An Interview with Pete Hautman - by Kyle Thumar
Kyle: How has reading helped you throughout your life?
Pete Hautman: That is a huge question. I could spend hours trying (and failing) to answer it, because reading has shaped my life in every way imaginable. I suppose the main thing is that it’s saved me from making a lot of mistakes. For example, because I read Moby-Dick, I now know to not go chasing after giant white whales.
Kyle: How do you think the issue of males being less proficient readers than females can be solved?
Pete Hautman: I don’t believe that males are congenitally less proficient readers—I think that boys don’t make as much effort to read because they don’t see older males—their brothers, their uncles, their fathers—reading. And those older males don’t read much because they don’t see how it benefits them. Right now, a man can earn a living and keep himself entertained without doing a whole lot of reading. You take a random teenage boy and try to convince him to spend hours upon hours reading Moby-Dick…well, it’s a tough sell. You don’t need to know about 19th century whaling practices to get a job laying bricks.
Girls come from a different reality. Until the mid twentieth century, a young woman who wanted to do anything other than raise kids and clean floors had two main options: nurse or schoolteacher. Both of which required a ton of reading.
These days, women have more options, largely because they are using education (aka: READING) to take advantage of new opportunities. They are catching up both in the job market, and in political power. I think this is a good thing.
In another few generations, young men are going to wake up and notice that women are running the show with their superior educations, superior knowledge, and superior job skills in nearly every field. Maybe that is when young men will get serious about reading.
Kyle: What was your favorite book as a child? Now?
Pete Hautman: When I was young I was partial to the Winnie the Pooh books. As a teen, I was obsessed with The Lord of the Rings. These days I have a host of favorites. I couldn’t say that any particular one rises above the rest. I listed a few books I love on the FAQs page of my website: http://www.petehautman.com/faqs.html
Kyle: Why do you believe that is important to develop and maintain a passion for reading throughout your life?
Pete Hautman: To help us understand the universe and one’s place in it. As we move forward in time, everything changes, not least of all ourselves. Reading provides perspectives we might otherwise not experience—it gives us a library full of unique lenses through which we can enhance our understanding of the world we occupy. It helps prevent us from sinking into a morass of ignorance, bigotry, and delusion. Also, reading is less costly and often more entertaining than a lot of other things we do to amuse ourselves.
Kyle: How do you determine whether or not to read a book? (i.e. read the back, read the first chapter, etc.)
Pete Hautman: If I’m not familiar with the author, I read reviews. Usually I read several reviews, and I take them all with a grain of salt. Some of the best books get bad reviews—learning to sort through a reviewer’s prejudices and personal taste can be tricky, but it’s worth the effort. I listen to my friends, too. Some of them (not all!) have excellent taste. Once I open a book I’ll usually give it at least thirty pages. Sometimes the ones that start out slow turn out to be the best in the end.