007: There were 10,000 Books with Wendy Bornstein

Driven, curious, generous, and most definitely her mother’s daughter.  Wendy Bornstein sees reading as a vacation.  If that’s true, she’s almost always on vacation because almost always she’s reading, or thinking about it. When she actually takes a vacation, she’ll probably read about where she’s going, and then read about the same place afterward.  Reading puts more meaning into everything for Wendy.  .

The daughter of a Jewish history teacher, there were always plenty of books around.  When her father passed away, he left behind 10,000 books,  Rarely does Wendy pass along an opportunity to talk about books.  On airlines with open seating, she’ll often cheery pick a seat next to someone with a book in their hands and strike up a conversation.  Same is true with coffee shops.  Wendy loves to read, loves to talk and loves to share.  That makes for a good listen.

—Host Kevin Walsh

 

From the late Mr. Bornstein's collection of 10,000 books

From the Collection of 10,000 Books

Full Podcast Transcript

[00:00:11] Recorded live from the Sweet Tea Studios in Wellesley Massachusetts. You’re listening to the podcast, Why I Read Nonfiction. Hosted by broadcaster and author of The Perfect Catch and Follow the Dog Home. Here’s Kevin Walsh.

[00:00:30] (Kevin) Hello and welcome to the program and thank you to Nirvana on Beautiful Cape Cod for sponsoring. Why I Read Nonfiction where it’s as much about the reader as it is about the books. A deep dive into why we love to read, how we do it, our habits, what books we’ve read over the years that have moved us, what was going on in our life at the time we chose to read a book, or somebody suggested we read a book.  To receive the show automatically be sure to hit the subscribe button in your listening directory.  It’s easy and it’s free. Our guest today is Wendy Bornstein.  She’s a realtor in Greater Boston and Cape Cod and one of the most prolific readers I know. We’re also joined by my German Shepherd Beverly who decided to saddle up next to you Wendy so you are a popular guest. The dog does just had to be with you. Welcome to the program it’s great to have you on.

[00:01:16] (Wendy) Thank you Kevin I’m very flattered and excited to be here today. (Kevin) So how did we meet? It’s been about 10 years. (Wendy) Yeah we met because another friend of mine was publishing his first book and I was helping him do some marketing at a Starbucks in Needham, MA. And I always love the Starbucks connection so I’m actually thinking writing a book called Coffee Connection at some point.  But he had this other woman who worked with you at NECN, New England Cable News, I believe at the time said, “Oh my friend just published a book The Marrow in Me.  And she said that we possibly should connect.  And then coincidentally a friend of mine said that he had heard you speak, or you were going to be speaking I think at an event, Rotary Club, and invited me to join him to come to the breakfast and we met. And we just became friends.  And I read the book, I invited you to my book club.

[00:02:09] I thought the book gave me a real insight into saying “Hey this is a really cool guy.  He’s not just a sports jock, but you know, there was really something to you reading this book.  And it was just it really made me realize you were a really cool person. And, I actually I thought we had a bone marrow drive at my high school and we invited you to come speak at the bone marrow drive.

[00:02:27] And we’ve been friends since.  (Kevin) And that’s the value of reading is it can take you deep inside people, what makes them tick, who they really are, not just the books that they write but the books that they read.  The value of reading in your life. I know you love to read but I just want to hear in your words what it means to you.

[00:02:44] (Wendy) You know I look at reading as an opportunity,

[00:02:49] It’s almost like a vacation for me. It takes me into a different world. If I’m stressed or if I want to just escape from my day to day situation I will sit back and read a novel, or a book, you know a trashy type book.

[00:03:02] If I’m you know balanced I’ll read more or sometimes I’ll read political books, or I’ll read you know I like to read books about mindfulness.  (Kevin) But somehow some way you’re reading all the time.  (Wendy) I’m always reading.

[00:03:16] (Kevin) And you have a book in your pocket just to use an expression, you either have a hard copy with you, you have different electronic reading applications all the above. Right?

[00:03:25] (Wendy) I have my Kindle.  Where I keep… I have a rule on my Kindle that I really like to read books that are about 300 to 400 pages long because I’m a compulsive reader and I have to know that I’m almost done with the book or see my progress.  So on the Kindle if it’s a thousand pages I would feel very frustrated.  (Kevin) I have the same thing because with a hardcopy you can see here I am.  With the Kindle it’s a percentage.  (Wendy) Yeah, yeah.

[00:03:47] (Kevin) And every time I try and figure out where I am, I can’t.  I sort of mess up the reading page I’m on. But I read on kindle a lot because you don’t have to lug around a bunch of books.

[00:03:57] (Wendy) Yeah and I take that when I travel and I keep it with me.  If I know if I have a few meetings and I have an hour between a meeting, I may go into Starbucks and read for a half hour, and then check my phone, and then start reading. But I also have the.. I think it’s BookShout app on my phone, which I got through the Wall Street Journal and that gives me some access to some nonfiction downloads. I’m a Wall Street Journal subscriber.  Once a month I get a free download of a non-fiction book.  So I usually keep one of those on my phone. And I keep a hard copy.

[00:04:24] You know I go into bookstores all the time and I’m in book clubs.  (Kevin) What does it do for you when you go into a bookstore?

[00:04:29] (Wendy) It’s almost like Candyland for me.  When I go into a bookstore, I go in thinking I’m looking for a specific book for my book club and I go over to the recommended section by authors and I just start reading and writing down titles and taking photos of titles to put in my Kindle and my phone so I know books to read to download in the future. But I just I, I almost when I go on a vacation and I was thinking about where I want to go next. When I read a book, I think about what book I want to read next. And that motivates me also to finish reading a book because I am very excited to know the other books that I want to read, you know, in the short term.

[00:05:05] (Kevin) Well you read a lot.  And I know your father wrote a lot. Let’s just talk about your dad and the impactful role that he had in your life. (Wendy) Sure.

[00:05:13] (Kevin) You lost him when in 2007?  (Wendy) My dad passed away in 2013. It was actually October 13th, 2013.  (Kevin) And that was a tough time for you. (Wendy) It was tough. He had a chronic ailment for about five to eight years. (Kevin) Oh, I think that’s why I had 2007 and he lived with it. But afterward, you discovered how many books did he have in his condominium?

[00:05:40] (Wendy) He had over 10,000 books. (Kevin) Did he read them all?  (Wendy) He didn’t read every single book but he knew what was in each book. He was a history teacher and he had a huge museum quality library and collection of artifacts and Judaic and Americana Civil War documents.  And each book that he bought had a purpose.  So he would buy a book.  If he had a document about Thomas Jefferson, he would have a book that mentioned that particular document. But then he would also if the document had somebody else’s signature he would also buy the person’s signature, and he would buy it.  If he found a book by the other person, he would also buy a book related to the other person. He just kept, it was almost like my dad was almost like the internet in his head. But it was all in books, that he had all layered around his house.

[00:06:27] (Kevin) That’s kind of how it was back in the day because we didn’t have the Internet. So if you really wanted knowledge you sought somebody out who had wisdom, or you found the wisdom within books. Our guest today is Wendy Bornstein.

[00:06:41] After he died The Power of Now, you read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle and your son recommended that.

[00:06:47] (Wendy) Yes. When my dad was very sick I was very… He lived in Florida and I was up here and it was really hard to focus on things. My daughter’s bat mitzvah was coming up.

[00:06:59] I remember, and this was the first family event that my parents weren’t able to come to.  They were supposed to come and then three days before my daughter’s bat mitzvah my dad called me. He was admitted to the hospital had pneumonia.  And I was just a wreck. You know just, it was aspirated pneumonia which could be terminal, could be fatal. And I had a focus on my daughter’s bat mitzvah which was coming up because it was a very special event.  (Kevin) Of course, it’s a rite of passage.

[00:07:26] (Wendy) Mmmh mmhn.  (Kevin) And you were bat mitzvahed too I assume?  (Wendy) Yes, I was. (Kevin) All right. So, so you know a lot of stuff going on and you’re having trouble focusing and your son has the wisdom to? (Wendy) So my son was a freshman that year at NYU.

[00:07:41] He’s a theater major. He was a theater major. He graduated already in 2011.  But he was very, and it was just when books and mindfulness was starting to become popular in about 2007.  And he had read the book by Eckhart Tolle The Power of Now and suggested that it may be a good book for me to read. (Kevin) What did it do for you? (Wendy) It was an amazing book. (Kevin) Tell me what it’s about and what it did for you. (Wendy) Yeah yeah, so Eckhart Tolle is a spiritual guru and his philosophy is, you know, there’s a lot of deep more scientific things in the book. But basically, the gist of the book is that you can’t change the things that happened before you.  You can’t really control the things that are happening ahead of you. So you really have to kind of put yourself in the situation of what’s going on in your brain right now. And he equates, he showed an example of a mountain climber and how the athletes just have to focus on what they’re doing at that time and they can’t think about what you know what happened in their last game or what will happen in the future game.  (Kevin) Because it’ll mess everything up.  (Wendy) Right.

[00:08:48] (Kevin) And it’s just too much. (Wendy) Mmmhmmm. (Kevin) And but wasn’t that profound just the simplicity of it? (Wendy) Yeah. Oh yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. (Kevin) And then to have the written word looking back at you it just kind of validates what, maybe was inside all along but you just needed to hear it from a credible voice.

[00:09:03] (Wendy) Yes it’s true and it’s a great, it’s just an amazing book.  And it teaches you just you have to just really focus on what you’re doing, and you know if you’re not gonna be successful in what you’re doing at the moment if you have a detractor on both sides thinking past  or future.  (Kevin) It’s amazing the people in our lives that can compartmentalize stuff and focus on one thing and shut everything out and then they get to things when they get to it.

[00:09:26] And I think we could all learn a lesson from that. Our guest today is Wendy Bornstein. She’s a realtor in Greater Boston and also Cape Cod. Why I Read Nonfiction is brought to you by Nirvana on beautiful Cape Cod. A stunning beach house sleeps 10 on a private freshwater kettle pond.  If you’re not familiar with what a kettle pond is it was carved out by an ancient glacier.  It’s loaded with fish. One of my favorite places in the whole world to fish; a lot of trout, a lot of bass, and one of my favorite getaways on beautiful Cape Cod. The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. Now this is fiction.  The title of the podcast is Why I Read Nonfiction. This is fiction, but it really is reality under the guise of fiction. Why did you read that?

[00:10:11] (Wendy) I am fascinated by…

[00:10:16] Well, first of all before I get started it was on the New York Times bestseller list as the number one day seller.  And I also like reading nonfiction. I enjoy reading fiction too, but I’m very interested in World War Two history and I think especially now, with the rise of nationalism and white nationalism, I think a lot of the books and lessons that we can learn from World War Two are relevant to today so I thought it’d be an interesting book to read. But what I found from the book was fascinating and I don’t want to do a spoiler alert but it’s actually…

[00:10:44] (Kevin) No, no, no.  This is the way I view things. You could tell me a whole book, I’ll still discover it on my own. You could give me a beginning, middle and end, but tell as much as we can. So we know if we want to take a bite.

[00:10:55] (Wendy) Yeah, yeah. It’s a great book. So it’s actually, it’s a real love story also because the motivator, this man becomes a camp victim. But he is given preferential treatment as one of the employers that tattoos the other people, the other prisoners that enter Auschwitz. (Kevin) So he’s almost like what a trustee would be in a modern-day prison.  Much heavier though. (Wendy) Yeah yeah yeah, but he falls in love with one of the female prisoners and he finds himself stealing food and just he fights for survival basically to help her survive.

[00:11:33] And they both end up surviving, living and getting together after the war.

[00:11:41] And it’s actually based, which you don’t realize until the very end of the story, that it’s based on a true story.  And they interviewed the family members, the grandchildren of the two survivors. So it’s actually it was actually more of a memoir, but they wrote it as a novel but it was based on truth which I thought was really interesting.  (Kevin) Well, I think a lot of time like books that are fiction, they’re their real life. And the author is just protecting the innocent or the guilty and just changes the names.  Because I’ve interviewed a number of fiction authors and I’m like “OK so this is you, right?  And they’re like well yes.  And this is this person here.

[00:12:18] And I guess as long as the elements are true then I’m all good for that.  Your Jewish roots are very important to you.  Help me understand that. I’m fascinated by that. Tell me about it.

[00:12:31] (Wendy) Ok. So my dad going back to my dad again.  He was a history teacher and he taught Jewish history at my temple.  And growing up my parents made us go to temple every Friday night and I really resented it.  And I was almost like… it was religion shoved down my throat.  (Kevin) That’s how it was for me being a Catholic.

[00:12:51] We went to Mass every Sunday. Do you still go to services?

[00:12:54] (Wendy) I do.  Not every week, but I go periodically. I found that I go more recently since my parents have passed away. But when I was in ninth grade my Spanish class was going to Spain for a trip. It was during Passover which is a significant Jewish holiday. And this was in the 60s, early 70s or it was like 72, and President Franco was still in power.  And my dad didn’t want me to go to Spain because he thought that Franco did not like Jews and was Passover and that will be a big mistake for me to go over. (Kevin) Spiritually and safety wise?  (Wendy) Safety wise.  Yeah, so he thought that it was a huge mistake for me to go to Spain. He was really upset about it. But my entire Spanish class was going and I just could not go. So I go to Spain expecting to be nervous the whole time. And I walk into this little jewelry store and saw this girl wearing a Jewish star. And I was just fascinated to see that there were still Jews in Spain. Then we went to Toledo which was the center of Jewish life during the Spanish Inquisition and we had a tour.

[00:13:58] And I learned that there was like this huge Jewish culture in Momonides and a lot of the Hebrew scholars came out of Spain that were expelled during the Inquisition. And it was a period of life I had never heard of because my dad always taught Jewish history and it’s mostly up until I think the second temple was destroyed which is around the time of Jesus. So I didn’t really know anything about Jewish, I really didn’t know that much about Jewish history from around the year nineteen hundred through the present. And it just became really obsessed with Spanish Jewish history for some reason. I was fascinated. I didn’t realize there were Jews in Spain and it really know what happened to the Jews after the diaspora and they went to other parts of the world. So now whenever I travel I always go on Jewish tours. We went to Italy. I went down to Florence.  (Kevin) What are the people like that are on those tours? Are they are they like you? (Wendy) Yeah. Oh yeah. They’re all really fascinating. It’s, I think it’s the coolest thing to do like to discover your roots.

[00:14:51] (Kevin) I do too. I almost feel like a part of me is incomplete that I haven’t been back to the homeland, Ireland. My dad’s side of the family who came through Boston, my mother’s side came through New York, and I haven’t been back. And for those that have done the pilgrimages back to the homeland they say there’s, there is a feeling unlike it.  You just you just can’t imagine what it would mean to you.

[00:15:12] I can see it in my head but I want to feel it in my bones. I take it you’ve been to Israel?

[00:15:18] (Wendy) I have been to Israel.  I’ve actually been to Israel four times.  (Kevin) What is that like?  (Wendy) It’s amazing. You know what? I just, you almost, it’s an emotional. When I… the first time I landed there it just it brings tears to your eyes, just because you always hear about next year in Jerusalem, and then you’re here in Jerusalem. It’s just amazing. And the thing I find the most fascinating is that you see people from all walks of life that are Jewish that are black, white, Asian.  (Kevin) And you’re wondering where they came from. But you’re all here in the spiritual homeland. And it’s just it’s profound, isn’t it?

[00:15:52] (Wendy) It is. And then even like Coptic religions and, you know, there are plenty of Arabs that get along very well with the Jews. You know people live together if they’re in Haifa is a totally international city and people live together and it works, just like New York is a very international city. People live together and it works.

[00:16:10] And I think that to see that if the mechanism is set up so the people can live and engage and work and do all the services and everything need together, that’s what life’s about.

[00:16:21] (Kevin) You know about my interests and in Jewish things and I’ve told you before. I guess I’ll just tell everybody.   I’ve had more good talks with rabbis than I have had with priests.  My friends back home, I was born raised in Philadelphia, they call me a J-I-T. You know what that is? (Wendy) Mmmhmmn.

[00:16:39] (Kevin) What is that?  (Wendy) A Jew in training, right?

[00:16:44] (Kevin) Yes, yes.  That’s a heck of a compliment I think to accept me half in the tribe with that. But it served me well because when I was starting my television career there was a young Jewish reporter from New York who wanted to host the Seder dinner in Guam. (Wendy) OK.  (Kevin) Now Guam is like 99.9% Catholic. And she took it upon herself to start the Jewish club of Guam, in the western Pacific, and she had a Seder dinner. And wouldn’t you know it? When it came time to pray she had the Hebrew cards but they were translated into English so you could kind of read it and read in Hebrew.

[00:17:19] And when it was my turn, everybody’s butchering it. And these were Palauan photographers and everything. And then when it came to me the words were Baruch atah adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam.  Which is what every boy and girl says when they’re bar mitzvahed.  (Wendy). Right. (Kevin) And and she was stunned and so was everybody else. They were like “How do you know Hebrew?” And I’m like all my friends were Jewish growing up. So I had that and that has shaped me. And you can take that stuff and use your knowledge of culture and religion anywhere you go. I just never imagined it would be the western Pacific.  (Wendy) That is really interesting.

[00:17:56] So my dad interesting enough, when he was a teacher he taught sixth-grade Jewish history.  But he also taught Jewish ethics and he was one of the creators of an ecumenical program with a Catholic church in Newton Center.  And they used to have exchange programs where you know because I think people have to learn about other cultures and learn about each other. And it breaks, that’s how you break down barriers.

[00:18:19] (Kevin) And you discover yourself at the same time too. (Wendy) Mmmmhmmmnn.  So we would have field trips where you know students from Temple would go to the church and vice versa. And you know I just I think that’s what life’s about.  And then he was also involved in Facing History, Facing Ourselves which is a program that I think it’s affiliated with the Antidefamation League but it teaches.

[00:18:40] I mean there’s the whole thing is you have to to learn. (Kevin) Well, where I grew up it was like my friends we knew there were differences between us but we didn’t care about the differences. We knew we were different but we just crossed over all the time because we had friendships and that was enough. And then when it was time to celebrate the differences at Bar or Bat Mitzvahs or certain dinners or certain Christian holidays it was fine. Everybody was was onboard. Our guest is Wendy Bornstein. She’s a realtor in Greater Boston. Why I Read Nonfiction is brought to by Nirvana on beautiful Cape Cod. If you’re looking for a great spring, summer or fall getaway it’s a beautiful freshwater kettle pond, or house on a kettle pond with terrific fishing not far away from the great beaches and everything.  Everybody talks about Cape Cod is all about tuna and stripers. Well, that’s good. But there’s also a lot of trout in the pond and also largemouth bass with is, great to do.  (Kevin) Wendy, I got to get you on a fly rod. You want to give that a shot sometime?

[00:19:39] (Wendy) I would love it. I’m down the cape all summer. (Kevin) OK. All right. You’re on board. OK. I’ll take you over to Nirvana. Your mother died in 2015 from pancreatic cancer.

[00:19:50] Happier Endings: a Meditation on Life and Death by Erika Brown. Was this your personal equivalent of say Tuesdays with Morrie?  (Wendy)  Aaah, this was a book that well… (Kevin) Why did you read it?  Tell me about it.

[00:20:03] (Wendy) Yeah it was an amazing book actually. It was given to me by a group at our temple called the Hessa committee which is the caring committee. And it’s a community that when somebody passes away we have a custom called Shiva where people come to your house to pay respects to the family almost to come for the family after the funeral.

[00:20:24]  (Kevin) I’ve been to one. It’s it’s heavy isn’t it?

[00:20:28] And the Hessa committee helps with setting it up and doing you know supporting you when they bring the grieving family meals during the week just so a lot of things to support the family to make them feel comfortable and get their feet back on the ground. But they also typically give the bereaved a book that they recommend.  During that week especially you kind of just stay home and reflect and think about life. So they give you a book that would be appropriate to read during that time. So they gave me this book Happier Endings and I found it to be a fascinating book. Erica Brown’s parents or grandparents were Holocaust survivors and they never talked about death. It was a taboo thing to talk about end of life or any of the bad things that happen. They hadn’t seen so much I guess during you know during the war. And a cousin or a family friend’s daughter committed suicide and had a sudden end of life. So she decided she was in college, she decided as part of her thesis study to study end of life cycles for people to see what caused it.  What customs people typically have as end of life customs, and what makes you have a happier ending versus a tragic ending.

[00:21:42] (Kevin) And how did you apply it to what you were going through.  (Wendy) And what she did…

[00:21:45] well what I found interesting was that she defined happier endings as people that had a time to know that they would be passing away so they could put their things in order versus people that had a sudden death that all of a sudden they just couldn’t say goodbye to their friends and they just kind of left things empty. Now I don’t know if you watch A Million Little Things. I watch that show. (Kevin) Well it’s kind of…

[00:22:07] I’ll just apply that to my to my life. My mother died of brain cancer in 1991 and we knew it was coming. (Wendy) Mm-hmm.

[00:22:16] So we had time to put things in order and that’s my mother. It was very comforting for her to pick out what she would wear to her funeral. (Wendy) Mm-hmm. (Kevin) And then telling people what she was wearing to her funeral which I thought, “Oh Mom do you really have to bring that up?”  But to her, it made all the sense in the world. And I just went through that with with my aunt on Cape Cod. She died fairly sudden will not suddenly but not with months of preparation leading up and she was much the same way as my mother and that brought her tremendous comfort to to have everything in order.

[00:22:51] Different strokes for different families. (Wendy) I lost my mother. My mother was very in control. Up until the day before she passed away she wanted to make sure my brother and I were signatories on her bank account, and you know everything was paid in order: her electric bill was paid, or the Comcast bill was paid. She was very in control with every single little detail down to the minutia. And it was just amazing. But she was in full control and she wanted to be in full control.  She didn’t want caretakers taking care of her she just wanted to do it all, because she had done it all for my dad. And you know I think I classify her as having a happier ending even though tragically died at 79 years old. But she went the way that she wanted to go and had everything done up until the last minute.

[00:23:28] (Kevin) Well that’s going to make you feel good despite the loss is that it was done her way in the right way. Are you like your mom?

[00:23:34] (Wendy) I’m totally like my mother.  (Kevin) Is that a good thing in every way?  (Wendy) But I’m also like my dad. I see a lot of my dad in me too I think. My mother was very giving. She was always volunteering and doing good for people and always, she never said no. She always helped with PTO, or school committees, or Hadassah which is a Jewish women’s organization. But she was just always out there helping people.  (Kevin) Well that’s you.  (Wendy) And that’s me, totally me.  And my daughter is too.

[00:24:00] (Kevin) You’re about the busiest person I know. Do you need that in your life to be busy?

[00:24:06] (Wendy) I like being busy.  But I also enjoy people and I enjoy helping people. And I start, I get very excited about doing different things.  But I also like the things that I’ve done in the past, so I don’t like dropping that. I volunteer for a lot of different groups, but I don’t like dropping the old groups to pick up a new thing.

[00:24:28] I like to keep both.  (Kevin) Well busy people get things done. I’ve always said if you want something done ask a busy person because they will get it done. They know how to get it done. And the nice thing about volunteering and doing nice things for people is it makes you feel good about yourself. And Rabbi Kushner said that in the Nine Essential Things I’ve Learned about Life.  If you want to feel good about yourself do something for somebody else.  That’s not always why we do it, but that’s one of the benefits that follows us out the door.  The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin.

[00:24:59] You have to work on happiness don’t you? Is that what your take away is?

[00:25:03] (Wendy) Yeah, ok so that was she decided to take a year and dedicate each chapter to a different aspect of what would bring, things that would bring make her happy, bring her happiness. So she divided into and I don’t remember all the details but one was cleaning your house and decluttering.  Because she felt that if you don’t have a decluttered space you’re going to be stressed out. So what I did is I read the book and I read one chapter a month and kind of did the lessons that she did in each book. So one was cleaning the house. Another was the family life making sure that you had the family time or spouse time. But it was just really focusing because we get so caught up in the day to day things that you don’t think about other things.  The little things that make you happy.

[00:25:47] (Kevin) That’s what reading does for me.  It slows you down because you have to put your focus on it. I’m reading Zorba the Greek right now and it’s just a book about wisdom. It reminds me of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran and it’s to be focused on what it is that you’re doing how to deal with people. And it was recommended by David McCullough Junior who is a teacher at Wellesley High School who wrote the book You Are Not Special and gave the famous speech at Wellesley High School’s graduation in 2012 saying “you are not special.” He said this is one of the classic philosophy books that gives you wisdom on life. And I wanted to read it before we were talking this morning people.  Time got away from me and I’m like I’m a little out of balance, but I knew that book would put me back in balance and that’s what reading does for me every time. The Pact by Jodi Picoult.  My Sister’s Keeper.

[00:26:40] (Wendy) Mm-hmm. (Kevin) What’s that about? That’s about being a good sister. Good…

[00:26:46] (Wendy) That was it’s actually a book, you know I remember. (Kevin) And that’s a fictional book but it has real-life elements. (Wendy) Oh yeah. And it was about a sister.  Okay. About two sisters one of them I believe, it’s been a while. She had bone marrow cancer.  (Kevin) And a child was conceived to be the donor? (Wendy) Yeah, yeah, mmm hmm. And so, Jodi Picoult is one of my favorite authors.  I’ve seen her speak a few times.  But she writes fiction but she does her homework and really meets with each, she tries to present things from both, from all angles.

[00:27:19] So if there’s a law case she’ll look at the defendant and the guilty, she’ll look at both sides of the case and kind of understand the thinking is behind both parties. And so this book was you know from the perspective of the the girl that was raised to be the donor, you know, her life, what her life.  And it looked at the life of the sister that was the cancer victim, what her life was life was like.  Then she also went into how the parents were thinking and you know and she just really gets into how people, she meets real people that have been in similar situations and kind of puts them on the page and illustrates how you would feel.

[00:27:51] So she just has a real talent.  (Kevin) That that’s what you like about things you just you’re just endlessly fascinated people aren’t you?  (Wendy) Yes I am. (Kevin) So is that why you like going to Starbucks? (Wendy)

[00:28:02] I love going to Starbucks. I sit there and I read an hour and I love, a kind of guiltily pleasure, I listen to peoples’ conversations because I like to know what’s going on. And I’m also I’m pretty outgoing and, but I have to hold myself back and not try to interject myself into people’s conversations if it’s something I’m interested in.

[00:28:19] (Kevin) If somebody is reading a book and you see it in their hands will you… (Wendy) I will ask them what they’re reading if they like it. (Kevin) What’s the response? I imagine people are…? (Wendy) They’re always very positive. They love to share what they’re reading. (Kevin) That’s that is like if you ever wanted to get somebody talking isn’t that maybe one of the first questions you want to ask?  (Wendy) Yes.

[00:28:35] And I do that all the time especially when I’m on an airplane because I always look around to see.  You know when I’m on Southwest Airlines if I see somebody holding a book that’s interesting, and when you pick your own seat I’ll sit next to the person who’s has the interesting book. (Kevin) Really?  (Wendy) Yeah.

[00:28:48] (Kevin) Do they do that to you? Has that happened? (Wendy) I don’t know. I think they look at me because I’m thin.  Because sometimes you don’t want a really wide person.

[00:28:57] (Kevin) When I was reading through the notes that you gave me for My Sister’s Keeper with Jodi Picoult I thought about myself. It isn’t that, doesn’t reading do that sometimes? Because the premise of my book The Marrow in Me was about me being a bone marrow donor for a 16-year-old boy that I’d never met. So here I’m kind of reading a parallel to my story. Do you just when you read something do you turn it on yourself and start becoming a character?

[00:29:23] (Wendy) I do. And then when I read The Pact Jodi Picoult’s other book at the time, that was an interesting book that was about two families that were best friends.  A the son from one family was dating the daughter from the other family.

[00:29:38] And they had a suicide pact. But it was, they grew up together and it was always pressure that the girl and the boy were gonna end up together like wouldn’t it be nice? You know since they were born since they were babies.   And I had a really close friend who had a daughter, who I shouldn’t be saying this is on the radio because my son will kill me.  But my friends had a daughter that was my son’s age. And you know people, we used to just joke around like wouldn’t it be nice if they ended up together? But after reading this book I said you know what?  You know, I saw the disarray and it just destroyed both families.  Like the relationship and the pushing of the relationship destroyed both families. (Kevin) It wasn’t all that uncommon a long time ago when families sort of, you know, we think of arranged marriages as something that happens in Arab cultures and certain Asian cultures. But in a lot of European cultures it was it well,  you know the boy next door, it wasn’t always organic.

[00:30:31] Where were you showed the the interests.  Families kind of did that.

[00:30:35] (Wendy) Yeah yeah. But just a real, real reality check behind me pressuring my kids to be involved with anybody you know just… (Kevin_ Just just let them do their thing.

[00:30:46] (Wendy) Exactly. (Kevin) All right. And then try to love ’em. I’ll tell you when,

[00:30:50] when I was dating, prior to marriage and I would bring my dates home, my mother; There were no girls in my family it was all boys. So when I would bring girls home she was just happy to have a little change of, to get a little less testosterone. And I’m like Mom, I’m trying to put the moves on here!

[00:31:09] ”(Wendy) My dad was like that to you.

[00:31:11] (Kevin) You have some quirks with your reading in that, well you tell me what they are.

[00:31:15] You’ll never leave a chapter unfinished?

[00:31:17] I have to finish a chapter so I select, based on the timing, I love books with short chapters like James Patterson books.  If I know I’m traveling and I have a very short window of time I’ll pick up a James James Patterson book because its chapters are three to four pages. Because I just know they have to finish a chapter when I read it. (Kevin) You just like a clean start?  (Wendy). Yeah yeah. When I read my kindle I only like to have books that are three to 400 pages because on the bottom it shows what percentage you’ve read. Yeah.

[00:31:48] And I know we talked about it earlier.  (Kevin) Yeah I’m like always, where am in this book? I can’t really see. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High.  Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny and Ron McMillan.  Your daughter recommended that.  What’s the gist of it and how do you apply it in your life? And what’s our takeaway, what should our take away be?

[00:32:09] (Wendy) Okay. Our takeaway is that we all are built with protective mechanisms around us. Fear motivates all of us.  (Kevin) It’s pervasive everywhere for a number of .

[00:32:21] different reasons. I wish we could just eliminate it, don’t you?  (Wendy) Totally, totally.  (Kevin) Wouldn’t we live freer if we could?

[00:32:28] (Wendy) Absolutely.  So the book teaches you. I mean when you look at just what’s going on now politically in the world like we’re living in this world of xenophobia. And just because we don’t people build protective shells around themselves.  And the less, the more isolated we are the more protective we become. And it can be a little thing like if your mother says to you ‘Don’t eat that you’re going get fat’ you will sneak food in the closet when she’s not looking. So it’s little things that can be a little habit to start when you’re younger. This book teaches you to kind of first sit back and before you react because a lot of times we’re in a situation where you may say something to me and I’ll be very reactive right away and get very upset because you’re in a high emotional state which happens when you have fear.  (Kevin) That’s your natural defense.  If I’m if you and I need to have maybe what’s a tough conversation but it’s a needed one, and I confront you on something,

[00:33:20] your response back is usually based on fear.

[00:33:23] (Wendy) Mmmmhmmmn.  So what the book teaches you is to instead of jumping into the conversation, sit back and take a few breaths which, I do yoga too.

[00:33:32] So just to sit back analyze like what is the person trying to say to me?  And why is that person trying to say that?  And then try to rephrase, try to open the question with something that makes them comforted like in something instead of them saying, a good example, instead of the mother saying that food’s gonna make you fat she may want to say something. ‘Hey, have you ever tried this type of food?’

[00:33:57] In spite of a healthy snack, it’s real, it’s delicious. Maybe you want to taste it. Try to open up the conversation to have the person try alternatives first so they’re not responsive and then you can get until ‘you know I noticed that, I read a study about such and such isn’t healthy for you.’  But applying it more to the real world like with the divisiveness that we have now. (Kevin) Or with was sales?  (Wendy) Or with sales.  (Kevin) Like sometimes you gotta bring a buyer and the seller together. (Wendy) So somebody comes to a house, or yeah you walk into a clothing store and somebody comes up to you and says ‘Can I help you?’  right away, you all of a sudden will say no and you won’t go near them.  But if you approach him and say ‘Hey I like your outfit and, you know, what what do you think about the weather outside?’ They’re going to start a conversation with you. So teaches you the barriers of how to approach a person, how to find some kind of a common ground first, and then have a conversation.  (Kevin) And then it happens organically.

[00:34:52] Thank you. Thank you so much for coming in one day. It’s always good to see you. Can you come back another time?  (Wendy) I would love to. (Kevin) All right. Where and when should we listen for books that we talked about with with Wendy? Log on our Web site. Why I Read Nonfiction dot.com.  So instead of playing in your head what was that book?  Just go to Why I Read Nonfiction dot because we’ll have links to all those books. There’s information there about upcoming episodes, you can visit our bookstore and join the nonfiction network an exclusive private online community for listeners to keep the conversation going. For Wendy Bornstein, I’m Kevin Walsh. Thank you for listening and thank you to Nirvana on Cape Cod. The perfect summer, spring and fall getaway with world-class trout and bass fishing.  Subscribe to the podcast. It’s easy and it’s free and do us a favor, share the podcast with a friend. Once again for Wendy, I’m Kevin and Beverly the German Shepherd on the floor.  Thanks for listening. We’ll see you again soon.

 

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