What I’m Reading | Virginia Hinshaw
Chancellor, UH Manoa

Q&A with Christine Thomas

Q. What do you like to read?

A. Reading is a great passion for me and is certainly one of the major ways I “refresh my soul.” I typically read several books at a time, so I can then select one that fits my situation/mood at any particular time. I often solicit recommendations about books from colleagues, family and friends, so word-of-mouth and book club lists help me find great books.

I typically read books in three major areas: non-fiction because that information helps me learn more about important past and current issues in the world, with a particular focus on Hawai‘i (since I know I have a lot to learn about our state); self-improvement/leadership strategy, since there are many great ideas constantly emerging and I am always hopeful I can utilize such ideas to help UH Mānoa excel; fiction – I read fiction, especially mysteries, because of the opportunity to experience a “virtual” world quite different from my own and I find that experience very relaxing.

Q. What are you reading now?

A. Currently, I have four books I am reading as time allows – thankfully I read quite rapidly:

Non-fiction: “Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics, and the Future of Food” by Pamela Ronald and Raoul Adamchak, a discussion of the attributes and challenges both of genetic engineering of crops and organic farming; this new book was written by accomplished colleagues who will be visiting the UH Mānoa campus in February to provide public and scientific lectures.
Also, “Emma: Hawaii’s Remarkable Queen” by George Kanahele, a history of Queen Emma’s contributions to Hawai‘i during her life. I read a lot about Hawai‘i to help me better understand current events in the context of history and also absorb the importance of the “sense of place” here in Hawai‘i.

Leadership Strategy: “A Sense of Urgency” by John Kotter, a presentation of ideas about how to move forward quickly in times of change; I have read most of his books and find them very helpful regarding ideas for higher education in dealing with the challenges/opportunities we face. I started reading his books based on a recommendation from my oldest son Bill who, in my opinion, is a strategic thinker and accomplished business person.

Fiction: “The World According to Bertie” by Alexander McCall Smith, a recent addition in a series by an author whom I thoroughly enjoy; I have read all of his books with my favorite being the series “The First Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana” which involves mysteries, but really focuses on people and dialogue – highly entertaining and refreshing – I always feel uplifted after reading his books.

Q. Which of these do you like most and why?

A. I found the book about Queen Emma to be the most fascinating; this book was really informative and interesting about Hawaii’s history and the impact of this particular leader – plus I can recognize a number of the places mentioned in the book and that helps me connect the past and the present.

Q. David McLain also likes Alexander McCall Smith, at least when I interviewed him in the past. Is there something about working in leadership at UH that makes his mysteries a must-read?

A. I don’t think it is linked to being in UH leadership, but rather to the high quality and great variety of books Smith writes – Smith is a very knowledgeable individual, so he can write about so many different topics so many people are devoted to one or more of his series. I do think folks in universities, like David and myself, respect his writing skills and also relate to much of his writing (I love the Portuguese Irregular Verbs books about professors). Plus we often talk about what we are reading so word about good reading opportunities spreads quickly in a campus community. In the case of Smith’s books, I remember that I just happened to pick up one of his books when I was enjoying spending time in a bookstore (I thought the title “The First Ladies Detective Agency in Botswana” was intriguing) and, after reading it, I discovered a treasure trove of reading contained within all of his different series.