Optional Reading is a biweekly column inspired by the bottom ends of syllabi – the readings professors provide but don’t expect us to complete. Every other week, members of our board intend to share exciting and insightful articles ranging in length anywhere from twitter threads to full length books. These are of course optional because we did not publish them. Enjoy this week’s roundup!
David recommends “Northwest Indiana’s Slow Burn” (~ twenty minutes), an essay reflecting on the Rust Belt’s history with steel, oil, and a hundred mile stretch of industrial South Chicago on the precipice of climate catastrophe.
He also recommends “In the Shadow of Lincoln Yards,” another twenty minute article about the conflict between Chicago’s beloved Hideout and the proposed multi-acre, multi-use, multi-billion dollar entertainment district “Lincoln Yards.”
Varun recommends “Why Time Management is Ruining our Lives,” a twenty minute critique of modern productivity culture and how it is motivated by an unsatisfying response to our fear of dying.
Anna recommends “The Trolley Problem” episode from The Good Place (available on Netflix), a twenty minute episode that will give you food for thought on the common ethical dilemma. But if you have time to binge, go for every other episode of the show as well.
Lucy recommends “The First Socialist Tragedy,” a five minute essay written in 1936 by the author Andrei Platonov, which provides a rare philosophical perspective on early Soviet views of the relationship between nature and technological progress, and “Among Animals and Plants,” a forty-minute short story by the same author which describes the world of a rural Soviet worker and deals with similar themes.
Of more global philosophical interest is this brief write up on the Brooklyn Public Library’s “A Night of Philosophy and Ideas,” an event in its third year wherein philosophers, artists, and musicians have a series of conversations and performances.
There’s also this reading list published by the Boston Review (which mentions UChicago’s own Agnes Callard) on “Everyday Philosophy” that contains a lot of interesting philosophical pieces worth your time. In particular, “Dogs Are Not People” is among the most provocative, a fifteen minute read on the human impulse to humanize pets.