Part of The Reading Interviews series.
Could you tell us a little about yourself?
By day, I’m a high school math teacher completing my first full year on the job.
By night, I’m a blogger at Friendly Atheist, chair of the Board of Directors of the Secular Student Alliance, author of I Sold My Soul on eBay, soon-to-be calendar model (!), and someone who will crush you in Scrabble.
What are your favorite books? What do you like about them and how have they influenced you?
I don’t read many classics, but I love The Count of Monte Cristo. As for current books, I tend to read popular math and science books. I’m currently in the middle of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s Death By Black Hole. There’s a stack of “atheist literature” I can’t wait to get to. My Amazon wishlist includes more of those kind of books (and some teaching supplies). :)
I love when the books teach me a little bit more about the subjects I am so passionate about. They make me want to work harder to educate people so they know about this material. Every now and then, a book will come along and completely revamp everything I knew about a topic. Richard Dawkins’ The Ancestor’s Tale did that in terms of evolution, and it got me reading his other books (The God Delusion is good, but it’s not at the top of my Dawkins list).
Who are your favorite writers?
A few need no explanation: J.K. Rowling, Richard Dawkins, Malcolm Gladwell.
I love any writer who can take a subject that’s both interesting and complicated (Astronomy, Biology, Number Theory, etc.) and write about it in a way that makes sense to me so that I get a rudimentary understanding of it. Brian Greene is one example. Jared Diamond, another. Carl Sagan was incredible.
What is the best non-fiction and fiction book you have read recently?
Why do you think reading is important? What has led you to make it a priority in your life?
There’s no better way to get a thorough understanding of complicated subjects. With the right tone, helpful visuals, and a conversational explanation, I’m willing to sit through just about any subject.
Personally, I became an atheist on my own, but it was through reading essays and stories by other atheists online that my newfound beliefs were validated and strengthened. (If only the New Atheist books were out back then!)
I took several Biology classes in high school and college, but it was through reading Richard Dawkins’ books that I gained a fuller understanding of evolution.
And I have yet to form an interest in any girl who isn’t well read. :)
Are there any other books you would like to recommend?
Besides the ones I’ve already mentioned (all of which you should read), All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren is fantastic. So is Jon Stewart’s America (the Book). And (cough) I Sold My Soul on eBay.
How many books do you normally read at a time?
I’d like to say one… but if it doesn’t capture my interest completely, it’ll get to two. I can’t do more than that at once!
Do you mark and take notes while you read? If so, how?
Sometimes. I feel like I’m doing something wrong if I write in a book, but a friend of mine persuaded me to do it. My own notes just consist of underlines and bracketing (for passages I like) or smiley faces. :) If I’m reading a book by a Christian apologist, I tend to write little notes to myself as to why they’re wrong.
When you finish a book, how do you decide what to read next?
If it’s a writer I really like, I’ll pick up more books by the author. If that’s not an option, I try to switch it up completely. If I just read a fiction book, I need to follow it up with something math or science-y.
Do you have any advice about reading that others might find helpful?
Do it. A lot. Read everything. Blogs, magazines, cereal boxes, etc. Especially blogs; they’re much more current and relevant than many books and most allow for a dialogue to take place about the topic.