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Open your Mind to Literacy

September 14th, 2010 Comments off

Preaching is not my style when writing book reviews, but there are always exceptions and in this case I’ve discovered two books; one that explains why the world is the way it is and how it came to be and one that speaks of American society and why it is fast approaching fascism or civil war.

Skipping all niceties and manners, neither of these books is for you if you are believe in talking asses, snakes or bears that eat children for mocking a bald head man. Neither is for magical thinkers who believe that all of the good in the world is the responsibility of one being while letting that same being slide for all that is evil, malevolent and despicable. These books are not found in the fantasy, mythology or religion section at Barnes and Noble. Both Pulitzer Prize winning books are straight-forward and easy to read and necessary knowledge for everyone living in the 21st century.

Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel is my first recommendation because of its breadth and scope presented without the obvious high-caliber scholarship of its author. The book is a scientific tour de force without the reader being aware of the depth of knowledge required to even attempt such a marvelous piece of work. Why didn’t the cradle of Civilization, Africa, with its abundance of natural resources rise to the top? Why did the Indian cultures in South America fall despite their obvious advancement? Diamond answers the entirety of these questions and more, down to world weather patterns and agriculture.

The second book I consider a must read is Chris Hedges “Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle,” which puts the problems the United States faces internally in the proper perspective, which includes a compelling look at what is wrong with the American people. Hedges, a former Harvard Divinity student and son of a preacher is an interesting story by itself, but what he has to say penetrates today’s gridlock and racism and pierces the thin smoke we call “the American Public.”

Easy reading is a phrase thrown around by a ton of writers and publicists trying to seduce you into reading their work. I classify easy reading as not needing to refer to my dictionary often. They are written at a high-level, but are nowhere near the atrociousness known as scholarly writing. Like legalese, scholarly writing is a lot of bull covering up the second portion of that phrase. Still, these books are not sit-down and read them in a day writings. They will challenge you, but that is the point.

If you are closed to thinking past learned answers from childhood, like those at so many Sunday schools, these are not for you. They are not for those with closed minds, but they are for the inquisitive among you that has an itch to know. If you are the person that looks into the next room after being told not to do so, you are meant to read these books. They are not for the timid, followers or those afraid to go on “Mr. Gilmore’s property.

Reading doesn’t need to be a lost activity and reading something of substance that is current is even more important. Today’s doctors don’t follow the rules of 2,000-year-old medical books and neither do we believe that the sun revolves around the earth. These two books are important thought starters for any mind.

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