Books to Inspire Intellectual Intimacy
JOURNAL / CONVERSATIONS
Journal / Conversations
Of the many ways we humans relate to each other, one of the most approachable is intellectual intimacy. From talking about general interests and hobbies to discussions about the meaning of life, intellectual forms of intimacy can involve less vulnerability than emotional or physical forms. In this way, developing an intellectual connection with others can be a segway into experiencing other forms of intimacy. Or not – it’s a valid form of intimacy in and of itself. To deepen intellectual intimacy, here are 7 books to inspire critical thinking and conversation.
Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good by Adrienne Brown
Pleasure activism explores the question; “How do we make social justice the most pleasurable human experience?” In this collection of works, editor Adrienne Maree Brown draws from the black feminist tradition and works of respected activists to argue that social change that doesn’t feel good can’t be sustainable. Fighting injustice must be fundamentally driven by experiences of pleasure and not simply the avoidance of pain. The tenets of this book are often discussed in sexual or relationship terms, but they can be applied to many aspects of our lives.
The Museum of Modern Love by Heather Rose
When we think about modern art – like the Blue Monochrome(s) by Yves Klein – we often think “why is this art?” The question implies that we, the observer, don’t believe it to be art, but the experts – the art critics, historians and dealers – must. Else, why would it be exhibited? The truth is that deciding what constitutes art and evaluating the worth of a work of art are separate problems. In 2010, modern performance artist Marina Abramovic, sat in a chair, unmoving, facing an audience, for eight hours a day, for 70 days. The work titled, ‘The Artist is Present’ attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors. Set against the backdrop of this moving work of art, The Museum of Modern Love is a meditation on the meaning of life, the meaning of art, and how the two worlds are connected.
The Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell
Ranked number 29 on Time’s list of the top 100 most influential books of the last 100 years, The Hero With a Thousand Faces is an exploration of comparative mythology. Originally published in 1949 and updated in 2008, Campbell theorises that all heroic stories throughout history have shared the same fundamental structure. At its most basic interpretation, Campbell teaches us that unattainable goals appeal to heroes. This structure applied to modern life can help us to understand universal human problems, and how we might go about convincing others to help us solve them.
Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save The World by Tyson Yunkaporta
It’s easy to fall prey to the misrepresentations that suggest Indigenous systems of living are primitive, when in fact they are incredibly advanced, developed over tens of thousands of years. Yunkaporta uses throught experiments to apply Indigenous thinking across western disciplines and explore how we can reorganise to live sustainably.
On economics, for example, Yunkaporta writes;
“In order for economic growth to occur, there must be more demand than supply. Roughly translated, that means there must be more people… missing out on what they need to survive in order for the economy to grow, or in order for anything to have value.”
— PAGE 58
As Bruse Pascoe says, “This is a book of cultural and philosophic intrigue. Read it.”
Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
Middlesex is a human story. A story about transition, and about the binary oppositions that define our lives. In this generational coming of age novel, Eugenides explores the idea that we are made, long before we come into this world. How then, do we come to terms with our identity in a world of dualistic models? A world of nature/nature, us/them, man/woman, these oppositions exist to categorise us in the system, too often failing to help us realise our full potential.
Where to Find More Recommendations
Whilst by no means an exhaustive list, these five books cover a broad selection of themes to inspire critical thinking. To dig deeper, the best book recommendations will always be personal ones. The second best are those by people who read for a living – authors and independent bookstores. Better Read than Dead is one of Australia’s best known independent bookstore, offering a curated selection of books for over 20 years. Blackfulla Bookclub is a must-follow for any person looking to challenge western structures of thought. The acclaimed author of Eggshell Skull, Bri Lee runs the B-List Bookclub from the State Library of NSW – a book a month that is guaranteed to inspire critical thought. Happy reading!