Pat Rapp is an avid reader and also spends a lot of time advocating for the Maker movement. She believes art can be used to excite people about science and gives frequent talks on this topic. By day, she works in a public library where she gets to talk to people about what they are reading. Pat is Chair of the Board of Directors of Rochester Makerspace and a co-producer of Rochester Mini Maker Faire. Pat also volunteers for the Burning Man art department each year where she works with artists from around the world to bring their dreams to life.
What are you reading right now? Would you want to visit the setting of this story?
Currently, I’m reading Soonish: Ten Emerging Technologies That’ll Improve and/or Ruin Everything by Kelly Weinersmith and Zach Weinersmith. It’s a nonfiction book about upcoming technology such as cheap, commercialized space travel. Would I want to visit? I’d love to visit the places where this is happening. I visited NASA Ames Research Center a couple of years ago and the sense of innovation and makerism is something I had never experienced. The “Space Shop” is the employee’s makerspace, where everyone – engineers, custodians, techies, security guards, office staff, scientists – is encouraged to use the makerspace because the Ames management believes strongly that “everyone has ideas that can change the world.” I like that. I’d love to visit more innovation hubs.
What’s your preferred choice of reading format? Ebooks, hardcover, paperback? What determines your choice?
Hardcover. Hands down. I’ll read a trade paperback, too, but I love to hold an actual hardcover book in my hands. There’s an odd sense of comfort in that. On a rare occasion, I’ll read an ebook on my phone while I’m in bed. I really dislike the little paperbacks.
What’s at the top of your “To-Be-Read” pile?
I’ve been meaning to get to Robert J. Sawyer’s WWW series for a while now. “Wake” is the next book in my pile. Rob has a sharp insight into near-future trends and his writing is absolutely beautiful. His characters are real, his technology is believable, and his worlds are vivid.
Are there specific titles you go back to again and again? What draws you back?
Yes. I’ve read Frankenstein every ten years since I was 11 years old. It started out as coincidence; I noticed that I’d read it a second time at age 21 and then picked it up again at 31. I discovered that it was increasingly more valuable to me as a reader as I became more mature. It’s an excellent book about loneliness, isolation, and misunderstanding. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend checking it out.
Who would you choose to narrate your favorite book?
I don’t listen to books often. I’m easily distracted and an audiobook usually turns into background noise while my mind wanders. However, I think I could listen to Patrick Stewart and be in awe of his wonderful voice, even if he was just reading his grocery list. So he would definitely be my choice for narrator of any book.
Where do you get your reading recommendations?
I work in a public library. The best recommendations come from our library patrons. One my favorite things about my job is being at the checkout desk when people are returning books. They frequently tell me if they loved it or hated it. I’ll usually write a title down on a scrap paper and stick it in my pocket to add to my list. But sometimes the patron is so excited and animated in their review that I check it out immediately and take it home. This is how I discovered The Rosie Project. The patron was laughing so hard as she described it to me, she had tears in her eyes. And she was right – it was laugh-out-loud funny. The checkout desk is the place to be if you want book recommendations!
Do you have a favorite book that you received as a gift?
Sadly, I almost never receive books as gifts. I guess people assume I will just pick up books at the library. The last book I received as a gift was The Summer of Katya by Trevanian, from my sister, probably twenty years ago. I remember it being a harsh story with strong characters. I love giving favorite books as gifts. For many years, I kept a stash of Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury to randomly give people. It’s a beautiful, nostalgic story of a 12-year-old boy in the summer of 1928. I also love finding a quirky book for someone, like a book of heartbreaking Lithuanian poetry that I found for a friend who likes to refer to himself as a “brooding Lithuanian.” I joined a book group last year, and I discovered a couple of books that may become my go-to gift books: A Gracious Plenty by Sheri Reynolds and The Birds of Opulence by Crystal Wilkinson. Those were probably the best books I read this past year.
Are you a must-finisher or will you quit a book if it’s not resonating with you?
I’m 99% a quitter. Once in a great while I will push through to the end of a book I don’t like — usually if I am obligated because of a book club or a critique group. There are so many great books out there, it doesn’t make sense to spend time on something I’m not enjoying. I’ll usually give a book about three chapters before giving up on it, in case it just has a slow start. I always have a stack of “to be read” books in my house, so if something isn’t resonating with me, I move on to the next one. Life is short and my list of books is long. 😊
Do you judge a book by it’s cover?
I’m drawn to a book based on it’s cover or title. Cover art can be powerful. I’ve discovered some great books simply because the cover caught my eye. Because most of my reading is done with library books, I have the luxury of picking up anything looks even slightly interesting. If I were buying, I’d be more discriminating.
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
I had two favorites that I read over and over. One was a Scholastic book I bought through the school book order form in first grade, called The Man Who Lost His Head by Claire Huchet Bishop. This guy woke up one morning and his head was missing. He walked around town asking people if they’d seen it. Nobody had, but each person was very helpful and gave him substitute heads – a pumpkin, a turnip, a carved wooden head. None of these substitute heads had the bulbous nose and curly hair he was missing. I think I liked that people were so willing to help and so creative in the ways they tried.
My other favorite was The Lonely Doll. As a kid, my dolls were like friends to me with distinct personalities. Knowing that this doll was lonely made me feel almost obligated to check out the book whenever I found it at the library.
Fun fact: I used to go to the old Fairport library on Perrin Street as a kid and I’d go downstairs to the children’s room looking for The Lonely Doll. About 35 years later, while working at the library, this book was on the discard cart. It was headed for the dumpster! I said, “Oh my god! It’s my favorite book! Can I have it?” It’s now on my bookshelf. It might even be the same copy I checked out so many times as a kid.
Is there a book you wish you hadn’t read?
Short answer: No.
Longer answer: I can’t think of a single book where I said to myself, “I wish I hadn’t read that.” Even the assigned reading in school, where I had to push through and finish something I didn’t enjoy, was never a regret. Those books helped me find my voice. They taught me to articulate my opinions.
What book made you laugh out loud? What book made you cry?
As noted above, The Rosie Project made me laugh out loud. It’s a fun book about a guy who I envisioned as very Sheldon Cooper-ish, looking for a wife. I don’t remember specific details, but I remember that I did actually laugh out loud throughout the book.
There are so many books that brought out the tears for me. I’m easily swayed, emotionally, by books with vivid characters in crisis, but they don’t need to be sad stories. Sometimes just the beauty of a well written book can cause me to tear up. Dandelion Wine, mentioned above, is one of those. It’s nostalgic and beautiful and makes my heart ache for the simplicity of being 12 years old on a hot summer day.
Are there books that mark milestones in your life? What are they?
Other than my rereading of Frankenstein, I don’t think any books have purposely marked milestones for me. I have gone through various reading phases over the years, though. As a teenager I was drawn to strange books by authors like Philip K. Dick and Poe. When I worked downtown, I read short stories on the bus to work. As a stay at home mom with the luxury of kids napping, I alternated between science fiction and literary classics. I went through a phase where I read nothing but mysteries when I was trying to tighten up the plotlines in my own writing. I’ve spent a large chunk of time reading technology, science, math, and business-oriented books. Non-fiction has been a big focus for several years now. However, the book club I joined last year reminded me how much I love good fiction, too. I expect my next phase to be a fiction-based one.
What book changed your life?
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. I learned about Randy Pausch through a friend who had worked with him on his ETC project and I became of fan of his work at Carnegie Mellon in the field of virtual reality and world-building. I watched his last lecture several months before his death and I began following his blog. His outlook on life was inspiring, particularly his desire to use his work to “enable the dreams of others,” which really resonates with me with regard to the volunteer work I’ve pursued. The book was published shortly before he died and it expands on this lecture. It’s a tiny little book with a powerful, heart wrenching hit. The Last Lecture is an excellent example of a life well-lived. The book is a reminder that life is short. We need to be having fun in our work; we need to be kind and encouraging to others; we need to laugh, and we need to love deeply.