Friday, May 3, 2013

Bob Harris

Bob Harris's books include Who Hates Whom (2007), a pocket guide to global conflict; Beyond Caprica (2010), a mock travel guide to the 12 colonies of the Caprica/Battlestar Galactica universe; Prisoner of Trebekistan (2006), a memoir of 13 Jeopardy! games over 10 years; and the recently released  The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time.

Last month I asked Harris about what he was reading.  His reply:
My own work has been mostly narrative non-fiction about difficult subjects (war, poverty, cancer, etc.), so reading fiction is way to constantly keep myself focused on storytelling. I tend to graze from several books at once, channel-surfing between fiction, non-fiction, and humor.

I'm about a third of the way into Deborah Levy's Swimming Home. My editor on The International Bank of Bob recommended it. There's a marvelous sense of predation and menace, and I'm savoring it, reading each piece first for fun, then again to try to study how she achieved it.

I recently finished Arthur Phillips's The Tragedy of Arthur, which I consider to be one of the best things — not just books, but things — that I've ever seen.

I also re-read several of Kurt Vonnegut's works, especially Slaughterhouse Five, about as often as my grandfather claimed to read read the Bible. There's an economy in Vonnegut's work that I appreciate more every time. The longer I live, the fewer words I hope to learn to use.

In non-fiction, I'm reading David Rohde's books Endgame, about the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia, and A Rope and a Prayer, about his kidnapping by the Taliban. I met David when he hosted an event about Bank of Bob at the Strand in New York, he's charming and funny and kind of amazing — if I'd been through half of what he has been through, I'd probably lose my mind. But no, there he is, gracious and humble and plowing ahead with his life. So I'm reading his books partly to try to get inside his head and try to understand how he stayed sane. Also, I was in Bosnia for a chapter in Bank of Bob, and I met people who work with women who survived the massacre. As I read Endgame, my horror at the tragedy and appreciation for the work is only deepening.

I'm about halfway into Bill Bryson's At Home, which bears his usual exuberance over details most of us wouldn't even think to notice, an enthusiastic curiosity that remains with you long after you read. His African Diary was one of the inspirations for what became The International Bank of Bob.

John Hodgman's three encyclopedias of Complete World Knowledge, most recently That Is All, have been making my bathroom a much more enjoyable place for years.
Visit Bob Harris's website.

The Page 69 Test: Bob Harris's Prisoner of Trebekistan.

--Marshal Zeringue