In the midst of struggles and crises all across our nation, our friends and colleagues share what they think we should be reading to understand this moment and to fortify ourselves against the influence of ideologues and the movements that would undermine a strong civil society. The second in a series.
Read the first installment in our “Readings for Troubled Times” series here. This continues our effort to understand the times in which we live by recommending readings that are relevant to the strange moment in which we find ourselves.
What you should read: “On Living in an Atomic Age,” by C. S. Lewis.
Why: Lewis says that, if the end is coming, we should be found doing sensible things: planting trees, playing with the children, enjoying a pint and some darts with friends. For the end is coming.
In other words, continue to do the good things you’re habituated to do.
Professor of English, Augustana College
What you should read: Private Truths, Public Lies, by Timur Kuran.
Why: With simple and elegant models that a layman can follow, Kuran explains why we so often lie about our actual beliefs. He also explains why shifts in public opinion, when they do occur, tend to occur so rapidly. (We have lived through just such a massive opinion shift in the last few weeks.) Lastly and encouragingly, Kuran proves that a small number of activists and dissidents—those who refuse to live by lies—can make a surprisingly large difference.
Wallace S. Moyle
pseudonym of a tax-exempt-organization lawyer with a large firm in New York.
What you should read: Memoirs from Beyond the Grave, by Françoise-René de Chateaubriand.
Why: Chateaubriand was born into an old aristocratic family from Brittany. As a young man, he saw a great deal of what he loved destroyed by the French Revolution. Dispossessed and in exile, he rediscovered the timeless truths of the Christian faith and became a literary leader of France’s recovery of her historical patrimony in memory and imagination. His late-in-life reminiscences offer wonderful consolations for anyone who feels dispossessed by the tyranny of “progress.”
Editor, First Things
What you should read: Playborhood, by Mike Lanza.
Why: We're still a long way from being able to gather, but, even after a vaccine, many streets will be empty and quiet. It won't be the virus quashing rambunctious play, but lousy urban or suburban design. Mike Lanza's Playborhood is a handbook for making your home and your street a "third place," somewhere that invites serendipitous encounters and unfettered exploration. He's like a benevolent version of the witch from Hansel and Gretel, with a house studded with climbing fixtures, rather than gumdrops. Lanza's plans will get you in trouble with your HOA, and may result in some scars and stories. But, he argues, avoiding all risks is the biggest danger of all. Use this time to start building and getting ready to take the right risks.
Leah Libresco Sargeant
author of Arriving at Amen and Building the Benedict Option