Home Arts Seven pretentious books you need to be well-read

Seven pretentious books you need to be well-read

by Archives October 14, 2008

BURNABY (CUP) – Let not the tiresome pursuit of knowledge impede on your naptime. Here’s the seven pretentious books you should know just enough about to navigate the sticky corridors of knowledge and power.
This list is a tasty buffet of theoretical, philosophical readings – compiled with the help of the questionably scholarly Wikipedia – that will complement any good left-leaning post-secondary education.
Slip these winners into office conversation or any paper in the liberal arts, and you’ll be name-dropping your way to an A in no time.

Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978)
Said serves up criticism of Western attitudes towards the East – that Western powers and thinkers have and continue to render Eastern thought as exotic, not the norm, and as material for consumption.
The perspective is propagated by modern Western academics, media, and popular culture and continues to oppress Eastern cultures.
This is a big one for literary theory and cultural studies, though still considered quite controversial.

Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (1964)
McLuhan was considered a hip guy in the ’60s and ’70s after this book was published – he even won himself a guest spot in Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977) where he appeared in a dream sequence as himself.
McLuhan gives us an analysis of modern media, tells us that the “medium is the message,” and claims the ways we communicate are shaped by the technologies we use.
Media and culture students know this one off by heart, but his work will pop up anywhere culture, technology, and communication is concerned.

Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962)
Carson was a nature writer and marine biologist that began research for what would become the book Silent Spring.
Carson records evidence of DDT and pesticide poisoning in animals, and paints somewhat of a bleak future for the planet due to humans’ attitudes towards nature.
Her book is a foundational text for anyone interested in philosophies of human interaction with nature including eco-feminism, deep ecology, or regular brand reduce-reuse-recycle environmentalism.

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed (English, 1970)
Freire was a Brazilian Marxist educator who contributed greatly to the philosophy of education.
His analysis of education draws on knowledge of the relationships between colonizers and the colonized, which involves a special negotiation of knowledge and power to keep the colonized suitably oppressed.
He envisions liberation through knowledge, but only if imparted and attained in a participatory, non-hierarchical way. This is a good one for you if you’re studying education or political science.

Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble (1990)
Butler headlines a brand of gender studies called queer theory that views gender and sexuality as performative – a kind of behaviour we learn and then perform.
Implicit in these performances – what’s OK to do, what’s not OK to do – are questions of identity and power.
Get a taste of this book under your belt if you’re in gender, literature, or cultural studies.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, The Communist Manifesto (1848)
If you are studying anything other than African drumming, you’re going to need to read the Communist Manifesto.
Marx and Engels serve up a pocket size low-down on the 19th century Communist view of things – that the bourgeois exploit the proletariat through capitalist modes of production and governance.
The nice thing about this is you don’t need to even name-drop this read; you can easily bang it off in the hour between lecture and tutorial to impress your instructors and peers alike.

The Bible
It’s a good idea to read many religious texts during your education, especially The Big Ones like the Qur’an and the Torah, but the Bible seems to appear predominantly in our Western philosophy-based education.
Whether you’re studying literature, humanities, history, communication, political science, or sociology, check yourself out a kid’s picture bible or The Bible for Dummies to get up to speed.

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