Hmm, that’s a hard question! Can I have two goes at it? My first thought would be to pick four people who all have something in common, say, travel and writing, so dinner conversation would flow well. In this case, I’d pick Michael Palin, Pico Iyer, Paul Theroux and Jon Krakauer. I’ve read works by all of them, and would love to hear their travel stories in person.
But…if I had the opportunity to invite four people to dinner, not necessarily as a group, but such that I could have extended conversations with them individually, then I would choose people who represent, in some way or other, my greatest passions in life: travel, language, music, and writing. Off the top of my head:
Michael Crichton – writer, producer, director: What a brilliant guy. Many of his books have been made into films including Jurassic Park, but the one that’s stayed with me the most is his nonfiction work, Travels. I particularly remember the chapter on Kilimanjaro, which inspired me to summit the mountain myself.
Deborah Tannen – academic, sociolinguist: I’m a bit of a language geek who’s interested in linguistics, discourse analysis and communication styles. I’ve read Dr. Tannen’s work since my university days and am keen to learn more about how she conducts her research, particularly in cross-cultural situations.
Tim Ferriss – author, lifestyle design guru: Tim is a fascinating person with a diverse range of interests, from language learning to fitness to technology. He really knows how to capture the zeitgeist and has taken the concept of lifestyle design into the mainstream. Many of his ideas are quite inspiring.
P!nk – singer, songwriter: I’ve always found Pink cool and easy to relate to, perhaps because we’re about the same age and she hails from Philadelphia, where I went to school. I admire her artistry and would love to chat about her songwriting process and life in general. And if the opportunity to jam came up, I’d take it!