Primary Source Material

Before any discussion of books, our initial concern is current events in human rights.  Please survey annual reporting and updates on our blog.

Human Rights Watch

Gov.UK Human Rights and Democracy Reports


We describe liberal arts programs as “good” only if students are required to read and comprehend, at least, the following books: Alex de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America and James Joyce’s Ulysses.  We sympathize with film screenings of Cannibal Holocaust and The Year of Living Dangerously.  Students should be capable of summarizing, in detail with argument points for both sides, the discussion of “arrogance” between Grace and her father in Dogville.  In addition, we recommend the following texts:

Primary Literature

Primo Levi’s If This Is A Man

Frederick Douglas’s Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, An American Slave

Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Autobiographical, Scientific, Religious, Moral, and Literary Writings

Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel

Henry Thoreau’s On Civil Disobedience

Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism 1959-1969

Reporting Vietnam: American Journalism 1969-1975

Alexander Milanovic’s You are an Artist? Never Heard of You

Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations

Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet

Jens Peter Jacobsen’s Niels Lyhne

Graham Greene’s The Quiet American

Robert Kaplan’s The Ends of the Earth

Sigmund Freud and Joseph Breuer’s Studies in Hysteria

Richard Rorty’s Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity

Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic

Michel Foucault’s Birth of the Clinic

Andre Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto (1924)

Andre Breton’s Surrealist Manifesto (1929)

Jacques Derrida’s Specters of Marx

Secondary Literature

John Keegan's The Mask of Command

John Keegan's Intelligence in War

James Pyle's Find Out Anything from Anyone, Anytime

Phillip Houston's Get the Truth

James Olsen's Fair Play: The Moral Dilemmas of Spying

Sean Naylor's Relentless Strike

Stanley McChrystal's Team of Teams

Brief Conclusion

In his “Letter II,” Seneca advises his reader to read one text at a time, digesting it fully before picking up another work. To support his conclusion, he analogizes, “People who spend their whole life traveling abroad end up having plenty of places where they can find hospitality but no real friendships,” and, “[A] wound will not heal over if it is being made the subject of experiments with different ointments; a plant which is frequently moved never grows strong.” Relevance to secret gramma: cryptograms, churned by machine, leave the author wanting and (i.e., conclusion from “Letter XL”) wild and incoherent.