Reading alone is a lost art and reading outside your comfort zone is even rarer in an age of microaggressions and trigger warnings. Yet and still, an associate professor at John Brown University suggests we do just that. “Literary people talk a lot about the power of books to increase readers’ empathy, about the need to engage another’s way of thinking about the world to question preconceptions,” Jessica Hooten Wilson writes. “Even more so in 2018.”
“In a culture in which algorithms control the content we consume—what movies to watch, what goods to buy, what news to listen to—the choice to read a book whose philosophy opposes our own and questions our sacred assumptions is nothing short of revolutionary.”
She herself suggests three “philosophical novels” that would be a good start. “What I mean by philosophical novels are ones that ask the big, ultimate questions: Who am I? What is truth? Is there a God? What is wrong with the world?,” she explains. The trio she recommends that fit this bill are Albert Camus’s The Stranger, C. S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength and David James Duncan’s The River Why?
It should be noted that Hooten Wilson’s literary sympathies run more toward Flannery O’Connor and Walker Percy so she seems to be practicing what she preaches.