The culture of book reading has never been a national hobby in Pakistan and its fortunes have dwindled further with the advent of social media and other digital modes of entertainment.
While a majority of the younger lot would rather remain glued to binge watching seasons of a favourite TV series rather than grab a favourite book, truth is, reading books will always offer more to a reader than a sitcom or movie ever can. So without much further ado, we list five classic books that we think every university student must find the time and effort to read before setting off on a journey called “practical life”. Enjoy the read, friends.
The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ is the original diary of teenage Anne Frank, who commences writing her accounts on 12 June 1942 in the diary which she receives as a birthday gift at the age of thirteen. The diary details the life of her family, which lives in Frankfurt, Germany, and her own concerns about life. The diary also contains a portrayal of her family hiding from the threat of SS forces and Nazi party’s treatment of Jews during the Second World War. The accounts within the diary end abruptly on 1 August 1944. Apart from an important historical document, the diary is a beautiful work, which exhibits the world seen through the innocent eye of a teenage girl. The diary provides a number of wise lines and quotes about courage, suffering, and freedom, which also reveals the prodigious talent of the young Anne.
Quotes: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
“Human greatness does not lie in wealth or power, but in character and goodness. People are just people, and all people have faults and shortcomings, but all of us are born with a basic goodness.”
The Road Less Travelled, M Scott Peck
Beginning with the famous line “Life is difficult”, The Road Less Travelled is a treasure trove of wisdom gleaned from various traditions, literature, and books across the world. The prominent self-help classic discusses in a lucid style the issues which are of immediate concern to every growing adult, such as love, family, vocation, career, trauma, depression etc., and much more. Peck employs psychotherapy and traditional wisdom regarding life from various traditions and develops ideas about real-life themes and the steps leading to self-actualization. In the life of a student, the university years happen to be more troublesome as they somewhat expose one into to the throes of independence, practicality and decision making by one’s self. The Road Less Travelled might not have answers to all your problems but it will definitively prove to be a helpful guide in keeping your head high in bleak times.
Quotes: “Human beings are poor examiners, subject to superstition, bias, prejudice, and a PROFOUND tendency to see what they want to see rather than what is really there.”
“Problems do not go away. They must be worked through or else they remain, forever a barrier to the growth and development of the spirit.”
Sophie’s World, Jostein Gaarder
Although presented as a children’s book, Sophie’s World is a novel for young adults regarding the history of philosophy. Sophie Amundsen, whose 15th birthday is approaching, receives a letter from a stranger Albert Knox, who commits to educate her. The novel is not a dry assortment of philosophical essays as it blends together the life of Sophie with simplified explanations of some of the most prominent philosophical ideas in Europe. The novel is written with the aim of evoking basic curiosity regarding life and everything it subsumes and helps one to return to the state of childhood when everything was an amazing mystery. It is one of the most recommended novels for students of humanities because they would find many ideas and themes sprinkled across the novel, which are relevant to their class studies too.
Quotes: “A philosopher knows that in reality, he knows very little. That is why he constantly strives to achieve true insight. Socrates was one of these rare people. He knew that he knew nothing about life and about the world. And now comes the important part: it troubled him that he knew so little.”
“The most subversive people are those who ask questions.”
Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky
Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky comprises of a collection of unpublished talks, question-and-answer sessions, and seminars of Noam Chomsky, the famous American political philosopher. In these talks and seminars, Chomsky interprets with his radical lenses the significant political events of the last three decades, including the Vietnam War, Clinton administration, Palestine-Israel problem, and American imperialist foreign policy. Chomsky elucidates in these talks a rigorous critique of the modern world and analyses the dynamics of power in the modern world. Although some might label the writings of Chomsky esoteric, these talks are lucid and easily understandable. Not only the students of political science, history, and international relations, but every university student needs to read this book to gain an informed perspective about politics, power, and social change in the modern world.
Quotes: “The countries that have developed economically are those which were not colonized by the West; every country that was colonized by the West is a total wreck.”
“Real education is about getting people involved in thinking for themselves- and that’s a tricky business to know how to do well, but clearly it requires that whatever it is you’re looking at has to somehow catch people’s interest and make them want to think, and make them want to pursue and explore.”
“…jingoism, racism, fear, religious fundamentalism: these are the ways of appealing to people if you’re trying to organize a mass base of support for policies that are really intended to crush them.”
A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking wrote one of the most famous and widely read books of science ‘A Brief History of Time’ for non-specialist readers, who did not have any previous knowledge of scientific laws and theories. In his book, Hawking presents his theories about the origin, structure, development, and consequent destiny of the universe without employing cryptic jargon. He covers topics like space, time, elemental units called quarks, Big Bang, black holes, quantum mechanics, and many others. Towards the end, he searches for a merging theory that could explain the universe in an appropriate and coherent manner. Like other books on the list about philosophy, self-help, and international politics, this book gives a vigorous account of the scientific discoveries of modern age regarding the universe. The book is essential because it gives immense knowledge about quantum physics and universe without demanding prior knowledge from its readers.
Quotes: “If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?”
“Ever since the dawn of civilization, people have not been content to see events as unconnected and inexplicable. They have craved an understanding of the underlying order in the world. Today we still yearn to know why we are here and where we came from. Humanity’s deepest desire for knowledge is justification enough for our continuing quest. And our goal is nothing less than a complete description of the universe we live in.”
“We find ourselves in a bewildering world. We want to make sense of what we see around us and to ask: What is the nature of the universe? What is our place in it and where did it and we come from? Why is it the way it is?”
Do you have a book in mind that you think should be on everyone’s reading list? Let us know with your comments.