I just read the article in Time by Douglas Brinkley about Tom Hanks and his upcoming series (Hanks and Spielberg together) on the War in the Pacific for HBO: How Tom Hanks Became America’s Historian in Chief. It is worth reading. But here is an underlying message in the article/profile that grabbed me: Tom Hanks reads books. Lots of books. And when he gets hold of some concept, some idea, he looks for more books to read. Though film is his medium of choice, it is from books that he learns in depth. Here’s just a hint at his reading regimen:
He harbors a pugnacious indignation against history as data gathering, preferring the work of popular historians like McCullough, Ambrose, Barbara Tuchman and Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Tom Hanks reads, and then he does something with what he reads. And how good is he? Here’s what Brinkley wrote:
He’s the visual David McCullough of his generation, framing the heroic tales of explorers, astronauts and soldiers for a wide audience. (McCullough’s John Adams has sold about 3 million copies; Hanks’ John Adams brought in 5.5 million viewers per episode.) And in the history world, his branding on a nonfiction title carries something like the power of Oprah.
Though Tom Hanks dropped out of college, he is a serious, life-long learner. He dropped out of college for the purpose of learning even more about his craft, acting. (For a quick description of this chapter in his life, read the Wikipedia article).
And his hunger for learning has never slowed. The overwhelming impression one gets from reading the Brinkley piece is that Tom Hanks is dead serious about learning, and then equally serious about teaching. And this has become his true life’s work.
For a blog that cares about books, Tom Hanks provides a pretty good example of why good books matter.