Shashi Caan’s Book List
Intrigued with interactions, phenomena, and life’s pervasive yet seemingly intangible aspects, I love pondering experience and language. Words are our expression and our power. Communication fosters connection and exchange. Thinking gives meaning to the subject of pondering, which utilizes words. As the experimental psychologist Steven Pinker says, “Language is so tightly woven into human expression that it is scarcely possible to imagine life without it. Chances are that if you find two or more people together anywhere on earth they will soon be exchanging words. When there is no one to talk with, people talk to themselves, to their dogs, even to their plants.” (Stephen Pinker, The Language Instinct, 1994).
As a product of an amalgamation of three of the world’s distinct regions—with an Asian heritage, a European education and the last two decades spent in America—I am an embodiment of my interpretation of the confluence of sometimes conflicting cultural views and constructs. Very much aware of the diversity of societal mores and values, my understanding of people and cultures is fundamentally impacted by books and literature from around the world. Seeking to comprehend the core and unifying criteria binding all of humanity (outside of human biology), I find people remain as much the same as they are different.
With these ruminations, my selected list of ten books, reflecting my readings over the past three decades, is eclectic yet narrow. The ideas in these books inform my design thinking but are not specific to design. These are some of my favorites, which continue to stimulate and provide insight and satisfaction. Mostly, these and other readings have helped me to gain cultural liberation, providing a personal sense of freedom toward the shaping of a thoughtful and necessary 21st-century world society.
- Seymour Chwast in Conversation with Steven Heller at The Cooper Union, May 24
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