Summer Reading and Listening Picks

Women Carding, Combing and Weaving Wool (detail). Boccaccio. Le Livre des cléres et nobles femmes. MS Fr. 12420, fol. 71; French 1403. Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris.

Women Carding, Combing and Weaving Wool (detail). Boccaccio. Le Livre des cléres et nobles femmes. MS Fr. 12420, fol. 71; French 1403. Bibliotèque Nationale, Paris.

If you are in search of some summer reading (or New School podcasts for your walks and drives), here are some suggestions:

  • Thomas Picketty, Capital in the 21st Century. Paul Krugman says “the most important economics book of the year—and maybe of the decade.  Picketty, arguably the world’s leading expert on income and wealth inequality, does more than document the growing concentration of income in the hands of a small economic elite. He makes a powerful case that we’re on the way back to “patrimonial capitalism,” in which the commanding heights of the economy are dominated not just by wealth, but by inherited wealth, in which birth matters more than effort and talent. Picketty’s range of reference to literature and social thought makes Capital a pleasure to read.

  • Susan CainQuiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Essential for any introvert who wants to understand herself—or for  anyone who wants to understand introverts. As one with strong introversion tendencies, this book helped me understand—and forgive—myself for a fundamental shyness that does not always serve me well.
  • June SingerBoundaries of the Soul: The Practice of Jung’s Psychology. A classic, published in 1972, by one of the great Jungian analysts. Joseph Campbell called it, “the very best introduction to Jung’s psychology.” Anais Nin said, “it is so deep and so rich and so lucid.” I read Singer on Jung as an antidote to reading James Hillmann, whose corrosive brilliance in post-modern archetypal psychology can blind you to the spirit vision of the master under whom he studied.
  • Paul StametsMycellium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save The World. Michael Pollan writes, “Stamets is a visionary emissary from the fungus kingdom to our world, and the message he’s brought back with in this book, about the possibilities fungi hold for healing the environment, will fill you with wonder and hope.” Visually beautiful and profound—by one of the most interesting people I know. If you hear Millennials talking about “mycellial networks” of organizing on the Web, you won’t understand the reference unless you read Stamets.
  • Robert Kaplan, The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate. Kaplan is a tough-minded geo-political thinker. He wrote the classic “The Coming Anarchy” for The Atlantic a decade ago. If you want to understand the abject failure of American foreign policy, The Revenge of Geography demonstrates that the United States has completely failed to recognize how geography shapes the politics and cultures of our adversaries and friends.
  • Andrew Zolli and An Marie HealyResilience: Why Things Bounce Back. “Resilience” has largely replaced “sustainability” in the vocabulary of those working to salvage what can be salvaged of life. Rightly so. The language of sustainability of the Brundtland Commission report and The Earth Summit failed to achieve the North-South bargain needed to prevent climate change and other catastrophes. The new hope is to build resiliency for future shocks of all kinds. Resilience is the necessary book.
  • James HillmanThe Force of Character and the Lasting Life. An invaluable guide to the reality of aging. A great antidote for those hoping to pose as wise elders—our fate is more interesting. The best condensation of his thinking is A Blue Fire, edited by Thomas Moore. An easy read—luminous pearls of wisdom and contentious opinions.
  • Stephen GreenblattThe Swerve: How the World Became Modern. Adam Gopnik says, “The Swerve reveals a key moment in the history of man—the precise moment when ‘humanism’ in its first sense, the quest for the grammar of our ancestors, becomes ‘humanism’ in our sense, the quest for meaning in our pleasures.”
  • Anita Barrows and Joanna MacyRilke’s Love Poems to God. A week without reading Rilke or Hafiz or Rumi is like a week without rain. This book is a jewel of some of Rilke’s most beautiful work. Consider:

She who reconciles the ill-matched threads
of her life, and weaves them gratefully
into a single cloth—

it’s she who drives the loudmouths from the hall

and clears it for a different celebration


where the one guest is you.
In the softness of evening
it’s you she receives.


You are the partner of her loneliess,
the unspeaking center of her monologues.
With each disclosure you encompass more
and she stretches beyond what limits her
to hold you.

If you like good conversations, consider the 175 podcasts we’ve published from The New School at Commonweal. Among recent additions:

  • Eric Karpeles with Frances McDormand and Joel Coen on Adventures in Collaboration
  • Peter Gleckler on climate change.
  • Suzanne Ciani’s piano concert.
  • Ken Wilson on philanthropy that supports the resilience of cultural and biological diversity.
  • Peter Goldmark on when our country loses its way.

And much more. All free on our website.