Josh Whiting has worked in the Educational Technology department for about a decade, supporting school libraries and technology behind the scenes. Among other things, he manages this website.
What books are currently on your nightstand?
I don’t keep books on my nightstand, but by my desk I currently have The Hour of Land by Terry Tempest Williams, The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, and a teetering stack of middle grade fiction – The Girl Who Drank the Moon is on the top of that stack.
What was the last great book you read?
Fiction-wise, The Savage Detectives by Roberto Bolaño kind of blew my mind. It is probably the best fragmented narrative novel I’ve ever read.
Nonfiction-wise, I’m looking at YouTube, Instagram, and a hundred other things on the Internet in a whole new light after reading Virginia Heffernan’s excellent Magic and Loss: The Internet as Art.
The Wild Robot is my favorite children’s book I’ve read this year. It made me feel like a 9-year-old again.
The last book that made you cry?
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nahisi Coates.
The last book that made you laugh?
Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson.
What kind of reader were you as a child? What childhood books and authors stick with you the most?
I was kind of a precocious reader. I still remember my school librarian taking me aside in an almost clandestine manner to show me a shelf of My Father’s Dragon and Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books that I could check out even though I was only in 1st grade. My Father’s Dragon was the first chapter book I ever read on my own, because of said librarian. My mom read Roald Dahl books and The Chronicles of Narnia to me until I could read them myself, at which point I promptly did. The Redwall books by Brian Jacques were really important to me for a long time. John Christopher’s Tripod trilogy was the original Hunger Games. I read The Lord of the Rings in 5th grade and after that there was no going back to children’s books, or so I thought.
What is the best book you were required to read as a student?
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald was my favorite from high school, but there were a lot of others as well. I loved being required to read books so much that I went to college and became an English major. The Prelude by William Wordsworth (1805 Edition) is my favorite book I was required to read in college that I would never have read or even known about if the professor hadn’t assigned it.
What book did you hate reading as a student?
A Separate Peace. In 10th grade, my English teacher assigned us to read a Faulkner novel as our next class reading. Everyone in the class (except me) whined so much about how hard Faulkner would be that she actually relented and had us read A Separate Peace instead. I started reading Faulkner on my own time.
What is your favorite book to recommend to children?
I don’t often get the chance to recommend books directly to children other than my own children, and occasionally my nieces and nephews, but whatever I’m reading I’m trying to figure out who it potentially might fit more abstractly. I love researching and finding possible similarities or connections between different books and making book lists. Whenever I’m recommending books I ideally want to give someone a couple of really solid choices that seem right in line with their tastes, and then I have this perverse need to give them a couple that are outside of their comfort zone, such as a different genre than they are used to, a different style or format than they are used to, diverse characters or different situations than they are used to, etc.
If you could only bring three books to a desert island, which would you pack?
- A complete Shakespeare because I haven’t read many of his plays yet so it would give me plenty to do and it might help me pretend I had people to keep me company;
A giant blank journal in which to write;
- (If the journal doesn’t have to count as one of my three, I would take a massive poetry or literature anthology;)
- Where the Wild Things Are to remind myself what I am supposed to do while I am there on the island.
Answered in September 2016.