TED Conversations

Prashanth Gopalan

Founder & Curator, TEDxUW


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What's that one book, movie or work of the human imagination that will make a thinking person think more deeply?

I still remember reading Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy at the age of 10, Jack Whyte's "A Dream of Eagles" septology at age 16, "God's Debris" by Scott Adams at age 19 and Dostoevsky's "Notes from Underground" at age 20.

These works changed the way I looked at things, and there was simply no going back. They gave me the the opportunity to experience a vision of something awe-inspiring in scope for the first time, knowing that it was vastly larger than myself. I remember that magical feeling I experienced reading these works, and knowing that great things were in store for me just waiting to be discovered.

Very few things I've read or watched have been able to evoke that sense of wonder and amazement in me since. I'd like your help changing that.

I'm looking for suggestions of works - books, essays, movies, poems, art, speeches etc - that have helped you experience a similar sense of wonder and delight - the highest expressions of a thinking mind.

I'm open to anything: Works of human thought and reflection that are grand in scope and sweeping in their narrative. Nuggets of philosophical reflection, contemplation and spiritual rumination that have helped us understand ourselves and the (in)humanity of others with more clarity. Works that are cathartic, illuminating or inspiring. Really any product of the human mind that would make a thinking person think more deeply, cohesively and understand.

I'm hoping that together, we'll be able to create a new selection of curated works of the human imagination that others can bookmark, use and follow in turn.

I look forward to your suggestions. Thanks in advance for all your support.


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  • Nov 17 2012: In response to your delightfully wonderful question, I offer up things that made me think: so, in no particular order:

    Publications and Articles:
    Declaration of (American) Independence
    Constitution of the United States
    Emancipation Proclamation
    writings by Abraham Lincoln

    Books and short stories:
    Aristotle's "Poetics" (and other practical philosophies)
    Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality by Dr. Henry Cloud (while the writing itself isn't highly intellectual, the essence impacted me)
    Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O'Connor
    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
    1984 by George Orwell (mentioned previously)
    the Old Testament of the Bible for a history lesson that we haven't learned
    the New Testament of the Bible (sans Revelation) for a story of hope and courage
    any book by Sir Ken Robinson (focus is on the need for a change in our education system)
    Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol
    Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
    The Gospel According to RFK: Why It Matters Now

    Tales from the Mississippi Delta by Dr. Endesha Ida Mae Holland
    Doubt: A Parable by John Patrick Shanley
    A Raisin in the Son by Lorraine Hansberry
    Coyote on the Fence by Bruce Graham

    A Passion of the Christ (yes, it has spiritual significance, but for a 'thinking man' it is so much more than mere religion)
    Schindler's List
    A Beautiful Mind
    And The Band Played On (book to film regarding AIDS in the 80's)

    on TV:
    Discovery Health network: Amazing Families: the Kirtons (all six children with some degree of Autism)
    Temple Grandin (HBO special, an "extra-ordinary" person who happens to have Autism)

    and of course TED - in any form

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