Saturday, May 24, 2008

Reading list for Non-Philosophers?

A great friend of mine who is highly intelligent (a biologist that reads widely and deeply) always asks me about books I'd like to recommend. I'm often stumped, and usually end up telling him about books that aren't in philosophy.

So I decided to change that by consulting with Kenzie on books in philosophy that interested non-specialists can and should read. These aren't the books one would read in a philosophy course -- they're books we'd recommend to non-philosophers that have a high degree of insight and readability. This list also might do well as a reading list for students in high school or early college as well.

As one can see, the list quickly expanded beyond philosophy. It is also more or less representative of our tastes, which are more continental and mythic in orientation. Comments or suggested additions are appreciated!

Good philosophy books for noble and interested spirits
The Plague, Albert Camus
The Myth of Sisyphus, Albert Camus
I and Thou, Martin Buber
The Gay Science, Friedrich Nietzsche
Twilight of the Idols, Friedrich Nietzsche
Eros and Civilization, Herbert Marcuse
Essay on Liberation, Herbert Marcuse
The Culture Industry, Theodor Adorno
Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault
History of Sexuality, vol. 1, Michel Foucault
Civilization and its Discontents, Sigmund Freud
“Art in the Age of Technological Reproduction,” Walter Benjamin
Dialogues of Plato (Symposium, Phaedo, Crito, Timaeus)
Essays, Montaigne
Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, David Hume
The Gift of Death, Jacques Derrida
Margins of Philosophy, Jacques Derrida (especially “Differance” and “White Mythology”)
Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard
Elucidations of Holderlin’s Poetry, Martin Heidegger
Poetry, Language, Thought, Martin Heidegger
Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
Metaphors we Live By, Lakoff and Johnson

Good sociology/cultural studies books
Protestant Work Ethic, Max Weber
No Logo, Naomi Klein
Manufacturing Consent, Noam Chomsky
Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville

Good books on religion and myth
The Bible
The Responsible Self, H. Richard Niebuhr
Dine Bahane, Paul Zolbrod (Navaho origin story)
Blessingway, Leland Wyman
Art and Language in the Navaho Universe, Gary Witherspoon
Zuni, Frank Hamilton Cushing
Mukat’s People, Lowell John Bean
The Trickster, Paul Radin
Memories, Dreams, Reflections, Carl Jung
Myths to Live By, Joseph Campbell
Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell
Blue Fire, James Hillman
Structural Anthropology, Claude Levi-Strauss

Good literature and essays
Nature, Ralph Waldo Emerson
Man of Words, N. Scott Momaday
Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Notes from the Underground, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
The Merry Heart, Robertson Davies
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Annie Dillard
Candide, Voltaire
Tree and Leaf, J.R.R. Tolkien

Good poetry
The Want Bone, Robert Pinsky
The Circle Game, Margaret Atwood
Leaves of Grass, Walt Whitman


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