Good Reads

The books on these topics would fill an entire library. I’ve started off listing my favorite titles. Submit others and I’ll add them in.

Abu Bakr Ibn Tufayl. Hayy Ibn Yaqzan [aka Philosophus Autodidactus in 1700s England], Lenn Evan Goodman’s translation from the Arabic, University of Chicago Press, 2009.  The allegorical romance that launched John Locke into his empiricist Human Understanding.

Ames, William. The Marrow of Theology. The Labyrinth Press, 1997.

Ames, William. Conscience with the Power and Cases Thereof [Facsimile of the 1639 edition]. Puritan Reprints, 2010.

Daniel Boorstin. The Discoverers. Random House, 1983. Multiple tales of trailblazers into many kinds of territory.

Geoffrey Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales: A Selection. Chosen, Translated and Edited by Colin Wilcockson. Penguin Books, 2008. The best way into the Wife of Bath’s argument for the value of (women’s) experience.

Daniel Defoe. Robinson Crusoe. Edited with an Introduction by Thomas Keymer and Notes by Thomas Keymer and James Kelly. Oxford World Classics, 2008. First return to the uninhabited island of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan. Tom Hanks goes there after several centuries pass.

Jean Gimpel. The Cathedral Builders. Translated by Teresa Waugh. Harper Perennial, 1992. A seminal work giving us a look into artisanal culture of the High Middle Ages in Europe, chiefly France and England.

Ross King. Brunelleschi’s Dome. Penguin Books, 2000.The ups and downs of this master brickman and poor team player who not only put the dome on Florence’s Duomo, invented lifting machinery and was granted one of the first patents on record, but also worked out the basics of painters’ perspective. Solved some huge problems, but wisdom? Not so much.

John Locke. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding. First published 1690. I had to have a note from my history professor to get access to this work in the University of Notre Dame Library in 1958. It was on the index of prohibited books. That was one reading experience they were leery of.

Pamela O. Long. Openness, Secrecy, Authorship: Technical Arts and the Culture of Knowledge from Antiquity to the Renaissance. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001.The interplay of artisanal experience and the world of the written word in Western Europe.

Jeff Pfeffer and Bob Sutton, Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths, and Total Nonsense: Profiting from Evidence-Based Management (HBS Press, 2006). Too many decisions are made by people in positions of power who say, in effect, “I have years of experience, trust me on this one,” when evidence of other people’s experience suggesting a better solution to the problem is available. Pfeffer and Sutton head up the Evidence-Based Management movement. [Added 9/10/2011]

Richard Sennett. The Craftsman. Yale University Press, 2008.Problem-finding and problem-solving among artisans at the beginning of the 21st century.

Pamela H. Smith. The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution. University of Chicago Press,  2004. How the human body itself became the center of investigation and dispute during the European Renaissance.

Barbara W. Tuchman. A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century. Ballantine Books, 1978. How and why High Medieval culture came crashing down, preparing Europe for some new kind of birth; with an implied comparison to the 20th century running constantly just beneath the surface.

Bruce E. Wexler. Brain and Culture: Neurobiology, Ideology, and Social Change. MIT Press, 2008. An impressive synthesis of recent findings as reported by brain researchers.

Frank R. Wilson. The Hand: How Its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture. Pantheon Books, 1998. When Wilson gets through with you you’ll forever see the human hand through new eyes, and perhaps see the human predicament as a problem of how to get our hands, our heads and our hearts to work together as a team.

2 thoughts on “Good Reads

  1. Lyn,
    A Quote: History teaches us that men and nations behave wisely once they have exhausted all other alternatives.
    Abba Eban (b. 1915), Israeli politician. Speech, 16 Dec. 1970, London.
    Lyn, I read something, some decades ago, to the effect that although one might describe themselves as having 10 years experience in a particular field, this might be better described (in perhaps, most cases) as having – a years experience, repeated 10 times.
    I am often curious about AA and other 12 step programs that seem to begin by glorifying, empowering and enshrining the experiences of “The Problem” (the bottle, or drug ect.) While offering an opportunity to keep “The Problem” and its exper-ience’s central in one’s life. ( The Bottle) Many years, wasted in drinking, glorified, now one can waste many more years, talking about drinking. It might just be one years experience, repeated time and again while avoiding any real change ie: New life experiences, beyond self centeredness, of learning, growth, and creation of value.)

    ,Wisdom: some Dictionary definitions:
    1.Understanding of what is true, right, or lasting; insight
    2.Common sense; good judgment
    3. a: The sum of scholarly learning through the ages; knowledge:
    b. Wise teachings of the ancient sages.
    4. A wise outlook, plan, or course of action.

  2. But Patrick, AA and other twelve-step programs have a proven track record among particular populations. The experience of all those people who say “AA saved my life” cannot be denied. It’s true that for many who don’t give themselves over completely to the program, wisdom never arrives. But I recently read Eric Clapton’s memoir and he says that even after 20 years of sobriety he still attends meetings, sponsors new members and helps as many people as he can with their sobriety because he knows that only in those ways can he keep sobriety the #1 priority in his life. Without that he is and has nothing. That is truly hard-earned wisdom.

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