We close the year with a list from Dr. Ashley Dressel, a new faculty member in the Department of Philosophy.
Favorite or most influential books:
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
Call Number: PZ8.3.S5844 Wh
I loved this book of usually silly, often irreverent, and sometimes morbid poems as a child, and frequently drove my parents crazy reciting Silverstein’s poems on long road trips. I have recently rekindled my love for the work as a new parent. Some of the poems are exclusively amusing, but many are slyly philosophical. As with much good children’s literature, the book is not just for children.
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
The story is a tragic, fictional account of a young black girl’s struggle with white American standards of beauty in the 1940s. It is also about childhood, girlhood, and race more generally. As with Morrison’s other works, any of which I highly recommend (Beloved, Love: A Novel, Jazz, Song of Solomon…), the book is lyric, layered, and not easily forgotten.
Confessions by Saint Augustine
Call Number: BR65.A6 E5 1943
This partial autobiography, written over 1500 years ago, is Augustine’s own story of his young life and his adult conversion to Christianity. Augustine is a fabulous writer who led an interesting life and so the Confessions is not dull or overly cerebral. The now-saint discusses his previous sex life, a time he committed theft with his friends, his reactions to the deaths of his closest friend and his mother, his experimentation with a variety of religious and philosophical positions, and much more in a way that is often raw, relatable, and insightful. The work also contains some of Augustine’s philosophical reflections on topics like memory, faith, and the nature of time (including an argument suggesting time is an illusion). This profoundly influential work helped convince me, as a nineteen year old, that I should spend my academic life studying medieval Christian philosophy.
Savage Inequalities: Children in America’s Schools by Johnathan Kozol
Call Number: LC4091 .K69 1991
This non-fiction book from the 90’s powerfully exposes the damaging roles wealth and poverty play in the American public school system. This is an especially important read for anyone considering going into education, law, or public policy.
The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoevsky by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Call Number: PG3326 .B7 1996
This intimidatingly long, deeply philosophical (and spiritual), Russian novel about family, murder, justice, and faith/doubt is well worth the struggle involved in keeping the large cast of Russian characters straight. This book was a gift to me from a favorite undergraduate professor and I am very grateful for it.
What are you reading now?
For pleasure - The Essential Neruda: Selected Poems by Pablo Neruda
For work (which does not exclude pleasure) – The Secunda Secundae of St. Thomas Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae. I have read the work a number of times before, but always pick up on something new when I read it again.
Desert Island Pick (this is your bonus title--the book that you can take along to the island for sheer reading pleasure):
If I am on the island for pleasure, Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins. It’s the only book from the Hunger Games trilogy I have yet to read. If I am stranded, I’m getting to work! I suppose in that case the SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide for Surviving Anywhere by John Wiseman would come in handy.