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After America, by Mark Steyn

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

Mark Steyn is too conservative for me. Or, is it that I’m too liberal for Mark Steyn?

I’m reading his new book, After America: Get Ready for Armageddon, and although he mocks and critiques many things that I think are crucial, I’m enjoying the experience of having views to which I don’t subscribe spelled out in a cogent and articulate way. Steyn is an uncommon combination of erudite and cheeky, and I find myself smirking, even when I disagree with him.

When I picked up the book and saw that its back cover has a glowing endorsement from Ann Coulter (insert gagging noise here) I was sure that I should just put the book down and move on. But the amateur philosopher in me knows that in order to understand my own views, I need to understand others’ views, too. I need to listen to the people who differ from me, in order to gain a better and more nuanced understanding of the views that I do hold.

So, dear reader, I encourage you to select a book whose author you don’t like, appreciate or understand. Challenge yourself to read both sides of a debate.

We’ve got books about all the contentious stuff: politics, religion, sex, war, and so on. Ask our librarians for a recommendation!

What, by Mark Kurlansky

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

A few days ago, I blogged about some new books that caught my eye. I took one of them home and read it in a single evening. It was Mark Kurlansky’s What: Are These the Twenty Most Important Questions in Human History – Or Is This a Game of Twenty Questions? I must admit that by its final chapter, I was starved for an answer rather than another question, but thankfully, I got one.

This book is a novel concept – it’s a book about the big questions, composed entirely of questions. And even though it may sound impossible to achieve, Kurlansky has managed to accomplish this task with elegance. Check out the book if you have an interest in philosophy or history!

I especially love the excerpt from Letters to a Young Poet, which Kurlansky includes after all of his questioning:

You are so young, and have not even started, and I want to beg you, as strongly as I can, dear sir, to be patient with all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked little rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given to you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

Beautiful, huh?

For books full of questions and people who can help you find the answers, visit your local library!

Picks of the Litter(ati), August 8

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

I love, love, love new books! If my fingertips could, they would salivate like Pavlov’s dog! Here are the titles calling out to me this week:

What, by Mark Kurlansky

The House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge and Gave Us the Renaissance, by Jim Al-Khalili

The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life, by Kenneth Minogue

Adventures of an Accidental Sociologist: How to Explain the New World without Becoming a Bore, by Peter L. Berger

Horses are People, Too!

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

I have to say it: the death of a horse on the first day of this year’s Calgary Stampede has me feeling pretty upset. Why, in this century, must we use animals for entertainment?

And yet even though this vegetarian animal lover typically recoils from the rodeo and all that it entails, I’m wise enough to know that I can’t just stand at the gates of the Stampede grounds and shout something like: Horses are people, too!

In order to sustain discussions about morality and ethics, we need to reason carefully, and with attention to nuance. Exactly what is it that’s wrong with the rodeo?

How are rodeos and circuses different from zoos? Is it acceptable for us to eat animals, or to be entertained by them? What about to hurt them? Where do the differences lie, and what makes those differences important? Do animals have rights? If so, how can we formulate and better understand them? These questions live within the realm of ethics, and if they interest you, you might want to browse our philosophy collection.

In particular, I recommend Peter Singer, a philosopher who’s written countless books about ethical thinking.

Jealousy, by Catherine Millet

by Katherine - 1 Comment(s)

Even though I work at a library, I don’t always take the time for a leisurely browse. Last Friday afternoon, I did just that. I browsed our collection on love and relationships, and stumbled onto a great new read: Jealousy: the Other Life of Catherine M, by Catherine Millet.

Catherine M is perfectly content living a life of sexual liberation. She’s a Parisian writer and art critic who has both male and female partners, and enjoys several concurrent relationships. But, one day she finds that her primary partner, Jacques, maintains his own relationships with other women. The book is a chronicle of Millet’s reactions and feelings, as she unflinchingly recounts the jealousy she felt, but failed to predict.

It’s honest, raw, and remarkably insightful. It’s well written and articulate. But be warned: Jealousy might make you blush, while reading it on the C-Train. Millet spares no detail! Check it out today!

Philosophy Bites, by David Edmonds & Nigel Warburton

by Katherine - 0 Comment(s)

I’ve been downloading the Philosophy Bites podcast from BBC radio, for a while now. Philosophers from around the world deliver twenty-minute lectures about a wide variety of topics, from consciousness and personhood, to rights and obligations, and even concepts such as cannibalism!

I really enjoy these brief introductions, and you might, too! Check out the new Philosophy Bites book for the following lectures:

  • Julian Savulescu on ‘Yuk!’
  • Simon Blackburn on Relativism
  • Peter Singer on Animals
  • Michael Sandel on Sport and Enhancement
  • Alexander Nehamas on Friendship
  • Kwame Anthony Appiah on Cosmopolitanism
  • Miranda Fricker on Credibility and Discrimination
  • Anne Phillips on Multiculturalism
  • Will Kymlicka on Minority Rights
  • Wendy Brown on Tolerance
  • A.W. Moore on Infinity
  • David Papineau on Scientific Realism
  • Hugh Mellor on Time
  • Time Crane on Mind and Body
  • Timothy Williamson on Vagueness
  • Derek Matravers on the Definition of Art
  • Alain de Botton on the Aesthetics of Architecture
  • Barry C. Smith on Wine
  • Alex Neill on the Paradox of Tragedy
  • Don Cupitt on Non-Realism about God
  • John Cottingham on the Meaning of Life
  • Stephen Law on the Problem of Evil
  • Keith Ward on Eastern and Western Idealism
  • A.C. Grayling on Atheism
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