Tuesday, January 10, 2006

interview question

At Berkeley Public Library nearly every job interview includes the question, "Tell us about a book you've read recently that you enjoyed. Who would you recommend it to and why?"

What with my recent promotion I guess I'm of a high enough rank to join interview panels -- I was on one today. The two other people on the panel have been supervisors for years and years and have hired lots of staff. I think I was there more to gain experience myself (& to provide a warm body) than for my expertise in sussing out the great workers.

We interviewed five people. None of them did very well on the what've-you-read-lately question.

One actually said she was enjoying the work of a poet. Sadly, she blanked on the poet's name. "She lists nonsense syllables that, as you read them, make a musical sense." I made one guess at the poet's name, but didn't hit it.

Another, after biting her lips, said she'd been reading to her kids a lot lately and could recommend The Cat in the Hat. "It's fun to read," she said. "Last night my son kept telling me not to sing as I read."

Our youngest interview mentioned Guns, Germs, and Steel, but the best he could offer about it? "It reaffirmed a lot of my ideas." Nice! Which ideas were those?

One of the other members of the interview panel went off, after this candidate left, about how poorly written the book is. Curious, I quite liked it. I don't recall thinking it at all poorly written.

The Historian has "an engaging plot", said another candidate. I thought the title vaguely familiar so prodded, "Is it a thriller?" "I guess you could classify it that way," she said. "The hero chases Dracula around." Who would she recommend the book to? "Probably to my best friend."

The Screwtape Letters. When my brother and I read the Chronicles of Narnia as kids we got interested in C. S. Lewis. I remember David talking about reading The Screwtape Letters. What did our candidate say? Our candidate alluded to the subject being "theology" and (like the young man who liked Guns, Germs, and Steel) found it a good book for "starting discussions".

"None of them gave good reader's advisory," said one of the other panelists.

"What were these books about?" I said.


David Lee Ingersoll said...

If I read The Screwtape Letters after Narnia I've completely blanked on it. I did read it sometime in the last couple years. And I've read the Space Trilogy. And I've read some of his essays. And I saw The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe . Am I wandering off topic yet?

Screwtape is clever. He's very much a middle class demon couching on how to torment middleclass Englishmen. He's cheerfully nasty and the revelation of what he means when he says he loves his nephew is demonically appropriate. I've seen an audio version of the story as read by John Cleese. You've just made me want to listen to it.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I keep almost starting Out of the Silent Planet, the first of Lewis' space triology. Something about "the Pedestrian" ... I suppose it'll be a much quicker read than Kim Stanley Robinson's fat Mars books, which I'm less than a hundred pages from finishing.

Speaking of Cleese, he's going to be performing next month in Berkeley and we have tickets!