David Damrosch, author of Around the World in 80 Books recommends a fantastic list of books! Before jumping into the interview, please check out David's book:
Q. Do you have a favourite smart thinking book (and why that book)?
A student of philosophy becomes the most powerful man in the world, and then he has to deal with the limits of his power. In his compulsively readable Meditations, Marcus Aurelius reflects deeply on how to manage his sprawling empire and -- even more difficult -- his self-seeking courtiers. “Don’t expect Plato’s Republic,” he tells himself, even as he makes himself into a true philosopher king.
Q. What's the most recent smart thinking book you've read (and how would you rate it)?
I recently read Keith Richards’ memoir Life, which gives one of the best accounts of artistic innovation that I’ve ever read. In the early chapters of the book, Richards gives us a master class in how he and Mick Jagger taught themselves to become revolutionary musicians, absorbing and transforming the lessons of Chicago Blues in their very different circumstances.
Q. Do you have a favourite childhood book?
From age 10 onward, the book of books for me was The Lord of the Rings, which I read ten or eleven times before I finished high school and which I still teach today at Harvard. No one has ever matched Tolkien’s ability to create an entire world, and Gandalf the Grey is a model of smart thinking, from his unraveling the mystery of the One Ring’s origins to the counter-intuitive plan to send the ring to be destroyed in Mordor -- the one strategy that the power-obsessed Sauron would never expect.
Q. Do you prefer reading on paper, Kindle or listening to an audiobook?
All of the above! Always on paper if I’ll be teaching or writing about a text, and on Kindle for massive histories of World War II. I’m currently listening to the audiobook of The Lord of the Rings, performed by an excellent British actor who brings out Tolkien’s pitch-perfect ear for different voices of hobbits, elves, dwarves, Ents, and wizards.
Q. Do you have a favourite bookshop (and why that shop)?
The Community Bookstore in my Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope is the model of a community-based bookstore (as its name suggests), perfect for browsing and filled with great staff picks. Even if we can’t have Plato’s Republic, we can have the Platonic ideal of a bookstore.
Image Copyrights: Penguin Books Ltd (Arond The World In 80 Books), Random House USA Inc (Meditations), Orion Publishing Co (Life), HarperCollins Publishers (The Lord Of The Rings).