The Shape of the World: Essays (New Book)

In 2009, I was traveling across West Africa when I stopped in a hostel in Bamako, the capital of Mali. Inside the compound a trunk was parked. On its hood there was painted a giant wheel and the words “Rotary International.”

When I got home from that trip, I sent an email to the general address at The Rotarian magazine (now known as Rotary), explaining that I’d seen the Rotary sign in Mali and suggesting if I were traveling somewhere like that again, I might offer my services in writing about clubs or projects that would be hard to reach.

A few months later, I got a response from editor Jenny Llakmani. We talked on the phone, and she suggested I write a column. We agreed on an idea, and now it appears in this book as “Sense and Sensitivity.”

In the following years, I wrote more than 50 columns for Rotary magazine, most of which are collected in The Shape of the World. The pieces revolve around my questions about culture, language and belief. They explore the power of travel to change the way we see the world, and the power of stories to change how we live in it. In them, I try to answer (or at least ask) questions like, “How do you be a good person?” “How can you cultivate wisdom?” and “What does it mean to have hope?”

Two of these pieces, “Beyond Belief” and “What Price Experience?” were selected as “Notable Essays” in the Best American Essays anthologies. The column “Meeting Like This,” about why so many meetings are a waste of time, and how to make them better, received Folio Magazine’s Eddie & Ozzie Award for “Best Association/Nonprofit Column.”

In the end, the greatest honor was that I got to write these essays at all. For that, I owe a deep debt the great and talented Jenny Llakmani, to all the staff at Rotary, and to the Rotarians and readers who created the space where I was able to roam the world of ideas as widely as I did.

More here: The Shape of the World: Essays on Travel, Culture and Belief from Rotary Magazine