Books·My Life In Books

CBC's Personal Best host Rob Norman recommends a book that will keep you informed — and improv ready

The co-host Personal Best says that Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything helped him become a more well-rounded thinker.
Rob Norman is co-host of CBC self-help podcast Personal Best. (CBC)

CBC Podcasts' Personal Best is a humourous self-improvement podcast that encourages ordinary people to conquer meaningful personal goals, and offers support along the way. The second season launches on May 14, 2019.   

Personal Best co-host Rob Norman is an author and actor, as well as an instructor and director at the Second City Toronto.

To celebrate the premiere of the second season, CBC Books asked the hosts of Personal Best to share a book that helped them improve their own lives. Norman chose Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything.

"When I first started my comedy career, I was lucky enough to get a job touring with the Second City. You spend a lot of time in towns you might not normally visit. You meet a lot of different types of people and hear a lot different suggestions (although 'Starbucks's bathroom' is surprisingly common).

"I was young and was pretty sure someone had made a mistake when they hired me for the gig. Onstage, I always had anxiety that someone in Melfort, Sask. would yell out 'Boer War,' I'd be stumped, everyone would know I was a fraud and I'd be fired. To be clear, improv doesn't work that way. It just feels that way when you're starting out.

"Reading A Short History of Nearly Everything dealt with a lot of my anxieties about not knowing enough. This book is an improviser's dream. It's lots of fun, with interesting facts spanning over centuries and different disciplines, and that will give you the confidence to chime into whatever science-minded conversation that's happening around you.

"But looking back, what I really should have done is written a bunch of good Starbucks jokes."

Rob Norman's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Preview the second season of of Personal Best


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