Scott Metzger is a cartoonist known for his single-panel cartoons, which are usually focused on his love of cats. Scott Metzger has been creating single panel cartoons since 1996, and his work has been syndicated online with GoComics and my work also appears on greeting cards and t-shirts. Scott Metzger has also created cartoons that have been used by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. His cartoons have made thousands of people laugh, and I was excited to talk books with such a prolific cartoonist. Please enjoy my interview with Scott Metzger.
When someone asks you ‘what do you do for a living?’ – How do you respond?
I say I work in fundraising for a nonprofit (that’s my day job). Then I say I’m a cartoonist.
I’m re-reading Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell.
When you think about your childhood, what book comes to mind?
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. I loved the writing and illustrations in that book. I spent hours copying the drawings. Shel Silverstein was a genius.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
What do you think your school-aged self would think of the present day you?
He would be happy that I’m cartooning and that I have a great wife and two kids.
If you could wrap up a single book and gift it to yourself as you left education – which book would it be and why?
Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott. This book immediately comes to mind because I read it a couple of years after I graduated from college. The advice she gives about writing and life is invaluable. I still think of some of the things she says in that book.
Does your reading have routine? Is there a particular time or place that you like to read?
I don’t have a routine. Sometimes I’m reading every day and other times I won’t read for weeks because I’m too occupied with other things. I tend to read right before I go to bed.
Which book has had the biggest impact on your career so far? How did it impact it?
It’s hard to pick a single book that has had the biggest impact on my cartooning. Creating a Life Worth Living by Carol Lloyd and How to Draw and Sell Cartoons by Ross Thomson and Bill Hewison have both been very helpful.
Do you have any books that you strongly associate with someone important in your life?
The Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling remind me of my wife. She’s a voracious reader and she was way ahead of curve about Harry Potter. In the late ‘90s, she suggested that I read the series and I was skeptical. I’m glad I did because I love those books. Now my nine-year-old daughter just started reading them, which makes me happy.
What book have you recommended the most to friends and family?
I’ve recommended The Book of Joe by Jonathan Tropper to several people because it’s such a great story. I’ve read it two or three times because it’s so well done; it reads like you’re watching a movie. Bruce Springsteen’s music is a significant part of the story, so Springsteen fans would certainly appreciate that part of it.
Do you prefer fiction or non-fiction?
I like both but probably lean towards fiction.
Do you think reading is important?
What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months?
I recently read Giant of the Senate by Al Franken, which was really interesting. I had no idea he was such a policy wonk. I enjoyed reading about how he works with Republicans whenever possible. He’s friends with Senators you wouldn’t expect him to be friendly with, which I found refreshing. As much as he’s building bridges, he also ruthlessly calls out Senators he doesn’t like. One of my favourite lines from the book: “I like Ted Cruz more than most of my other colleagues like Ted Cruz. And I hate Ted Cruz.”
Do you prefer real books or digital books?
Real! I’ve tried reading on a digital device and I can’t stand it. I can see the convenience of digital books, especially when travelling, but I don’t like the process of reading on digital devices. Give me real books.
Name a book that you feel everyone would benefit from reading and explain why.
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande. The first 40-50 pages were difficult to read (the descriptions of how the body decays with age is downright depressing) but I liked his message about focusing on quality of life, rather than merely “trying to win,” when fighting cancer and other terminal illnesses. The author includes many inspiring and heartbreaking stories from real people dealing with ageing and illness, which makes it a very compelling book.
What is the book that you feel has had the single biggest impact on your life? What impact did it have?
Around 1995, a friend gave me Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life by Jon Kabat-Zinn. She was into meditation and would talk about the benefits of it. It took me several months to get around to reading the book because at the time I thought of meditation as silly hippie stuff. (I was young and stupid.) That book planted the seed for my interest in meditation. It took me a long time to get around to meditate regularly, but now I do and it’s extremely effective. It helps me relax and focus – and sometimes I come up with a great cartoon idea after I meditate.
Are there any books you haven’t mentioned that you feel would make your reading list?
One book that sounds really interesting is What If? by Randall Munroe. He offers serious scientific answers to ridiculous hypothetical questions. A friend was talking about this book recently and it was cracking me up.
What books or subject matter do you plan on reading in the next year?
If you were to write an autobiography – what would it be called?
Honestly, writing an autobiography is the last thing I’d want to do, so it would be called I Can’t Believe I Wrote an Autobiography.