November 12, 2014
Interviews: Nicholas Carr on Business and Books
"Whenever I’m in need of inspiration, I find Emerson’s essays to be a reliable source."
I understand the tendency to turn to a specific author when in need of something specific, like inspiration. Working everyday in business books, however, inspiration is not something missing from my daily reading diet. I'm pretty much constantly reading books that tell me I can change the world, and prompt me to do so. Even if they aren't stating that directly, most business books espouse an ethos of progress and our personal place in perpetuating it in our own lives, our organizations, and in the world at large. It is, by and large, a profoundly positive thing, but like everything it needs to be looked at deliberately, from every angle, and be moderated at times.
And so, I often turn to is Nicholas Carr—visiting his Rough Type blog and revisiting his books—to stay in touch with the notion that all this progress has a Panglossian element to it. As I mentioned in the original installment of this series, his books are not contrary to the likes of Walter Isaacson's Innovators or Steven Johnson's How We Got to Now, recent books that focus on the upside of innovation, but should be seen as companions to them. They remind us that the tools we implement to augment our memory and skills can sometimes, in fact, also diminish them, and that we should make sure we're at least using technology to more fully experience and immerse ourselves in life instead of escape from it while we're here on Earth. And, so, they are just as uplifting and speak to the best in us just as those other, more universally upbeat books do. Carr's books simply question more.
But what books helped him construct this narrative and outlook, and what business question does he want answered?
What is the one unanswered question about business you are most interested in answering?
In a rational world, what would a CEO be paid?
What book has influenced your work the most?
I’m not sure that there’s one that stands out above all others. In writing The Glass Cage, I found Langdon Winner’s Autonomous Technology and John Dewey’s Art as Experience to be particularly helpful. And whenever I’m in need of inspiration, I find Emerson’s essays to be a reliable source.
What is the book you wish you had written (or admire the most) and why?
Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. Because it’s beautiful and fearless.
What book are you reading right now?
I’m reading a book of contemporary philosophy called After Finitude by Quentin Meillassoux. It’s extremely slow going, but very interesting. Just don’t ask me what it’s about.
"In a rational world, what would a CEO be paid?."
Previously:You can read our Jack Covert Selects review of the book, take a deeper dive into the book in our review in Monday's post, and see what the author has to say about some of the major themes in the book in our Q&A with him yesterday.
Next:Pick up a copy of The Glass Cage or The Shallows, and keep up with the author at his Rough Type blog.
About Dylan Schleicher
Dylan Schleicher has been a part of the 800-CEO-READ claque since 2003. Even though he's stayed on at the company, he has not stayed put. After beginning in shipping & receiving, he joined customer service and accounting before moving into his current, highly elliptical orbit of duties overseeing the ChangeThis and In the Books websites, the company's annual review of books and in-house design. He lives with his wife and two children in the Washington Heights neighborhood on Milwaukee's West Side.