I had a whole bunch of things happen this morning before I could even finish my coffee, so I'm going to take a break and think about five books that have shaped my life. Foundational texts, if you will. This is where I am coming from.
1) The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn. I read this book in my first semester of college and several times again. Kuhn's work is of the sort that gets diluted and misapplied constantly, which itself is a topic of conversation. The work itself is seminal and I believe that it needs to be read and understood if we are to live in the world we live in today. I think this book probably shaped me in ways I don't even realize and I am glad for it. I am glad I was forced to read this book before I encountered the things it influenced.
2) Murdering McKinley by Eric Rauchway. This 2004 book takes my favorite period of American history and uses it to ask the most important questions about contemporary societies. I will buy you a copy you must read it. This book does an excellent job at history, and at posing challenging and prescient questions for today. I would use it for both of those things and as an model for why history and how history and what is the point of doing history. I love this book very deeply and I am serious I will buy you a copy please read it.
3) Technopoly by Neil Postman. Also, if you like, The End of Education. Really you can just put all of Postman in here. The books are so small, so concise. I adore them for that alone. I think that I was also introduced to these in college as well. The questions that Postman raises in Technopoly are so essential in society broadly, but also specific to libraries. This is a book we should all read again.
4) An Essay On Typography by Eric Gill. This was given to me as a gift, and is another small and wonderful book. Written in 1931, it addresses itself to typography (which, come on, you know you love it) but also to the issue at hand in the field at the time: industrialization and craftsmanship. Philosophical discussion is woven between practical advice about the page. I would recommend this in the same breath as The Shape of Content by Ben Shahn and What The Twilight Says by Derek Walcott, which are similarly delightful in their mixture of criticism, philosophy, and advice, and offer a more diverse background of philosophy. I adore all of those books. Beautiful sentences in there.
5) ....... I'm all out.
I guess that's technically six books. I'm a little sad to see that there aren't any women there. I will take a look at my bookshelves when I get home and see if we can address that.
Well, what books shaped the way you look at the world? What would you have people read to help them understand you? I really want to know.