What books am I reading?
People often ask what books I’m reading. Right now, I keep my nightstand covered with books old and new. I only retain books I want to read again. All others land in a neighborhood book kiosk, or at the famous Powell’s Bookstore here in Portland, Oregon.
Here are the books I’m reading now, and why:
Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit, by Daniel Quinn
I read this book every few years. It teaches about two types of culture: the Leavers (indigenous people) and the Takers (industrialized society). The teacher in the book is Ishmael, a gorilla, who offers his lessons to a student who responded to a newspaper ad saying, Teacher Seeks Student.
Ishmael teaches his student to think through and understand the desecration of Leaver culture by the industrialized, ubiquitous practices of Takers.
This quote articulates why I re-read this book every couple of years:
Ishmael: You see now that the Takers and the Leavers accumulate two entirely different kinds of knowledge.
Student: Yes. The Takers accumulate knowledge about what works well for things. The Leavers accumulate knowledge about what works well for people.
Ishmael: Now, you know that the knowledge of what works well for production is what’s valued in your culture. In the same way, the knowledge of what works well for people is what’s valued in Leaver’s cultures. And every time the Takers stamp out a Leaver culture, a wisdom ultimately tested since the birth of mankind disappears from the world beyond recall, just as every time they stamp out a species of life, a lifeform ultimately tested since the birth of life disappears from the world beyond recall.
Ishmael: Yes, it is ugly.