Reading Is Critical

 Reading is critical, in both senses of the word. Crucial, of course, insofar as it is a cornerstone of communication, a primary means by which we receive information. But it is also an active form of resistance, a tactic in the struggle against ignorance, misinformation, and manipulation. To read is to become knowledgeable; to become knowledgeable is to become powerful. We invite visiting authors, booksellers, and members of our community to submit "Critical Reading" lists featuring books that are, in these senses, “critical.” Submit yours by emailing events@semcoop.com, and check each post for details on related events!

March 2nd, 2017

Jeff writes: I admire Musil’s remark that “the truth is not a crystal that can be slipped into one’s pocket, but an endless current into which one falls headlong”. Books can be an effective antidote to the reductive urge. The conception of Muslims, Mexicans, Russians, Indians, Jews, and, well, alas, women, for example, about whom we have recently heard so much from the cultural forces that look to caricature and simplify human beings is a conception that might be slipped into one’s pocket. I have been reading, re-reading, or planning to read these books as a way of falling headlong into a stream whose complexity and subtlety portray a reality that is more beautiful, more human, and more truthful.

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February 28th, 2017

Regarding his picks, Peter writes: "How does economic stagnation lead to intolerance and reactionary rage? Why have both capitalism and government planning failed to spark economic growth? What is life actually like in 'the inner cities'? And what can we learn from a model of true resistance to racist authoritarianism?"

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February 27th, 2017

Carolyn Purnell is a French historian who received her PhD from the University of Chicago. Recently, she visited the Co-op to discuss her new book, The Sensational Past: How the Enlightenment Changed the Way We Use Our Senses. The books on her list have, in her words, "a decidedly French flavor, but they all offer insights, questions, and theories that are relevant to American life today." 

The first book, Selling Paris: Property and Commercial Culture in the Fin-de-Siècle Capital (2015), is by a University of Chicago alumna, Alexia M. Yates. Yates explains how real estate came to be considered as commercial objects during the rapid urban development of the late nineteenth century. Understanding how notions of...

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February 25th, 2017

Posted in: Reading Is Critical
February 24th, 2017

Thomas M. Grace is a professor of history at Erie Community College. A 1972 graduate of Kent State University, he earned a PhD in history from SUNY Buffalo after many years as a social worker and union representative. He is the author of Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties, and will discuss his book on Fri. 2/24 6pm at 57th Street Books with Bill Ayers.

All of these books I can recommend without hesitation. Being Black History Month, the first is by Duke University historian, Timothy Tyson, Radio Free Dixie and the Rise of Black Power (1999, 2001). The book tells the riveting story of the militant NAACP leader, Robert F. Williams. Unlike so many books that focus...

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February 23rd, 2017

Bill Ayers is an activist, teacher, and scholar, and the host of our ongoing series Fresh Ayers. On Fri. 2/24 6pm at 57th Street, he will join author Thomas M. Grace to discuss Kent State: Death and Dissent in the Long Sixties.


Books are call’d for, and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half sleep, but, in the highest sense an exercise, a gymnast’s struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical essay—the text furnishing the hints, the...

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February 22nd, 2017

Posted in: Reading Is Critical
February 21st, 2017

Posted in: Reading Is Critical