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 today's great thinkers to discuss what books ought to be in people's beach bag this summer. The show kicks off with Josh Landy, 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 – a multilayered story with powerful characters that poses important, gripping questions about life. Ken and Josh discuss the philosophical relevance of the novel as well as its narrative structure which lends itself to deep exploration. The two also discuss how the novel deploys multiple genres, so in as much as it is a coming of age story, the novel is also a piqueresque, a detective story, a quest narrative, and a tragedy.

Ken then welcomes Leslie Francis, professor of philosophy at the University of Utah, to Philosophy Talk. Leslie discusses the TV show based on Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and how the show makes viewers consider that things that are repressive may protect us from our worst selves. 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 McDede talks to Jacob Held, editor of Wonder Woman and Philosophy, about how the Wonder Woman comics, which inspired this summer’s hit movie, make one of the best places to consider feminism.
  • 60-Second Philosopher (Seek to 47:45): Ian Shoales walks through modern book fairs.  

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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

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