Everyone at the Table
Everyone at the Table is a series that explores everyday topics from the perspective of people... with different perspectives!
Good afternoon from New York City and welcome to everyone at the table. I am Hady Mendez, your host and the global lead for Cloudflare's Latinx employee resource group.
Everyone at the table is a series that brings together people from around the company to explore everyday topics from the perspective of people with different perspectives.
To make sure everyone has an opportunity to speak and have their voice heard, I will serve as the moderator.
As a reminder to our viewers, we will be taking your questions at Live Studio at Cloudflare.TV.
Today on our show, we've invited employees from around the company to talk about their love of reading and what books are giving them life.
So this is a really fun topic for me and it really takes me back to my childhood and growing up in Brooklyn.
I remember two things about books when I was a little girl.
The first is I remember my mom taking me to the library about once a week to pick out new books.
And in case you're wondering what I was reading when I was like seven or eight years old, my favorite book was anything related to Encyclopedia Brown.
If you don't know who that is or you've never heard of the series, look it up.
It's amazing. It's good stuff.
That was my favorite when I was a kid. I also remember getting free books from the library and that was through a program called RIF.
And RIF stands for Reading is Fundamental.
And I didn't know it then, but RIF is a non -profit committed to inspiring passion in young readers.
And they provide content and they engage communities.
And so that's why I was getting the books for free from the library in Brooklyn when I was a little girl.
And so they did their job because like fast forward, I won't say how many years, I still love reading.
So that's like good sign.
So RIF did their work. Panel, I want to bring you into the conversation.
So I'm going to ask that you share your name, what office you're from, and why you accepted our invitation to be part of today's panel.
So Guido, why don't we start off with you?
Sure. Hi, so my name is Guido Jimenez. I'm with the network engineering team at Cloudflare in the London office.
I accepted, I don't know, maybe I have a similar experience to yours.
My family are all avid readers, probably the one that reads the least there.
So it's been very, you know, it's been a common thing throughout my upbringing and my whole life.
So just wanted to talk a little bit about it.
Awesome. Thanks. Welcome. Mona, how about you?
Hi guys. My name is Mona Hadidi. I'm a customer success manager in Cloudflare's New York office.
I was super excited to join because I love to read, I love to talk, and I love to talk about reading.
And I'm always on the hunt for new books. So really excited for the conversation to hear what my colleagues are reading.
So I can add that to my reading list.
Awesome. Thanks, Mona. Alexandra? Hi everybody. I'm Alexandra Logan.
I manage two of our business development teams here in London. And the reason why I accepted today is because I love to read.
And I also, like Mona, I like to talk about what I read as is a fundamental part of who I am.
So that's reason why.
Great. Welcome to the program. And Julie, how about you? Hi, I'm Julie Sparks.
I'm a security engineer based out of Cloudflare's Austin office. I accepted the invitation because I grew up with a family of very active readers.
And some of my favorite memories growing up were going to the library with my grandparents, being able to pick out new books.
Oh, I love that. That's so nice. That's a good memory.
All right, so we're gonna jump right in. I think a good place to start is with the basics.
So we're going to talk about our favorite book. So I know that's really hard.
And for me, it was really hard. I kind of got it down to like a kind of a genre, but I don't even know if I did a great job of picking the favorite one.
But there's a lot of books to choose from. I love any book that features a Hispanic American character, being Latina myself and reading about other Latinas.
Like it's just something about that shared experience for like, just really like draws me into the book and makes me want to keep reading.
I've read lots of different books by Latina authors.
Some of my favorites, I'm going to include my top three because I couldn't bring it down to one.
Probably one of my favorites is going to be one called Almost a Woman.
And the author is Esmeralda Santiago.
She also wrote When I was Puerto Rican. If you haven't read anything by Esmeralda, I highly recommend her.
I also really loved reading My Beloved World. And that was written by Sonia Sotomayor.
If you recognize the name, she's one of our Supreme Court justices.
She's the first Puerto Rican Latina. So really excited about that.
And that was like kind of a memoir and it was a great book. And then I also really enjoyed reading Becoming Maria.
And that's by Sonia Manzano. If you don't know who she is, she was a character on Sesame Street for many, many, many years.
She played the character Maria. And she talks about what her life was like, also kind of a memoir, what her life was like becoming Maria, like, you know, kind of reaching that stage in her life and being on Sesame Street and being that character for so long.
So those are some of my favorite books. I'm really curious to hear what are all yours.
So why don't we start with you, Mona? All right, that is a super hard question to answer.
I would say, I mean, I love different books for different reasons, obviously.
But probably one of the most impactful book that I read as an adolescent that like really has stayed with me for most of my life was the autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley.
For the most part, I love historical fiction.
As a very weirdly intersectional identity person, I'm Korean, Egyptian, American, Muslim, I like to explore a lot of those different facets of my background.
So from the Korean perspective, I really loved The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson, and that's about North Korea.
It won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013.
And also Pachinko by Min Jin Lee is an incredible book as well. Also kind of a multi generational historical fiction book.
Egypt is a whole nother ballgame.
I love this Egyptian author named Naguib Mahfouz. He's one of the most celebrated Egyptian authors.
One day I hope to read his books in Arabic, but so far I've been reading his books translated into English.
But my favorite book that I've read this year was a book called Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo.
It won the Man Booker Prize and is basically a series of interconnected stories of Black British women.
And it explores feminism and race in a way that I've never seen done before.
So long answer to a question. So sorry about that. Wow, we're gonna have to like get a exchange like list because you talked about I've never heard of, but I'm really curious about now.
Thank you, Mona. So who's next?
Who else wants to share their favorite book? I can jump in. So my favorite book of all time, and I actually read this book about two years ago, is How We Survived Communism and Even Left by Slavinka Jekulic.
She is a Croatian -Bosnian journalist who from a Western perspective, because she has spent time in America, describes in short anecdotes how European thoughts and behavior have changed in Eastern Europe after Soviet occupation.
And what was really great about this is like in such simple stories, it tells you how people think differently and approach problems differently and gives you the context for why people think the way they do.
And it really inspired me to learn more about different perspectives, continue reading about different contexts in history that have caused like these thinking shifts.
Wow, that sounds incredible. Thanks, Julie. Thanks for sharing that.
So Alexandra and Guido, who's next? I'll go next. Okay, I think that one of my absolute favorite books of all time has to be one by a Colombian author called Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
The book is 100 Years of Solitude.
I'm sure Guido and Harry will probably know it. And the reason why that book is so special to me is growing back in Colombia, obviously, I lived in a different region to where this book relates to.
But it's just the magical realism and how descriptive he could be.
And you could be transported immediately to the exact place where these things were happening.
I remember part of the book being where a certain character appeared, there were yellow butterflies, and that stuck with me forever.
I always remember when I read a book, I think, is this like that book?
And that means that it's a good book for me. So yeah, plenty of books, obviously from Gabriel Garcia Marquez and other Latin American authors that I follow.
But this by far is my favorite one. Thanks for sharing, Alexandra. All right, Guido, let's hear it.
Sure. So it's also a pretty hard question for me to answer.
But I would say I have a soft spot for Stephen King's The Shining, which I think it's kind of interesting that you would say like a soft spot and that book in the same sentence.
But it's mostly because it was kind of like the first grown-up book that I read when I was like 13.
As I said, my family, they all read quite a lot.
So I was trying to like, you know, catch up. And I'm much younger than all of my siblings.
My siblings are 10, 12, and 14 older than I am. So it's kind of like me trying to like, you know, be at the grown-up stable with, you know, by reading a kind of like a not, you know, young adult fiction or anything, but a proper like, you know, big book.
It was like 500 pages long and, you know, obviously very kind of like a hard one to read.
But yeah, but then lately, also like a couple of years ago, I read one which is quite interesting called Die Etymologikon by Mike Forsyth, which is, it's a very easy read, but it's kind of like, it mixes like etymology with history.
So it's like a lot of like different interesting histories about how common words are, you know, where they come from and how, you know, they intertwine with interesting historical facts.
So it's like kind of like an easy, like we can read because it's not long, but yeah, I thought it was a brilliant thing.
So. Awesome. Thanks for sharing, guys. That was fun. Very different books.
So that's kind of cool too. I do have a question. So I did talk about, and I think a lot of you have kind of alluded to it, but I do want to hear a little bit more of the stories of how you became a reader.
So did you develop this joy for reading over time?
Is this something instilled into you by like family members?
Like someone mentioned a grandparent. For me, it was my mom. Like, so I'm kind of curious to know how you got into reading.
So maybe Julie, you can kick us off this time and tell us a little bit about your story, your backstory.
Yeah, of course.
I don't think not reading was ever an option in my family. Like my family, like my grandparents, my mom, they used to say, like, if you're not learning, then you're wasting your time.
So there was kind of, even if you're reading a fictional book, you're still learning something.
So to just constantly try to keep learning.
And when I was growing up, I remember we ran out of bookcases. So we would just like pile books to the ceiling against the wall.
So you would just walk through a room and there would be books piled to like almost to the ceiling.
And I would just like look up at them.
Like, I would never be able to read this many books in my lifetime.
But like, as you get older, you realize like, yeah, you actually do read those many books.
And they're really important. And they create like, what you actually hold internal as like your beliefs and like what you know, and like how you can relate to other people.
So like, even as I've grown older, I just have more of an appreciation for it.
And it makes me like want to stay in school forever and just like keep learning.
Yeah, that's interesting. I have a Kindle now.
So I don't have books anymore. But I know what you mean. Because that the books were my pride and joy.
Like I used to look at them and be like, wow, yeah, that's a good book.
And, and that's like, all of that makes it me. So now with the Kindle, it's a little bit harder for me to get that visual.
But I but I totally if I really care about the book, then I'll buy like a hard copy.
So that way I can give it to other people.
But otherwise, I'll just read online. Sounds good. All right.
Who else wants to share with us how they got into reading? I'll go. I think my case, when I was very young, I wasn't interested in reading at all.
I was way too busy with my bike and my brother's kids.
So now, but then when I was a teenager, I actually was very, very, very shy.
And, and reading was my escape route. And also coming from a big family, I really appreciated that me time and that me time was me and my books.
So yeah, and also something really, really positive from from reading that many books, I literally could read books in one day.
And that really, really helped me when I went to uni because I didn't have much time to study.
I was working all day and Columbia sometimes you you work during the day and then go to uni in the evening, which is what I did.
And then because of that, not having the time, you know, and with all the reading that I did, that really, really helped me through in uni because I could literally learn something very, very quickly, just because of the amount of reading that I did.
So you're sort of a speed reader is what you're saying?
Yes. Awesome. That's a good one to have in your back pocket, I'm sure.
Yeah, it was handy. Awesome. Who's next? I can go. I come from a family like Julie of just voracious readers.
My dad is, he loves books, like every single house we've had, we've had like a library, which could be like a living room with like floor to ceiling bookcases.
He loves more books more than anyone I've ever met.
But I think growing up, you know, a lot of American families would take their kids to the park.
And that's how they'd spend their time together.
My dad would literally take us to the bookstore. And we'd spend hours just reading together.
And that was some of my fondest memories. And yeah, I've always loved reading.
I'm incredibly fast reader. I just love consuming words in written form.
So that has stayed with me like college, I was a history major, loved reading.
Since then, you know, always, always have a book in my hand. That's awesome.
So we have two speed readers in the group. Excellent. Good to know. Guido, how about you?
How did you come to love reading? Yeah, so I kind of like what seems to be a very common theme here is like my family also are very much avid readers.
So it was a little bit about like, just by example, like everybody at my house, like, you know, kept reading all the time.
And it was a very common topic to discuss like, during like dinner, especially on Sunday, Sunday dinner was a very one that we could not miss.
So, you know, so that was when I grew up with, you know, reading that way.
I kind of like fell off a little bit during like my university time, because it was university.
And then I started playing guitar sometime like at the end of high school, and I really got into guitar.
So like all the time that I would have spent reading, I swapped to just try to play better.
So at some point, as I, you know, I started working, I kind of like try to balance both of them.
So I still play a lot, but I kind of try to bounce a balance it off with, with, you know, reading.
So yeah, that's kind of like how it's been last few years.
Cool. You'll have to invite us to check out your guitar performance one day.
That'd be kind of fun. Pressure. Alright, so I've heard you guys, Julie talked about reading to learn.
You know, if you're not reading, you're wasting your time kind of thing.
I thought I heard and then Alexander, you talked about escaping in your books.
And like, your meantime was so precious. I'm kind of curious to hear.
Um, you know, it sounds like there's like two camps really. And when it comes to reading, I think I'm in the camp of like, reading is definitely a form of escape, a form of self care.
I know when I lived overseas, I lived overseas for two years.
And I would read or I read a lot of books when I lived in Bolivia.
And the reason was because it connected me back to the United States, for one, it was like something normal, quote, I'll put that in quotes, but it was just like a normal something like that I could like, it was normal to me anyway, you know, so it's like I needed that sense of normalcy, because so much was different for me.
And also, it kind of just got me, like, it was that escape that I needed Alexander that you talked about from all the uncomfortable feelings of me being in a place that was like foreign to me, and I didn't have a lot of friends, and I just was having a hard time adjusting.
And the books were definitely an escape. So I'm curious to know, if you see, you know, how many of you view books as a form of escape or self care?
And like, do you think it's been doing that now, in particular, as we're struggling with Corona, and like fighting racism in this country, and like everything else that's happening right now in this moment?
Do you feel the books are an escape for you?
Yes, definitely. I think when I started reading, I was a teenager, I came from a very, very strict family, like that wouldn't let me go out.
And so reading became my hobby.
So I read basically everything, everything. I'm very, very interested in history.
I read all of the classic, the Greek books, the Spanish books, Calderon de la Barca, you name it, I read it.
But yeah, it definitely became a way to know the world through someone else's eyes.
And it was a very, very positive experience for me.
So it calmed me down in moments where perhaps I need it.
And through my life, through the three different stages that I've been, I read different things.
You know, I also read a lot about self-help and motivational books, spirituality as well.
And I feel like it's my time when I think about what I want to do, when I like to learn about other people's opinions and what they've done in similar circumstances.
So yeah, definitely, definitely.
It's a way of really not escaping, but learning about other people and see through someone else's eyes.
I would say that, you know, they can be both at the same time in some cases, like, you know, it's self-care while you learn.
I mean, if learning something gives you like some type of joy, because like in my case right now, I'm kind of like going back and forth between two books, like chapter by chapter, kind of like in a way, which is like White Fragility and another one called Rage by David Epstein.
So they are, you know, they're quite different topics. They're fairly academic, if you would.
They're, you know, non-fiction, but nonetheless, like being able to gain other perspectives, learn new things at the same time can help, you know, it helps you.
I would say that's so important to start a certain point to myself, make, you know, cope with lockdown and COVID right now.
Understanding like the topic about racism, I think it's quite global right now.
I come from Costa Rica, so I'm Latino, so, but a lot of the topics, for example, and a lot of like how the issue with race in the United States is framed in White Fragility resonates a lot with me because, you know, we have very similar dynamics, although the specifics about, you know, historical events and whatnot in the U.S.
are different, the power dynamics are very much the same, right?
So understanding these things and being able to articulate a lot of things that probably you already felt were wrong kind of helps, you know, find a path forward.
So that's also, I think, in a way, self-care, if, you know, it makes sense.
It makes sense to me. Thanks.
Yeah, I mean, yeah, I'd be happy to jump in. I mean, I think for me, it's a form of self-care.
It's a form of creativity, of escape. It provides solace. It provides comfort.
It provides discomfort at times. I think, you know, I have a tendency to read a lot of books by Black authors, and one of the most recent books that I've read that I've really enjoyed is The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, and he basically recounts the story of a reform school in Jim Crow-era South, and that was super eye-opening for me and very interesting to me as well.
But yeah, I mean, I think for me as well, it's a combination of self-care and of learning.
I think, as Julie mentioned earlier, even fiction you can learn so much.
If I have an interest in Sufism, for example, I've read a lot of books by Elif Shafak, a Turkish author who writes a lot about Rumi and Sufism in general.
So whatever I find interesting or want to learn more about, I can usually find a fiction book that explores it in some capacity and expands kind of my worldview.
So both for me.
Yeah, I have to agree with Guido. I do also read two or three books at the same time, and they'll serve like different purposes and the same purpose at the same time.
Like I'll read one that's more focused on like maybe like spirituality or like meditation or like becoming like better at coping with different things or even fiction to kind of like escape somewhere, but at the same time, like on a different day, I'll pick up a book at the chapter I left off that talks about like political theory or like racism or different perspectives.
And so like I get to do both depending on my mood.
So it means that like I can always go and read to feel better.
I don't have to choose like this is escapism or like this is learning.
Like I can do both moments with like the same tool. Cool. Which means I have a ton of books stacked up everywhere.
Over to you. I don't know how you guys how you guys do that, but you know if it works, it works.
I'm curious to know.
I'm gonna give you an option of how to answer this next question. You can tell me what you're reading right now, or you can tell me about what book you're looking to read next and tell us a little bit about the process you use to decide which book to read next.
So and we probably don't have a lot more time, but tell me a little bit about that if you can in like 20 seconds or 30 seconds.
Which book are you reading right now?
Which book are you hoping to read next and why? I can go.
I am reading the Wind-Up Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami right now, which is a super interesting book.
It's got the magical realism. It's got some historical elements to it.
Typically how I like try to find books to read is I'll go to like the short list or long list for the Pulitzer Prize in Literature or the Man Booker Prize.
That's been a good way for me to find some pretty incredible books.
Awesome. Anyone else? I'll go next. Choosing a new book for me is a process that really depends on many factors.
One is what would I like to learn next? Is it history that I want to learn about?
Is it languages or whatever it is? What do I want to learn next?
And also something else is books to help me come with different emotions, if that makes any sense.
So if I'm feeling sad, maybe I want to read.
I'm not necessarily read because something that I did that I used to do even when commuting into London was audiobooks through Audible.
So I had a collection of those just for commuting purposes.
And you know, if it was a great day when probably a comedy is a good option or all of the other self-care books that I like or spirituality.
So that's basically how I got about books. What would help me in certain specific time or that I'm going through or what would I like to learn next?
Awesome. Guido? Yeah. So yeah, as I said, I'm reading. So it's White Fragility by Robin D'Angelo and Range by David Epstein, which is White Fragility is very popular, but Range is basically a counter argument or argument against being hyper-specialized, which is like right now I'd say in a lot of fields, like there's a, you know, there's a lot of pressure from if you're successful, it means you're very knowledgeable as a specific topic.
So it talks a little bit about how, you know, a lot of breakthroughs in different fields come from actually very diverse, you know, experiences by people.
So sometimes what happens is just, I'll be reading a book and they'll touch on a topic and say, I want to learn more about this.
So I'll just make a note of it and then just maybe search for books about this topic.
So I don't really have a set process. It's a lot of like talking to people.
My wife reads a lot as well. So sometimes we'll share.
Got it. Okay. Sounds good. Julie, how about you? Yeah. So I have, I read a lot of different things.
I would say right now, specifically with COVID, I've been trying to think of books that would give me some sort of like inner peace or focus on like a calmness.
So that I'm not looking at like social media or my work laptop or all of those other things that I kind of get trapped into when you're working from home.
So I just finished No Nonsense Buddhism for Beginners by Noah Reschetta.
And it just goes through simply like some of the different aspects of Buddhism and how you can apply like mindfulness to your daily life and taking meaningful actions to reduce anxiety.
And so I'll see very stressful things in the news and you know, you can't actually meaningful take action if you're consumed with anxiety.
So I found it was a good way to kind of balance those things. Nice. I love that.
That's great. Okay, guys, we're kind of at our last question now. So this is going to be really like 10 second answer.
What book do you recommend people read right now?
So Julie, this time we're going to start with you. I would have to go with the book I just mentioned, No Nonsense Buddhism.
I think it was great for right now and other people would definitely enjoy it.
It's for everyone. Thank you, Alexandra.
How about you? I love Deepak Chopra. He's my favorite author as well.
Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. Highly recommended to everybody. Thank you.
Mona, how about you? Love Colson Whitehead. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for two novels.
And I think he's the second author to ever do that. Nickel Boys, like I mentioned before, and Underground Railroad, both incredible books.
Thank you, Mona. And Guido, what book do you recommend people read right now?
So I would go with, yeah, Why Fragility, anything by Iran Kendi or maybe Daniel Kahneman, which Thinking Fast and Slow about, you know, mental shortcuts we make.
Thank you, guys. Well, my recommendation would be Becoming by Michelle Obama.
I know a lot of people have read that book, but it's a solid choice for people that want to understand how an amazing young lady found her voice and went on to become the first lady of the United States.
So that's my vote. I just want to thank all of you.
We're going to close the segment here. Big thank you today for today's panel for sharing their love of reading and providing us with some excellent book suggestions.
Next week, we're actually going to be talking about Back to Better.
So we're going to talk about what it's like going back to work, what it's going to be like, you know, at Cloudflare and at other companies, is going back to work something that people are excited about, or whether that's bringing up a lot of anxiety and fears for people.
And we're going to be moving our time to the evening.
So every third week, we change our time, the time of our segment to the evening.
And next week, we actually will be back in the evening time. Now I'm going to talk a little bit about the good news story of the week.
And this one is actually set in New York City, where Mona and I both live.
So there's three children got the surprise of a lifetime when their artwork showed up on a giant billboard.
And as a colorful reminder to frontline workers that we all thank them for their service.
Shutterfly did this contest, and it was about 450 people, children mostly submitted their work, and they chose the winners.
And New York City currently is sort of in the early stages of reopening, but essential workers are still taking mass transit to get to work.
And so Shutterfly chose two of the busiest commuter hubs, Grand Central Station and Port Authority, to display these uplifting messages of things which are crafted by children to bring a little joy to their commutes.
So it's very sweet. If you're in the New York City area, be sure to stop by Grand Central Station and Port Authority to check out those billboards.
So up next, join us for conversations with immigrants and expats, some exciting interviews and some interesting interviews there.
Once again, big thank you to all of you for joining us at Everyone at the Table, where your point of view is valued, appreciated, and heard.
See you next week, everyone. Thanks.