While I am constantly plowing through 2 or 3 books, there is a (relatively) short list of volumes that have profoundly affected the way I see the world. There is nothing I like more than giving people things to read -- an occupational hazard, I suppose. Some of the volumes below are utterly essential; others were of profound value to me at a certain point in my intellectual development, even if I have 'passed them by.' I've tried to really limit this list to essential books.
Let us stipulate the eternal presence of Lord of the Rings, so I can leave it off the list.
So here is an assignment for you: read these!!!
Gar Alperovitz, America Beyond Capitalism: Reclaiming Our Wealth, Our Liberty, and Our Democracy
Nicholson Baker, Human Smoke
Samuel Bowles and Herbert Gintis, Schooling in Capitalist America
Albert Camus, The Rebel
Sheryll Cashin, The Failures Of Integration: How Race and Class Are Undermining the American Dream
Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks
Michael Harrington, The Politics at God's Funeral
Tom Jackson, From Civil Rights to Human Rights
Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities
Jonathan Kozol, Savage Inequalities
Robert Kuttner, Everything for Sale: The Virtues and Limits of Markets
Daniel Lazare, America's Undeclared War: What's Killing Our Cities and How We Can Stop It
William Lee Miller, Lincoln's Virtues: An Ethical Biography
Melvin Oliver and Thomas Shapiro, Black Wealth White Wealth
Karl Polanyi, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time
Douglas Rae, City
John Rawls, Theory of Justice
Nick Salvatore, Eugene V. Debs: Citizen and Socialist
Joseph Singer, The Edges of the Field: Lessons on the Obligations of Ownership
Tom Sugrue, The Origins of the Urban Crisis
Cass Sunstein, The Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution--And Why We Need It More Than Ever
Robert Westbrook, John Dewey and American Democracy
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States (more of a sentimental favorite)
Thoughts on politics, cities and the state of American life, culture and economics, from the perspective of a pragmatic lefty historian. "Chants Democratic" comes from "Leaves of Grass" by Walt Whitman, the avatar of American Democracy.
- Mark Santow
- I am Associate Professor and Chair of the History Department at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. I am also the Academic Director of the Clemente Course in the Humanities, in New Bedford MA. Author of "Social Security and the Middle Class Squeeze" (Praeger, 2005) and the forthcoming "Saul Alinsky the Dilemma of Race in the Post-War City" (University of Chicago Press), my teaching and scholarship focuses on American urban history, social policy, and politics. I am presently writing a book on home ownership in modern America, entitled "Castles Made of Sand? Home Ownership and the American Dream." I live in Providence RI, where I have served on the School Board since March 2015. All opinions posted here are my own.
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