Book Review: ‘The Undiscovered Self’ by Carl Jung

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Updated 23 May 2024
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Book Review: ‘The Undiscovered Self’ by Carl Jung

  • Loss of personal responsibility, the author suggests, can lead to the rise of mass movements and, ultimately, totalitarianism

“The Undiscovered Self,” written by Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Carl Jung in 1957, delivers a warning about the dangers of modern collectivism, arguing that individuals are increasingly losing touch with their true selves.

Loss of personal responsibility, the author suggests, can lead to the rise of mass movements and, ultimately, totalitarianism. 

The book offers a prescription for individual psychological development and moral autonomy as an antidote to society’s collectivist forces.

Jung explains the structure of the psyche, with the conscious ego and much larger subconscious, which contains universal archetypes, as well as personal complexes and shadows that shape our behavior.

The book emphasizes the importance of understanding and integrating the unconscious rather than just relying on the conscious mind.

Jung also explores the notion of “self,” defining “individuation” as the process of integrating the conscious and unconscious to become a whole, individualized person. 

This requires embracing one’s shadow side and personal complexes, not just the socially acceptable persona. 

True individuality and freedom come from this process of self-discovery and self-realization, Jung believes. 

He encourages individuals to take responsibility for their psychological development, a process that involves introspection, self-knowledge, and a willingness to confront the unconscious. 

For additional reading, I would recommend “The Red Book,” which outlines the development of many of Jung’s major theories. 
 


What We Are Reading: ‘One Step Sideways, Three Steps Forward’

Updated 21 June 2024
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What We Are Reading: ‘One Step Sideways, Three Steps Forward’

Author: B. Rosemary Grant

Scientist Rosemary Grant’s journey in life has involved detours and sidesteps—not the shortest or the straightest of paths, but one that has led her to the top of evolutionary biology.

Grant’s unorthodox career is one woman’s solution to the problem of combining professional life as a field biologist with raising a family.


What We Are Reading: Slow Burn by Robert Jisung Park

Updated 19 June 2024
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What We Are Reading: Slow Burn by Robert Jisung Park

It’s hard not to feel anxious about the problem of climate change, especially if we think of it as an impending planetary catastrophe.

In “Slow Burn,” R. Jisung Park encourages us to view climate change through a different lens: one that focuses less on the possibility of mass climate extinction in a theoretical future, and more on the everyday implications of climate change here and now. 

Park shows how climate change headlines often miss some of the most important costs. 


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Love in the Time of Self-Publishing’

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Updated 18 June 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Love in the Time of Self-Publishing’

Author: CHRISTINE M. LARSON

As writers, musicians, online content creators, and other independent workers fight for better labor terms, romance authors offer a powerful example—and a cautionary tale—about self-organization and mutual aid in the digital economy.

In “Love in the Time of Self-Publishing,” Christine Larson traces the 40-year history of Romancelandia, a sprawling network of romance authors, readers, editors, and others, who formed a unique community based on openness and collective support.

 


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Africa’s Struggle for Its Art’ by Benedicte Savoy

Updated 17 June 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Africa’s Struggle for Its Art’ by Benedicte Savoy

For decades, African nations have fought for the return of countless works of art stolen during the colonial era and placed in Western museums. In “Africa’s Struggle for Its Art,” Benedicte Savoy brings to light this largely unknown but deeply important history. One of the world’s foremost experts on restitution and cultural heritage, Savoy investigates extensive, previously unpublished sources to reveal that the roots of the struggle.


What We Are Reading Today: ‘Browsings’

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Updated 17 June 2024
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What We Are Reading Today: ‘Browsings’

Author: Michael Dirda

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Michael Dirda compiled a year’s worth of literary essays in his 2015 book about books, aptly titled, “Browsings: A Year of Reading, Collecting and Living with Books.”

Written on Fridays between February 2012 and February 2013, the essays started out as 600-word columns in The American Scholar that combined the literary and personal. Soon, Dirda found that the word counts naturally ballooned, sometimes doubling and even tripling due to what he referred to as his “natural garrulousness.”

In the intro, he writes: “These are … very much personal pieces, the meandering reflections of a literary sybarite. The essays themselves vary widely in subject matter, and rarely stick closely to their stated titles.”

A longtime book columnist for The Washington Post, Dirda also writes regularly for many literary sections in publications such as the New York Review of Books. The Washingtonian Magazine once listed him as one of the 25 smartest people in the nation’s capital.

This collection of essays serves as a true celebration of American literature. Dirda explores his serendipitous discoveries and the joy of reading for its own sake. His passion goes beyond bibliophilism; the compilation is his love letter to all the books he has encountered along his journey.

The writer’s quick wit is demonstrated clearly on the page, and he comes across as that bookworm friend who can talk endlessly about books with enough passion to make you fall in love with reading again.

“I hope ‘Browsings’ as a whole will communicate some sense of a year in the life of an especially bookish literary journalist. I also hope that it will encourage readers to seek out some of the many titles I mention or discuss,” Dirda writes.

The books he examines are diverse, and he provides readers with insights that jump off the page. The essays are short enough, but he requests that one read only a few at a time.

“Allow me to make two small recommendations: First, don’t read more than two or three of the pieces at one sitting. Space them out. That way ‘Browsings’ will take longer to get through and you’ll enjoy each essay more. Trust me on this.

“Second, consider reading the columns in the order they appear. Each is meant to stand on its own, but I did aim for a pleasing variety in my choice of topics, as well as a seasonal arc to the series as a whole.”