May 052003
Authors: Shannon Baldwin

While in the tepid lull of summer, let your soul increase its wonder.

For many of you, the taste of the tassel is already wetting your mouths, and for the rest of us, just the scent of a summer siesta from the structure and demands of our college education (although there are those of us who will be taking summer classes). Even as the majority will be working full time, work usually does not require homework to be done in our off hours. This means (gloriously!) more free time. Oh, what to do in those precious moments that we greedily steal away to ourselves and our own devising?

Summer reruns on TV! A perfect way to eat up the hours, to fill that void of ever enclosing silence that – if left undistracted for too long – might actually stimulate contemplation in our docile minds. Oh, banish the thought! Literally.

Or not. How about a book? It is a curious thing to suggest; especially since the last thing most of us are thinking about right now is more reading. But consider that reading affords us quiet moments to ourselves; to contemplation; to soul expansion and exploration; even to old-fashioned enjoyment. So, I offer up a suggested list to draw from should you find a moment when you can’t stand one more rerun of “Must See TV”.

“Lies My Teacher Told Me” by James W. Loewen. This book is for anyone who hated American History, and for those who need to be taught that most everything must be taken with a grain of salt. Even this book.

“Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn. For those who “can’t shake the crazy feeling that there is some small thing that we’re being lied to about.” It will challenge your conventional view of progress and the natural order of things.

“The Jungle” by Upton Sinclair. For those who need to see why government control is sometimes a necessary and just thing.

“Nineteen Eighty-Four” by George Orwell. For those who need to see the dangers of too much government control.

“Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau. For those who seek thoughts on fighting against an unjust system.

“Slaughterhouse Five” by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. This account (sort of) of the bombing of Dresden is one of his best, and everyone needs a little Vonnegut.

” ‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman” by Harlan Ellison. A short story that incorporates elements of Orwell, Thoreau, and Vonnegut. For those who are overly concerned about disrupting their schedules to indulge in the spontaneity of life.

“Shibumi” by Trevanian. For those who want to see American society and culture from the perspective of the traditional, honorable, East. For those who think that Western values are universal and need to be shown otherwise.

“Dracula” by Bram Stoker. For anyone who thinks they know the story because they saw the movie. Not even close. Read the book. The perspective on Victorian society and elegant crafting of the language alone are worth the investment.

“The Giver” by Lois Lowry. For those who put societal utopian idealism on a pedestal, this Newberry Medal winner illustrates that addressing the past is the only real way to make a future.

“Black Like Me” by John Howard Griffin. The true story of a 1960’s white journalist who medically darkens his skin to investigate living conditions for African Americans in the Deep South. I read this book, and then immediately read “Catcher in the Rye.” After reading Griffin’s account of abject poverty, segregation and discrimination, Holden Caulfield just sounded like a whiney, coddled, prep school rich kid. How could I possibly give a darn about his existential musings after reading Griffin?

“The Tao of Pooh” by Benjamin Hoff. For those wanting a simple, elegant illustration of Taoism. “The Te of Piglet” by Hoff is also highly recommendable.

“The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis. For those wanting more of a western spiritual journey, this is a clever and insightful perspective on the weaknesses in mankind and the game between good and evil.

“Smoke and Mirrors” by Neil Gaiman. A collection of short stories that are not only thought provoking and clever, but also deftly and delightfully written. For anyone hungry to read for the sheer enjoyment of it.

And finally, “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein. For those who think that there is nothing to be learned from a children’s book, or for those who just need to remember that the simplest ideas are best told in the simplest terms.

Congrats to all those graduating, and to the rest, see ya’ll in the fall!

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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