February and March 2016 Reading Material

Been sticking with audiobooks mostly recently since they’re easier to digest at this time.

Put on hold nearly three-quarters of the way through Sheldon S. Wolin’s Democracy Incorporated. Honestly, I’d heard so much about it in advance that the main takeaway was already familiar to me and, beyond that, much of the book was framed from a democrat’s perspective, which wasn’t what I was looking for (as a long-time independent with no allegiances to either popular political party). So I’ll finish it at my leisure when more interesting titles aren’t pressing for my attention.

Did finish listening to Erich Fromm’s Greatness and Limitations of Freud’s Thought and liked it at the time but haven’t found it terribly memorable or remarkable in the weeks since completing it. Just a bit more information on Freud from someone more closely familiar with him and his writings throughout the entire course of his career, not only those that remain popular today.

A Guide to the Good Life: The Ancient Art of Stoic Joy by William B. Irvine proved thought-provoking and interesting and is one I intend to re-listen to in future months. It’s intended for shaping a philosophy for a modern audience rather than simply being a recount of historical texts.

Another I finished recently and loved was Dazzle Gradually: Reflections on the Nature of Nature by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan. This collection of essays was amazing, particularly halfway through and onward. If you’re curious about cellular life and evolutionary changes, this one is a real eye-opener, along with their (print) book What Is Life?

The Medicalization of Everyday Life: Selected Essays by Thomas Szasz was terrific and I look forward to listening to it again and capturing excerpts from it to share with others. Very important thoughts expressed in that one, ranging from the concept of “mental illness” being taken too literally when it’s actually metaphorical in origin, to what’s labeled as a “mental disorder” in the first place and how that list has been expanding decade after decade to include all sorts of human behaviors that arguably have no reason to be added other than to pad more mental health workers’ pockets, to exploring one’s right to die with dignity and who gets to decide and dispense drugs used in such cases, to describing how insane asylums and “mad doctoring” came into being originally, etc. Having read one of Dr. Szasz’s books years back and watched several speeches by him since, I am a fan of this man’s work and found this book to be particularly engaging and most appropriate for those new to his writings and critical position in regards to the mental health field.

We Are What We Pretend To Be by Kurt Vonnegut is a collection of two stories written respectively at the very beginning and the very end of this author’s career. The first story, Basic Training, was rejected for publication back when he was first learning and honing his craft, though I enjoyed his character development there and was a bit astonished that it ended on a sweet note. The second story, If God Were Alive Today, was more along the lines of what we’ve come to expect from Vonnegut and is said to have been a sketch of sorts intended to be fleshed out into a longer novel which was cut short by his death. Enjoyed listening to his daughter discuss the background info of these two stories and tell us more on what it was like interacting with her father once she was grown.

Next, I’ve been listening to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Human, All Too Human: A Book For Free Spirits, which includes his Miscellaneous Maxims and Opinions as well as The Wanderer and His Shadow. I continue to have mixed feelings on Nietzsche, hence why I purchased this audiobook and am taking up time with it, to gain more insight into where he’s coming from. There seem to be contradictions across his thoughts, not that this bothers me so much as it leads me to recognize just how much he was speculating and projecting. At the beginning of his Maxims portion he speaks of having done the work and gone through the transformation necessary to speak on such matters, but I am not completely convinced based on what information we know of him posthumously. He was a smart and deep thinker, no doubt about it, yet he seemed plagued by his own deficiencies and unable or unwilling to come to grips with them, resulting in him coming across as looking down on so many others, particularly those with religious predilections. And I get the impression, again and again through reading his works, that his attitude reflects back more on him and his state of mind than on those he’s pointing out scornfully. Probably didn’t help that his primary philosophical mentor was Schopenhauer. Either way, Nietzsche remains a bit of a mystery to me. He wanted so much to see himself as belonging among the “ubermensch” he so admired, and yet his health and personal disposition held him back, and this he seemed unable to come to terms with. I study him for this reason — Nietzsche appeared to be a walking paradox in his own right.

Yesterday I began listening to Jon Taffer’s book Raise the Bar in order to gain more insight into the bar and hospitality industry and general management. Just an intrigue for me at present.

Two audiobooks ordered today that I look forward to getting to in weeks to come are Tribes by Seth Godin and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

As for print books, the main one I’ve been picking up recently out of my collection is Art and Artist by Otto Rank. Have a long way to go before completing that one though. Not an easy read by any stretch. But I’ve heard so much about it and feel compelled to take in his ideas, knowing how much of an impact they had on other authors whose work I respected, like Ernest Becker.