The General Theme of 2010 was “Which ideas change us and why?” Several of the books below are linked directly to the essential question. Enjoy!
Ronald White’s A. Lincoln
Avatar – The movie
Gore Vida: Lincoln, A Novel
Emergence by Steve Johnson
Walter Benjamin’s Ueber Haschisch
Lawrence’s Seven Pillars Of Wisdom (but just the very first paragraph)
Robert Musil’s Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften
Coupland’s Generation X
Anything by Waugh
Huxley’s Doors of Perception
Gore Vidal The Decline and Fall of the American Empire
Compassion Abiding by Pema Chodron
More recommendations submitted by email from Professor Tom (though not an English professor):
Rounding the horn, by Dallas Murphy. Its about Cape Horn, its nautical history (discovery, visited by Darwin, role in world economy, etc), and about the author’s voyage to see said cape in a small sailboat. This is light reading; historical chapters alternate with chapters about his voyage. But it is engaging and (if you don’t already know a lot about the region) very informative.
Tierra del Fuego, by Sylvia Iparraguirre. Fictionalization of an historical incident in which one of the natives of said region was tried for murder. The book won a prize for female Argentine writers. Very nice; the melancholy that is famed in the pampas of Patagonia.
Evolution’s Captain, by Peter Nichols. About the captain of the Beagle, on which Darwin sailed. Fascinating historical account. Includes a good overall description of the voyage, itself. We all know that Darwin sailed on the Beagle to the Gallapagos; what we don’t know is that the Beagle actually circumnavigated, and that its primary mission was to map the coastline of Patagonia, where the ship and its crew spent most of their time.
A walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson. Bryson is hilarious; this book recounts his attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail.
I’ve become addicted to Alan Furst’s books about life and quasi-espionage in the years during and immediately before WWII. Awesome stuff. Intensely atmospheric stories about people who knew that a terrible disaster was coming, but could do very little about it.
My emphasis on the southern tip of S. America arises because I’ll be in that area soon. In February, I’ll cruise from Valparaiso to Puerto Montt (Chile), doing research on a US government ship.XX