December 17, 2012 — On January 1, Dawn Wolthuis and her husband, Tom, will be taking on the role of president of the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, Ontario. Dawn gave us a few minutes of her time as she and Tom prepared to make the transition from Iowa to Toronto to tell us about what she enjoys reading, watching, and listening to. You might just get a hint of her math and information technology background! Then again, do all techies listen to Jethro Tull?
Q. What are some of your all-time favorite books?
A. The Thread, a Mathematical Yarn (Harcourt) by Philip J. Davis, who also wrote Thomas Gray: Philosopher Cat (Harcourt), which I also liked.
“Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!” (Norton) by Richard P. Feynman
The Accidental Tourist (Ballantine) by Anne Tyler. I picked this one as my favorite, even though it is older, but I have read and loved many of her books.
A favorite book of mine from decades ago is The Mind-Body Problem (Penguin) by Rebecca Goldstein. I do not know if I would be as delighted with it today, but I recall that I loved the book when I read it, so while trying to pare down my library prior to moving, I have kept this one.
I also love to read mysteries, including Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books.
The Soul of a New Machine (Back Bay) by Tracy Kidder.
Innumeracy (Hill and Wang) by John Allen Paulos.
Green Eggs and Ham (Random House) by Dr. Seuss.
There are so many more that I have really enjoyed, such as Anne Lamott’s books, as well as books such as The Professor and the Madman (Harper Perennial) by Simon Winchester and Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid (Basic Books) by Douglas Hofstadter, that this is a very difficult assignment. I suspect there are some really obvious ones that I would spot if I surveyed my remaining library, but some if it is already packed.
Q. Are there any that have particularly influenced your life or work?
A. Oh, there have been so many! A recent one that has definitely influenced me is about my new employer: A University for the People: A History of the Institute for Christian Studies (Dordt College Press) by Robert VanderVennen.
Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams (Dorset House) by Tom DeMarco and Timothy Lister was an early and influential professional favorite.
I have also been influenced by some management and marketing books, such as Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy (Crown Business) by Martin Lindstrom and Paco Underhill and Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (Harper Perennial) by Dan Ariely.
I also read political books and biographies that have influenced me. So many books have been very influential in my life and career!
Q. What are you reading now or hoping to read soon?
A. On the Kindle for long drives as a passenger I am almost done with Mitt Romney’s Turnaround: Crisis, Leadership, and the Olympic Games (Regnery).
I was in the middle of Designing Search: UX Strategies for eCommerce Success (Wiley) by Greg Nudelman when I was offered the career-changing job at the Institute, but I do hope to finish it in the future.
I have this one in my Amazon wish list: Thriving in Leadership: Strategies for Making a Difference in Christian Higher Education (Abilene Christian University) by Karen Longman. I recently listened to two audiobooks while driving: Steve Jobs (Simon & Schuster) by Walter Isaacson and Paul McCartney: A Life (Touchstone) by Peter Carlin.
Murder Inside the Beltway (Ballantine) by Margaret Truman is next on my mystery book stack.
Q. Do you prefer to read paper or digital books? Which do you do most often?
A. I am just now getting into the digital age when it comes to books. I am watching a few publishers, such as O’Reilly, to see how they decide to handle digital books before I invest in too many titles for a “betamax.” I have definitely slowed down my paper book purchases, however.
Q. What is on your iPod or in your CD player right now?
A. I have switched from purchasing CDs to iTunes, but have not purchased many to date. Although I have a bunch of mp3 songs on previous players, rather sadly, I only have Paul Simon's Graceland, Seth MacFarlane’s Music Is Better Than Words, Frank Sinatra: Best of the Best, and the Michael Jackson single “Billie Jean” on my iPhone right now. These were not selected as “best of” for me, just ones I did not have a CD for and wanted to listen to at the time. I would like to add more, but there is only so much space, and I like to keep a lot of photos on my iPhone too.
Q. If you could only have three albums for the rest of your life, what would they be?
A. I am sure that I would change these out for others if asked again. I can’t believe that I don’t have Jethro Tull’s Living in the Past on my list, for example, nor the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds, nor . . . but here goes:
The Best of Peter, Paul, and Mary, 10 Years Together (yes, yes, usually “best of” is uncool, but this one is a favorite).
The Beatles’ Abbey Road (and all the others!).
Three Dog Night, Golden Biscuits.
Q. Are there any songs that especially call you to worship?
A. As a pastor’s wife I have visited many churches and can accept a call to worship through many different types of music. Most of the “blue psalter” songs from my youth would have the effect of drawing me into worship, but I like the “gray psalter” songs too. I can also be called to worship through praise and worship songs. It is hard for me to pick specific titles, but I will try with a few oldies—“Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” “Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” and “When Peace Like a River.”
Q. Do you have any favorite movies that have stuck with you long after watching them?
A. Yes. The dialog typically does not stick with me, but visuals and impressions do. Bringing Out the Dead comes to mind. The screenplay was written by Paul Schrader. The film seemed to me like a vivid definition of mercy, perhaps because I had heard Schrader talk about how American Gigolo was about grace, something that was not obvious to me when watching it originally. I find the Toy Story series to be delightful. If I am feeling down, thinking of either Beatles music or a Toy Story visual can lift my spirits.
Q. It’s evening, you’re home alone, and you just want to sit in front of the TV for a while. What will you watch?
A. “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” would top the list. On a weekday, something like “Dancing with the Stars” and then “Castle” would be delightful. If I am awake on a Saturday night, “Saturday Night Live” can be fun. I am more inclined to Tivo a few shows and catch up with some of them on Sunday afternoons.
Q. Are there movies or shows that people keep telling you to watch that you just aren’t interested in?
A. Yes. I read a lot of different types of books, more than I indicated, but I do not read any religious fiction. I am not good at picking up the latest bestseller from the fiction list either. So books like The Shack might be good. I don’t know. They never make it to the top of my list.
Q. What websites do you find valuable for your work?
A. To state the obvious, I sure use Google a lot. One site that has been relevant in my consulting and will also be relevant at the Institute is The Chronicle of Higher Education. I like LinkedIn for keeping connected with colleagues. I go to Amazon quite frequently too.
Q. What sites do you find yourself wasting lots of time on?
A. MSNBC, Fox News, CNN, and Facebook. Although it is not wasting time to keep up with friends and relatives, right?
Q. Are there any podcasts that make your running/walking/odd jobs much more fun?
A. The Moth.