Good “Thinking” Books

A lot of people have been asking me, “Shaun, what’s a good book to read but that isn’t that deep?”  I’m guessing not too philosophical.  Well, I do have some books that I really enjoy and they are actually readable for the non-philosopher.

1.  The Story of Philosophy by Will Durant

This book set me on the path of philosophy.  I have known some friends in grad school that said that this book got them into philosophy.  I’ve even had a professor who said this book got him on the path to studying philosophy.  What I like about this book is that Durant knows how to use his words.  His rhetoric is filled with dynamism that it really feels like a story, or a novel of these great thinkers.  It’s really readable and I suggest to all.  People have said that he does spend too much time on Schopenhauer.  However, this book really got me to appreciate Schopenhauer more and more and whenever I think about Schopenhauer, I always return to this book.  It’s an excellent start and it’s always refreshing to come back to this book.  I always come back to this for a refresher and it captivates me more to study philosophy.

2.  Doubt by Jennifer Michael Hecht

This is also extremely readable.  I just wish it went into more details on each of the thinkers.  Hecht is a historian and she goes through history from the ancients to today wondering about people who have doubted.  More specifically, it’s mainly about religious doubt.  What were their reasons for doubt?  What were the doubts?  How did these doubts come about?  I was really impressed with the 19th century.  This almost reads like a novel, but it certainly does not feel like a textbook.  If I could, I would seriously consider using this as a textbook.  Hecht is very impressive and in the end, you come away with an appreciation for doubt and that doubt isn’t this aberration that everyone makes it appear to be.

3.  The Stranger by Albert Camus

Like all students, this book got me into existentialism, angst, depair, and the absurdity of life, but yet embracing it fully.  This complements the Myth of Sisyphus by the same author.  How can one find meaning in an uncaring, absurd universe?  Camus’ answer is shocking, yet it gives one a new look at the world with refreshing eyes.

4.  Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser

This makes you think about the whole fast food industry around the world.  You see the exploitation, the processing, the packing, the unpaid wages, the shit in the meat (yes, it’s true), and the E. Coli, just so that people can get their Happy Meal.  NOTE: the movie is horrible.  Just read the book.  You’ll never look at fast food places again.

5.  Singled Out by Bella DePaulo

I doubt people will read this, but I still recommend it.  Ever notice this: you aren’t “fully human” unless you’re in a relationship.  Oh, but it’s not a serious relationship until you get married.  Oh but wait, it’s not a “real” marriage unless there are kids.  It’s the culture of coupledom that our society has been indoctrinated into and with that, we view single people as inferior.  Well, no more.  DePaulo asks why? and I do too.  Why are single people seen as inferior and even discriminated against?  (If you don’t think so, look at tax deductions comparing single people to married people.  That’s just one example.  DePaulo provides more.)  It was nice to see someone doing a social analysis of single.  Here’s one of my favorites: when my friends (who are in relationships) go out, they always invite me.  I’ve never felt like the third or fifth wheel.  Why do I care?  They’re my friends regardless if they’re in a relationship with each other or not.  I really don’t care.  Why do people feel uncomfortable in being in a group where couples are involved?  Indeed, why are we obsessed with coupledom at all?

Anyways, these have been my favorites for a good general audience.  If any of you want to provide your top five books, do so.

About shaunmiller

I have just completed a visiting position as an assistant professor at Dalhousie University. My ideas are not associated with my employer; they are expressions of my own thoughts and ideas. Some of them are just musings while others could be serious discussions that could turn into a bigger project. Besides philosophy, I enjoy martial arts (Kuk Sool Won), playing my violin, enjoying coffee around town, and experimenting with new food.
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1 Response to Good “Thinking” Books

  1. Hi Shaun,

    I don’t know you but you are now officially one of my favorite people! Thanks so much for your kind words about SINGLED OUT. I hope your prediction is wrong and people actually do read it.


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