Thu Feb 9th, 2006 at 11:16:02 PM EST
This is really a non-diary. But most of you across the pond are nestled into bed right now, there is no permanent hoppin' open thread, and by the time I get around to enjoying the European Breakfast, everyone is already hitting the pubs & brasseries for happy hour...
So. I have a question. Or a request. I've finished the little pile of books on my nightstand (or at least the books I actually want to read) and so was going to stop by the bookstore on the way home. But I'm one of those people who has to have something specific in mind before I enter a store or else the whole purchasing experience is wrought with fear and indecision. (And before anyone lectures me on the rewards of browsing I'll remind everyone that I'm a librarian and you'd be wasting your time.)
Anyway, despite listening to NPR, reading the papers, blogging, working at a fancy university and generally hanging out with hip young intellectual fringe types, I just had nothing in mind as I got ready to enter the store, and so I did not, but walked past the doors and down the stairs to the train and went home and consoled myself with a very generous glass of wine and some disappointingly soft olives.
I know there are people I should be reading. I know there must be great thinkers out there from whom I can learn valuable insights about life and history and gain some framework for understanding this perplexing, frustrating, frightening time I find myself living in. But who are they? If they've been on Charlie Rose, the either give me the creeps or are closet neo-cons. Or both. I don't trust the NYT bestsellers. Not because of their depressing journalistic standards but because I used to work in the book industry and know the whole thing's as rigged as Wal-Mart's price structuring. I'm not cool and young enough to have that finely tuned radar that hones in on the most brilliant people, places and things since sliced bread seemingly without effort. I'm reduced to looking at the bookshelves and ascertaining the quality of a book by the number of copies on the shelf (the more the worse, and if it is on display run for your lives.)
So. If you were in charge of teaching the world, what would be on your syllabus? Who are the Great Thinkers? Who should I read? Nothing dry. And if the prose is rotten but the ideas are sound, forget it. I need good prose and good ideas. Fiction, non-fiction. History, sociology, psychology. I feel nothing I've read to date has adequately prepared me for this insanity I see around me. I can look within my heart and all, but surely some French philosopher or Italian novelist has more insight than this 31 year old American girl. Or at least they should be able to keep me occupied on the train. Right? And nothing (and I get a lot of this) in some well intentioned but manipulative attempt to get me to accept religion into my life. Again, wasting your time.
So, given those conditions, what do you recommend? Here's your personal chance to mold my mind! And the minds of others!
Fire away with your required reading lists!