By Harold Rook
Hey, you there! Yeah, you! Do you spend all your time gaming and watching movies? Do you hate hearing from different perspectives? Do you hardly ever read? Well, then you better get ready, because I’m about to introduce something that will blow your mind! Introducing: reading! Something nobody ever really seems to do anymore! In all seriousness, however, it does seem like there aren’t that many people that are reading books for fun; only 36.3% of Generation Z consider themselves to be avid readers, according to Library Journal, with Millennials being slightly higher at 47.9%. Although this may sound melodramatic, it seems incredibly distressing that much of our generation isn’t really reading as much as they should be. Reading, in my opinion, is such a unique medium for conveying ideas and can really push readers to think critically about the world around them in an intellectual way. To not be reading constantly and encountering new perspectives is detrimental to one’s intellectual development. So, I figure since this is ‘The Last Refuge of Scholars,” I may as well come down and give you guys my personal recommendation as to what you should read (a list, as some may call it). Besides, for what it’s worth, it could keep your mind off the complete disaster that is 2020. Without further ado, here are Harry Rook’s personal reading recommendations for 2020:
- “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up A Generation For Failure” By Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt.
There’s been a lot of buzz within the last few years regarding the political and social climate surrounding college campuses. Whereas in preceding decades controversy around ideas of free speech and political intolerance have been relatively contained, it seems there has been a sudden explosion in shutting down political discourse in universities. So what is going on? In this book, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt analyze the rise of political polarization and social trends on college campuses. At it’s thesis, the book points to the rise in ideas of “safetyism” not just on college campuses, but throughout many aspects of Millennials’ and Generation Z’s early lives. Lukianoff and Haidt argue that, though “helicopter” parenting and other measures were designed to protect children growing up, there have been unintentional consequences, such as a coddled generation seeking protection from things that aren’t an actual threat, and could be contributing to increased levels of depression and anxiety in recent generations. This, in conjunction with the rise of social media, political extremism from both the alt-right and radical left, and “untruths” has led to a generation that is focused on its own fragility. Lukianoff and Haidt really outdid themselves in their breakdown of these issues, and I can’t recommend this book more for people that want a deeper understanding of the underlying causes for what is happening.
- “How to Fight,” “How to Relax,” and “How to Love,” all by Thich Nhat Hanh
This one is technically cheating, as I am listing multiple books, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t include these neat little books by this great peace activist. A Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Hanh, wrote these books to give readers a chance to reflect on the human feelings that sometimes dwell within our souls; his writings give reflections on how to adequately express what we think and feel that are productive to not only ourselves but the world around us. Although I myself am not a follower of Zen Buddhism, there is a lot to admire about what Hanh teaches. Sometimes, it is about how to appreciate the world around us and be at harmony with ourselves, as he writes in “How to Relax.” Sometimes, it’s about how to reconcile one’s own anger and suffering with compassion and love, as “How to Fight” teaches. And sometimes, it’s about how to cultivate a strong and meaningful relationship with those around you, as expressed in “How to Love.”
- “Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius
Ancient Rome was an interesting place. Sure, you had the constant wars of expansion, gladiatorial combat that has been overly romanticized as fights to the death, and social divisions—and yeah, some of the emperors of Ancient Rome were quite literally insane or tyrannical (looking at you, Caligula and Caracalla). But then you come across the works of Marcus Aurelius. The “Philosopher King,” Aurelius was one of the last figures preceding Rome’s eventual collapse into strife and discord. Before his death, he wrote a series of writings that were meant to be short reminders, often serving as a personal guide for himself. For those that may have heard the philosophy of “stoicism” before, this is where it comes from. At the end of the day, this book is about being the better person. But don’t take my word for it! Here is the Philosopher King himself: “What is your profession? Being a good man. But this can only come about through philosophic concepts – concepts of the nature of the Whole, and concepts of the specific constitution of man.”
Anyway, there is a whole medium just waiting to be explored. Although these are some of my personal favorites, I can mention even more books and authors that just deserve a read. Ayn Rand, Robert Nozick, George Orwell, Arthur Miller, and Jonah Goldberg are all worth at least glancing over if you have the time. Either way, there is a whole world of books open to you. You just gotta turn the page.