Shortform Reads: Reading Habits of a Former Reporter

What book has stuck with Andrea over the years? Which Pulitzer Prize-winning poet did she interview?

Based in Pennsylvania, Andrea is a peer editor on Shortform’s writing team. We talked with her recently to learn a bit about her relationship with books.

Our Interview With Andrea

Andrea has a journalism background, so stories and information are central. Here’s what she had to say about the books in her life.

What’s your favorite book and why?

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. I grabbed it off a roommate’s shelf without knowing what it was about, and it ended up being the perfect read for the huge life transition I was going through.

Honorable mention goes to The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I have a journalism background and love the way this book weaves the narrative about Lacks with the social, historical, and medical implications of her story as well as details about how the book was reported. Also, it’s just a fascinating true story that deserved to be told.

What are you reading these days?

I’m currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama. Not sure what’s next—it’s always such a tough choice.

If you could have a dinner party with any three authors—dead or alive—who would they be and why?

Nellie Bly, Hunter S. Thompson, and Nick Kristof. With the unbelievable reporting experiences they’ve each had, can you imagine the stories that would be flying around the dinner table?

What’s your favorite genre? Why does it intrigue you?

Narrative nonfiction combines my two favorite things: stories and information. I’ve always loved stories; I used to ask my dad to tell me a story every night at bedtime. Sometimes it was a tale from his childhood, and sometimes it was a fiction entirely off the top of his head. I also love learning new insights—big and small—about the world and how other people experience it.

Are there any book genres or tropes that you dislike or refuse to read?

Before working for Shortform, I avoided business books.

What’s your favorite way to read a book?

Ideally, I love a physical book. But time is tight and books get heavy, so I do a lot more reading when I use Kindle on my phone or listen to audiobooks.

What book do you think everyone should read in their lifetime?

Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich

Was there a specific book that sparked your love of reading?

The first books I remember devouring were the Dear America series, which are diary-style historical fiction books from the perspectives of young girls between the 1600s and the 1960s.

Do you have any guilty-pleasure books?

Outside of work, I don’t get the chance to read enough brag-worthy books, let alone guilty-pleasure books.

Have any books you’ve read caused you to make any life changes or to develop any habits?

I held onto several of the insights from The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield. One concept that stuck with me was the idea of meaningful coincidences—that seemingly serendipitous people and events are put in your path to send you messages. Another was the idea that everyone uses one of four “control dramas” to control their interactions with others.

Are there any lesser-known books that you’ve read that you want others to know exist?

Local Wonders by Ted Kooser. Kooser is a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who lives and writes about the Great Plains. I found out about him when I was in college in Nebraska, and I loved how he wrote about the area’s distinct beauty and quirks. I became so enamored of his work that I found a reason to write a feature about him for the student newspaper. I hunted down his contact information and got to interview him at a local coffee shop.

At Shortform, how do you go about working on a book that has viewpoints you don’t agree with?

I’m always curious about opposing viewpoints, and I find it fascinating trying to figure out why that perspective makes sense to someone else. I start with general research about the book to find out about all the viewpoints for and against the book. Then I try to determine the most credible—or widely held—perspectives and sources that are most relevant to the book’s main principles.

About the Series

At Shortform, we want to give our employees names and faces so you can get to know the people who make the magic happen. That’s why we’re doing the Shortform Reads series, where we interview our employees and share their thoughts and opinions. You can check out more employee interviews here.

Shortform Reads: Reading Habits of a Former Reporter

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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