Books Everyone Should Read

Every once in a while a list of books appears on Facebook or in some magazine article. The list is called the “books everyone should read.” On first glance, the list appears harmless enough, but what issues lurk within such lists?

Interestingly, the same issues also occur within the area of curriculum studies. In curriculum studies, there are three basic questions one should ask about curriculum and curriculum documents, which include:

  • Who should decide what content is (or books are) important?
  • What content (or book) is more important?
  • Why is certain content (or books) considered more important?

If we dig into these questions, we begin to find that certain political, economic, social, and religious agendas and biases are embedded in what appears to be a fairly benign list of books or sets of knowledge. We also can ask another revealing question: what content (or books) are omitted from the list? And, what are the implications of such omissions?

Some tangential effects of book list is that they can transmit a certain level of psychological control. If you look through such a list and you have only read a few books on the list, you may react with feelings of inadequacy of one sort or another. These kinds of reactions may affect how you respond to authority in the future.

What is wrong with the list of books you’ve read? In fact, a better activity may be to ask what books have been most influential over you. Such an activity also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the ideas that form a foundation for our lives. Put together such a list and think about how differently you feel after completing this list versus reacting to the BBC (or some other) list of books everyone should read.

About Jeff Bloom

I’m a Researcher with and am on the Advisory Board of the International Bateson Institute and am a professor emeritus with the Department of Teaching & Learning, College of Education, Northern Arizona University.

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