reading the mysteries of Raymond Chandler and several of Georges Simenon. At least those are the books on the top of the stack.

Submitting your story of reading

Through the Magic Door is an internet children’s bookstore and community of readers with the overarching mission of making it easier for parents and teachers to identify those books most likely to appeal to a particular child at a particular time and with their particular interests such that the child wants to read yet another book. It is our belief that the sustained habit of reading is built by a sequence of books that are just right for a child at that point in time in their life. Our goal is to try and broaden the culture of reading (10% of the population accounts for 80% of books read or purchased today). Through its book sales, Through the Magic Door funds a range of programs and free services which support parents to grow a reading culture in their home and helps them to find the books that are just right for their child.

One of the demonstrated success factors for cultivating a reading culture is for children to see their parents and others that they respect valuing books by reading them. Through the Magic Door is launching a program, of which this blog is a part, where we ask people from all walks of life to identify the books that have been most pivotal in their lives. We hope to have answers from all the range of people doing the kinds of jobs and producing the kinds of things in which children might be interested: doctors, musicians, lawyers, firemen, artists, policemen, farmers, architects, nurses, secretaries, soldiers, mayors, teachers, scientists, politicians, mailmen, astronauts, athletes, etc. The responses of these individuals whom children look up to and admire will be posted on our site on a weekly basis. We hope to establish a sense among children of their being part of a greater community of readers.

At its easiest and most minimum, I would appreciate it if you might take five minutes to jot down the books that you best remember, found most entertaining or that had the most influence on the development of your thinking and character as a child or young person. If you would like to write any comments or observations that describe those books, the context in which you read them, or why they made such an impact on you, that would be most appreciated as I think it adds substance to young readers beyond a simple list. Any suggestions you have of books that you think might be of particular interest to children intrigued by your profession or calling would also be useful in steering them to a greater awareness of the opportunities they face.

We focus on children from newborns to young adults, ages 0 to 18, the time period in which the culture and habit of reading is most easily established. Your memories of books probably fall into three rough categories: Picture Books (ages 0 to 5 or so), Independent Readers (ages 6 to 12 or so), and Young Adults (roughly 13 to 18).

I very much appreciate if you would be willing to help support building a culture of reading by answering any of the following questions and allowing us to post those answers on our site for our members to share with their children. Please let us know how we can get in touch with you.

Which books did you read (or were read to you) as a child that you remember best and why? (picture books, independent reader, young adult)

Which books had the most influence on your thinking and character?
(picture books, independent reader, young adult)

Are there any books you have read to your children which you would recommend?
(picture books, independent reader, young adult)

Are there any books related to your profession or calling that you think children ought to consider reading?
(picture books, independent reader, young adult)

What books are you reading and enjoying today?

If you are willing for us to share your response with young readers, please let us know any biographical information you are willing to share that will give them some sort of context. When (year or decade is fine) and where were you born?, What do you do or what is your profession?, What are some of the highlights or adventures of your life? Do or did you have children with whom you read?

To provide your recollection of books please send an e-mail directly to or feel to respond in the comments section. I will format it for a post in the blog. If there are enthusiastic readers whom you know whose biblio-biographies you think might be of interest, please bring this to their attention.

Many thanks