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A Few Books to Read in Your Lifetime

A Few Books to Read In Your Lifetime

I’m sure everyone and his or her mother has a suggestive book list and, because bandwagons are all the rage this season, I do, too. Here are my reading suggestions for anytime of the day, mouth, year, decade, and lifetime. I promise that they are all treats within themselves.

1)    Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil

In order to commemorate a brilliant political theorist, I think her book Eichmann in Jerusalem deserves the first spot on this list. This gem of a book came into fruition in 1963, but don’t let its old age scare you into believing that it is outdated and has nothing to offer modern (wo)man. The book was written after her journalistic pieces for The New Yorker about Adolf Eichmann’s trial in Israel. Adolf Eichmann was a Nazi who managed the deportation of Jews first out of the country and then into ghettos and concentration camps. Hannah Arendt threads her own commentary about Eichmann and all parties involved in Holocaust with the factual and historical basis of the case. This book is a historical read, a psychological read, a philosophical read, and a political read. Arendt skillfully draws conclusions about the banality of evil within the human condition throughout her book, exposing the everyday atrocities that man acquiesces when he ceases thinking for himself. While reading the book, one might feel compelled to draw parallels between the current American political sphere and the one described in Arendt’s book. Such a comparison is warranted in many respects and proves that Eichmann in Jerusalem is just as much as a relevant and important piece of literature as the new releases. By all means, read this book.

2)    Hannah Arendt’s On Violence

This is another noteworthy essay by Hannah Arendt. The title is pretty self explanatory for what the book is about. Arendt’s thesis challenges the classic assumption that violence is equivalent to power. To Arendt, violence is not only different from power; it undermines power. Watch a simple, yet important, distinction unravel into a prophetic analysis of future power struggles throughout the political sphere. By the end of this essay you’ll never conflate the two concepts again.

3)    Eugene Burdick and William Lederer’s The Ugly American


When thinking about the literary knowledge that millennials have, I think it’s really unfortunate that The Ugly American has become a relic of its time than a transcendent novel. When it first came out, it was an instant bestseller. John F. Kennedy thought the book was so influential that he claimed he and five other people had sent a copy of the book to every US senator in 1960. The book even inspired the creation of the Peace Corps. However, whenever I mention The Ugly American in a conversation with friends around my age, I usually get blank stares. I’m not sure when this book fell out of popularity, at least for my generation from what I can gather from anecdotal evidence, but its political influence alone makes it a necessary read. American arrogance and ignorance is the topic of this book, showcasing how these characteristics lead to Americans’ inability to succeed in diplomacy and foreign affairs in the fictional country named Sarkhan. Not everyone agrees that this is an accurate portrayal of American ineptitude during the Cold War, but the book still has its own everlasting effects on American politics.

4)    Barton Swaim’s The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics

This is a quick, easy read. The Speechwriter is really entertaining, especially when reflecting on the fact that the events that Swaim describes actually happened. This book reminds me that the best entertainment is not the type that happens in fiction; it’s the type that occurs in reality, and more particularly in politics. Swaim was the speechwriter for the South Carolinian governor Mark Sanford, who at the height of his political career mysteriously went missing to “hike the Appalachian Trail.” For those of you who do not understand the reference, consider yourselves in for a great anecdotal ride.

5)    Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov

I don’t know any other author that offers as much drama and intrigue wrapped up into one magnum opus than Dostoevsky in his The Brothers Karamazov. Dostoevsky is considered one of the most influential and highly acclaimed Russian authors and for good reason. To distill this book down into a couple of sentences would be doing Dostoevsky a disservice. It tackles themes about God, God’s plausibility, Evil, Good, family relationships, morality, extreme emotivism, extreme intellectualism, trust, and judgment passing. Do yourself a favor and read this book if you have not already done so. I swear that you will feel just as involved and enlightened by the story as I was when I first read it.

6)    Requiem for the American Dream with Noam Chomsky

Okay, this isn’t a book; it’s a documentary. However, this film is still one of my recommendations, nonetheless. It is only 73 minutes, but it is chock-full of information and insight from Noam Chomsky, one of the most prominent American intellectuals today. In this documentary, he discusses the failing American dream in light of a rigged U.S. economy. Watch Chomsky somberly dissect the problems within American idealism and exceptionalism through his analysis of the American economy. Whether you agree with him or not, the film is worth a watch!

You can find Requiem for the American Dream film on Netflix!

Grace is a Philosophy and Economics double major and a Government minor at the University of Texas at Austin. Most of her writing focuses on politics and civic engagement, characteristically intertwining her journalism with op-ed takes (usually nonpartisan; depends who you ask). Grace enjoys reading philosophy, reading and discussing politics, gushing over her dog, and painting in her spare time. As a true economics enthusiast, she also loves graphs.
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