"The Book of Questions," Gregory Stock, PhD

Pros: Interesting set of questions; wonderful ideas and ideals
Cons: I want a bigger book with more questions!
Rating: 5 out of 5

First published 5/3/2001

Use the questions as a point of departure and give your imagination full rein.

Thus speaks Gregory Stock in the introduction to The Book of Questions. This is not a trivia book. This is a book of hopefully thought-provoking questions to ask yourself, your friends and your loved ones. They’re meant to create exciting evenings, teach you more about yourself and the people you care about, and create better connections between people with deep, interesting conversation rather than meaningless small-talk. It’s a tiny little book (about 4×6″, with 205 pages), but it’s also inexpensive – I got my paperback copy for less than $5 at Barnes & Noble.

So Many Uses

Get to know someone better. Don’t know how to talk to your date? Remember a question or two from this book. Pick something interesting and whimsical and see how she answers.

Not sure what to write about for English class? It’s hard not to come up with a fascinating essay subject from this book. Just flipping through it makes me want to sit down and write late into the night.

Get to know yourself better. Sit down with the book every now and then, pick a question at random, and answer it; either think about it or write about it. Maybe you’ll be surprised by how you answer. Maybe you’ll be more surprised by which questions make you uncomfortable or excite you.

Inspire your stories. If you’ve been having trouble coming up with ideas for your writing, start with one of these questions. Answer it for yourself and see where it takes you. Twist and turn that into an idea for a story.

Learn more about your fictional characters. If your characters seem one-dimensional when you write, or they’re having trouble taking control of their own lives and personalities, then answer a couple of these questions for them. See what your characters tell you about themselves.

Have a better roleplaying experience. If you’re having trouble figuring out the details of your RPG character, then answer one or two of these questions for her. See how she surprises you with the directions she goes in.

Connect with your loved one. Do you feel like you haven’t really been connecting with your loved one lately? Try talking about a couple of these questions and start connecting on a deeper level again. Small talk can sometimes come between people; use these questions to break past the small talk barrier.

What are the Questions Like?

There are a total of 217 separate questions, although some of them have multiple parts to them. Some of them also have “follow-up” questions – pages 183 onward are just follow-ups to various questions from the first part, meant to lead to further discussion. As Dr. Stock says on p. 183, “Good questions don’t lead to answers, they lead to more questions.” Questions with follow-ups are conveniently marked with an asterisk (*).

Some of the questions are reasonably light. Take question #4: “If you could spend one year in perfect happiness but afterward would remember nothing of the experience would you do so? If not, why not?” It’s an interesting question that cannot help but teach you something about yourself and your values. The follow-up question is a little more abstract: “Which is more important: actual experiences, or the memories that remain when the experiences are over?” What I found perhaps most interesting about this set of questions was not the set of answers that I gave, but the fact that they didn’t seem to match up. It’s amazing what you can learn and discover through the process of answering these questions.

Many of the questions are heavier than #4, and might spur some difficult emotions, so you should perhaps be careful which questions you choose to explore with whom. #149, for example, asks us, “Someone you love deeply is brutally murdered and you know the identity of the murderer, who unfortunately is acquitted of the crime. Would you seek revenge?” Some are also sexual in nature, so don’t hand this book to kids. Mr. Stock has a separate book of questions for kids if you want them to be able to enjoy this tool.

Still other questions are fairly whimsical in nature, and perfectly suited to discussion with someone you don’t know very well: #148 asks, “If, by having a 2 inch by 2 inch tattoo, you could save five lives and prevent a terrorist attack, would you do so? If you were allowed to select the location and design, where would you have it and what would the design be?”

#4 seems like the perfect question to inspire an odd story. #149 could inspire some very interesting background material for a fictional character. #148 could spur on some odd and unique roleplaying game material. You are encouraged not to answer with a simple yes or no, and not to be sidetracked by questions of the reality and believability of what you are being asked. Simply allow your mind to become engrossed in the possibilities. In this way, this book also serves as a marvelous exercise in creativity and inspiration in general.

Dr. Stock doesn’t get bogged down in lengthy explanations of how marvelous his work is or how it can save society today. His explanations and suggestions are brief and fun. He encourages the readers to take things in their own directions.

For a measly $5 that seems like an awfully useful resource, whether you use it as a tool for personal growth, a way to connect with the people around you, or an inspirational device for your creative work. Go ahead and get a copy of this book – I don’t think you’ll regret it.

Posted in Reviews, Writing

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