Right, so this is not an inspired idea, but maybe the content will prove otherwise. These are the books on my desk (in no particular order), and what I’m thinking about them…
Poetry of the Romantics (London: Penguin, 1995).
The classics. A very thin volume — that’s poetry for ya, always packing a punch.
Hans Driesch, Psychical Research: The Science of the Super-Normal, trans. Theodore Besterman (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1933).
Like Bergson, Driesch was a vitalist whose interests extended to the realm of psychical research and the paranormal. This is both a theoretical work, and a manual for the “scientific” investigation of mediumship. It has a brief, yet insightful, foreword by Oliver Lodge. It is also in real good shape for a 75 year old book (still has a ratty dust-cover!) and I paid too much for it…
Aristotle, De Anima (On The Soul), trans. Hugh Lawson-Tancred (London: Penguin, 1986).
There are lots of versions of this fundamental text. I like this softcover, though, since it’s stamped from where I bought it, at Shakespeare and Company in Paris during my research junket two years ago. I loved that place…right in the shadow of Notre Dame.
Mary Roach, Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005).
Just finished this. For someone who wrote an MA thesis on the history of psychical research, it’s kinda old news. But her take is very journalistic, inquisitive and personal. That and funny. Love the last paragraph: “Perhaps I should believe in a hereafter, in a consciousness that zips through the air like a Simpsons rerun, simply because it’s more appealing — more fun and more hopeful — than not believing. The debunkers are probably right, but they’re no fun to visit a graveyard with. What the hell. I believe in ghosts.”
John Mullarkey, ed., The New Bergson (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999).
New interpretations of an important and somewhat forgotten thinker. He may be making a comeback (with my help!). I think the world would be a better place if everybody read his classic, Creative Evolution. It’s nominally mind-blowing.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, The Phenomenon of Man (New York: Harper, 1959).
Part paleontologist, part philosopher and part priest, Teilhard de Chardin is the coolest Jesuit ever. I haven’t read this one cover to cover, but I’ve read a ton of his stuff and it is all good. I know what you’re thinking…What’s his deal with all the Catholics?…I just like the weird ones, I swear.
C.L. Ten, ed., The Nineteenth Century (London: Routledge, 1994).
This is volume 7 of the Routledge History of Philosophy series. Good academic summaries of much of 19th century philosophy. And guess what, 19th century philosophy is probably more important to the 21st century than 20th century philosophy. Did that make any sense? I’m just being dense, kinda like this book…
Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (London: Penguin, 2005).
This is from the new Penguin philosophy series…Which are nice little books. Aurelius is the stoic’s stoic…This is “daily affirmations” for people with an obsession with death and a Sisyphean complex. Life’s hard, sorta pointless and short…Get used to it and be stern, tough and excellent anyway. I like reading him…I just have a hard time putting any of what he says into practice. Most people who aren’t 2000 year old Roman emperors would…
David Edmonds and John Eidinow, Rousseau’s Dog: Two Great Thinkers at War in the Age of Enlightenment (London: Faber and Faber, 2006).
A pseudo-novelistic route into Enlightenment philosophy and the emergence of a literary public sphere in the late 18th century. These guys had too much time on their hands to just bitch and moan. Rousseau was oversensitive and kinda psychotic, and Hume was a boob. Then there were all those catty salonierre. You thought grad-students were bad…
Herbert Marcuse, Eros and Civilization: A Philosophical Inquiry Into Freud (New York: Vintage, 1955).
Reading this closely now. The ’68ers were reading Marcuse and Wilhelm Reich a lot when all hell broke loose in Paris in May. Can certainly see the revolutionary tone here. I think we’ve gone from pleasure principle to reality principle to surreality principle. Still, sadly, 50 years after the fact, this book couldn’t be more relevant.
I know what you’re thinking. What’s with all the heavy stuff? Read a bloody comic book or something. I guess…But somebody went to the trouble of writing these books, so I figure someone should also read them. Or at least leave them lying around on a desk…