Po Bronson

Reading from What Should I Do With My Life?, Powell's City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside, Thursday January 15, 7:30 pm

"We are all writing the story of our life. We want to know what it's 'about.' We demand of it something deeper, richer, more substantialÉ We want to ensure that when the ending comes it won't be shallow," writes Po Bronson in the introduction to What Should I Do With My Life?, a book that took him all over the country and into the lives of hundreds of people who were willing to share their stories.

Finding satisfying work is a fundamental and central drive for most people, now more than ever. And when Bronson--whose three books about the Silicon Valley circus were best sellers--felt the threads of many possibilities thinning, he embarked on a journey that ultimately included interviews with more than 900 people who were in the same questioning boat.

No matter who you are and what you've done (or failed to do), aspects of What Should I Do With My Life? will resonate. Bronson is a careful interviewer--kind and insightful and observant--and the people he meets and the stories they tell are interesting and relevant. His colloquial manner sometimes makes a reader wish for a long, lovely, intricate sentence, but this book is not about artifice, but about real people, real lives, and the larger and more important questions that surface. Does what we do make us who we are, or vice-versa? Is there such a thing as true calling, and if so, how do we find ours? In listening to his subjects, or more accurately, his friends, and helping them decipher the answers to these questions, Bronson sometimes includes lists of their deciding factors, just like the one you'd make in exploration of your own vocational crisis.

Reading the book in public, its bold title announcing to the world that you can't quite figure it out and are seeking public assistance, can make you feel slightly sheepish. But that's kind of the point. These are important questions that ego must be left out of. That was clearly Bronson's intent, and his rendering of these success stories, with their intricate details of trying and failing and trying again, is both comforting and illuminating. ERIN ERGENBRIGHT