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December 14th, 2005 Karla Starr | Books
 

Literary Threesome

Put down this newspaper and buy these dang books already.

     
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Know everything?

Try reading Ideas: A History of Thought and Invention, from Fire to Freud, by Peter Watson (Harper Collins, 822 pages, $29.95). It's weighty, it's overwhelming, and it's awesome. Ideas offers an erudite, arresting take on the history of the world, covering the development of the ideas in religion, state and science that have most influenced civilization. The highly readable chapters follow a grand idea—for example, "The Invention of America" or "The Near-Death of the Book"—over time, giving a sense of context to their development. Used as either a social science/history read or a reference book, this book will teach you anything you want to know—as long as you can pick the dang thing up.

Need to be enlightened?

Check out No Time to Lose, by Pema Chödrön (Shambhala, 386 pages, $24.95). Unlike her classics, most notably When Things Fall Apart, Chödrön's latest book is an interpretation of the eighth-century Buddhist text The Way of the Bodhisattva. Fear not: The writer allows herself ample tangents and room for illumination, using the universal ideas brought forth—including hesitation, intelligence, attachment and fear of suffering—as a springboard to discuss the ways in which Buddhist beliefs can heighten the appreciation of life, even for those who don't typically lean to the East.

Wanna pick an arcane argument in the Pearl District about the use of architecture-as-shameless display of power?

Read The Edifice Complex: How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World, by Deyan Sudjic (Penguin, 403 pages, $27.95). Despite our rampant obsessions with real estate, wealth and size, critical examinations are lacking—at least, well-written ones that don't make you want to move into a tent and forget about buildings entirely. Sudjic, the architecture critic for London's Observer, investigates the politicization of building—the bigger, the more garish, the more name-brand, the better—and creates a compelling introduction to the forces responsible for literally shaping our cities, as well as the place that buildings occupy in the contemporary urban mind.

 
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