HP & PUP: Hufflepuff’s PUP Reading List

This week we have a couple of PUP books for any prospective Hogwarts student seeking placement in the Hufflepuff house. Hufflepuffs don’t really get too much attention; their only notable student was Cedric Diggory who was killed by He-Who-Can’t-Be-Named. Yet, Hufflepuffs value hard work, patience, loyalty, and fair play making them interested in some of our books about art and overall well-being.

1. No Joke: Making Jewish Humor by Ruth Wisse- This book is a perfect balance of scholarly and funny.

Humor is the most celebrated of all Jewish responses to modernity. In this book, Ruth Wisse evokes and applauds the genius of spontaneous Jewish joking–as well as the brilliance of comic masterworks by writers like Heinrich Heine, Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Babel, S. Y. Agnon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Philip Roth. At the same time, Wisse draws attention to the precarious conditions that have called Jewish humor into being–and the price it may exact from its practitioners and audience.

Wisse broadly traces modern Jewish humor around the world, teasing out its implications as she explores memorable and telling examples from German, Yiddish, English, Russian, and Hebrew. Among other topics, the book looks at how Jewish humor channeled Jewish learning and wordsmanship into new avenues of creativity, brought relief to liberal non-Jews in repressive societies, and enriched popular culture in the United States.

Even as it invites readers to consider the pleasures and profits of Jewish humor, the book asks difficult but fascinating questions: Can the excess and extreme self-ridicule of Jewish humor go too far and backfire in the process? And is “leave ‘em laughing” the wisest motto for a people that others have intended to sweep off the stage of history?

2. The Importance of Being Civil: The Struggle for Political Decency by John A. Hall- Knowing of Hufflepuffs’ desire for cooperation, they would probably praise this book and recommend it to those at the Ministry of Magic.

Civility is desirable and possible, but can this fragile ideal be guaranteed? The Importance of Being Civil offers the most comprehensive look at the nature and advantages of civility, throughout history and in our world today. Esteemed sociologist John Hall expands our understanding of civility as related to larger social forces–including revolution, imperialism, capitalism, nationalism, and war–and the ways that such elements limit the potential for civility. Combining wide-ranging historical and comparative evidence with social and moral theory, Hall examines how the nature of civility has fluctuated in the last three centuries, how it became lost, and how it was reestablished in the twentieth century following the two world wars. He also considers why civility is currently breaking down and what can be done to mitigate this threat.

Paying particular attention to the importance of individualism, of rules allowing people to create their own identities, Hall offers a composite definition of civility. He focuses on the nature of agreeing to differ over many issues, the significance of fashion and consumption, the benefits of inclusive politics on the nature of identity, the greater ability of the United States in integrating immigrants in comparison to Europe, and the conditions likely to assure peace in international affairs. Hall factors in those who are opposed to civility, and the various methods with which states have destroyed civil and cooperative relations in society.

3. Why Philanthropy Matters: How the Wealthy Give, and What it Means for Our Economic Well-Being by Zoltan Acs- I could see a Hufflepuff doing good magical deeds for others and this book shows the necessity of such deeds as philanthropy.

Philanthropy has long been a distinctive feature of American culture, but its crucial role in the economic well-being of the nation–and the world–has remained largely unexplored. Why Philanthropy Matters takes an in-depth look at philanthropy as an underappreciated force in capitalism, measures its critical influence on the free-market system, and demonstrates how American philanthropy could serve as a model for the productive reinvestment of wealth in other countries. Factoring in philanthropic cycles that help balance the economy, Zoltan Acs offers a richer picture of capitalism, and a more accurate backdrop for considering policies that would promote the capitalist system for the good of all.

Examining the dynamics of American-style capitalism since the eighteenth century, Acs argues that philanthropy achieves three critical outcomes. It deals with the question of what to do with wealth–keep it, tax it, or give it away. It complements government in creating public goods. And, by focusing on education, science, and medicine, philanthropy has a positive effect on economic growth and productivity. Acs describes how individuals such as Benjamin Franklin, Andrew Carnegie, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey have used their wealth to establish institutions and promote knowledge, and Acs shows how philanthropy has given an edge to capitalism by promoting vital forces–like university research–necessary for technological innovation, economic equality, and economic security. Philanthropy also serves as a guide for countries with less flexible capitalist institutions, and Acs makes the case for a larger, global philanthropic culture.

4. A Glossary of Chickens: Poems by Gary Whitehead- For some lighter reading, Hufflepuffs would certainly enjoy this collection of poetry.

With skillful rhetoric and tempered lyricism, the poems in A Glossary of Chickens explore, in part, the struggle to understand the world through the symbolism of words. Like the hens of the title poem, Gary J. Whitehead’s lyrics root around in the earth searching for sustenance, cluck rather than crow, and possess a humble majesty.

Confronting subjects such as moral depravity, nature’s indifference, aging, illness, death, the tenacity of spirit, and the possibility of joy, the poems in this collection are accessible and controlled, musical and meditative, imagistic and richly figurative. They are informed by history, literature, and a deep interest in the natural world, touching on a wide range of subjects, from the Civil War and whale ships, to animals and insects. Two poems present biblical narratives, the story of Lot’s wife and an imagining of Noah in his old age. Other poems nod to favorite authors: one poem is in the voice of the character Babo, from Herman Melville’s Benito Cereno, while another is a kind of prequel to Emily Dickinson’s “She rose to His Requirement.”

As inventive as they are observant, these memorable lyrics strive for revelation and provide their own revelations.

Now that all four Hogwarts houses have their respective required reading lists, which house do you belong in?