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Summer Reading List

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Books to read over the summer covering interests in biology, literature, and philosophy as therapy.

Sorrows of Young Werther

Celebrated as a leading figure of the German literary movement known as Sturm und Drang ("storm and stress"), Goethe made his reputation with this short novel, originally published in 1774. Its tale of a sensitive young man's self-destructive passion for a lover who ultimately rejects him was based in part on the author's own experiences, and the story's tragic resolution inspired a wave of suicides among young romantics throughout Europe. Goethe's portrayal of Zerrissenheit, "the state of being torn apart," in which a character struggles to reconcile his artistic sensibilities with the demands of the objective world, proved tremendously influential to subsequent writers, and The Sorrows of Young Werther continues to speak to modern readers.

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Metaphysics, Materialism, and the Evolution of Mind

First published in 1974 as a companion volume to Howard E. Gruber's "Darwin on Man", Paul H. Barrett's transcriptions of Darwin's M and N notebooks served to shed new light on the evolutionist's methods and motivation. Writing in the "New York Times Book Review", Stephen Jay Gould explained: "Darwin kept [these notebooks] primarily in 1838, when he was 29 years old. In them, he recorded his early conviction of evolutionary continuity between humans and all other animals...These notebooks display all the features of humanistic intellect that his detractors denied. We find erudition in his comments on Plato, Locke, Hume, Adam Smith, Whewell, Burke, Montaigne, Lessing and Spencer...We appreciate an artistic bent in his delight with nature and her prophet Wordsworth...We grasp the breadth of his bold attempt to clothe all human thought and behaviour in a new evolutionary garb...Charles Darwin was reconstructing the world and he knew exactly what he was doing."

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Infinite Jest

Somewhere in the not-so-distant future the residents of Ennet House, a Boston halfway house for recovering addicts, and students at the nearby Enfield Tennis Academy are ensnared in the search for the master copy of INFINITE JEST, a movie said to be so dangerously entertaining its viewers become entranced and expire in a state of catatonic bliss ...'Wallace's exuberance and intellectual impishness are a delight, and he has deep things to say about the hollowness of contemporary American pleasure ...sentences and whole pages are marvels of cosmic concentration ...Wallace is a superb comedian of culture' James Wood, GUARDIAN

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Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life

All of us lead two parallel lives: the life we actually live and the one that we wish for and fantasise about. And this life unlived (the one that never actually happens, the one we might be living but for some reason are not) can occupy an extraordinary part of our mental life. We share our lives, in a sense, with the people we have failed to be - and this can become itself the story of our lives: an elegy to needs unmet, desires sacrificed and roads untaken. In this elegant, compassionate and absorbing book, acclaimed psychoanalyst Adam Phillips demonstrates that there might in fact be much to be said for the unlived life. Drawing deeply on the works of Shakespeare and of Freud, amongst other writers and thinkers, he suggests that in missing out on one experience we always open ourselves to the potential of another, and that in depriving ourselves of the frustration of not getting what we think we want, we would be depriving ourselves of the possibilities of satisfaction.

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