The Middle Shelf: Part 14- A CGC Guide to Finding Common Ground through Reading

Hello Middleshelfers, Happy International Peace Month and the last month of summer!

Throughout this summer, we have been bringing you recommendations and ideas about books to read that help to promote thinking about ways to reach common ground. One of the central points has been that in order to navigate the somewhat difficult road to common ground, we need to try to understand the so-called “other”. If we can find reasons through reading why people think or believe a certain way about an issue, perhaps the divide can be if not totally bridged then at least subject to reasonable discussion. As our mission states, bring light not heat to public discourse.

It turns out that we are not alone in believing that reading can help guide us to better understanding. Given that August is International Peace Month; we have been searching for books that have an international scope and in doing so we came upon a recent article in The Guardian from the United Kingdom which discusses the international trend that is occurring in the rise in reading non-fiction books. Titled “How the brainy book became a publishing phenomenon,”  by Alex Preston, the article makes the point that the current times we live in are chaotic and people are seeking answers the old fashioned way-by reading books. One publisher said he:

“sees the return to serious works of nonfiction as a response to the spirit of the age. We’re living in a world that suddenly seems less certain than it did even two years ago, and the natural reaction is for people to try and find out as much about it as possible. People have a hunger both for information and facts and for a nuanced exploration of issues, of a sort that books are in a prime position to provide.”

One of the reasons we have been recommending mostly non-fiction this summer is because quality non-fiction that has been vetted and edited properly will most often include primary, secondary and even tertiary sources to support an author’s thesis. The inclusion of footnotes and liner notes and end notes allows the reader to do their own search beyond what the author writes. Consider reading a book that posits an idea that you do not agree with or sounds different than what you might have heard on the news vehicle of your choice, you have the luxury to go to these additional sources.
“At a time when politics is more furious and fragmented than ever when technology is colonizing our everyday existence when medicine is reshaping our lives, we still look to books to make sense of things, to feel ourselves part of a great communal effort to understand our age. These are serious times and they demand serious, intelligent and challenging books.”