Here is a list of the books and media I’ve read over the years that I have either (a) enjoyed the most or (b) learned the most from.
Within each category, authors are listed alphabetically. Where more than one book is listed for an author, I’ve listed the books in order of preference.
Dante Alighieri, Inferno Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine; Fahrenheit 451Willa Cather, O Pioneers!; My Antonia Albert Camus, The Stranger John Cheever, Collected Stories Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov F.
In an article published in Friday’s Washington Times, economist Tyler Cowen makes several interesting and provocative arguments about reading and books.
“What should you do when, 20, 50 or 100 pages in, you realize you just don’t like a book?” Cowen says: “Give up.”
“We should treat books a little more like we treat TV channels,” (Cowen) argues. No one has trouble flipping away from a boring series.”
Happy New Year! At the end of each of the past three years, I’ve written a post listing the best books I’ve read over the course of the year in order to bring these books to the attention of others.
As usual, I’ve put the titles of the five books most important to me this year in bold, and I’ve linked each book to its Amazon.com page. Enjoy!
Arons, Compelling Belief: The Future of American Schooling(education/religion/politics) Doniger, The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth (religion / mythology) Du Bois, Souls of Black Folk (history / politics) Frank, Falling Behind: How Rising Inequality Harms the Middle Class (economics / politics) Frankel, Faith and Freedom: Religious Liberty in America (religion / politics / law)Gibran, The Prophet (2nd reading; philosophy / religion) Hamsun, Dreamers (literature)Harrison, Returning to Earth(literature) Harrison, True North (literature) Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea (2nd reading; literature) Kerouac, The Dharma Bums (literature)Laxness, Independent People(literature) Mann, The Magic Mountain(literature) Milosz, Native Realm: A Search for Self-Definition(memoirs / literature / history) Putney & Putney, The Adjusted American: Normal Neurosis in the Individual and Society (psychology) Salomon & Valdez, Little House on a Small Planet (design / environment) Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars (3rd reading; politics / international relations)
After all, I got into teaching for the same reason, I suspect, that many people did: because I thought it was a high-stakes affair, a pursuit in which souls are won and lost.
One of the ways we’ve tried to be attractive is by loosening up. We grade much more genially than our colleagues in the sciences. In English and history, we don’t give many D’s, or C’s, either. (The rigors of Chem 101 may create almost as many humanities majors per year as the splendors of Shakespeare.