John Sennetti, professor emeritus at Nova Southeastern University, has been arranging his November work and retirement schedule for 20 years to attend Miami Book Fair with friends and relatives.
What makes MBF so special?
It’s an adult Disneyland of stories and ideas presented by authors we likely have not yet read – and may not even read afterward – but attend anyway, just to be stimulated. Another thing the Fair does is make people aware of local authors who are funny, entertaining, and worth coming to see even if you never read their books. The obvious ones are Dave Barry, Carl Hiaasen, and Brad Meltzer. Hearing any of them speak is entertainment in and of itself. Craig Pittman is another one; he’s a reporter for the Tampa Bay Times who wrote a book about how the weirdest state – Florida – influences the rest of the country. All these Florida books are funny, funny and truthful.
There are a lot of different genres and voices represented at the Fair.
Yes, and thought-provoking conversations that elicit discourse and dialogue. And it’s more than that – it’s fun!
Right, it’s the engagement. Because if what’s being discussed isn’t interesting or entertaining, people aren’t going to connect with those ideas and those thoughts – they simply won’t resonate.
Exactly, intellectual engagement.
What’s your most memorable Book Fair moment?
In 2010, when Stacy Schiff presented her biography of Cleopatra (Cleopatra: A Life) and told us how she wrote about someone who possessed mastery of more than 100 poisons, but supposedly died by snakebite because her early biographers were among her detractors.
What did you read last?
These days I’m listening to a lot of audiobooks. Some recent ones were The Splendid and the Vile: A Saga of Churchill, Family, and Defiance During the Blitz by Erik Larson, The Power of When: Discover Your Chronotype – And Learn the Best Time to Eat Lunch, Ask for a Raise, Have Sex, Write a Novel, Take Your Meds, and More by Michael Breus and Mehmet Oz, and Rediscover Catholicism: A Spiritual Guide to Living with Passion & Purpose by Matthew Kelly.
That’s quite a mixed bag.
It is! But even though I was a professor of accounting, my Ph.D. is in statistics, and as a statistician I got to work in many fields – like psychology and history – and that’s reflected in my reading.
Was there something you read growing up that had an impact on you?
I had a difficult upbringing, so when I wasn’t busy trying to run away from home [laughs] I was losing myself in books by John Updike and James Michener. They were both Pennsylvania people, which is where I grew up.
Why do you support MBF?
It’s not just the books and the authors, who are great, but it’s just fun to go to, to be entertained. It’s better than television – it’s in-person television!
Interview by Elisa Chemayne Agostinho.