Professor Jim Flynn is a world recognised expert on intelligence. He has written The Torchlight List – two hundred books which he hopes people will begin to read (or re-read) to gain an understanding of the world. Reading these books will, he believes, free people from being just “swept along by the river of time with no real comprehension of what is happening to them”.
Like all lists, it is intensely personal. Prof. Flynn is an American who has taught at Otago University for many years. As a New Zealander you might want to see something of our culture reflected there . So instead of a book about American socialist Eugene Debs you might want to read something by John A Lee. He recommends books by the American Civil War historian Bruce Catton and maybe reading Judith Binney or James Belich would be better for us New Zealanders. On the other hand the American Civil War has a powerful fascination and much can be learnt that is applicable to all internal conflicts. The treasure house still has a copy of Bruce Catton’s centennial history of the civil war.
In his introduction he launches a five book challenge – to read:
- Isaac Bashevis Singer The Slave
- Thornton Wilder The Bridge of San Luis Rey
- F.Scott Fitzgerald The Great Gatsby
- Erich Maria Remarque, Spark of Life
- Calder Willingham, End as a Man
His bet: “at least two of these will move you to tears and awaken emotions beyond anything pop culture can do”. The other challenge is “Read for forty minutes before bed each night to clear your mind of the day’s concerns”.
I’d have to say reading at the end of the day often sends me to sleep but I’m tempted to read two of the five just to see what I think.