I don’t read much fiction. I should – I know. But I don’t. But, one of these days…
Anyway, here are some books lists for book lovers. Many of the titles are fiction. Some are non-fiction. So many books, so little time…
The Reading List: 10 Essential Books for Life
Manhood, America, sports, politics, sex. These are the subjects men should know — and these are the authors who can teach you.
The 75 Books Every Man Should Read (this one includes The Grapes of Wrath — if you have never read it, or, if you only read it after it was assigned years ago in school, it’s time!)…
An unranked, incomplete, utterly biased list of the greatest works of literature ever published. How many have you read?
and, a list of books by women authors that every man should read…
250 Books By Women All Men Should Read (this one includes Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek; if you’ve never read Dillard, it’s past time! – check out her The Writing Life; it’s not just about writing)…
with this introductory paragraph:
Esquire made reposted a slide show of 75 books all men should read. The books are mostly fantastic and the headline phrasing didn’t much bug us. After all, Esquire is a men’s magazine and has always been marketed as such. The problem was that the list was all male writers, save for lone lady Flannery O’Connor. This really does imply that men don’t/can’t/shouldn’t read women and we were pretty sure that wasn’t the case among readers. We were also sure that part of the editorial reason for making such a list this way was to generate a response, so here it is. Over Memorial Day weekend we asked Joyland readers, editors, and contributors to come up with a list of 75 Books By Women All Men Should Read. We received over 250 suggestions in two hours. We think the below is a seriously devastating list of great books all men should read. Thank you everyone who took part via Facebook and Twitter. We had to format many different kinds of responses so let us know if we made a mistake with your selections. Also please, keep the talk going in the comments and everywhere else. — Emily Schultz and Brian Joseph Davis, publishers of Joyland
At any given moment, I have at least six half-finished books sitting within easy reach. But which six? How do I choose? Ah, that’s where the magic happens.
A wonderful literary synergy is created by the accidental juxtaposition of reading materials.
Julia Keller, CULTURAL CRITIC, Chicago Tribune — Why need read many books at once?
So I really meant that it’s something I think is kind of part of the human species, to always be kind of looking over the horizon to the next thing. And I think that when you break off your reading to go read something else, the first thing is enhanced. It’s enhanced by that contrast by realizing all the different varieties of voices that there are out there.
The Joys Of Reading Many Books At Once (from an interview conducted by Jennifer Ludeen, for NPR’s Talk of the Nation)
You are either a reader or you are not. That’s my theory, anyway. I have always loved reading. I started with comic books (if only I still had my original collection!). I used to hide a book propped up in an open textbook during class as far back as junior high school. (I think the first books I propped up in such manner were the Nero Wolfe mysteries, which I still re-read every few years). It probably (ok – definitely) hurt my grades – but I loved my reading.
Anyway, I got the link to this NPR interview in an e-mail, sent by another book lover. Here’s Jennifer Ludden’s introduction to the interview:
Many people are serial readers — they pick up one book and read it cover-to-cover before putting it down.
And then there are poly-readers like Julia Keller.
The Chicago Tribune cultural critic juggles four, five, or even six books at any given time, never able — or willing — to choose just one.
Some have frowned when Keller mentions how many books she’s reading…
But she’s nurtured her habit not because she’s flighty or easily bored — or even because it’s her job to read many books at a time. It’s just because she finds life is simply better when lived among multiple books.
If you love to read more than one book at the same time, then you know the joy of this approach. If you don’t – well, I just feel sorry for you…
In an ideal world, you would read the books that most interest you, and then discuss the ideas and implications of the book, with some of your closest friends.
A number of business leaders have tried such book discussions with their executive teams. You know, everyone reads the same book, then discuss the book with the needs, challenges, and opportunities of their company in mind.
Well, last weekend. I was browsing through and checking out books from the Richardson Public Library. (We moved from Dallas to Richardson a few months ago). The parking lot was full, people were checking out stacks of books, and I browsed a while. That’s when I found this display:
This is a shelf full of book bags. Each bag contains 15 copies of the same book, ready to check out. It is a made to order, take-out book club in a bag. (They call it a BOOK babble).
What a cool/smart idea!
Nothing sickens me more than the closed door of a library. – Barbara Tuchman
The only true equalisers in the world are books; the only treasure-house open to all comers is a library; the only wealth which will not decay is knowledge… – J. A. Langford
I present book synopses monthly (now twice a month, in two locations) for the Urban Engagement Book Club, sponsored by Central Dallas Ministries. The Rev. Gerald Britt Jr., their Vice President for Public Policy, is a thoughtful, substantive thought-leader. He has an op-ed column in the Dallas Morning News on the crisis facing municipal governments, specifically Dallas, because of budget cuts. Here’s the paragraph that should evoke a little sadness, and maybe some fear, in book lovers everywhere.
The cuts in library services are particularly illustrative. This budget has plummeted from $28 million in the 2008-2009 budget to a proposed $13 million next fiscal year. The projected loss of personnel threatens services such as fewer new books and fewer staff to shelve and organize materials.
I spend hundreds of dollars a year on books. I have to “mark them up,” and give many of “my copies” away at our events (I can’t begin to tell you how much I hate to give away these books!), so I can’t use the library for these particular books. (And a few folks give me many books – for this I am deeply grateful). But I check out some books just to read from the Eastfield College Library (where I teach), and I have many fond memories of reading library books over the decades of my life, from Jacksonville, Florida to Harlingen, Texas, to Long Beach and Los Angeles, California, to Dallas, Texas. And I could not begin to tell you the number of books I have read that I never had to purchase.
But books are just the beginning. In these tight economic times, many people use the library to help with their job search. One library director in Central Oklahoma described this new phenomenon: people come sit in the parking lot of the library, and open their laptops in their cars to access the internet connections available through the library.
In other words, for a literate society, for a society that values learning, library cuts are more than just an inconvenience. The public library provides essential tools for personal improvement, providing tangible help for needed job skills, countless programs to help our youngest neighbors learn to read and then cultivate a love of reading, and so much more.
We all need to help get this economy humming along a little better. For a lot of reasons. But one really important reason is this: we’ve got to restore those funds to the library! A library with little money for books and staff (and, shorter hours of availability), is a genuinely serious problem.
Perhaps no place in any community is so totally democratic as the town library. The only entrance requirement is interest. – Lady Bird Johnson
Recently, book publishers got some good news. Researchers gave 852 disadvantaged students 12 books (of their own choosing) to take home at the end of the school year. They did this for three successive years.
Then the researchers, led by Richard Allington of the University of Tennessee, looked at those students’ test scores. They found that the students who brought the books home had significantly higher reading scores than other students.
…just having those 12 books seemed to have as much positive effect as attending summer school.
This study, along with many others, illustrates the tremendous power of books. We already knew, from research in 27 countries, that kids who grow up in a home with 500 books stay in school longer and do better. This new study suggests that introducing books into homes that may not have them also produces significant educational gains.
These are the opening sentences of David Brooks’ column in today’s New York Times, The Medium Is the Medium. I don’t often quote as extensively as I am quoting in this post from one person’s work. But this column is really valuable to those of us who have a deep love of learning, the kind of learning that comes from reading books of substance. And, yes, I recognize the irony – I read this column as I glanced through my usual web sites for the day. So, here’s more of the column (I encourage you to read the entire column – it is worth the time!):
But there was one interesting observation made by a philanthropist who gives books to disadvantaged kids. It’s not the physical presence of the books that produces the biggest impact, she suggested. It’s the change in the way the students see themselves as they build a home library. They see themselves as readers, as members of a different group.
…sometimes the medium is just the medium.
What matters is the way people think about themselves while engaged in the two activities. A person who becomes a citizen of the literary world enters a hierarchical universe. There are classic works of literature at the top and beach reading at the bottom.
A person enters this world as a novice, and slowly studies the works of great writers and scholars. Readers immerse themselves in deep, alternative worlds and hope to gain some lasting wisdom. Respect is paid to the writers who transmit that wisdom.
A citizen of the Internet has a very different experience. The Internet smashes hierarchy and is not marked by deference.
…the literary world is still better at helping you become cultivated, mastering significant things of lasting import. To learn these sorts of things, you have to defer to greater minds than your own. You have to take the time to immerse yourself in a great writer’s world. You have to respect the authority of the teacher.
Right now, the literary world is better at encouraging this kind of identity. The Internet culture may produce better conversationalists, but the literary culture still produces better students.
It’s better at distinguishing the important from the unimportant, and making the important more prestigious.
Perhaps that will change. Already, more “old-fashioned” outposts are opening up across the Web. It could be that the real debate will not be books versus the Internet but how to build an Internet counterculture that will better attract people to serious learning.
Just yestereday, I quoted this line without comment: reading the right books is more important than merely reading books. I now add a comment.
Though I think reading the right book is more important than merely reading just any book, a reader has to start somewhere to develop a love of books and a deeper love of learning. Letting a student choose 12 books for the summer (to state the obvious, one book to read each week) may be exactly the right place to start.
What makes a good writer? It may start with being a good reader.
And what makes a good reader? It may start with a love of books.
And what creates a love of books? That’s tougher to answer… But for those who are lucky enough to love books, we have our champions. Like Barbara Tuchman.
Bob posted this earlier: Summer Reading Picks from Dan Pink, Seth Godin, Eliot Spitzer, and More. It was written by William C. Taylor, co-founder of Fast Company magazine and coauthor of Mavericks at Work. His next book is Practically Radical. Taylor asked Pink, Godin, Spitzer, and others about their favorites. And then he shared a couple of his own favorite books. This is about his second choice:
My second choice is The March of Folly by historian (and two-time Pulitzer winner) Barbara Tuchman. She looks at some of the great failures of leadership in history — the Trojan War, British reactions to the American colonies, Vietnam — and teases out lessons that illuminate more current leadership crises.
So, who is Barbara Tuchman? Tuchman twice won the Pulitzer Prize for General Non-Fiction, first for The Guns of August in 1963, and again for Stilwell and the American Experience in China in 1972. A renowned historian, she was first and foremost a lover of learning, which flowed from her love of books.
In the process of doing my own thesis – not for a Ph.D., because I never took a graduate degree, but just my undergraduate honors thesis — the single most formative experience in my career took place. It was not a tutor or a teacher or a fellow student or a great book or the shining example of some famous visiting lecturer – like Sir Charles Webster, for instance, brilliant as he was. It was the stacks at Widener. They were my Archimedes bathtub, my burning bush, my dish of mold where I found my personal penicillin. I was allowed to have as my own one of those little cubicles with a table under a window, queerly called, as I have since learned, carrels, a word I never knew when I sat in one. Mine was deep in among the 9425 (British History, that is) and I could roam at liberty through the rich stacks, taking whatever I wanted. The experience was marvelous, a word I use in its exact sense meaning full of marvels. The happiest days of my intellectual life, until I began writing history again some fifteen years later, were spent in the stacks at Widener. My daughter Lucy, class of ’61, once said to me that she could not enter the labyrinth of Widener’s stacks without feeling that she ought to carry a compass, a sandwich, and a whistle. I too was never altogether sure I could find the way out, but I was blissful as a cow put to graze in a field of fresh clover and would not have cared if I had been locked in for the night.
This is primarily a blog about business books, authors of business books, ideas found in business books, and general observations about business and life. But every now and then, we need to reconnect with the starting point – a pure love of books. Barbara Tuchman was captivated — won over — by the stacks at one of the world’s great libraries. It is a feeling I understand.