The best things I read in summer 2019

This summer was weird and wonderful in its own ways. Kind of hard, but good?! I’m still processing some of it. I have some big decisions to make in my life that are scary because they feel final (though it doesn’t have to be final, but of course my brain immediately goes to most extreme scenario because THAT IS THE STORY I ALWAYS CREATE AND TELL MYSELF).

But anyway…

What was awesome was the reading I got done. I enjoyed several articles, books, and yes, T.V. shows. Here are some of my recs for your fall reading.

The Perception Gap, from More in Common. I love anything that shows where our biases and misconceptions occur, and this was helpful from the political side. Yes, things are incredibly polarized. Yes, in the US democrats and republicans see the same world very differently. No, we don’t see the other side all that well. There are so many things that go into this, and I wonder if part of the confusion is that we often elect people with more extreme views than the ones we hold, because the US election system is forced-choice. Nuance is lost. So we see who people vote for and we project all the opinions of the elected official onto their voters, when many of the voters simply voted for the lesser of evils. Maybe? But as to the website, it’s enlightening and worth reading to help you confront your views of others.

The Interoceptive Turn from Interoception means “the sense of the body from within.” It’s when we pay attention to all the physical signals coming from our body (thirst, hunger, sadness, pain, etc.) and look at what that means about who we are, our sense of self, and our well-being. The idea of our rational capabilities serve our body (by interpreting, often with response times so quick we can’t tell it comes second, these signals and putting them into a coherent story) rather than driving our embodied emotional experiences is fascinating and compelling. The article says calls it “liberating.” The “interoceptive turn” outlined in the article definitely has added the empirical dimension to philosophy, and that’s an exciting development. Smushing together psychology and philosophy? Yes, please!

To Have or To Be?: the Nature of the Psyche by Erich Fromm. I’ve already written a looong post about how this book has challenged by life, so I’ll refrain from swooning AGAIN. But just know that it is awesome and I am so glad I read it this summer.

The Infidel and the Professor: David Hume, Adam Smith, and the Friendship That Shaped Modern Thought by Dennis C. Rasmussen. I’m in love with David Hume’s brain, and I absolutely LOVE books about intellectual friendships, so this was a no-brainer. Rasmussen gives us a great biography of Hume and Smith as framed around their friendship and the ways their friendship influenced their most important works. It’s so good.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt. Haidt referenced the perception gap (I think I remember that, anyway!), so this summer has been a lot of the psychology behind why people vote the way they do. I’m fascinated by the idea of moral foundations and how different groups of people decide which foundations to call on, and which to reject as unhelpful. It doesn’t shed light on who is right, just on how people put together their moral arguments. So, so good. I WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT WITH EVERYONE SO READ IT, PLEASE.

And finally, for fun, the WORST book I read this summer! The Philosophy of Tolkien: the Worldview Behind Lord of the Rings by Peter Kreeft. You can read the Goodreads review I linked, but to sum up: I’m shocked-not-shocked Kreeft is regarded so highly by Christians as a philosopher (theologian, MAYBE. Philosopher?! gtfo) and I was totally turned off by his belligerent and anti-intellectual analysis. ‘Nuff said. WE HATES IT, PRECIOUS. Ok, ok, hate is a strong and ugly word. WE DISLIKES IT VERY MUCH, PRECIOUS.

Finally finally, because I can’t end on such a negative note (cathartic and delightful as excoriation can be), the best thing I watched this summer was Season 3 of The Good Place. Absolutely. Delightful. One episode talked about how difficult it is to do an actually good thing (aka, to have it accomplish more good than bad) in such a complex world. I can’t stop thinking about it. WATCH. (The good stuff starts at 1:43)

Michael, Michael, Michael. You beautiful enlightened demon, you.

Then the ending was so beautiful I cried. And I will cry right now if I think too much about it. I CAN’T BELIEVE WE ONLY HAVE ONE MORE SEASON. Please someone pick up that show, because my soul needs it.

So with that, I say aloha to a summer of wonderful reading and say ALOOOOOOHA to a slightly cooler season full of fluffy blankets, apple cider, pumpkin everything (#basic), and more awesome reads. Let me know of anything I should read in the comments! I am always up for suggestions (but don’t be offended if it takes me a while to get to them.)

Happy reading!

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