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125 Things Meme: Day 17

Today's theme, if I'm forced to find one, is nonfiction.



81. Thus Spake Zarathustra by Fredrick Neitzche:

Thus Spoke Zarathustra: A Book for All and None (German: Also sprach Zarathustra: Ein Buch für Alle und Keinen) is a philosophical novel by German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, composed in four parts between 1883 and 1885. Much of the work deals with ideas such as the "eternal recurrence of the same", the parable on the "death of God", and the "prophecy" of the Overman, which were first introduced in The Gay Science.

Described by Nietzsche himself as "the deepest ever written", the book is a dense and esoteric treatise on philosophy and morality, featuring as protagonist a fictionalized Zarathustra. A central irony of the text is that Nietzsche mimics the style of the Bible in order to present ideas which fundamentally oppose Christian and Jewish morality and tradition.


Why you should read it: The thing about Neitzche is that he cannot be understood by anyone who hasn't read him. He can't be explained either. He is sort of tragically misunderstood, his ideas misused. I'm not saying he's a hundred percent in the right, but even if you don't agree with him - or don't want to agree with him - he's worth a read.

“The higher we soar the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.”

“The lonely one offers his hand too quickly to whomever he encounters.”

“And once you are awake, you shall remain awake eternally. ”


82. Common Sense by Thomas Paine:

Throughout history, some books have changed the world. They have transformed the way we see ourselves—and each other. They have inspired debate, dissent, war and revolution. They have enlightened, outraged, provoked and comforted.

Published anonymously in 1776, six months before the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was a radical and impassioned call for America to free itself from British rule and set up an independent republican government. Savagely attacking hereditary kingship and aristocratic institutions, Paine urged a new beginning for his adopted country in which personal freedom and social equality would be upheld and economic and cultural progress encouraged. His pamphlet was the first to speak directly to a mass audience—it went through fifty-six editions within a year of publication—and its assertive and often caustic style both embodied the democratic spirit he advocated, and converted thousands of citizens to the cause of American independence


Why you should read it: Because common sense is far from common.

“For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have the right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others forever, and tho' himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his cotemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them.”

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.”


83. Meditations by Marcus Aruelius:

One measure, perhaps, of a book's worth, is its intergenerational pliancy: do new readers acquire it and interpret it afresh down through the ages? The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, by that standard, is very worthwhile, indeed. Hays suggests that its most recent incarnation--as a self-help book--is not only valid, but may be close to the author's intent. The book, which Hays calls, fondly, a "haphazard set of notes," is indicative of the role of philosophy among the ancients in that it is "expected to provide a 'design for living.'" And it does, both aphoristically ("Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now take what's left and live it properly.") and rhetorically ("What is it in ourselves that we should prize?"). Whether these, and other entries ("Enough of this wretched, whining monkey life.") sound life-changing or like entries in a teenager's diary is up to the individual reader, as it should be. Hays's introduction, which sketches the life of Marcus Aurelius (emperor of Rome A.D. 161-180) as well as the basic tenets of stoicism, is accessible and jaunty.

Why you should read it: For anyone with any interest at all in stoicism, war, or Roman life.

“Accept the things to which fate binds you, and love the people with whom fate brings you together,but do so with all your heart.” 

“Our life is what our thoughts make it.”

“Life is opinion.”

“Do not act as if you were going to live ten thousand years. Death hangs over you. While you live, while it is in your power, be good.”


84. The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions by Helen Prejean:

From the author of the national bestseller Dead Man Walking comes a brave and fiercely argued new book that tests the moral edge of the debate on capital punishment: What if we’re executing innocent men? Two cases in point are Dobie Gillis Williams, an indigent black man with an IQ of 65, and Joseph Roger O’Dell. Both were convicted of murder on flimsy evidence (O’Dell’s principal accuser was a jailhouse informant who later recanted his testimony). Both were executed in spite of numerous appeals. Sister Helen Prejean watched both of them die.As she recounts these men’s cases and takes us through their terrible last moments, Prejean brilliantly dismantles the legal and religious arguments that have been used to justify the death penalty. Riveting, moving, and ultimately damning, The Death of Innocents is a book we dare not ignore.

Why you should read it: I firmly believe that the death penalty is not the answer. That life imprisonment is the better answer. I believed that before reading this book, but this one definately provides evidence as to why it's not a good idea. Because killing even one innocent person is not worth the cost.

"There are spaces of sorrow only God can touch."

"People are more than the worst thing they have ever done in their lives."


85. Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich:

Our sharpest and most original social critic goes "undercover" as an unskilled worker to reveal the dark side of American prosperity.

Millions of Americans work full time, year round, for poverty-level wages. In 1998, Barbara Ehrenreich decided to join them. She was inspired in part by the rhetoric surrounding welfare reform, which promised that a job -- any job -- can be the ticket to a better life. But how does anyone survive, let alone prosper, on $6 an hour? To find out, Ehrenreich left her home, took the cheapest lodgings she could find, and accepted whatever jobs she was offered. Moving from Florida to Maine to Minnesota, she worked as a waitress, a hotel maid, a cleaning woman, a nursing-home aide, and a Wal-Mart sales clerk. She lived in trailer parks and crumbling residential motels. Very quickly, she discovered that no job is truly "unskilled," that even the lowliest occupations require exhausting mental and muscular effort. She also learned that one job is not enough; you need at least two if you int to live indoors.

Nickel and Dimed reveals low-rent America in all its tenacity, anxiety, and surprising generosity -- a land of Big Boxes, fast food, and a thousand desperate stratagems for survival. Read it for the smoldering clarity of Ehrenreich's perspective and for a rare view of how "prosperity" looks from the bottom. You will never see anything -- from a motel bathroom to a restaurant meal -- in quite the same way again.

Why you should read it: In case you suffer under the delusion that socialism is a bad thing, read this.

"What you don't necessarily realize when you start selling your time by the hour is that what you're really selling is your life."

“I grew up hearing over and over, to the point of tedium, that "hard work" was the secret of success: "Work hard and you'll get ahead" or "It's hard work that got us where we are." No one ever said that you could work hard - harder even than you ever thought possible - and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt.”



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  • 10 comments
I am enjoying your book recs so much - your comments are spot on, and I've added lots to my own reading list. Thank you for sharing.
Cathy
Thanks so much! I'm annoyed that my trip interupted my posting of this, but I'm starting to get back into the swing of things.
Adding the last two to my "to-read list". I'm surprised, honestly, because nonfiction is definitely not my genre. At all.
they're all good reads, though I'll be the first to admit the first three are rather heavy. Especially Thus Spake Zathusura
I have a tendency to be unable to get through the denser works, so my instinct is to avoid them. But I could give them try.
Zathusra *is* set up as a series of short, fable-like stories. You might be able to manage it. IDK. Depends on your own reading preferences
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