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What are you reading?

Let us know what you are reading, and why. We hope not all is about contagious disease.

Students, Cogito alumni and friends, etc., are welcome to post. Please include your name, year and major if relevant. Comments should be limited to about a paragraph; quotes from your book are welcome. Political tirades, assignations of blame, obscenities and other such froth will be doomed to the destination vacation they deserve: oblivion.

—By request of the Velvet Glove


19 thoughts on “What are you reading?”

  1. Dr. Adam Blincoe here (Honors Faculty Scholar and reader)! I am currently in the midst of a 52 books in 52 weeks challenge so I have several books going at once. I am leading a Cogito discussion group on The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. This is the third time I have read the book; it is the sort of work that rewards multiple reads. Among its many themes, perhaps most poignant is the power of joy to persist in and alongside great suffering. The book as a whole also contains perhaps the most profound presentation and answer(s) to the problem of evil. Also its probably the best novel ever written. I am also reading Science and the Good by Hunter and Nedelisky. This book traces the tragic (i.e., doomed to fail) quest to derive the foundations of morality from empirical science. So far it has done a great job giving a succinct history of this effort and its disappointing results. I am now getting into the meat of the philosophical argument of the text. I am also currently reading an autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis by Satrapi, that follows a young girl’s experience of living through the Iranian Revolution. Finally, I try to keep a theology book in play most of the time. At this moment that is By What Authority? by Shea. This book is a well reasoned account of how an evangelical Christian made his way to Catholicism. In brief, an adult convert (Shea) found the resources of Protestant Christianity to be insufficient/unsatisfying in answering the scholarship of liberal exegetes like the Jesus Seminar (a group operating with the hermeneutic of suspicion seeking to demythologize Scripture in general and the figure of Jesus in particular). This experience drove him to take Christian Tradition more seriously not just as helpful, but as a vital part of the Christian faith and as guarantor of the veracity of Scripture. Shea strikes a winsome tone, acknowledging all he owes his evangelical roots, while still making the case that they are not enough.

  2. I am currently reading Chavs: The Demonization Of The Working Class by Owen Jones. Jones is British journalist and a member of the Labour Party. In England Chav is slur and sterotype for a lower class youth who seems to be obsessed with violence and consumerism. Jones is fighting the stereotype of the chav and hoping to bring light to the discrimination that chavs face that push them into the stereotype.
    ” Chav-bashing draws on a long, ignoble tradition of class hatred. But it cannot be understood without looking at more recent events.”( Owen Jones, Chavs: The Demonization Of The Working Class)
    Nathan W. Joyner ’23 Government

  3. Ed Soto, HSC 2011, BA in religion.
    Reading: “Called to Watch for Christ’s Return” by Martyn McGeown.
    McGeown provides a thoroughly amillennial eschatology. This is absolutely fascinating to me because I grew up in a staunchly premillennial dispensation household. I appreciate McGeown thorough, if sharply pointed analysis of Matthew 24. I strongly encourage everyone, even premillennial dispensationists, to pick up this book.

  4. Shelby T. Hanna, H-SC -20 (Philosophy/Government)

    I just finished reading through a lot of articles in meta-ethics, trying to give myself a crash course in the topic.

    This weekend I hope to start and maybe finish “Moral Grandstanding” by Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke. It is a book exploring how and why we use moral talk to inflate our own imagine (e.g., virtue signaling) and criticize others. I also intend to start “Aspiration: The Agency of Becoming” by Agnes Callard soon. It will likely take more of my time to read through. It advances a philosophical theory of how we go from wanting to be a certain type of person with certain values (e.g., wanting to be the type of person who eats right and goes to the gym) to actually becoming that type of person (e.g., someone who actually eats right and goes to the gym).

    I’ve become very interested in lots of questions surrounding ethics recently. I’ll be starting graduate school for philosophy in the fall, so I’m trying to maintain a habit of voluminous reading. Tosi and Warmke’s book is self-recommending given the way many conversations about politics, religion, etc. tend to go these days. Callard is one of my favorite philosophers alive today. I’ve heard her discuss the book a few times before and I expect it will present a strong challenge to some of my preexisting philosophical views.

  5. Taylor McGee, H-SC -23 (Biochem/Spanish)

    Reading: “Atlas Shrugged” Ayn Rand

    It’s an interesting narrative about the negative effects of socialist policies in times of dire financial circumstances. As somebody who typically leans more to the left politically, it’s been an interesting and enlightening read that’s really helped me to understand the logic behind alternative viewpoints. Viewing through a Christian lens, it’s been interesting to see the contrast between understandings of “virtue” and “social good.” The emphasis on unflinching individualism has been hard for me to understand and rationalize as someone who actively seeks out communities like Sydney (where, more than individuals, we are brothers). The book has served as a good contrast class for my own personal beliefs, reinforcing my belief that community is just as important as the individual. While I disagree with the thesis of the novel, I think it has brought up many good points that I need to consider in the development of my own understanding of the world.

  6. Michael L. Van Citters ’22 (Philosophy)

    As of now, I am about 15 pages into Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness. To be quite honest, I am not sure what the book is about, and at times, I don’t think the author was either. The language is extraordinarily confusing, and Sartre frequently constructs sentences that seem like they are intended to sound nice rather than mean something (e.g., he titles one section “The Phenomenon of Being and the Being of the Phenomenon”; I am inclined to believe [uncharitably] that he included the section just so that he could include the title).

    Nonetheless, I have been told that the book is a foundational contribution to 20th century existentialism. Then again, I was told this fact by the same person who referred to Sartre as the “Father of Existentialism”. (For those unfamiliar with honorific philosophical titles, Kierkegaard is the “Father of Existentialism–Sartre is more like the weird uncle).

    I will admit, however, that the first few pages of the book are intriguing and posit an interesting thesis about the metaphysics of early modern philosophers like Immanuel Kant and Rene Descartes. If I am understanding him correctly (as I probably am not), Sartre is rejecting the existence of any existence/perception dichotomy. Beings (i.e., existences), he will argue, are no different from phenomena (our perceptions of them); objects exist only insofar as they are our perceptions. I am sure that Sartre will derive some exciting and controversial conclusions from this point, one of which, I expect, will be something about the existence of God. For some reason, I get the impression that Sartre wasn’t very religious . . . we’ll see. I will make sure to post an update once I have finished the last 850 pages.

  7. Hello, all! Dalton Hall here, formerly of Hampden-Sydney. What a treat to see what you’ve all been reading. For fear of countermanding the Velvet Glove’s injunction against obscenities, I’ll keep my opinion to myself on whether or not The Brothers Karamazov is the best novel ever written.

    I recently finished an excellent memoir by Carmen Maria Machado titled In the Dream House. Machado, Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania, uses In the Dream House as a kind of prism to reflect on an abusive relationship she was in with another woman: each chapter is written in the style of another literary genre, which gives the arc of Machado’s relationship from exciting and new to terrifying and confining a kind of universality or empathetic power I never thought I’d be able to understand as a person who’s never been in that kind of relationship.

    Along the way Machado examines the history of queer abuse narratives which, as you might have guessed, are few and far between. In this way, it seems to me that In the Dream House’s prismatic approach to genre serves not only to provide Machado an outlet to examine her reasons for staying in an abusive relationship but also an opportunity to build a genre-spanning “archive” of experiences of queer abuse. There’s a beautiful line in Machado’s introduction to that effect: “I toss the stone of my story into a vast crevice; measure the emptiness by its small sound.”

    I’m currently in the middle of Tales from the Perilous Realm, a collection of short stories from throughout J. R. R. Tolkien’s career that delve into “the perilous realm of Faërie” in some form or fashion. Tolkien is excellent for an escape, and following the toy dog Roverandom from the garden to the beach to the moon is a welcome reprieve from watching the plants on my balcony grow.

    PS: Michael, read Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death if you haven’t yet.

  8. I worked at Hampden-Sydney in publications from 1984 to 1988 before I went on my own. I’m currently the webmaster for the Cogito site and have enjoyed seeing what you folks are reading.

    With a friend from church I’m reading Prayer by Timothy Keller. I’m struck by his humility, his admission that he’s always struggled with prayer. This book grew out of that struggle. I was rather hooked from the first chapter, where he delves into Flannery O’Connor’s efforts at learning to pray, since I like her writing.

    Then for actual prayers I’m enjoying a beautiful book Every Moment Holy by Douglas McKelvey, published by Rabbit Room Press, started by author/singer/songwriter Andrew Peterson. It’s a book of liturgies for every occasion. For instance, there is one for “Anniversary of a Loss” that I intend to send to a dear friend who lost his wife a year ago tomorrow. Beautiful prayers, beautiful design, one of those real treasures. I suggest you check out rabbitroom.com.

  9. Perhaps, as in so many other areas, my examples may serve to make other people feel smarter about their own. I am not reading anything too heady right now but mostly concentrating on biographies and fiction. I had two early fails: I started reading The Plague and I, by Betty MacDonald in early March before Covid was on the radar in such a prominent way. The author got TB in the ‘50s when having to go to a sanatorium as your best chance of survival and was limited to just laying motionless in bed without either visitors or even books. That book had to go.
    I also abandoned Hillary Mantel’s final in her trilogy about Henry the Eighth and Thomas Cromwell. She won the Man Booker award twice in a row for the first two, Wolf Hall and Bring up the Bodies. They were masterfully written and I read them each three times. But I don’t seem to have the buffer to get through The Mirror and the Light, where Cromwell meets his end. Almost every person is devious in a world full of subterfuge and deception; I also just don’t think that is really the way the world is. There are plenty of people like that, but plenty others that honestly strive to do the right thing.
    The book that I can heartily recommend was The Prize Winner from Defiance Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less by Terry Ryan. The writing is good enough, but the story is just wonderful. This is a true story of a stay at home housewife in the 50’s who held her family together financially by entering jingle contests for prizes. This in spite of an alcoholic husband who drinks up his earnings leaving the family in constant peril. Receiving no help from the law or from the church, what’s remarkable is that not only does she keep the family from ruin, she is also indomitably cheerful and even humorous.
    I’m currently reading House of Mirth by Edith Wharton, listening to Mistakes Were Made But Not By Me by as I run, CS. Lewis’ small anthology of his mentor, George McDonald, Galatians, and a bit of Wendell Berry. I close with this Berry poem, from The Country of Marriage:
    Prayer after Eating
    I have taken in the light
    that quickened eye and leaf.
    May my brain be bright with praise
    of what I eat, in the brief blaze
    Of motion and of thought.
    May I be worthy of my meat.

  10. Zen in the Art of Archery by Eugen Herrigel. Rarely in my pursuit of classical studies do I get the opportunity to indulge in Eastern thinking, but this fascinating little book offers an excellent insight into the practice of Zen Buddhism. The author is a European man who spent years in Japan learning the ancient art of Zen archery, and although he himself readily admits that such an experience is difficult to put into words, he offers such a unique perspective that should delight the mind of any reader, particularly the reader who has little pre-existing knowledge of Zen Buddhism.

    Throughout the course of the short book, the reader is taken along on a journey with the author himself, as he relates his struggles to wrap his Western mindset around a concept which seems at first to be so foreign and abstract. Herrigel writes in such a way that the average reader can relate to each struggle he faces, and he expertly describes the solution to each problem he encounters on the road to reaching enlightenment. Herrigel wastes no words; the book can be finished in an hour or two, but the ideas presented within the book have still preoccupied my mind even weeks after finishing it.

  11. I feel a bit sheepish adding to your conversation, but Missy invited me to write because I’m a donor.
    One caveat–have some visual difficulties, so most of what I read now are audiobooks, which are free from public libraries. Here’s a delightful discovery–if a book was written before widespread electrification, it probably was written to be read aloud. All the great big 19th novels are better on audio–Trollope, Dickens, Stevenson ,Wilkie Collins.

    I’m so impressed by previous posters who are reading serious philosophical or theological books, but how’s about some fiction? It’s still the best way to develop sympathy and empathy for others and for a peek into the workings of the human heart.

    Since most of the HS Cogito group are male, I’ll try to lean toward universal, yet guy-type books.

    If you don’t feel like devoting serious time into reading serious fiction for pleasure, you couldn’t go wrong with novella length, for example

    Jim the Boy ( Tony Early). Deceptively simple short chapters about an orphaned boy growing up in the Depression. Not a religious book, but it shows goodness in several guises, and both background and overt Christianity supports the culture.
    I like books that don’t scream “Other people had it tougher”, but demonstrate it. Works for me a a self-pity cure.
    If you’re unsure, read the rave New York Times review from June 2000. Yes, that New York Times.

    A River Runs Through It ( Norman McLean). Not obscure. If you saw the movie , that doesn’t count.
    A modern Greek tragedy — you can see the end coming far off, knit into a character’s personality traits. It’s not sweetened, but somehow borne up and wrapped around by a deeply Christian functional loving family. I don’t usually fall for gorgeous prose, but the description of the narrator’s brother fly fishing is spectacular, and gives some idea of the joy of perfect mastery of a sport.

    After those two, le deluge, most of them read through audiobooks, but they work on paper as well:

    All of Trollope’s novels, especially the Palliser series, but start at book 2, Phineas Finn, if you’re trying Trollope for the first time.
    His overarching interest is how to be a gentleman in a world where old aristocratic systems are falling away before the railroads, stirrings of Irish independence, modern commerce, and the beginnings of meritocracy. A background theme, all the more stunning for not being banged on and on about, is the helpless role women found themselves in. Good marriage and sufficient income: happiness. Bad marriage at any income level: utter misery with no escape anywhere .

    The books themselves are plot driven by political subterfuge, romance, duels, fox hunts, and shady business deals, so there is lots of action to drive things along.

    I was so,so pleased that David Mamet recently recommended him for diamond hard insight into human motivation and insight–it’s lonely being a Trollope fan.

    Aubrey/Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian, starting with Master and Commander. A born captain and a natural philosopher on ship together during the American and Napoleonic wars.
    In this case, the movie wasn’t bad, but pace and subtlety were abandoned because they don’t film well, so it almost completely lost the sense of living in a much much slower time, punctuated by violence.
    ( Another shout out to the NYTs: this series was very obscure until the Times did their annual survey of modern authors about their favorite books, and lo!–this series popped up on several very different authors’ lists. )
    Sailing aficionados love that every hawser is correct– O’Brian actually became the world’s leading authority on rigging 18th century sailing vessels. I love that much was inspired or lifted directly from 18th century memoirs ( duly credited) , so there’s a sort of stiff upper lip acceptance that battle, disease, medical treatments , and food are all pretty horrible, but that’s just what it is. Great appreciation of music, botany, ornithology and nascent democracy.

    Good time to be reading any of the excellent Winston Churchill books. Currently enjoying Churchill by Andrew Roberts, which is a biography, but ,not thank goodness, one of those doorstops where the author throws in every dull detail he can dig out of archives. No, it’s a narrative. What a guy. Encouraging to those with imperfect parents, since his were so bad, you’d think they were just too unrelievedly horrible if you encountered them in fiction. So how did he turn out as well as he did? A good nanny helped, but I wonder if the right books did it…

    Planning to re- read I Promessi Sposi ( The Betrothed, but a lot of English copies retain the Italian original). It’s Italy’s national book, sort of like Don Quixote is for Spain. A peasant love affair almost derailed by corruption at every level, brigands, worthless clergy, political chaos ,bread riots, and, yes, the plague. As you might guess, it’s long.
    Spoiler alert: all is redeemed by a saintly bishop and a conversion .

    I’ve got lots, lots more if anyone is still awake. Next installment– funny books.

  12. Hello, Benjamin Mogren here. I am serving as the current president of Cogito. I would like to let you all know that I have thoroughly enjoyed reading through all of your different posts and seeing what books and subjects you all have found yourselves invested in.

    To join in on the fun a little bit, I thought that I would go ahead and mention some of the works that I myself have been looking at:

    Most of the reading that I have done recently have been for my thesis paper. As such, many of the books that I have been skimming through or looking at have a similar theme. The works that I have read through or am currently reading through for my thesis include:

    “Democracy Against Capitalism” by Ellen Meiksins Woods
    “Capitalism and Freedom” by Milton Friedman
    “Being Consumed” by William Cavanaugh
    “Ideological Weapons” by FJ Hinkelammert
    Parts of “Rerum Novarum” by Pope LeoXIII

    I have also recently invested time into reading a number of articles about identity politics from The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Guardian. I also read a scholarly article not too long ago by a man named Kenneth Stikkers which discusses the terms “racist” and “racism.” My goal in reading this scholarly article was to better understand how the redefining of a given term can lend incredible argumentative power to the wielder of said term, if the redefinition of said term is broad enough to make it widely applicable.

    I have also been trying to fit in some reading on my own time outside of the aforementioned works. As a brief example, I have been trying to work my way through a book about Patrick Henry title “The Greatest Lawyer That Ever Lived,” by George T Morrow II. Since I plan to attend law school this upcoming fall, I am trying to do some fun, light reading about ‘The Law’ before things get crazy. Speaking of which, a book that I am trying to re-read before law school is “To Kill a Mockingbird,” as I have been told by multiple sources that it is the book to read before one begins their legal education.

    Wishing you all well,
    Benjamin Mogren

  13. I am reading In the Kingdom of Ice. It is a detailed account of the doomed exploratory voyage of the Jeanette in 1879. They set out to sail to the North Pole, only to find their ship frozen in the ice. Eventually the ice crushed the ship, leaving the explorers stranded on the ice with their lifeboats. Their only chance for survival was to reach the north shore of Siberia before winter set in. Only a few survived. The majority either drowned, froze to death, or starved to death. In spite of the tragic ending, it is a fascinating tale of human perseverance and ingenuity under conditions of extreme hardships where most people would quickly lose all hope.

  14. Hello, Drew Trotter here. I am also one of those who keeps many books going at once. I just finished Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Re-made the World, a long history of the West from the perspective that the single most important event for shaping the west as it is today is the crucifixion. He is an English author and not a believer (there are many autobiographical elements in both the preface and the epilogue that make one wonder, if he actually is a believer and just doesn’t know it!) but argues that every moral thought or presentation, no matter how “secular” shows its foundation in the Christian morality of the preceding two thousand years, even if the author of the thought has no time for religion at all, much less Christianity. It is a thoroughly interesting work and well worth the effort. Like many of the books below, it is written with a certain energy that borders on hyperbole, but is well enough noted to trust.
    I have been reading a good bit of American history, finally finishing Alexander Hamilton by Chernow, the inspiration (though hardly the basis) for the famous Broadway musical. It is a fine book, full of rich insight into the founding of the country and the strengths and weaknesses of most of the founders, especially of course the famous, enigmatic Hamilton. I started another book on the period just recently, again one written some time ago but praised by almost everyone—Undaunted Courage, the story of the Lewis and Clark expedition by Stephen Ambrose. I am enjoying it and feel that it will only get better as the two friends get further and further along the road.
    I have just begun New Testament scholar N.T.Wright’s biography of Paul the apostle and look forward to it. I am stuck about half-way through the magnificent biography of Frederick Douglass by David Blight, a deserved winner of the Pulitzer. I really need to get back to it; it’s very engaging and extremely well-written, balancing verve and scholarship as well as any of the many great biographies of the past dozen years or so.

  15. Jarrett Knight here, incoming Associate Director of Cogito. I recently finished “God’s Library” by Brent Nongbri, a book about the archaeology of early Christian manuscripts–how they were made, what is in them, where they were found, how scholars date them, and how the economic incentives and often-shady practices of the antiquities market frequently destroy knowledge of their context (not to mention the manuscripts themselves). One of the larger points of the book is to show how some of the data used by text critics–those are the people who compare manuscripts of the Bible in order to determine which ones are the most accurate–is much less reliable than people often think it is. Believe it or not, it was a really interesting read, full of fascinating information on ancient book technologies and lots of Indiana-Jones-like tales of how ancient manuscripts were found and/or recovered.

    Currently, I’ve just started reading “Apocalypse: The Book of Revelation” by Jacques Ellul, a Protestant French theologian, apologist, and sociologist from the mid-twentieth century. He’s a fascinating thinker, and the book itself promises to be a really good read–he’s analyzing the symbolic or metaphorical values of the imagery in Revelation against the backdrop of both ancient literary conventions and modern insights of sociology and linguistics. So far, his main thesis seems to be that Revelation is a book about the nature of time, not in a chronological sense but in the sense of the relationship between time and eternity in light of the revelation of Jesus Christ. I’ve never read anything on Revelation like it–but then again, I haven’t read much else on Revelation.

    I’m also re-reading a book by Hans-Georg Gadamer called “Truth and Method.” Gadamer was a German philosopher who studied under Heidegger and whose work spans from the early twentieth to the turn of the twenty-first century. (He lived from 1900-2002 and wrote beginning in his twenties more or less until his death!) His work is often understood as a part of the conservative wing of the post-modern turn–it concerns the nature of understanding and the role of our individual and corporate histories and languages in arriving at it.

    Enjoyed looking through everyone else’s posts, and looking forward to seeing more!

  16. Ashleigh Elser, Assistant Professor of Religion at Hampden-Sydney

    My thanks to Missy for letting me know about this conversation, and for inviting me to post my own shelter-in-place reading list. As you’ll see below—I’ve had much more time for non-academic reading than I usually get during the school year.

    I’ve recently finished two books by historian Jill Lepore–a mammoth eight-hundred page history of the United States called These Truths and a smaller book called Joe Gould’s Teeth about the famed Greewich Village writer and oral historian who inspired not one but two Joseph Mitchell profiles in the New Yorker in the middle of the twentieth-century. Lepore is a fantastic writer, with a gift for storytelling, and a capacity to turn so many diverse chapters of American history into compelling civics lessons. I plan on picking up another Lepore book, The Mansion of Happiness: A History of Life and Death, to read later this summer.

    Alongside these books by Lepore, I’ve also just finished two books by another nonfiction writer I admire—Rebecca Solnit: her recently published memoir Recollections of My Non-Existence and a collection of essays called Hope in the Dark. The latter collection has been a helpful antidote to the false certainties of the worst-case scenario that are sometimes easier to cling to in times like these.

    I always have a few novels going, and right now I am halfway through Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which is a beautifully written revisionist history of the reign of Henry VIII, centered around the rise of Thomas Cromwell. It’s the first in a series of three novels, and I’m hoping to finish the trilogy in the next month or so as the semester comes to a close.

    Beneath Wolf Hall sits another novel that I started a few weeks back—Lucy Ellmann’s Ducks, Newburyport. This novel is comprised, in large part, of a single sentence that lasts for a thousand pages. It’s brilliant, and like nothing I’ve ever read before, but its allusive, stream-of-consciousness style demands my full and undivided attention, so I tend to read it in small 20-30 page sections. I imagine this one may take me some time.

    I’ve really enjoyed seeing what you all have been working through, and I’ll have to add some of these titles to my own list for later this summer.

  17. Daniel Marsden ’23 (History and Government)

    Since the quarantine began, I have had a little more time to catch up on some reading. I recently read “The Pursuit of Power” by Richard J. Evans. The book describes the geopolitical dealings in Europe between the end of the Napoleonic Wars and the beginning of the First World War. I find this time period fascinating. It involves the beginning of so many facets of the modern world. Everything from railroads to Communism came about during this time. Additionally, I have also been reading some of Rudyard Kipling’s short stories.

    My birthday is coming up soon; so, I splurged and ordered some new book for myself. Three of the books are Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, and Democracy in American by Alexis De Tocqueville. I am excited to read these when they come in the mail.

  18. John Campbell, HSC ’09 (Chemistry with minor in Rhetoric)

    Really neat to see these posts!

    I am about half way through Nancy Pearcey’s “Total Truth” (and have been for some time, I am ashamed to admit). Pearcey is a Francis Schaeffer devotee offering intelligent christian counterculture. She challenges some of the fundamental tenets of our western, postmodern world in thorough detail.

    I recently forced myself to read “A New Earth” by Eckhart Tolle. I must say it was awful (though I was prepared for that—its inclusion in Oprah’s Book Club was one clue). Yet, I do not regret reading it. Tolle’s brand of spirituality is wildly popular and so I feel that I gleaned some insight about our culture. I found myself thinking about unity and diversity as concepts. Tolle proposes extreme unity, that all existence is one being. It is difficult to accept this because how can good and evil be one? How can my brother’s life and pond scum be of equal value? I also find it hard to accept extreme diversity as this would discount the obvious (and mutual) moral obligations to my spouse, children, family, and community.

    I have a suspicion that the proper relationship between unity and diversity is best exemplified in the holy trinity.

  19. James Garrison ’22, Mathematics Major, Current Vice President of Cogito

    I just began Andrew Roberts’s “Churchill”. This biography of the 20th century political giant includes numerous new insights from his personal meetings with King George VI and transcripts of war cabinet meetings. Currently I am still learning about Churchill’s early life at boarding school, his time in the British Calvary and his early notable actions in Parliament.

    The author opened one chapter with the following quotation from Napoleon: “To understand a man, look at the world when he was twenty.” When Churchill was twenty, the British Empire was thriving and powerful, and he dedicated most of his life to its service and strived to a greatness similar to that of the late Victorian empire. I am forced to wonder if 2020, my tumultuous twentieth year on this planet, will shape me into a man bent on bringing about as much chaos as humanly possible into any given situation. Hopefully not.

    I recently finished Robert Nozick’s “Anarchy, State, and Utopia”, the triumph in 20th century political philosophy. It is said that there are no libertarians during a pandemic, but I believe that if Nozick were alive today, there would be at least one. The argument within this book is compelling and leaves one to wonder just what role, if any, the government should play in our lives. I recommend this book to any one interest in the nature of justice, how the government we know today violates our rights, and how government can arise naturally from a Lockean state of nature with the following warning: After you read it, there may be one more libertarian during this pandemic.

    In terms of fiction, I just completed a collection of short stories by Ted Chiang entitled “Stories of Your Life and Others”. This conglomeration of excellent science-fiction stories shows masterful knowledge of many different disciplines: linguistics, pure mathematics, superintelligence, and many others. My personal favorite, though, was a science-fiction story from the perspective of an ancient Babylonian.

    Next on the docket for me is “1491” by Charles Mann, a study in the pre-Columbian Americas, Vonnegut’s “Cat’s Cradle”, and Peter Godfrey-Smith’s introduction to the philosophy of science, “Theory and Reality”.

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