Episode 29 – Live This Book with Tom Chatfield

Live This BookWe spend our lives just one click away from the answer to any question, with instant access to entertainment, education, distraction, connection to the hive mind. Our digital culture makes so much possible, but what’s the cost to us?

In this episode Tom Chatfield explores the nature of attention and creativity, how print books engage us differently and why that matters.

Write This Book is a beautiful, tactile experiment in interactivity and physicality, because as Tom says,

‘We need things to have friction and texture. Really, memory and understanding are information plus emotion, if you like, and to make things stick in our minds, to make things really belong to us, to work out what we mean rather than just what is out there in the Web of information, is becoming more and more valuable as we’re lucky enough to have more and more information at our fingertips.’

If you’re interested in how print books serve us in an increasingly digital world, this is a fascinating listen.

Alison Jones:  Hello, and welcome to the Extraordinary Business Book Club. I’m here with Dr. Tom Chatfield, who’s a writer, a commentator, and also the author of six books exploring digital culture. He also creates and designs content for games, for apps, for interactive media, and speaks and broadcasts around the world on technology, the arts, and media. Lovely to have you in the Club, Tom.

Tom Chatfield:           My very great pleasure. Thank you.

Alison Jones:  Now, the book that we’re going to be talking about today is called Live This Book, and I have to say, it’s unlike any other book that I have talked about or reviewed on this podcast before. Usually I ask people for a digital proof, but in this case, it really wouldn’t have worked, would it?

Tom Chatfield:           No, indeed. No, it’s a physical only book, it’s interesting that it’s radical to say that, but this is a book that you write in, that you carry around with you, and I guess the genesis of it was the fact that I’ve done five books exploring technology in society. I love this idea of trying to use technology well. More and more as I spoke and wrote and consulted in this that I found people saying that their time, their attention, their focus was this incredibly scarce resource that they were really having enormous trouble keeping under control, and I became very interested in the kind of art and science of concentration, attention, and focus, and how actually a physical book and the physical act of writing on paper is an astonishingly good tool for kind of carving out a small amount of time each day for introspection, for planning a different type and texture of quality of time that you might not otherwise get in terms of working out what really matters, what’s really on your mind, what you’re really planning and hoping and dreaming of, and so on.

Alison Jones:  I think that’s a really good way of putting it, and I told you, didn’t I, that I took this book on the ferry with me when we went on our big Scottish road trip earlier on this year, and just sat there. The kids were off watching a film or something, and I just worked through it myself, and I noticed that when I’m online or even reading an e-book on a tablet with the whole of the Internet just a click away, that there’s a sense of being pulled. The centre is outside you. There’s everything out there pulling your attention away, but when you do just sit physically with a book like this, and particularly with a pen, and it’s your book and you’re making it your own and you’re customizing it every step of the way, it sort of shifts the balance back into you somehow. I really noticed the dynamic in, you know, my heart and my head.

Tom Chatfield:           I’m very interested in this, and I’m very interested in getting away from tech bashing and a vague nostalgia for “Weren’t things better in the old days?” Some things are much, much better now. We have astonishing resources at our fingertips, so I’m interested in trying to be precise about this, and what you find if you look at the cognitive science is that resisting temptation, resisting the temptation to click elsewhere, to look elsewhere, to check your email, that burns through a certain amount of mental resource. I think attention management is one of the great skills for the next generation of workers and thinkers, because human attention is spent on our behalf and maybe mispriced by all of the services we use, and the physical tactile object of the act of writing, it lights up your brain in a very different way to stuff on a screen.

I’m very conscious of the fact that when I take my wonderful phone or my wonderful Kindle out, everything is in competition with everything else, and I’m dealing with suffusion, and so I think in a way to try to build different kinds of time into your day, and people, I think, are doing this more and more anyway in that nobody wants all their time to be the same kind of time. As human beings, we need difference and variety if we’re going to make the most of our mental resources. We need to sort of put things in boxes, have differentiation. Otherwise, in a way, we risk doing everything as if we were machines, as if we had a limitless data capacity and a limitless memory, and we’re not.

We are embodied creatures. We get naked. You’ve got kids. We get naked. We are better at some things than others at some times than others. We need interpersonal contact. We need things to have friction and texture. Really, memory and understanding are information plus emotion, if you like, and I think to make things stick in our minds, to make things really belong to us, to work out what we mean rather than just what is out there in the Web of information, this is becoming more and more valuable as we’re lucky enough to have more and more information at our fingertips.

Alison Jones:  You’re right about that … I love that phrase you used, “friction and texture,” because there’s something about engaging in a physical book, and there’s something about reading a book, just the heft of it in your hand and the feel of the pages and the visual memory of where you are on a page as you progress through the book, but when you’re writing in it, and particularly with your book, which is so heavily designed … It’s a work of art, isn’t it? Every page is completely different, and it’s got a playfulness about it, and there’s something 3-D about that experience that you don’t get on a flat screen that transforms the way you engage with it again.

Tom Chatfield:           Oh, yeah. One of the great things about screens is they challenge us around objects like books to really justify the design physicality of a book. You don’t just kind of stick random words in a book and say, “Well, that’s good enough. I’ll push them out there.” I was very lucky. I worked with a designer at Penguin called Chris Bentham for a year on the proofs of the book, and he did all this amazing design work, and to work with a publisher like Penguin who can bring huge resources to bear on trying to make a very beautiful physical object. That was very important to me, because if the book is going to conjure up this time for you, in a way, you’re asking the paper and the design and the physicality of the book to do a lot of work so that you don’t have to do it.

This takes me back to a really fundamental point, I think, about choice information and concentration, which is that, a lot of the time when you’re being given astonishing amounts of choice and options, actually, you are being asked to do an enormous amount of work, and the more that something is really skillfully presented, cut down, selected, and designed for you, the more that somebody else has done the work so you don’t have to, so that you can concentrate on something else.

This is an idea I really like with this book. They’re actually very focused tasks. There’s 100 exercises in it with sort of “five prompts.” “Get friends to recommend five books you should read.” “Look at the world around you. Select five objects. Go for a walk and write about things.” “Try these five 21st century challenges: Have a conversation with a stranger.” By being very specific, I like the idea that actually you are giving people permission to dive into an activity and see what they find, rather than spend a lot of time flicking around between options on the surface.

Alison Jones:  Yes, and each one is doable in quite a short period of time, but over time, obviously that builds up. It struck me; I know that you write content for games as well and that more episodic way of writing, and I was really interested in that. How do you think that writing content for games has impacted on how you approach writing books? And what do you think authors can learn generally from the two genres, if you like?

Tom Chatfield:           I’ve done bits and pieces around mostly educational games and slightly indie efforts, so we’re not talking mainstream bestsellers, but I think it’s a really good discipline to try to write for a different kind of presentation, to write for the screen, to write for the interactive screen, to write for a playful arena, because really, you need to start off by immersing yourself in the kind of conventions of that medium, and realize that you’re trying to achieve totally different things.

With games in general, with interactivity in general, the feeling I have is that you are no longer leading someone by the nose narratively. You’re no longer in control of everything. In a sense, you have a problem that’s also an opportunity that they will interact. They will want to set their own pace, choose their own path, that it will need to be meaningful for them to take and play with it, and so I almost think of it as a set of ideas or a story or a landscape that you create but that someone else is going to wander through at their own pace and in their own way.

Of course, not all games and interactions are like this, but the ones I like most are what I almost think of as environmental storytelling. You build a world such that it is rewarding and interesting to explore but the people can explore it on their own terms, and the most meaningful story for them is not the story I’m telling of A then B then C. The most meaningful story for them is the story of their individual discovery of this terrain, and so, I feel this really encourages a certain minimalism as well as a certain playfulness.

A game I haven’t been involved with but I admire enormously is something like Minecraft, which is barely rich in a narrative sense, but which is a landscape and a rule set of physics and geography that people discover and play with, and when I take my little three-year-old son out in playgrounds, still people are sometimes running around playing imaginary games using the components of that game, and actually the end of that game, there is a narrative ending written by a friend of mine, by a very brilliant Irish novelist and humourist called Julian Gough. He was commissioned to write anything he liked, and he wrote a wonderful, abstract, modernist dialogue as an end to this game between alien entities floating in a void, and this sounds like the most obscure art you could possibly imagine!

Alison Jones:  It’s great, isn’t it? I had no idea about that.

Tom Chatfield:           Yet it’s sort of gleefully discussed by millions, millions of rapt tweens and teens, and he’s a very impressive, very serious, very brilliant writer, in the tradition of Beckett and others, who once wrote children’s books, and as a platform, this wonderfully underspecified game where people have found their own stories also provides a marvellous home for this very ambitious bit of modernist-style storytelling, and so I like that in games, when they’re done well, you can discover and you can have this immense excitement in discovering and piecing together bit by bit something that people have written for you to find.

Alison Jones:  That’s wonderful, and to bring it back to business books and something I was talking about to Giles Colborn a little while ago, user experience, it’s that sense of empowering the reader, isn’t it? That what you produce is kind of only half of the story. It’s what happens when it lands with them and how they respond and how they, as you say, navigate their own pathway and create their own narrative around it that’s really important too.

Tom Chatfield:           Absolutely right, and more and more today, a book is a kind of opening salvo. It’s a conversation starter. The audience is out there. We do have all this information suffusion, this phrase I keep coming back to, and I think that can be a good thing, because you really have to justify what you’re doing. You can’t just take an advance, plunk down words, and assume that now you’re an author and somehow you automatically matter and have a seat at the table. I do like this idea that you have to work hard to be useful to people, and in a way, you can use your book as a springboard. You should go and talk to people. You should not treat it as the final word.

Why do you write a book in the first place? I guess partly you write a book because you are aspiring to create something that is a little bit more permanent and self-contained and self-sustaining, that is worth someone’s time to sit down and give it this very special kind of attention we give books. But also, I think it is increasingly because you want to put something out there that is generative and that starts conversations and that allows you to take a really serious interest in the ideas around a field, and so you have to find a way, I suppose, to care about your audience in the right way, and to react and interact with them, and for me, at least, it would be a terrible shame to turn down these opportunities and not to try to make the most of them, given how many points of contact you potentially have with people and leaders and the world that has opened up.

Alison Jones:  Absolutely. That’s a really interesting point, isn’t it? Because although, particularly with the print book, you’re reading offline and that allows that shift of attention and depth of attention that, as you say, we only give to print books, really, the print book doesn’t stand alone. It’s part of the online platform. It’s part of a whole ongoing dialogue and relationship. I know that you write and talk a lot about how the digital world impacts on humans. I’m really interested to know what you think the implications of our new digital life offer us as readers and as writers.

Tom Chatfield:           One of the things I love is that for most of human history, reading and writing were elite activities. They were done by the few on behalf of the many, and to a large extent, history itself was what a small number of people were doing while everybody else got on with agriculture. We’ve seen, not one, but two huge transitions within the last century. The first being mass literacy. Mass adult literacy is new. It’s only 70 old years since the majority of the world’s adults became literate, and now, in the last 20 to 30 years, especially through mobile phones, we suddenly have mass participation in rich and recorded discourse, and this is unleashing torrents of words and images and videos and recorded media, and it pulls us, I think, in two directions. It’s a very extreme process.

On the one hand, it has never been easier for those things that, if you like, confirm our fears and prejudices and biases to proliferate. On the other hand, it has never been easier for us to try and push back against this and talk about what is actually going on, and critique and push back against our biases and delusions and confusions and so on, and so you could almost see it as a kind of battle ground. You go onto social media, and you’ll see the trolling, the lies, the rumours, the fact that people are just reacting intensely and emotionally to stuff, and seeking out like-minded people to confirm their prejudices. This can be very frightening and disillusioning, but at the same time, the idea of serious analysis and trying to say, “Well, hang on a second. What’s really going on?”, of sharing knowledge and discovery or this tenuous business of getting closer to truth.

We also have more people who can be more involved in that than ever, and for me at least, one of the great challenges is trying to find systems, systematic approaches whether it has to do with government or business or even personal intellectual development that play to our strengths rather than our weaknesses. We have this deep tension between, on the one hand, behaviours and tendencies that reinforce our biases and prejudices and then, on the other hand, what we can learn about bringing out the best in us, reinforcing our critical faculties, asking what really meaningful collaboration and engagement and planning looks like.

One of the exciting challenges, albeit a very big challenge, is to try and create systems that allow us to bring out the best, that allow us to work together, to communicate, to, in a sense, stave off the race to the bottom that can happen, and also, I think, in terms of systems that allow us to preserve hope, to not lose faith in other people, because if you just sort of dip into a lot of online arenas, I think it is dangerously easy to come away with a very lowered view of human nature or of technology and to say, “Well, these days, it is all about who shouts the loudest, who spreads the lie or the half-truth with the most enthusiasm, or who manipulates best through behavioural tweaking, through advertising prods and pokes, through big-data-led manipulation.”

I think this is dangerous because we risk conceding an important battle before we even begin, which is the battle to get the most out of people, and so I’m very interested in research around critical thinking, around really meaningful cooperation, and around putting people in circumstances where they thrive, where they are more likely to come up with their own ideas, to critique others’ ideas, more likely to be interested in grasping what is really going on rather than some kind of little trite convenient story about it.

For businesses, I think there are increasingly important questions about, rather than just throwing information at people, constructing information environments that encourage people to collaborate in a high-quality way, communicate richly, to really focus on quality rather than quantity, to make the most of interpersonal contacts, and to focus again on the stuff that humans do well, because machines are so good at doing so many things. We need to take a few steps back and say, well, in parallel, how can we ensure we also get the very most out of people in information environments rather than just having systems that benefit the technology but don’t bring the very best out of the users?

Alison Jones:  Yes, absolutely. Just thinking about the implications of that for readers, I wonder if one reason why books are so powerful is because there’s a kind of an honesty, a simplicity about them. They aren’t being gamed. There’s no algorithms pitching this to you. You know exactly what’s going on with a book, and there’s this sort of trust, I think, inherent in that, but I haven’t quite articulated that to myself before, but a lot of what I see online comes with a kind of automatic level of scepticism, because you’re not quite sure who wrote it or how it got to you or what the agenda is behind it. A book feels more free of that. Whether that’s true or not always I don’t know.

The other thing that strikes me is that when you talk about creating systems for quality of interaction, a book’s great for that, isn’t it? Because you put it out there, and it’s a high-quality starting point from which you can generate high-quality discussion.

Tom Chatfield:           A book is a wonderful context for this empowering, wide-ranging, enabling discussion. Yeah, and we do easily overlook the fact that no technology is neutral. There’s no such thing as a neutral tool that you just use. Everything wants something from you. This doesn’t have to be sinister, but if I want to attack you, a gun and a knife are considerably better than a pen or a mobile phone. If I want to grab and hold your attention, then a brilliantly designed slot machine is very powerful and directive in a way that a book of poetry isn’t.

I do like this idea very much of looking at books as a technology and saying, well, what they want from us is often something very special. What they want from us is us to give a lot of high-quality attention, but then also think our own thoughts and have an extraordinary latitude and degree of freedom in interpreting, mulling over, making our own, extrapolating from, and learning from in quite a rich way. We need quite a lot of mental equipment before we can get a lot out of a book, but the amount we can get out of sustained serious writing, or sustained entertaining writing, is also very great, and it’s underspecified, by which I mean, it can be taken in many, many different directions.

Alison Jones:  Yes, there’s that freedom as a reader, isn’t there…

Tom Chatfield:           Yeah. “Freedom” is a great word, and freedom requires you both to have meaningful information and meaningful options, and a lot of technologies are very freedom constraining. In a sense, they take away choices from you, and that’s fine in certain arenas. I was going to say, I’ve done a lot of workshops and things, and you’ve got businesses including Google with this book and actually, I find that people react very strongly to having an underspecified series of exercises, a series of prompts. I say to people, which is in the book, what do you think is one of your best habits? What is one of the best pieces of advice you have ever been given? And of course, the thing about these questions is, you can’t answer them by Googling. You cannot answer them.

What you can do on Google, which is wonderful, is find out a million answers that other people have given, but if you want to come up with your answer, you actually need to spend some serious time inside your own head remembering, asking, and interrogating, and these kind of questions, questions I think worth answering and exploring, are often shut out of our lives by this wonderful opportunity to find out what everybody else has said, and this is part of the balance I’m interested in trying to restore, not because I think the question “What’s one of the best pieces of advice you’ve ever received?” is the most important question in the universe, but because I really think that spending some uninterrupted time reflecting on that question is part of a project of self-knowledge and self-exploration and consolidation of your ideas and identities and aims and objectives.

It’s very important to give a direction and a focus to everything else. If you haven’t thought seriously about what it is that matters to you, what it is that you are best at and worst at, what you love and fear, what you truly value, what it even means to think about meaningful work, then all your other magnificent efforts are not necessarily in the right direction, or not necessarily in any direction that you’ve given serious thought to, so actually, why are you bothering?

Alison Jones:  I’m smiling because I’m a coach and these are coaching questions, and this is the whole magic of coaching. New coaches often get hung up on the question, getting the question right, but in a sense, you’re right. Just any question that triggers that self-exploration and self-knowledge and that journey is the right question and it’s what the person does with it that’s the important thing. Yeah, I couldn’t agree more.

Tom Chatfield:           I should acknowledge. I’m inspired by the world of coaching, and I write this book after having worked and written and collaborated with a number of colleagues at the School of Life in London where I’m a faculty member, and it was hugely significant for me to spend some years writing and working and doing bits and pieces alongside people who had backgrounds in coaching and psychotherapy and so on, because I was very unconfident and unconvinced around many of these activities in this arena, because I just didn’t know about it, and of course, coaching is very much of our time.

I think at least one reason for this, maybe, and you would perhaps know more than me, that people have less and less time in their lives that is unstructured and reflective, that it is being to some degree taken away from them, not just by technology but by the habits associated with living and working, the technologized world, and so a lot of this stuff that may have happened, at least for some people, in these unstructured free moments when they were commuting or walking or sitting or whatever, they now need actively to build that into their lives or they risk not having it at all.

Alison Jones:  Yes, I think that’s really true. I think another thing that makes coaching, as you say, of its time and just increasingly important and a secret weapon, if you like, is that sense that we don’t have space for those conversations anymore. There just isn’t this degree of … Even I can remember as a child, people sitting around and talking things over, and there isn’t much time and space for that. I think everybody’s flat out, and as you say, everybody’s looking for the answers, by which I mean the shared answers, the wisdom of the crowd, and there isn’t that opportunity to not access the wisdom of the crowd as your default and dive into the wisdom of you.

Tom Chatfield:           It can seem very curious that people have got rid of some of the most important kinds of interaction in their lives, without really wanting to or meaning to.

Alison Jones:  Without even noticing.

Tom Chatfield:           There’s something very insidious about habit and tools, in that when we adopt a new tool or technology into our lives, we do not know what it will make habitual and we do not monitor what it will make habitual, and we do not choose, really, what comes with it, and then gradually habit sprawls outwards from the tool or the technology. I think it’s very worrying, talking to younger people, particularly, although I wouldn’t want to say it’s all about younger people, when people say face-to-face conversations, serious conversations cause them great anxiety because of their lack of control and that it’s actually quite nervous not to be able to compose stuff on screen, to be able to do it through WhatsApp or Snapchat or Instagram and so on.

Without getting all old and miserable about this, I think there’s a lovely phrase that a lot of parents and businesses alike would gain from thinking about, and that’s the idea of a comfort with discomfort, which I’ve borrowed from some American psychologists. It’s not my phrase. It was used in a great article in the Atlantic some years ago, but what it means is this idea of actually to be able to put yourself in a situation of discomfort, talking about something difficult, grappling with the task and not simply to reach out for your digital comfort blanket, for information amusement distraction or control, but instead to experience that discomfort and then try to talk about it and through it. This is a very important skill that teaches, among other things, resilience, resilience, this sort of great psychological indicator for success in life, and I struggle with this, but I’ve tried to become more aware of the times when my mobile phone mysteriously appears in my hand.

Alison Jones:  Almost without you knowing it.

Tom Chatfield:           Almost without me knowing it! Because I’m a little bit nervous or tired or depleted or worried or bored, and so I’m just going to press a button, and a bit like in Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep?, get out my mood organ and change my mood to something else with the push of a button. Phones are not bad. Phones are not evil, but our relationship with and through our phones can be a very diminishing relationship.

I do think as a very simple thing, your physical proximity to your phone and not having it to hand all the time can be a really good way of helping you reexamine habits and assumptions, and maybe reconfigure them a bit. That’s one, I think, very useful, very practical tip that I would give a lot of people. A lot of people cannot afford to be away from their phones for long, but just trying to have some spaces and some times in your day when you are not in constant physical contact with it, and then you can slightly challenge these deeply ingrained habits around connectivity and comfort.

Alison Jones:  Yeah, and I think that’s a particularly good tip for writers, because I know myself, you often twitch to see what other people have said about what it is that you’re writing, but actually if you have the courage to do the inner work, to sit with that discomfort and mine it from yourself first, then you’re going to get something that’s qualitatively different, that’s original, and that also helps you work out what it is that you think.

Tom Chatfield:           Absolutely, and the great joy but danger of social media is often that you have the crowd and the cloud instantly booing or applauding or ignoring what you’re saying, and that can make it extraordinarily difficult to say or come up with anything that doesn’t fit with your friends’ idea of who you are or with your current idea of who you are, to say something difficult, challenging, controversial, controversial without just being insulting but goes a bit further, and to have that space where you can do that.

Writers are a diverse bunch, but broadly speaking, the good ones are able to come up with stuff that doesn’t aim simply at approval and that doesn’t simply confirm and reiterate what it is that people already think, and this might sound very obvious, but actually, there’s a very insidious form of self-censorship that goes with having a constant boo, yay, or silence associated with every thought you put out there. You start not to put out thoughts that your friends wouldn’t like, your friends being people you’ve selected to agree with a certain version of you.

Alison Jones:  Yeah. It’s so fascinating, isn’t it? I’m mulling over now when I put a blog out. Actually, this is… I’ve started blogging every day, and I think one of the advantages of it is you become less attached to the response. You just do it and you put it out there, and it can be short, and there’s just less emotional weight attached to whether anybody cheers or boos or is completely indifferent, because you’re just doing it. You’re just putting it out there, and these are your thoughts and they grow over time. That’s interesting to me, because I think if you only do a blog every now and again, and you put everything into it and then you don’t get a response, there is a sort of, I don’t know, a push back. You feel somehow that you haven’t achieved what you set out to achieve, and there’s a discouragement with that.

Tom Chatfield:           Finding ways to do this is a really important skill, I think, for most people in most walks of life, in that you need to find a way to work out what you really mean, what you can really contribute, what you’ve really got to say. That does require spaces that give you permission, spaces that give you a certain freedom. If you can find them online, that’s fantastic, but I love that example of blogging each day and finding in it a way of turning off your inner censor, but of course your inner censor is very heavily related to all those outer censors perhaps waiting to jump on what you’ve said, and so, oh, you can’t say that. You can’t think that. You can’t do that. I certainly feel, one of the things that paper and a pen do is give me permission to just put things down and get them out, and then work out what they mean later, and maybe find much later that these things cohere into something new or different or challenging or interesting, and I’m still working on it.

But I’m very ambivalent about the relatively small amount of time I spend on social media, because I can almost on a physical level feel myself craving that approval, that retweet, that endorsement, that little kind of dopamine dose I get when a big name pats me on the head digitally, and you know, do I have to do this in order to survive or have an audience? Or is there something slightly damaging about this that actually in the long term makes me less likely to really contribute and be perhaps memorable and interesting and valuable rather than just a conditioned approval seeker?

Alison Jones:  So fascinating. Tom, we could talk about this for an hour. I’m not going to, because I’m really conscious of the time going on, but so much there to think about. There’s going to be a few blogs in here for me at least, and I’m sure that it will be hugely helpful for lots of people who are just thinking about that tension between their own creativity, their writing, and that kind of response and engagement with the world, so thank you.

I always ask my guests to recommend someone else that would be a good guest on this show, so someone who has something interesting to say about writing and the business of business books. Who would you recommend I talk to?

Tom Chatfield:           I’d have a good think about this one, because a lot of the people I know are sort of not business book writers as such. I have enormously enjoyed spending time with colleagues at the School of Life, and I’m sure you’ve spoken to plenty of people there already, but if you haven’t spoken to Roman Krznaric …

Alison Jones:  I haven’t.

Tom Chatfield:           Who has written about how to find fulfilling work, who’s also written a very brilliant, big book about empathy as a global skill. Roman is a cultural thinker and a social scientist, but he’s been many other things, and he is very good I think at putting work in a human and humane context and then being immensely ambitious for what people can do, and I know that a lot of businesses have hugely valued him coming in and talking about big themes like empathy and in a sense unapologetically saying, there are certain things we need to do as a species if we’re going to get through this century, and that’s not always an easy message to sell. I’ve learned a lot from him personally.

Alison Jones:  Fantastic.

Tom Chatfield:           He’s a very fine speaker.

Alison Jones:  Themes like empathy, ambition, and fulfilling work, I think he ticks a lot of boxes there. I can’t wait to speak to him. What a great recommendation. Thank you. I will be in touch. Finally, Tom, if people want to find out more about you and more about Live This Book but also your other books as well, where should they go?

Tom Chatfield:           The easiest thing is to Google me, ironically enough, but I send out tweets. I’m on Twitter under my own name, and my book Live This Book is from Penguin, and the book I wrote at the School of Life is called How to Thrive in the Digital Age. They’re nice little books and they’re perhaps quite a nice way to meet me, but I do Twitter and not other social media. That’s my sort of concession towards social media anxiety, so if you drop me a line on that, I will almost certainly reply desperate for approval.

Alison Jones:  I’ll give you a digital pat on the head. Brilliant. I really recommend Live This Book. It’s a gorgeous thing. I’m leafing through it now. It is utterly beautiful, even the quality of the paper is really good. I’m going to have a chat with your designer and production team, I think.

Tom Chatfield:           We spent lots of time choosing the paper.

Alison Jones:  Yeah, the paper’s lovely. It’s got a real sort of soft matte finish on it and a lovely matte cover with embossing, oh, I’m getting all book geek now, I’m going to stop, but yeah, beautiful book, and really refreshed and challenged me. I thoroughly enjoyed working through it. Thank you very much for joining us, Tom. Absolutely brilliant interview today. I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope everybody else got as much out of it as I did.

Tom Chatfield:           My very good pleasure. Thank you.

Alison Jones:  Thank you.


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