Martin Heidegger, before he became the 20th century’s greatest philosopher and infamous for a morally questionable life, was a devout Catholic. His father was the sexton in their parish. Martin and his brother helped. Below is taken from Rüdiger Safranski’s biography of Heidegger:

The “sexton lads,” Martin and his younger brother, Fritz, had to help with the church services. They were servers, they picked flowers to decorate the church, they ran errands for the priest, and they rang the bells. There were–as Heidegger recalls in On the Secret of the Bell Tower (Vom Geheimnis des Glockenturms)–seven bells in the tower, each with its own name, its own sound, and its own time. There was the “Four,” to be rung at four in the afternoon; the “Alarm Bell,” which roused the town’s sleepers from their slumber; and the “Three,” which was also the knell. The “Child” rang for sunday school and for rosary worship; the “Twelve” marked the end of morning lessons at the school; the “Klanei” was the bell struck by the hour hammer; and the one with the most beautiful ring was the “Big One”; it would ring on the eve and on the morning of high holidays. Between Maundy Thursday and Easter Saturday the bells were silent; instead there were rattles. A cranking handle set in motion a number of little hammers that struck against hard wood. A rattle stood in each of the four corners of the tower, and the boy bell ringers had to work the handles in turn to ensure that the harsh sound went out in all four directions of the compass The most beautiful time was Christmas. Toward half past three in the morning, the boy ringers would come to the sextion’s house, where mother Heidegger had laid the table with cakes and milky coffee. After this breakfast, lanterns were lit in the front-door passage, and everyone went out through the snow and the winter’s night to the church opposite and up into the dark bell tower to the frozen ropes and ice-covered clappers. “The mysterious fuge,” Martin Heidegger wrote, “in which the church feasts, the days of vigil, and the passage of the seasons and the morning, midday, and evening hours of each day fitted into each other, so that a continual ringing went through the young hearts, dreams, prayers, and games–it is this, probably that conceals one of the most magical, most complete, and most lasting secrets of the tower.” (Safranski 7)

That image of the boys going out into the snow around four in the morning to climb the bell tower and ring the bells is beautiful. These are the kinds of things we have lost in our frantic grasping after modernism and progress.


Cited works:
Safranski, Rüdiger. Martin Heidegger: between Good and Evil. Translated by Ewald Osers, Harvard University Press, 2002.

Many art critics have religious leanings. Many artists have religious leanings. Many works of art deal with religious themes. However, there would seem to be an unspoken pact among art critics (and art teachers) that religion and theological concerns will not be seriously considered as a topic or approach to thinking and writing about art. This is not a great situation for either artists or anyone who would appreciate art.

Jonathan Anderson is an artist, critic, and professor, and author of the book: Modern Art and the Life of a Culture: The Religious Impulses of Modernism (Studies in Theology and the Arts). In this lecture below he surveys and addresses this lack of theology in art criticism, and why it matters — not merely because he’s a Christian, but because theology can help all of us better understand works of art.

Anderson mention James Elkins and his book On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art. Here is a lecture Elkins gave on that topic a decade ago:

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Les Très Riches Heures du duc de Berry, Octobre, the Musée Condé, Chantilly, circa 1440

The three videos below are of an amazing lecture series by Dr. Andrew Jones on the worldview of the High Middle Ages. It is fairly technical, but this is important. We inhabit our modern worldview(s) like fish inhabit the sea. It takes a lot to grasp one’s own worldview, let alone understand another so foreign to our sensibilities as the Medieval one. The depth of Dr. Jones’ talks provide much of the necessary perspective to understand a traditional Christian perspective that is, I believe, essentially foreign to modern Christians.

I find the Middle Ages worldview particularly fascinating in light of Rod Dreher’s timely and provocative book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation. Dreher poses the idea that, since we live in a post-Christian world, Christians should recognize that fact and focus on what can be done to shore up the faith, including communities and practices that support the faith as a kind of bulwark against the prevailing winds of our time. This does not mean forsaking the culture and leaving it entirely to its own devices, rather he argues we should find other means of engagement than what we might be familiar with, while also focusing less on secular battles and more on building healthy Christian communities. Still, his vision is a kind of retreat into faith and Christian culture, and out of the culture wars and the insidious power of secular society. Drehere uses St. Benedict as an examples and talisman for his thought experiment — leaving us with more of a Medieval monastic approach than a modern sociopolitical stance. I find his argument mostly convincing — at least I want it to be, perhaps more than it is.

And yet, Dr. Jones’ approach is not about critiquing our modern world as Dreher does. He merely lays out the High Middles Ages worldview in such detail that one cannot help but compare it to our own. My reaction is basically this: Christians should jettison the modern worldview and embrace the medieval one. But this is no mere “Benedict option.” Rather, it is something even more profound. It would require a nearly total worldview, total cosmological reorientation of Christianity itself. In other words, what we call Christianity today is a far cry from what Christianity was in the Middle Ages, and we might want to grieve that loss.

Our modern worldview is the child of the Enlightenment. Modern Christianity, primarily Protestantism but also too much of modern Catholicism, is also a child of the Enlightenment, which was a child of Protestantism — a kind of serpent eating its own tail. In other words, once Western Civilization gave up on the Medieval worldview it’s been a slow slog downhill in many respects. Does this mean we ought to go back to the Middle Ages? No. But we ought to look deeply into their worldview and critique our own.

In short, we could only have ended up with the Novus Ordo Mass once we lost our understanding of the Medieval world view. It seems clear to me that the struggles many modern Catholics have with accepting the Traditional Latin Mass is that it truly seems fundamentally foreign to them, and in a sense it is. I would argue, and I think it is also clear from these lectures, that the Medieval worldview, at its core at least, is both more biblical and more human, than the worldview underlying much of what we might call “modern Catholicism.”

So, in another sense, we do need to go back. We need to recover the Truth about God, the Church, and ourselves. And we should look to the pinnacle of Christendom, its core beliefs, and its way of looking at the world and the life of man, to find that Truth.

For Protestants this will mean recognizing the more Biblical worldview is a traditional Catholic one. For Catholics this means the traditional Catholic worldview is one that far too many Catholics today (perhaps most) do not know or live. Perhaps what the Church needs is a new kind of renaissance — a rediscovery of what was lost, and then letting that discovery reanimate the Church and our lives. This could, then, become what brings Christians back to the same table, once again spiritually, liturgically, and visibly united in Christ.

I’m reposting this, because it is so good. But also because we live in a society that has become a slave to sentimentality. This is also true of Christianity — sentimentality affects so much and we are so blind. O’Connor hated sentimentality. Ralph Wood speaks to this in the midst of so much else he says. A rich talk indeed.

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A truly great lecture…

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We know the Israelites were called by God to be holy and set apart.

Leviticus 11:44: “I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am holy.”

The word holy in Hebrew is: קָד֖וֹשׁ or
According to Strong’s:
qadosh: sacred, holy
Part of Speech: Adjective
Transliteration: qadosh
Phonetic Spelling: (kaw-doshe’)
Short Definition: holy
In reference to a person: holy one, saint
from qadash; sacred (ceremonially or morally); (as noun) God (by eminence), an angel, a saint, a sanctuary — holy (One), saint.

We tend to see this being holy and set apart as part and parcel with the old covenant, with the laws and practices prescribed and proscribed for the Jews.

However, we find the same call to holiness in the New Testament.

“Because it is written, ‘Be ye holy; for I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:16)

The word holy in Greek is: Ἅγιοι
According to Strong’s:
hagios: sacred, holy
Part of Speech: Adjective
Transliteration: hagios
Phonetic Spelling: (hag’-ee-os)
Short Definition: set apart, holy, sacred
Definition: set apart by (or for) God, holy, sacred.

In both instances we find that some group of people (the Israelites in the Old Testament, and the Christians in the New Testament) are called to be holy because God is holy.

Because of this we can see the life of the Christian as fundamentally a continuation of what began in the Old Testament. The Church has taken the place of Israel as the People of God, meaning that like the Israelites, Christians are called to be set apart, to be the holy ones.

Re-learning what it means to be holy, I would argue, just might be the key work of the Church today. And perhaps the popularity of such books at Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation, Archbishop Chaput’s Strangers in a Strange Land: Living the Catholic Faith in a Post-Christian World, and Anthony Esolen’s Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture all stem from a deep resonance and growing sense that the Church has lost, and must recover, its commitment to holiness.

From Brideshead Revisited:

Since the days when, as a school-boy, I used to bicycle round the neighbouring parishes, rubbing brasses and photographing fonts, I have nursed a love of architecture, but though in opinion I had made that easy leap, characteristic of my generation, from the puritanism of Ruskin to the puritanism of Roger Fry, my sentiments at heart were insular and mediaeval.

This was my conversion to the baroque. Here under that high and insolent dome, under those tricky ceilings; here, as I passed through those arches and broken pediments to the pillared shade beyond and sat, hour by hour, before the fountain, probing its shadows, tracing its lingering echoes, rejoicing in all its clustered feats of daring and invention, I felt a whole new system of nerves alive within me, as though the water that spurted and bubbled among its stones was indeed a life-giving spring.

I know these thoughts too. But they came late to me. The irony is that I was an Art History major for one of my BA’s and I studied the great art and architecture from down through the ages. Great Gothic cathedrals and Romanesque arches went right by me, early medieval statuary and late renaissance painting flashed before my eyes, and I knew nothing. Yes, I understood them as designs, as formal structure of line and color, but I had no knowledge of the world from which they inevitably emerged. And yet, these wonders nonetheless took root in my brain, percolated there, lay almost dormant, and then more recently emerged as I stumbled upon the historical and apostolic church.

I had read Ruskin and Fry, and others, and imbibed of their puritanism, a puritanism that ironically was even more romantic than my Baptist training would allow, and thus I chaffed at the small mindedness of my boyhood religion. But still, the soul longs for something transcendent, like the poet describes the deer panting for water. Puritanism is a spiritual desert. Thus I know something of that “whole new system of nerves” that woke up Charles Ryder.

Steve Jobs is, hands down, one of the most important business and cultural leaders of all time, but…

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I am reading Walter Isaacson’s biography, Steve Jobs, and I read the following:

Even though they were not fervent about their faith, Jobs’ parents wanted him to have a religious upbringing, so they took him to the Lutheran church most Sundays. That came to an end when he was thirteen. In July 1968 Life magazine published a shocking cover showing a pair of starving children in Biafra. Jobs took it to Sunday school and confronted the church’s pastor. “If I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I do it?” The pastor answered, “Yes, God knows everything.”

Jobs then pulled out the Life cover ans asked, “Well, does God know about this and what’s going to happen to those children?”

“Steve, I know you don’t understand, but yes, God knows about that.”

Jobs announced that he didn’t want to have anything to do with worshipping such a God, and he never went back to church. (pp. 14-15)

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I know that struggle with God’s sovereignty.

Images of starving and suffering children from around the world have become so ubiquitous that we tend to merely give a collective shrug.  From a Christian perspective one might want to jump in and say, “Steve, it’s Christ you are looking for!” But we should be careful that we do not proclaim Christ and lack the response of Jobs. He rightly was grieved by what he saw on the cover of Life. Francis Schaeffer once wrote that he was saddened by how the passionate youth of the sixties had, by the mid-seventies, largely abandoned their socio-political critique and gave into the pursuit of personal peace and prosperity. He was saddened not because they had abandoned their solutions, which they had but which Schaeffer also saw as inadequate, but because they had abandoned their critique. In others words, the troubles of the world no longer bothered them as it once did. They gave in to affluence. We should be as bothered as was Jobs.

On the other hand, is it not interesting that Apple Computer has given us so many insanely great products, and even changed the world in ways that we love, because its founder and driving life-force, was a man who passionately sought answers to life by first consciously refusing to accept the God who made him? Is it not ironic that we benefit from that?

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Jobs was driven to perfection, in part, because he was seeking ultimate meaning which remained out of reach once God no longer existed, or was irrelevant. There is no doubt that Jobs was a genius; a truly brilliant man whose passions changed the world. But the more I read of his life the more I find him not a good person—not that I’m a saint. One could say he was troubled, or tormented, or that he just wanted excellence. But the fact is, his commitment to himself and what he wanted constantly overshadowed his ability to love others. I don’t think this was just a shortcoming, like not having enough information. And I don’t think it can be blamed on his being given up for adoption, as many want to say. (I can only speak about reported things he did and said; I cannot speak about his heart.) I think his troubles were spiritual.

In short, Jobs’ vision of the world, at least through much of his career, did not include a wise understanding of, or commitment to, love. Which is interesting considering he was so committed to spiritual enlightenment. It is also somewhat predictable that the person who dismisses God because of a story about children suffering on the other side of the world will be blind to his own profound lack of interest in loving his own neighbor, co-worker, waiter, friend. Perhaps Jobs changed later in his life, but I haven’t got to the end of the book yet. I hope he changed, for his own sake as well as others. And perhaps he has not yet reached the “end of the book” either.

And don’t you wish that Lutheran pastor had been more prepared to answer Jobs’ questions? A lesson for us all.

This is one of my favorite opening paragraphs:

The Brangwens had lived for generations on the Marsh Farm, in the meadows where the Erewash twisted sluggishly through alder trees, separating Derbyshire form Nottinghamshire. Two miles away, a church-tower stood on a hill, the houses of the little country town climbing assiduously up to it. Whenever one of the Brangwens in the fields lifted his head from his work, he saw the church-tower at Ilkeston in the empty sky. So that as he turned again to the horizontal land, he was aware of something standing above him in the distance.

The opening paragraph from The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence

The following post I originally published in 2007 on another blog. I think it is worth posting again.

I entered the University or Oregon’s film studies department (Dept. of Telecommunication and Film) in 1984. During that period I took classes from Prof. William Cadbury who, in my opinion, was a GREAT teacher and one of my favorite professors of all time. In one of his classes he handed out a booklist that I have kept with me all these years. I have re-typed it below (any misspellings are my own). There was also a classical music list, but I have not included it.

The list was created by Prof. Cadbury and his wife, the poet Maxine Scates, for her niece Tracy (hence Tracy’s Booklist), who was entering UCLA as a freshman. The list first appeared in 1980 and was then updated. This is the 2nd edition. I suppose you could say this is a book list for anyone who want’s to combine being well read and culturally intelligent. It’s not a “classical” reading list, but has a healthy dose of modern and relatively modern books.

The premise of the list is as follows:

“People are rarely told an opinion of the actual bibliography of fictions (mostly novels, a few stories), of which a cultured person in modern America is master. The following is an opinion of that bibliography. It suggests: don’t waste your time reading lesser books when you read; always have at least one book that you’re in the middle of, and usually have it be one of these. The list is divided into translations and English language originals; it is presented in full awareness of the presumption in doing so, and in the hope that the utility will override the presumption.” [from Prof. Cadbury’s introduction]

Naturally, this is a very personal list. The non-fiction section is also skewed towards the arts, which is okay by me (a critical topic for our contemporary, visually-based culture). And for myself this list represents the considered opinion of an older and wiser person who, after engaging for many years both intellectually and emotionally with college students, felt the neccessity to impart some idea of what it means to be a cultured person—not in totality, but at least a slice of that ideal.

Tracy’s Booklist: 2nd Edition

BOOKS ORIGINALLY NOT IN ENGLISH

Balzac, Honoré de: Eugénie Grandet; Old Goriot; Lost Illusions
Borges, Jorge Luis: Labyrinths
Borowski, Tadeusz: This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen
Camus, Albert: The Stranger; The Plague
Cervantes, Miguel: Don Quixote
Chekhov, Anton: The Lady with the Dog and Other Stories
Colette: My Mother’s House; Sido
Condé, Maryse: Segu
Cortazar, Julio: Blow-Up
Döblin, Alfred: Berlin Alexanderplatz
Dostoyevsky, F.: The Brothers Karamozov; Crime and Punishment; The Idiot; Notes from Underground
Eco, Umberto: The Name of the Rose
Flaubert, Gustave: Madame Bovary
Garcia Marquez, G.: 100 Years of Solitude
Kafka, Franz: The Trial; The Castle; “Metamorphosis”; “In the Penal Colony”
Levi, Primo: If Not Now, When?; The Periodic Table
Lustig, Arnost: Night and Hope; The Unloved
Mahfouz, Naguib: The Thief and the Dogs; Miramar
Malraux, André: Man’s Fate
Mann, Thomas: Death in Venice; The Magic Mountain; Joseph and His Brothers
Murasaki, Lady: The Tale of Genji
Nabakov, Vladimir: Pale Fire
Narayan, R. K.: The Financial Expert; The Man-Eater of Malgudi
Pavese, Cesare: The Moon and the Bonfire
Proust, Marcel: Remembrance of Things Past
Rulfo, Juan: Pedro Paramo
Schwartz-Bart, André: The Last of the Just
Sembene, Ousmane: God’s Bits of Wood
Stendhal: The Red and the Black; The Charterhouse of Parma
Tolstoy, Leo: War and Peace; Anna Karenina

ENGLISH LANGUAGE:

Achebe, Chinua: Things Fall Apart
Amis, Kingsley: Lucky Jim
Arnow, Harriet: The Dollmaker
Austen, Jane: Mansfield Park; Emma; Pride and Prejudice; Persuasion
Baldwin, James: Go Tell It On the Mountain; Another Country; Tell Me How Long the Train’s Been Gone
Brontë, Charlotte: Jane Eyre
Brontë, Emily: Wuthering Heights
Brooks, Gwendolyn: Maud Martha
Carroll, Lewis: Alice in Wonderland
Cather, Willa: My Anatonia; A Lost Lady
Chandler, Raymond: The Big Sleep; The Long Goodbye
Cherryh, C. J.: “The Chanyr Saga”; the “Cyteen” books
Chopin, Kate: “The Storm” and other stories
Cisneros, Sandra: The House on Mango Street
Conrad, Joseph: Lord Jim; Heart of Darkness; Nostromo
Daley, Grace: Enormous Changes at the Last Moment
Darganyemba, Tsiti: Nervous Conditions
Dickens, Charles: Bleak House; Great Expectations; Hard Times
Eliot, George: Middlemarch
Ellison, Ralph: The Invisible Man
Emecheta, Buchi: In the Ditch
Erdrich, Louise: Love Medicine
Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury; Absalom, Absalom
Fielding, Joseph: Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby
Ford, Ford Madox: Parade’s End
Forster, E. M.: A Passage to India; Howards End
Fowles, John: The French Lieutenant’s Woman
Glasgow, Ellen: Barren Earth
Golding, William: Lord of the Flies
Gordimer, Nadin: Burgher’s Daughter; Occasion for Loving; July’s People
Green, Graham: The Heart of the Matter; Brighton Rock
Hagedorn, Jessica: Dogeaters
Hammett, Dashiel: The Thin Man
Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the D’Urbervilles; Jude the Obscure
Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The Scarlet Letter
Head, Bessie: When Rain Clouds Gather
Heller, Joseph: Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest: The Sun Also Rises
Hogan, Linda: Mean Spirit
Hurston, Zora Neale: Their Eyes Were Watching God
James, Henry: The Ambassadors; The Golden Bowl
Jen, Gish: Typical American
Jones, Gayl: Corregidora
Joyce, James: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Ulysses; Dubliners
Karbo, Karen: The Diamond Lane
Karmel, Ilona: An Estate of Memory
Kincaid, Jamaica: Annie John
Kingston, Maxine Hong: China Men
Kogawa, Joy: Obasan
Lawrence, D. H.: Sons and Lovers; Women in Love
Lessing, Doris: The Marriage Between Zone 3, 4, and 5; The Golden Notebook; Shikasta
Lesueur, Meridel: Ripening
Loge, David: Small World
Mansfield, Katharine: Collected Stories
Marshall, Paule: Brown Girl, Brown Stones; Praise Song for the Widow
McCuller, Carson: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
Melville, Herman: Moby Dick
Meredith, George: The Egoist
Milne, A. A.: Winnie-the-Pooh; The House at Pooh Corner
Momada, N. Scott: House Made of Dawn
Morrison, Toni: Beloved; Sula
O’Brien, Tim: The Things They Carried
O’Connor, Flannery: Wise Blood; The Violent Bear It Away
Olson, Tillie: Tell Me A Riddle
Orwell, George: 1984
Paton, Alan: Cry the Beloved Country
Petry, Ann: The Street
Porter, Katharine Anne: Collected Stories; Ship of Fools
Pratchett, Terry: Moving Pictures
Pynchon, Thomas: Gravity’s Rainbow; V
Rhys, Jean: After Leaving Mr. MacKenzie
Roth, Phillip: Portnoy’s Complaint
Saki (H. H. Munro): The Short Stories of Saki
Salinger, J. D.: The Catcher in the Rye; Nine Stories
Schwartz, Lynne Sharon: Disturbances in the Field; Leaving Brooklyn
Scott, Sir Walter: Rob Roy; The Heart of Midlothian
Silko, Leslie Marmon: Ceremony
Singer, Isaac Bashevis: The Family Moskat; The Magic of Lublin
Stein, Gertrude: The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas; The Lives
Swift, Jonathan: Gullivers Travels
Tan, Amy: Joy Luck Club
Thackeray, William M.: Vanity Fair
Thomas, D. M.: The White Hotel
Tolkien, J. R. R.: Lord of the Rings
Toomer, Jean: Cane
Trollope, Anthony: Barchester Towers; Phineas Finn
Tutuola, Amos: The Palm-Wine Drinkard
Twain, Mark: Huckleberry Finn
Updike, John: Rabbit Run
Wachtel, Chuck: Joe the Engineer
Walker, Alice: The Color Purple; Meridian; The Short Life of Grange Copeland
Waugh, Evelyn: Vile Bodies; Brideshead Revisited
Welty, Eudora: Collected Stories
West, Nathaneal: The Day of the Locust; Miss Lonelyhearts
White, T. H.: The Sword in the Stone
Wodehouse, P. G.: Blandings Castle
Wolfe, Thomas: Look Homeward Angel
Woolf, Virginia: Mrs. Dalloway; To the Lighthouse; The Waves; Orlando
Wright, Richard: Native Son
Wharton, Edith: The House of Mirth; The Age of Innocence

NON-FICTION:

Baritz, Loren: Backfire
Baxandall, Michael: Painting and Experience in 15th Century Italy
Beardsley, Monroe: Aesthetics
Berger, John: The Success and Failure of Picasso
Bernstein, Leonard: The Unanswered Question
Campbell, Joseph: The Mythic Image
Chomsky, Noam: Language and Mind; Turning the Tide
Des Pres, Terrence: The Survivor: An Anatomy of Life in the Death Camps; Writing Into the World
Eriksen, Erik H.: Childhood and Society
Freire, Paulo: Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Frye, Northrop: Anatomy of Criticism
Gombrich, E. H.: Art and Illusion
Hacker, Andrew: Two Nations: Black and White, Separate and Unequal
Harding, Vincent: There is a River
Hauser, Arnold: The Social History of Art
Herbert,, Robert L.: Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society
Hollander, Anne: Seeing Through Clothes
Hyde, Lewis: The Gift
Jencks, Charles: Postmodernism
Johnson, Paul: The Birth of the Modern
Kegan, John: The Face of Battle; The Price of Admiralty
Kozol, Jonathan: Illiterate America; Savage Inequalities; Rachel and Her Children
Levi, Primo: Survival at Auschwitz
Monod, Jacques: Chance and Necessity
Neisser, Ulrich: Cognition and Reality
Robert, J. M.: The Pelican History of the World
Schama, Simon: Citizens
Schell, Jonathan: The Fate of the Earth
Sheehan, Neal: A Bright Shining Lie: John Paul Vann and America in Vietnam
Spiegelman, Art: Maus; Maus II
Weismann, Donald L.: The Visual Arts as Human Experience
Williams, Juan: Eyes on the Prize
Zinn, Howard: People’s History of the United States

I’ve been thinking of adding to this list myself. There are at least a few books I would consider. Suggestions are welcome.