The Middle Shelf: Part 8 – A CGC Guide to Finding Common Ground through Reading

It’s Thursday again CGC MiddleShelfers,

As you know by now, each Thursday we have been bringing you suggestions for reading books that in some way may move the needle towards common ground.  We typically look for new releases with a few of the classics thrown in for good measure.  Our criteria have been non-fiction and to try and present both sides and/or a centrist point of view.  However, this week we thought we would try something a little different and throw it back to you for suggestions as well as some insight on what is on the reading table of you and your friends.

Also, given that this is the first official week of summer and you might be focused on kids getting out of school, graduations and other family events, we wanted to keep things a little lighter.  So with that as the mindset, we started to look at the mid-year 100 books we should all read type lists.  Lo and behold, even for these lists there really is no unanimity.  Of course, there are some crossovers that appear on all the lists but it appears reading is individual in taste even for scholars and book editors.

What we did find interesting is that on most of the general lists as opposed to a specific genre (mystery, science, etc.), novels seem to dominate rather than non-fiction.  The thought perhaps is that novels are more timeless and deal with human emotions while non-fiction is often more influenced by the shifting currents. Not so surprising is the fact that some of the lists include books about food and culture as people have realized that common ground is often found around a good meal. However, we tend to agree with the author of the Esquire list that:

“While a great novel can be engaging, there’s nothing quite like a true story—whether that story comes in the form of deep reporting, memoir, or personal essays. Nonfiction gives us the chance to look at the world around us and learn something about how we fit within it. And nonfiction also tells us a lot about ourselves.”  

Below are links to the book lists we found from the U.S. and Great Britain. The one from PBS is actually a poll for the Great American Read (novels only) which you can still vote on.  Do any of these books in your opinion offer some ways to achieve common ground? Do town-wide reading challenges often held by libraries help bring a community together as everyone reads and hopefully discusses the same thing?  If you were making a list of must reads for people looking for common ground and how to really talk to one another which books would be on your list?

Top 10 Book List for this Week