I have many favorite books, way too many to list. The books listed here are ones that I want to call attention to because I think they are not as well known or often read as they deserve to be.

"Consciousness Explained" by Daniel Dennett

This book along with "The Ghost in the Machine" (Koestler), "The Selfish Gene" (Dawkins), and "Conversations on Consciousness" (Blackmore) formed the basic backdrop and tumultuous pool of thoughts that inspired "The Bluegenes" project.

"Ishmael," "My Ishmael," and "The Story of B" by Daniel Quinn

These three books have influenced me profoundly, and I have yet to even figure out the extent of it.

"Marrying George Clooney" by Amy Ferris

Amy Ferris deconstructs every last known conceit there is.

"Voltaire Almighty" by Roger Pearson

A fabulous reminder of just how far Voltaire carried the ball (even though the goal line is still so far in the distance).

"Philosophy in the Flesh" by Lakoff and Johnson

Deconstructs the conceits of Western Philosophy and some of the devices used to keep the overwhelming majority of people out of the discussion.

"Nickled and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich.

How do the people working at your favorite hotel or restaurant or Walmart get by? The people who are making a profit from these businesses don't care. They pay them what the labor market demands. Do you care? What if they are being "used up" by our economy, just the way serfs and slaves were in the past? Does it qualify as economic cannibalism? You will be amazed at how hard people work, how awfully they're treated, and how little they're paid. If anything needs to change, it's this. Ehrenreich's biting humor makes this frightening investigation a moving instead of deadening read.

"The Botany of Desire" by Michael Pollan asks the question of whether people have used plants or if plants have used people. Not that there's a simple answer, but our place as "commanders of the Earth" (or so we like to think) might not be so straightforward as we sometimes arrogantly project. Was Johnny Appleseed spreading apples to keep doctors away, or applejack to a puritan society that needed an occasional release from their hard lives and narrow minds? Combining the passion of a gardener, the motivation of an investigative journalist, the vision of an historian, and the creative insight of a philosopher, Pollan discovers relationships between man and plant that will blow your mind. Another must read. (note, I do not accept Pollan's extension of this argument to animals, they are a whole different animal from plants.)

"Candide" by Voltaire. This is my favorite book, ever. I try to read it once a year.

Voltaire is the sharpest wit, ever. "Candide, or Optimism" is both the funniest and saddest book I know, and most importantly, it makes you realize that things haven't changed nearly as much as we think in the last 3 or 4 centuries, and through Voltaire's present tense satire, how unenlightened "the enlightenment" was. If you've never read "Candide," you should consider yourself illiterate.

"The Trial" is as true to life and chilling today as the day that Kafka decided never to publish it.

An inspiration to countless modern writers, Kafka's tireless perspective, jotted down over decades without public recognition, is deeply haunting. Not for the light of heart, the paranoid, or those looking for a thriller.

"I Don't Want to Talk about It: Overcoming the Secret Legacy of Male Depression"

History is a dark place, full of violence, disappointment, and lives of quiet desperation. Men are discouraged from being "emotional." Yet men are just as emotional as women. Men breaking with their own emotions creates a big old crack in the world. This book asks all the right questions about what makes our planet such a madman-driven place.

"Ficciones" by Jorge Luis Borges

17 works of fiction that had an incredible influence on me as a young writer and as a young adult. Borges lets his imagination run wild, yet he has a carriage harnessed up to it all along, and we get to go for the ride with him. If you've never read these stories, you must.

"Without Parallel: the American-Korean relationship since 1945"

With Bush thinking he has a mandate, and North Korea on his scorecard, understanding the role of the U.S. in Korea since 1945 is more important than ever. This history does not provide everything you need to know, but it's a very good place to start to understand complexities on the Korean peninsula that are often overlooked on this side of the ocean.

"The Ghost in the Machine" by Arthur Koestler

May turn out to be the 20th Century's most significant philosopher (maybe in a toss up with Turing, if they still do top ten lists in the future).

"Freedom" by Jonathan Franzen

A stunning orchestral insight into one family. Franzen loves these people, no matter how hard he is on them. This book enters a holy trinity with Candide and Ishmael as one of the finest books ever written.

"Eating Animals" by Jonathan Safran Foer.

I've been a closet vegetarian all my life. As a child I hated meat, but was forced to eat it in daily confrontations at the dinner table. Eventually I obtained a taste for it. Being a vegan is inconvenient, awkward, and alienating in omnivore social situations, one more bit of estrangement from the human species that it felt like I just couldn't afford. Since reading "Ishmael," however, I have been drifting inexorably in that direction. I'd already made up my mind to go vegan when I read "Eating Animals," but Foer's book has turned it into something else, not so much a moral imperative as a no-brainer.




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