Reading Plan: December 2023 Through February 2024

Another quarter; another reading plan. (Cf. 2023 Books of Summer and Reading Plan: September through November 2023.) I’ve struggled with this one, which is why I’m posting it in mid-December rather than when the quarter began. This quarter I’ve decided to attempt to focus my reading a bit more. I have to admit that I’m not sure I’ve done that. It’s interesting to me that I find this so challenging, and there are still moments when I think I should throw out the planning and just read what strikes my fancy. (And, as the account of my reading over the last three months shows, I allow myself some freedom to add to the list as I encounter things that interest me.)

I have four areas of interest in mind as I put this list together. First, I’m determined to leave room for literary fiction, pushing myself to read authors new to me, contemporary writers, and the classics. (Obviously those categories overlap.) Second, I’m continuing my return to Kant, a philosopher whose work I’ve read in pieces over the last several decades. My goal now is to read through his significant works. I’m leaving “significant” rather undefined for the moment, and I’m also planning to read secondary sources that I expect will deepen my understanding of his work. Third, I’m reading more of the work of and about several 20th century women – Arendt, McCarthy, Weil, and Luxemborg – who played significant roles in the cultural and political conversations of the period. Fourth, I’m continuing to explore the work and relationships of May Sarton and Juliette Huxley.

A fifth category lacks the focus of the other four – let’s call that miscellaneous.

I’ll leave the organization of these works into different boxes as an exercise for the reader.

Still a diverse list. But I think one motivation imposes at least a bit of order on the lot. I’d like very much to develop a better understanding of the crises of our day – war, climate change, financial upheaval and economic inequality, the plight of refugees, polarization, etc. Contemporary press about current events offers some insight, and a couple of the books listed below focus on these current issues. But the others, I hope and expect, provide some perspective on and different approaches to thinking about where we’ve been in a way that might help to understand where we are.

So, here’s the list:

  • Fiction
    • Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot
    • Jean-Patrick Manchette, Skeletons in the Closet
    • Lisa Tuttle, My Death
    • Paul Lynch, Prophet Song
  • Philosophy
    • Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason
    • Sebastian Gardner, Kant and the Critique of Pure Reason
    • Rosa Luxemborg, Socialism or Barbarism
    • Lewis White Beck, The Actor and the Spectator
    • Simone Weil, The Need for Roots
    • Peter Winch, Simone Weil: “The Just Balance”
  • History/Biography
    • Manfred Kuehn, Kant: A Biography
    • Simone Pétrement, Simone Weil: A Life
    • Elizabeth Young-Bruehl, Hannah Arendt: For Love of the World
    • Carol Bright-man, Writing Dangerously: Mary McCarthy and her World
    • Margot Peters, May Sarton: A Biography
    • Alison Bashford, The Huxleys: An Intimate History of Evolution
  • Essays/Culture
    • Phillip Lopate, Getting Personal
    • Jane Jacobs, Economy of Cities
    • Heather Cox Richardson, Democracy Awakening
    • Simone Weil, War and the Iliad
    • Farah Jasmine Griffen, In Search of a Beautiful Freedom
    • Jeff Deutsch, In Praise of Good Bookstores