The written word makes it possible to understand more deeply who you are and where you fit in the world. There are, of course, other means. We can also learn about ourselves and each other by telling stories around a campfire. But in books we encounter those stories in a sustained flow. I think about reading as a form of deep listening. It’s like letting someone spill out their entire mind on a subject, coherently, and in order. That’s pretty amazing. My favourite way to tune in to the world of books is through audio. To give shape to my amazement, I want to highlight some of the people whose books have shaped my thinking and creativity, and who helped me to see further.
There is more to say about the politics of reading. It is for example the privilege of those with leisure time to delve into the written works of humankind. But given such privilege, it is also our responsibility. In putting together this list I was also struck by the fact that the majority of these writers are male, and that the majority of the perspectives presented here might be framed in terms of their Western bias. If this betrays my own particular movement through the world, so be it. I hope the political implications are an impetus to further growth and action.
The contrasts in this conversation are broad. There is a poetic chiaroscuro, in seeing, for example, Robert Ingersoll and Dr. Cornelius Van Til on the same bookshelf. But these differences in experience and life are, I think what make the whole enterprise worthwhile. By seeing things from multiple points of view, we make headway.
It seems to me that we generally (though not always) gain more from texts when we read them in community. Ideally a book is followed up with conversation and critique. While I haven’t often had the courage or time to articulate my thoughts about a book in the form of a review, the idea appeals to me. Perhaps I’ll do more of them as my strength grows in this area.
A bookshelf tells you a lot about a person. And so it is in some ways a baring of the soul, to look at any given library. By sharing the contents of my digital bookshelf, I want to consciously let you in to my world. These books constitute the bulk of what I’ve been delving into for the last decade or so. Each one of these works has had an impact on me, and has been a part of my artistic, spiritual, and intellectual formation. As such any one of them could spark meaningful conversation. It being otherwise a fairly lonely planet to live on, I covet such conversation. Perhaps you do too? If any of these titles (or a particular combination of them) draws a spark out of your soul, let’s talk! I am eager for interaction, whether you’ve read them or not.
A Digital Bookshelf: Who have you been reading?