Do-It-Yourself Alternative High School

High School in the United States is about training for conformity, and molding for obedience. High School gets in the way of becoming educated, in the same way that organized religion gets in the way of realizing spirituality (“knowing God”). The following is a list of 20 books I would gave to a student for a do-it-yourself education (an intellectual expansion) of a type American High Schools cannot deliver. I offer this list to you, and to American teens today, because I think that as a set they represent an entry to the endless path of awakening to the great wide world (reality), and to the art of self-teaching. Anyone who would read all these books, and work out the problems in them (if such), would merit the Alternative High School Diploma, which comes in the form of the personal satisfaction in having enjoyed learning many interesting things, and in how to think better.

How To Solve It
(G. Polya)

Desert Solitaire
(Edward Abbey)

Cat’s Cradle
(Kurt Vonnegut)

The Divine Proportion
(H. E. Huntley)

The Periodic Table
(Primo Levi)

The Ancestor’s Tale
(Richard Dawkins)

Gods, Graves and Scholars
(C. W. Ceram)

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court
(Mark Twain)

The Oedipus Trilogy
(Sophocles)

Slaughterhouse Five
(Kurt Vonnegut)

David Copperfield
(Charles Dickens)

Four Plays by Oscar Wilde:
– The Importance of Being Earnest
– An Ideal Husband
– Lady Windermere’s Fan
– A Woman of No Importance
– and if you want a 5th one: Salomé

Stranger In A Strange Land
(Robert Heinlein)

The Lathe of Heaven
(Ursula K. Le Guin)

Nineteen Eighty-Four
(George Orwell)

Animal Farm
(George Orwell)

Brave New World
(Aldous Huxley)

On The Road
(Jack Kerouac)

Eichmann In Jerusalem
(Hannah Arendt)

Cadillac Desert
(Marc Reisner)

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Mangogarcia Poem Books (2016)

This web-page describes the availability of poems and poetry books by Manuel García, Jr.

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My poems all come out of my thinking and experience. I use a bit of art (artifice?), and fiction (but not lies) to etch my images into sharp relief. But, I also use some ambiguity, and/or “fuzzy logic,” to keep the works open enough for the reader to fill my voids with their imaginations. I always say that in my scientific (technical, and/or for the public) and political writing I aim for logical, crystal clear, unambiguous, well-defined writing. But, in my “poetic” writing I aim to transmit insights “trans-logically” to hopefully make possible “experienced truth” for the reader. My poetry is all honest. But I know it is not schooled (“correct”), and even within my own parameters it can be spotty (clumsy). I make no claims about my poetic writing, beyond that I say what I want how I want, and I am ultimately only concerned that I understand it. I like Zen, and poetry inspired by it, so that is a big influence.

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I began this blog in November 2011. The poems I wrote prior to November 2011 were collected into a book (a PDF file), which can be copied (“downloaded” – at your own risk) from a web-link at this blog page:

Mango Garcia Poems
(before November 2011)
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2011/11/09/mango-garcia-poems/

and/or directly from this specific web-link:

Mangogarcia Poems (< November 2011)
https://manuelgarciajr.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/mangogarcia-poems.pdf

The poems I wrote from November 2011 to November 2016 have just been collected into one volume. There are two versions of this volume (both PDF files): one is a list of web-links to the poem blog pages (which also have photos), and the other is a book with all the poem texts (61 pages). I have put links to these two volumes (for downloading) at the bottom of the “About” page on this blog. The direct web-links appear below:

Mangogarcia Poems 2011-2016
(5 page PDF of web-links to poem blog pages, with photos)
30 November 2016
https://manuelgarciajr.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/mgjr-poems-2011-2016.pdf

Mangogarcia poems 2011-2016
(61 page PDF of poem texts, no photos)
30 November 2016
https://manuelgarciajr.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/mgjr-poems-2011-20161.pdf

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Some blog rants and exegeses are not labeled (tagged) “poetry” or “poems,” but instead “personal reflection” or some other vague label. It’s possible I have some prosy poetry in some of these.

My blog has many translations (somewhat poetic) of Spanish language (numerous Cuban) songs. Each such blog web page also lists YouTube examples (that I liked) of the given song. A complete list is given in the “About” page of my blog. This project is mainly for me, but also to try to connect my children to my parents’ music and culture. These are the perennially popular items on my blog.

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Twelve Essential Books

01. History of the Peloponnesian War (Thucydides, 411 BC)
[all of politics]

02. The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas, 1844)
[friendship, youth, honor and career]

03. Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain, 1884)
[friendship, youth, and awakening to principle]

04. The Way of Zen (Alan Watts, 1957)
[awakening to mindful living]

05. Eichmann in Jerusalem (Hannah Arendt, 1963)
[“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” — Voltaire]

06. The Divine Proportion: A Study in Mathematical Beauty (H. E. Huntley, 1970)
[beauty is natural]

07. The Selfish Gene (Richard Dawkins, 1976)
[life is amoral, and relentless]

08. Cadillac Desert (Marc Reisner, 1986)
[short-sightedness in self-interest amidst natural grandeur]

09. The First Man (Albert Camus, 1994)
[remembering the growth of one’s understanding]

10. Reappraisals (Tony Judt, 1994-2006, 2008)
[portraits of the human society that birthed us]

11. Postwar: A history of Europe since 1945 (Tony Judt, 2005)
[understanding modern Europe]

12. In Defense of Food (Michael Pollan, 2008)
[food for life]

What twelve books would you pick for your Desert Island Library, to read and reread with pleasure, and to understand the human condition of finite lives within eternal cycles?

Excellent 20th Century Books

Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor at http://www.counterpunch.org/, has published a list of his 100 favorite non-fiction books (originally in English) from the twentieth century:

100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the 20th Century (and Beyond) in English
(chosen by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair)
5 April 2014
http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/04/04/100-best-non-fiction-books-of-the-20th-century-and-beyond-in-english/

I have read several of these books as well as a few others, not listed, by some of the authors cited.

Given Cockburn’s and St. Clair’s literary and political interests, they did not consider books on science like the physics book

Taking The Quantum Leap, by Fred Alan Wolf (1981, revised 1989, a National Book Award Winner),

nor scholarly works on folklore and Eastern thought like:

The Hero With A Thousand Faces, by Joseph Campbell (1949), and

The Philosophies Of India, by Heinrich Zimmer (1951).

Let me suggest a few more titles for your consideration, along this theme of “20th century books in English”:

Cadillac Desert, by Marc Reisner (1986, revised 1992).
For me, this book ranks with Thucydides.
I described Cadillac Desert, along with some other works, at
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2014/03/07/living-in-cadillac-desert/

At War With Asia, by Noam Chomsky (1970).
I described my reaction to reading this book, here:
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2012/06/20/on-reading-at-war-with-asia-by-noam-chomsky/

The Making Of A Continent, by Ron Redfern (1983).
Redfern tells, in words and with many photographs, how the Cadillac Desert that captivated Edward Abbey and Marc Reisner came to be (along with the rest of North America).

Vietnam, Inc., by Philip Jones Griffiths (1971).
A book of searing photojournalism that undoubtedly helped to end that war, by working on the public mind.

The Shock Of The New, by Robert Hughes (1981).
A fascinating presentation and explanation of modern art.

The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins (1976).
A 30th anniversary edition of this seminal work on modern (DNA-based) Darwinism is in print.

A book written in the 19th century that was only published in its unexpurgated form during the 20th century is:

The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, edited by Nora Barlow (1958).
“The autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809-1882, with original omissions [usually about religion] restored, edited and with appendices and notes by his granddaughter Nora Barlow.”
See the following blog entry for details about print and free online editions of this book
https://manuelgarciajr.com/2014/03/07/the-life-and-ideas-of-charles-darwin/

Three books (in English) that are 21st century publications (technically outside our 20th century time frame) but are entirely focused on the 20th century (and largely written during it) are the following.

Written by Tony Judt (1948-2010):

Postwar: A History Of Europe Since 1945,
(2005; writing began in Eastern Europe in 1989, during the year of revolutions).

Reappraisals: Reflections On The Forgotten Twentieth Century,
(2008, republication of essays that first appeared in journals between 1994 and 2006).

Thinking The Twentieth Century,
(with Timothy Snyder, completed 2010, published 2012).

Other 20th century books that were originally non-English, but are essential cultural artifacts are:

Relativity, by Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
(1916, expanded and revised up to 1952); written for the general public.

Most of the works by Primo Levi, like:

Survival In Auschwitz,

The Reawakening,

The Periodic Table
(a memoir with chemistry),

The Drowned And The Saved,

all written and published between 1945 and 1987.

These are the books that first came to my mind after reading Jeffrey St. Clair’s “top 100 books in English” article.

Some of these books may be more political while others are more scientific or ecological or artistic or philosophical or psychological, yet I think they all help illuminate facets of the collective consciousness of alert and concerned late 20th and early 21st century minds.

Enjoy!