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Duino Elegies

©1969 / Design: Keith Godard

Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology, Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York

Could Greek philosophy be rooted in Egyptian thought? Is it possible that the Pythagorean theory was conceived on the shores of the Nile and the Euphrates rather than in ancient Greece? Could it be that Western civilization was born on the so-called Dark Continent? For almost two centuries, Western scholars have given little credence to the possibility of such scenarios.

Arguably one of the most profoundly important essays ever written on the nature and significance of "quality" and definitely a necessary anodyne to the consequences of a modern world pathologically obsessed with quantity. Although set as a story of a cross-country trip on a motorcycle by a father and son, it is more nearly a journey through 2,000 years of Western philosophy. For some people, this has been a truly life-changing book.

John Berger: Ways of Seeing

Coming face to face with violence and the numbing effect that it has on us.

Another one of the books everyone must read at least once. We must all strive towards the Ubermensch.

I was so excited when reading this book that I actually called the author who was teaching at the University of Chicago. This is something I would not usually do. I wanted him to talk with my students--he was on sabbatical and it didn't happen. This is an extraordinary work.

A book that makes Spinoza easy to understand.

The Phenomenon of Man by de Chardin. He was forbidden to publish this book during his life time by the Vatican. A paleontologist, de Chardin thinking was visionary and very much ahead of his time. I remember reading this in the faculty room, and an older teacher telling me how she had de Chardin as a lecturer. What a joy to have conversations with her that year.

I and Thou by Martin Buber - I read this as a teenager, and it has informed my life and my aspirations ever since.