Including an author in the common read experience

One of the coolest experiences I get to have as a storyteller is when one of my books gets used as a common reader in a community or as part of a first year experience on a campus.

When I started to get invites to common reading programs, I couldn’t believe it:

“You want me to visit with and speak to a few hundred or a few thousand folks who’ve read my book?”

That’s like the best day of an author’s life, right?

I enjoy diving deeper into a discussion with folks who’ve read my work, and exploring larger takeaways from multiple disciplines and perspectives. Participating in common reading programs has enhanced my understanding of my work. I’ve had the chance to talk with historians, philosophers, economists, and freshmen across the…

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This one is for you Harper

I’ve spent roughly 37 days (that’s 24 hours X 37 days, or  888 hours) of my life since Disney’s Frozen came out performing the songs from the movie. You see, I have a five year old daughter, Harper.

Sometimes we pick individual songs from Frozen and just dance and sing.  Other times we play the soundtrack from start to finish and act out the parts.  I don’t mean to brag, but my rendition of “Do you Want to Build a Snowman” literally moved Harper to tears. (Dear Broadway producers, I’m available when you get to casting the musical.)

In honor of Harper’s love for all things Frozen, I’m posting two performance of Idina Menzel singing “Let it Go.”  The first is her recent performance with Jimmy Fallon and the Roots on…

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The 3 Pitfalls High School Sweethearts Face, and How We Overcame Them

I married my Homecoming date, Annie.

This despite the fact that I wore a sweater vest to the Homecoming dance and that we dated for 11 years before getting married. That’s right…11 years! That’s totally a record, and one that I might add, I came very close to not achieving.

Each year I get invited to speak at 20 to 30 universities across the country about my travels and my books, which are regularly selected as the common reading books that all incoming freshmen are supposed to read. And each year there is one question that freshmen women who are still with their high school boyfriends want me to answer:

“How did Annie put up with you?”

Only Annie can truly answer that question, but this…

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UK class reminds me to never be afraid to do stuff I’m not good at

A class at the University of Kentucky took some of the themes I write about in Where Am I Wearing? and turned them into art.  It’s awesome when something you made inspires other people to make things, but that’s not what I love most about this project.  That would be the fact that many of these students weren’t art majors.

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Why now is the time to start drinking Fair Trade coffee

Being a coffee farmer isn’t easy.

This was one of the thoughts racing through my head as I straddled a shivering coffee tree on a steep, crumbly volcanic mountainside in Colombia’s Narino district. However, mostly I was thinking: “Don’t die! Don’t die!”

The “grande Gringo” as I became known to my coffee farmer hosts did not fall to his death, but, following my visit, coffee prices did.

In 2012, while I traveled to Honduras and Colombia researching my latest book Where Am I Eating? An Adventure Through the Global Food Economy, the global price for a pound of coffee beans stood at $1.60 . By November of 2013, prices fell to $1.00 per pound a six-and-a-half year low.

When I read the reports, I couldn’t help…

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The Burden of Wealth

The wealth of the world’s 85 richest people equals the wealth of the world’s poorest 3.5 BILLION.

That stat, released in a recent OxFam report that is covered in this Guardian story, blew my mind.

$ of 85 = $ of 3,500,000,000

I first heard the stat yesterday while driving our 2005 Pontiac G6 to The Arsenal for my daily CrossFit humbling at 5:45 AM. Immediately I thought of those 85 people and what it would be like for them to hear that stat while being flown in their solid gold helicopter, or whatever, on their way to their basketball workout with Michael Jordan, or wherever. How would they feel?

If I were them, how would I feel?

Burdened. That’s the word that jumps to mind. The…

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We thought our hermit crab was dead, then he went missing!

We thought the hermit crab that our four-year-old daughter, Harper, got for Christmas was dead.  But then he went missing.

“Did you move the crab?” Annie, my wife, asked me last night at 2AM. 


“He’s not in the dish!” Annie said. 

Our house is for sale and anything that isn’t necessary needs to go. A  hermit crab habitat complete with “I’m crabby” sign was taking up a chunk of our kitchen counter.  And since the crab that lived in there didn’t seem to be moving, drinking, or eating, and by all appearances was dead, the habitat had to go. Annie had already had the, “your crab is dead,” talk with Harper, which ended in tears, but for some reason Annie didn’t make…

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There are no mountains or oceans in Indiana

Fifteen years ago if you would’ve told me I would settle down in Muncie, Indiana, I would’ve done a spit-take. I was going to live somewhere with mountains or oceans or, more than likely, both.

Over the decade that Annie and I dated, I tried to convince her to move to the Florida Keys and Hawaii. I tried to convince her to put her life in a backpack and hit the road with me. I followed her to North Carolina where we lived for two years. She worked as a nanny. I worked retail at an outdoor equipment store (think backpack and tents) and as a SCUBA instructor. I also wrote and got paid tens of dollars per month for my writing. While we…

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Seinfeld & Embracing ignorance

I talk about storytelling a lot with my friend Matt who is a pastor. He recently handed me a book with this quote from Flannery O’Connor:

People have a habit of saying, “What is the theme of your story?” (They) have the notion that you read the story and then climb out of it into the meaning, but for the fiction writer himself the whole story is the meaning… When you can state the theme of a story, when you can separate it from the story itself, then you can be sure the story is not a very good one. The meaning of the story has to be embodied in it, has to be made concrete in it. A story is a…

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