The Big List of Stuff We All Should Read (and Then Discuss in a Friendly and Respectful Fashion)


Someone recently gave me an idea for an interesting project (which you may or may not find equally interesting, or even remotely intriguing). Anyway, a comment was made on one of my posts about things that should be required reading, and I think this is an angle that warrants further exploration. Because, you see, all too often we waste our time talking at cross-purposes, like the Bushman in Africa who thought the Coke bottle came from the heavens. (Back in the day, kids, Coke came in little glass bottles. God, I’m old…) Ordinary conversation mystifies us; we don’t recognize it when we see it; we assume disagreement implies an inability to communicate, and consequently what is presumed to be inability becomes mere unwillingness. We don’t trust each other in the zero-sum world created by partisan pundits and ad hominem politics, and if we don’t trust, what could possibly inspire us to share? We don’t really even speak the same language anymore, it seems…

Except we do. Over the centuries, thinkers have wrestled with the same communications difficulties our minds are boggled by today; they have poised themselves on the same dotted line as we do, separating black from white, right from wrong; they have stared into the heavens and into their hearts in search of truth, that ever-elusive ideal that terrorizes and inspires us all. And in many cases they have written it down, out of the blindness of their finite little hearts, and left it as a marker for those of us carrying the torch through the next stage of this existential marathon we call human history.

What we need is a common language, a lingua franca, a cultural Esperanto that allows us both to understand what others are talking about and where they’re coming from, and that maybe (just maybe!) inspires us to hold our tongues and listen instead of just spouting off. Better to be a sugar bowl than a teapot, if you know what I mean. So, what we need is a common language, and in the written works of our forebears and our contemporaries, I believe we may find it. We may just discover a key that will unlock the way the minds, hearts, and souls of others work, what makes them tick.

(Quick sidebar: We may also discover that we don’t like some of them very much; for that matter, they might not have liked us very much, either, had we been their contemporaries. An interesting mental exercise is to ask myself whether, had I been around during Augustine’s time, there might not have been a Contra Vancus in the offing. However, the negative is as much a part of the picture as the positive; we need it all if we are to understand each other and the world we live in. We need to embrace the frogs along with the princes [or princesses]. Take offense, if you will, but then take that offense and turn it into a solution.)

Anyway, the idea is to create a list that we think will help us all get past the epistemic block and start to hear and understand all that gobbledygook coming out of other folks’ mouths. What are the things YOU think we should all read? Books, articles, blog posts, Chinese takeout menus–anything will do. In future posts, I will begin to compile a list of my personal picks. When you think of something, if you wish, please send me the title (along with a link if it’s web-based) and a brief explanation of what it’s about and why you think it’s an important contribution, and I’ll post it along with the others.

I dream of a time when public discourse is reclaimed by the public and no longer left to the “pundits abundant” that yell at us every time we turn on our televisions, radios, computers, etc. Is this just a pipe dream? The romantic idealist inside me refuses to accept that. I hope you do, too…

4 thoughts on “The Big List of Stuff We All Should Read (and Then Discuss in a Friendly and Respectful Fashion)

  1. I like it. I don’t necessarily think the purpose of “required reading” is to change someone’s mind, but to continue education, learn facts, share opinions, and get important conversations going. Glad that comment sparked this thought.

  2. Very intriguing. I follow a few blogs where I don’t agree with the blogger’s general views. Sometimes I learn things or change an opinion. Mostly, it lets me see where they are coming from and reminds me that they are not mythical tyrants.

    1. The extent to which the ideas of learning from others or altering an opinion based on that learning have fallen out of repute of late is very disturbing to me, so thanks for that! It IS good to be reminded that those who disagree with us belong after all to the human race, and aren’t more properly assigned to the “Here there be monsters” part of the map…

      Please share if you come across anything that really challenges your thinking. I love a good challenge.:o)

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