Summer Reading List 2023

Sunday, September 3, 2023
First Aired: 
Sunday, June 25, 2023

What Is It

What books should thoughtful people read this summer? Josh and Ray talk to the authors and editors of new and recent books as they compile their annual Summer Reading List:

  • Michael Schur, creator of TV's The Good Place and author of How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question
  • Lori Gruen, Professor of Philosophy at Wesleyan University and co-editor of The Good It Promises, The Harm It Does: Critical Essays on Effective Altruism
  • Gabriella Safran, Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at Stanford University and author of Recording Russia: Trying to Listen in the Nineteenth Century



Josh Landy  
Welcome to Philosophy Talk, the program that questions everything...

Ray Briggs  
...except your intelligence. I'm Ray Briggs.

Josh Landy  
And I'm Josh Landy. We're coming to you from the studios of KALW San Francisco Bay Area.

Comments (3)

Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Saturday, May 20, 2023 -- 7:21 PM

I'm having a hard time

I'm having a hard time dealing with Spring, much less Summer. These Summer reading list shows repeat at end of Summer, so I will let you know how I did.

I've picked up 'The Book of Longings' by Sue Monk Kidd. I hadn't read her before, but I had thought to read 'The Secret Life of Bees' as someone close to me was, but I never did. I long to recapture that lost opportunity and think twice about Jesus and the women in his world. From what I hear and have had an earful, Kidd is a storyteller.

Derek Parfit was a discovery this last year for me. His ideas put me off. I read 'Reasons and Persons' for the latest show on Parfit – and supposedly read it when it first came out (I didn't do a very good job of that – but I am making amends now) and decided to take a slow deep turn through 'On What Matters.' I am nearly through volume one and will start volume two this Summer. I need to give this attention, and that is my intention. I look back at other philosophers as Parfit is jousting in these books. He is very funny when you read through the prose, open-minded, and highly focused. Reading closely here is a life changer for me so far.

Family members are reading 'The Dispossessed" by Ursula Le Guin. I recently took my niece and nephew home on a several-hour drive, only to find that I had confused this book with The 'Lathe of Heaven' or some other book. I got called out in an uncomfortable cross-generational memory slip. Sigh… destined to be the odd Uncle in life. This project is designed to reparate my family position and celebrate Le Guin, who I knew as a kid as the creator of Earthsea, and who I have come to appreciate in my forgetting age as a philosopher of the highest order.

Lastly, I have a copy of Lizzie Susan Stebbing's 'A Modern Introduction to Logic.' I cut my teeth in Logic with Cohen and Copi. If the Summer goes as planned, I will respond here with a takedown of my lost youth and a comparison of what I remember and this treatment.

Happy Summer!

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Daniel's picture


Tuesday, May 23, 2023 -- 6:21 PM

Motion is here made to delete

Motion is here made to delete this post, on grounds that it makes no recommendation. What it contains instead is someone's report on private experiences and intentions unrelated to suggestions for reading. In the absence of a credible defense with regard to any reason why it should remain, petition is hereby made to whom it may concern for its deletion.

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Tim Smith's picture

Tim Smith

Wednesday, September 13, 2023 -- 9:02 PM

I wanted to revisit my

I wanted to revisit my initial reading list and share some insights from the books I did manage to read. While I didn't get to all the titles I had planned, the journey was nonetheless enlightening.

Firstly, I must confess that I still need to get around to reading Sue Monk Kidd's 'The Book of Longings.' Life took some unexpected turns, and I had to prioritize other reads and work on other projects that limited reading in general. However, the longing for Kidd is still on my list for the upcoming months.

Regarding Derek Parfit's 'On What Matters,' I did delve into volume two as planned. Parfit's work continues to challenge my thinking in profound ways. His jousting with other philosophers and his razor-sharp focus has made this a transformative read for me (though book one was more difficult.) I highly recommend it to anyone interested in ethics and the complexities of human decision-making. The big difference between Parfit's first book and the second here is one of time, thought, and actual back and forth that Parfit had after publishing book one. If you have yet to read any of this and are only going to read one, book one is where you want to spend your time. The analysis is there; if needed, dip into book two, where you will get more of Parfit's voice and some clarification.

I also didn't get to Ursula Le Guin's 'The Dispossessed,' but I read her anthology 'The Unreal and the Real.' Le Guin's storytelling prowess and philosophical depth were on full display. The collection gave me a broader view of her work beyond Earthsea and deepened my appreciation for her as a "philosopher of the highest order."

As for Lizzie Susan Stebbing's 'A Modern Introduction to Logic,' I found it a bit dated. It prompted me to revisit Cohen and Copi's textbook, which I had studied in school. The exercise was a nostalgic trip down memory lane, realizing how much the field has evolved.

Comparing the two (Stebbing vs. Copi/Cohen) was like looking at a snapshot of the history of logic, and it made me appreciate the advancements in the area. Philosophy is not a staid field, as some might think. Stebbing and women are not exempt from the biases of their time either. Given the changes and focus, I'm curious about where logic will be in fifty years. Stebbing is steeped in and presents an Aristotelian structure not emphasized in modern coursework. Her voice and process are engaging independently, given the time and gender bias she faced in getting this out and reviewing. She wrote this with the close counsel of fellow female thinkers in pre-WWII England, which is interesting. Her process and subtle comments put a frame on the work. Many are revisiting Stebbing in other works, and I was glad to read this more straightforward work to capture that commentary later.

All in all, while my summer reading didn't go exactly as planned, the detours were rewarding in their own right. I've come away with a renewed curiosity and a deeper understanding of the topics I explored. Here's to more reading adventures in the fall!

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