On answers out there

I was raised Catholic and was always told that there was a God, etc. I’m curious and I know there’s answers out there as to why a God wouldn’t exist but I don’t even know where to start. Any book suggestions?

Start with Letter to a Christian Nation by Sam Harris. It’s a small bite, easy to chew, and even easier to swallow. If you like his style, read The End of Faith. After that, try The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. If you want to keep going, read God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens.

While you’re at it, pick up a book on world religion. Study them all, and then try a little philosophy. Learn as much as you can about all the crazy shit people believe, and then learn as much as you can about the nature of belief itself.

It’s good that you’re curious, but you’re still in a place where you expect to find answers out there. There are no answers, kid. That’s kind of the whole point. The best you can do is seek to ask increasingly sophisticated levels of unanswerable questions.


On getting your news.

Dear Coquette,

Where do you get your news? Growing up, I watched both my siblings reach a phase where they realized that the major news resources are heavily biased, so they jumped to the independent, conspiracy-theory-laden end of the spectrum and started eating it up just because it was different. As a result, I checked out altogether. I figured all news is biased, so why bother?

I know I’m not exactly helping the situation by asking someone else to spoon-feed me a news source I can trust, but I’m 22, and I’m tired of feeling sheltered and stupid. I don’t want to be willfully ignorant, but I know I’m naive and don’t have the critical thinking skills or instincts to know when a reporter is full of crap. I’m afraid that I’m the type to mindlessly buy whatever I’m told. How do I get my head out of my ass?

Congratulations. The very fact that you’re tired of feeling sheltered and stupid means you’ve already pulled your head out of your ass. The real trick now is to make sure you don’t shove it up someone else’s by blindly trusting any spoon-fed news source. 

Instead, you have to start trusting your own capacity for rational thought. Learn how to analyze the media. Ask questions. Challenge assumptions. Check sources. Most importantly, don’t get distracted by a little bias. Media bias is harmless when you can spot it, so quit whining about your naïveté and sharpen those critical thinking skills.

If you need a jumping-off point for becoming an independent thinker in the face of mass media, go pick up copies of “Manufacturing Consent” by Noam Chomsky, “Understanding Media” by Marshall McLuhan and “Letters to a Young Contrarian” by Christopher Hitchens.

Read them, reread them and then read them again. They may frustrate you at first, but don’t give up. Every time you hit an unfamiliar reference, light up Google and learn something. Remember, it’s not about what to think. It’s about a way to think.

I promise, you are capable of clear and independent thought. You don’t need to be spoon-fed anything. Once you trust in your own ability to analyze the media, you will be able to consume any source of news, chew it up, and spit out all the bias and bullshit.


On more favorite books

Why not give us another list of good books?  You preach the importance of education, so tell us more favorites already!

Okay. Here you go:

Seize the Day,
Saul Bellow
A day’s worth of existential crisis and catharsis beautifully written in a short novel.

Don DeLillo
Non-linear and massive, this novel covers half a century’s time with engaging dialog and a style that’s addictive.

The Bonfire of the Vanities,
Tom Wolfe
Chunks of greed, wealth, and class struggle in a broth of 1980’s New York. Delicious.

The Story of O,
Pauline Réage
If you want to understand BDSM, read this book.

A Clockwork Orange,
Anthony Burgess
Yeah, you’ve seen the movie. Read the fucking book. They’re both masterpieces, but for different reasons.

The Average American Male,
Chad Kultgen
Hilarious insight into the male brain that puts Tucker Max to shame.

Perry Moore
A groundbreaking coming-of-age novel about the teenage struggles of a homosexual superhero.

God Jr.,
Dennis Cooper
A unique perspective of death, trauma, and sanity.

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal,
Christopher Moore
One of the most clever books I’ve ever read. The title says it all.

Jose Saramago
Disturbing and impossible to put down.

Satire at its finest.

Slouching Towards Kalamazoo,
Peter De Vries
A brilliant comedic writer. If you’ve never read his stuff, start here.

The Lucifer Effect,
Philip Zimbardo
Written by the mastermind behind the Stanford Prison Project. A fascinating study on human behavior.

The Tipping Point,
Malcolm Gladwell
Start with this, but make sure to read every book by this brilliant motherfucker.

Confessions of an Economic Hitman,
John Perkins
You don’t know shit about world affairs unless you’ve read this book.

The Doors of Perception,
Aldous Huxley
D.A.R.E. stands for Drugs Are Really Exciting.

The Moral Landscape,
Sam Harris
A treatise on a new science of morality. Sam is one of the most brilliant thinkers of our time. I’ll read anything he writes.

The Prophet,
Kahlil Gibran
Words to live by.

(And if you wanna check out my original list of favorites, someone was cool enough to compile them into an Amazon List.)


On my favorite books

If you mean what you say, Coke Talk should have a companion reading list. What books do you read? Tell us your favorites already!

Okay. Here are some of my favorite books in no particular order:

Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
The first book I ever read.

Matilda, Roald Dahl
The second book I ever read. J.K Rowling can’t hold a candle to Roald Dahl’s magic.

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
It’s a shame Toole checked out early. I would have loved to read his third novel.

A Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway
People who think nothing happens in A Moveable Feast totally miss the fucking point. If we could all make nothing happen so beautifully, the world would be a better place.

The Road to Los Angeles, John Fante
I’m a sucker for all of Arturo Bandini’s adventures, but this one is my favorite.

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Veronika Decides to Die, Paulo Coelho
Sure, I love The Alchemist too, but I consider it one of his lesser works.

Play It as It Lays, Joan Didion
Ventilated yet dense, Joan Didion will always have a special place in my heart.

Lithium for Medea, Kate Braverman
Heartbreakingly beautiful.

Women, Charles Bukowski
Oh, Chinaski. I fucking love you.

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera
I’ve read this dozens of times, and with each turn I always find something new.

American Psycho, Bret Easton Ellis
Bret Easton Ellis is the Tom Ford of modern literature.

The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand
I give Rand a ton of shit, but Howard Roark is an important character.

The Idiot, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
It took me a while to read this one, but every hour was worth it.

Le Petit Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
It’s technically a novella, but whatever. I love this little book.

The Great Shark Hunt, Hunter S. Thompson
Gonzo is a way of life.

A People’s History of the United States, Howard Zinn
This ten pounder taught me more than every American history class combined.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
Californication made a noble attempt in season two, but I’m still waiting for this to be made into a movie that doesn’t totally fucking suck.

The Art of War, Sun Tzu
You want me to sum up Sun Tzu in a single word? Strategery.

Cat’s Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
I practice boku-maru regularly.