Thomas jefferson wrote: “If a nation hopes to be ignorant and free in a civilized state, it expects what never was and never will be.” Because one cannot choose to be ignorant: he is only a victim of ignorance. Ignorance is the antithesis of freedom. Only from knowledge can we choose.
Ignorance is docility, tunnel effect, lack of options, lack of perspective. Lack of knowing what one really wants. But where to get the knowledge? If the knowledge is in the books, What books are those?
The book as an ideal format
The book is a format that has lasted for centuries, and it can hardly be replaced. Unlike CDs or DVDs, or vinyl, which is simply replaced by the device where the audiovisual product is consumed, the book is more than a reading device, it is also the reading itself. On a DVD we cannot watch a movie (we need a DVD player), but the book is simultaneously receptacle of the information and reproducer of the same.
That is why it is difficult to replace with another support. It is such an ideal product in that sense that e-books, for the moment, are still lagging behind, and it does not seem that the short-term forecasts will change.
In addition, books offer something very different from other audiovisual formats. The contents that we can find in many books hardly exist in audiovisual format. The second reason, more important, is that reading requires greater cognitive involvement than the consumption of other products, including the internet or hypertext.
That is to say, that good education, as well as good reading, also produces more critical citizens who take what they once said to its maximum expression Clovis anderson: “You don’t know anything until you know why you know.”
However, books, polished syntheses of a brain, are not all the same. Thousands of inane books are published. What are those that truly produce emancipatory knowledge? In the first place, good readings, readings rich in consensual knowledge on all disciplines, should not be so much mechanisms to transmit data as a place where they teach us to appease our factory neurobiological defects and, above all, promote the ability to prioritize knowledge, relate them to each other and easily discard those that lack support.
Each must go looking for those special books. I have some of my own, like The clean slate, from Steven Pinker. Behave, from Robert Sapolsky. The Canon, from Natalie Angier. Break the spell, from Daniel C. Dennett. Consilience: the unity of knowledge, from Edward O. Wilson. Beyond intellectual frauds, from Alan Sokal. But if you want a starting library of good books, which will allow you to enter polymathy, in the following project you can find what you were looking for: