by James Wallace Harris, 12/23/21
I’m listening to a wonderful book right now, The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams which came out in August. It’s set in London. Someone is going around leaving little notes that say:
Just in case you need it: - To Kill a Mockingbird - Rebecca - The Kite Runner - The Life of Pi - Pride and Prejudice - Little Women - Beloved - A Suitable Boy
The novel is about the people who find those lists, read the books, and how reading changed their lives. Any bookworm should love this book, and most Goodreads reviewers do. I highly recommend the audiobook version because the narrators do the ethnic accents which make the book extra charming.
This inspires me to create my own list of favorite feel-good novels. If I went around leaving a list of books for people to read in these trying times, my eight would be:
- The Reading List by Sara Nisha Adams
- Replay by Ken Grimwood
- Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
- The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
- City by Clifford Simak
- Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
- The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
- Have Space Suit-Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein
We’re living through some hard times and I appreciate books with characters who overcome big difficulties. I’m moving into what I call my Post-Doom Philosophy. I’ve concluded that humanity will not solve its existential problems. Just not in our nature. And it will be better to concentrate on uplifting outselves.
I’m reminded of The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. Our present situation is beyond absurd, one I can’t change. I accept that we’re already in a collapsing civilization, we just don’t know how long it will take before a new paradigm shift emerges. Some civilizations collapse in decades, Rome took centuries. Everyone eventually dies, and all civilizations eventually collapse. We can’t wish either away. We’ve always had the problem of what to do in our last years of life, and just by coincidence this century, we’ll also have to consider what to do in the last decades of our civilization. It’s an interesting philosophical and spiritual challenge.
Just because the future looks bleak we shouldn’t feel all gloom and doom.
My friend Linda and I have a two-person book club where we read mostly nonfiction books together and discuss them on the phone each Sunday afternoon. We’ve read many books about the problems of the world. Linda just texted me asking if we could avoid such books in 2022 and pick books like The Soul of the Octopus by Sy Montgomery. She wants more delightful books. I couldn’t agree more.
If you were making a list of eight nonfiction books to leave around to inspire people, what would they be? What would your list of favorite inspiring novels be?
9 thoughts on “The Post-Doom Reading List”
1. The Big Picture by Sean Carroll
2. I contain Multitudes by Ed Yong
3. Pacific Crucible by Ian W. Toll
4. The Conquering Tide by Ian W. Toll
5. Twilight of the Gods by Ian W. Toll
6. The Fifties by David Halberstam
7. The Information by James Glieck
8. Gödel, Escher, Bach by Douglas Hofstadter
I loved The Information. And I’ve been meaning to reread Gödel, Escher, Bach, I’ve even tried to talk Linda into that one. I have The Fifties and would love to read it too. I’m not familiar with Ian W. Toll, and you listed two of his. I own I Contain Multitudes. And I think I’ve read The Big Picture, or it might have been another Carroll book. So we have overlapping reading interests, Doug.
I went and read about Toll. He writes WWII war history, something I’d like, but I don’t know about Linda.
Scale by. Geoffrey West
I went and read about Scale. That’s right up my alley of interests. I’ll check with Linda, but I might read it anyway.
Of course anything by Jane Austen although my favorite is Persuasion. Winter solstice by Rosamund Pilcher. Lovely book, lovely characters, triumph of hope over grief and crummy circumstances.
I’ve only read (and enjoyed) two of the books on Jim’s list, Flowers for Algernon and Have Spacesuit, Will Travel. In any case, I think I would enjoy reading my favourites–Borges, Bradbury, Clarke, Asimov, Wells and others–under any circumstances, good or bad.
Jim, thank you for mentioning The Reading List. I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t have thought it would be my cup of tea, but it was great.