Summer Reading List 2017
Sunday, July 2, 2017

What is it

Summer is the perfect time to dig in to deep reading. Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism may be a bit much for the beach, but there are lots of readable classics and new titles that could make your summer reading a transformative experience.

  • Stanford literature professor Josh Landy on Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon
  • Philosophy Talk's film blogger, #FrancisOnFilm (aka Leslie Francis from the University of Utah), on Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale and the new TV series based on it
  • Roving Philosophical Reporter Holly J. McDede investigates the graphic novel behind this summer's blockbuster Wonder Woman movie
  • Other recommendations from the Community of Thinkers

Listening Notes

For this show, Ken brings together some of the great thinkers of today to discuss what should be on everyone’s beach bag this summer. The show kicks off with Josh Landy, Professor of French, Professor of Comparative Literature, and co-director of the Literature and Philosophy Initiative at Stanford, who talks about Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon. He considers it to be the great American novel – it’s a great multilayered story with powerful characters and poses important, gripping questions about life. Ken and Josh discuss the philosophical relevance of the novel as well as the business of the narrative structure, which lends itself to very deep exploration. The two also discuss how the novel deploys multiple genres, so in as much as it is a coming of age story, it is also a piqueresque, a detective story, a quest narrative, a tragedy.

Ken then welcomes Leslie Francis, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Utah, to the Philosophy Talk stage. She discusses the TV show based on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and how it makes viewers consider that things that are repressive are actually protecting you from your own worst self. The fictional world’s use of the remaining fertile women as child-bearing vessels brings about a host of philosophical considerations, as does the stream of consciousness method of storytelling that the novel features.

The Community of Thinkers also contributes their own reading suggestions, ranging from Simon Leys’ The Hall of Uselessness, a collection of essays related to China, being a professor, the sea, and Quixatism, to The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, which is a reflection on memory as one ages.

Roving Philosophical Reporter (Seek to 2:39): Philosophy Talk's Reporter Holly McDeed talks to Jacob Held, editor of Wonder Woman and Philosophy, about how the Wonder Woman comics, which inspired this summer’s hit movie, are one of the best places to start wrapping your head around feminism.

60-Second Philosopher (Seek to 47:45): Ian Shoales walks through modern book fairs.  

Get Philosophy Talk


Sunday at 11am (pacific) on KALW 91.7 FM Local Public Radio, San Francisco


Individual downloads via CDBaby and iTunes. Multipacks and The Complete Philosophy Talk via iAamplify


Comments (1)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Tuesday, July 25, 2017 -- 12:03 PM

I would like to make my own

I would like to make my own recommendation for summer readers: Essentialism, by Greg McKeown. Yes, it is an older book, by today's standards (2014), by the work is well-thought-out and articulately stated. I only "found" it while watching the afternoon antics of Steve Harvey! Less, but better---how incredibly pertinent to a world incensed with non-essentialism. One of the better ones I have read this year.

Josh Landy, Professor of Comparative Literature, Stanford University

Leslie Francis, Professor of Philosophy, university of Utah

Upcoming Shows

24 December 2017

What's Next? Death and the Afterlife

The question of what happens to us after we die remains as mysterious now as it always was. Some think that death amounts to total annihilation of...

31 December 2017

The Examined Year: 2017

A new year offers an opportunity to reflect on the significant events of the previous year. But what ideas and events took shape over the past twelve...

07 January 2018

The Philosophy of Retirement

Many of us look forward to retirement, that time in life when we stop working for a living. But what exactly is retirement and why do we retire? Does...