April is Philosophy Month, so there is no better reason to introduce you to the ladies and the gentleman who stock those shelves.
Meet María (Western Philosophy buyer at ABC Amsterdam), Jilles (Eastern Philosophy buyer at ABC Amsterdam) and Ester (Philosophy buyer at ABC The Hague):
How long have you been the Philosophy buyer?
María: Twenty-two years! It was my first section, I got it when I started working here and was still a Philosophy student at the time.
Jilles: Three years.
Ester: Since 2010, according to my order lists.
Which philosopher do you always keep in stock?
María: Foucault, Wittgenstein, Ayn Rand, Nietzsche, Plato.
Jilles: Pema Chödrön, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Sakyong Mipham, Krishnamurti, Osho, Shunryu Suzuki, Chögyam Trungpa.
Ester: Plato, Nietzsche, Aristotle, Hannah Arendt, Sun Tzu, Machiavelli, Slavoj Žižek.
What has been the best-selling title in Philosophy over the past years?
María: The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell.
Jilles: Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn, The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama, When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön, Peace of Mind by Thich Nhat Hanh and the Tao Te Ching as translated by Stephen Mitchell. He is Byron Katie‘s husband, and a very kind and sweet man. He signed copies when he visited us last year.
Ester: Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar, the DK Philosophy Book, Alain de Botton (his earlier books), The Art of War.
Is philosophy an integral part of life today, in general?
María: It should be! We should think about thinking because that slows the world down. Else we stay too much in the materialistic realm and life stays too superficial. The material world is ever-changing and you need to reflect on that, to take distance from it.
Jilles: It’s not, but it should be. People aren’t in touch with their own being enough; they think too much. And being and thinking are mutually exclusive. There’s hope, though: more and more people are looking for books on mindfulness (a term coined by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the ’70s). The gap between Consciousness and Eastern Philosophy is growing ever smaller. Also, Western science is discovering (scientifically proving) that all those Buddhists have been right for the past thousand years. And that’s the problem in a nutshell here in the West: we must have proof before we trust a belief or an emotion. Buddhists start with trust.
Ester: Even though we might not realise it, philosophy is everywhere, in my opinion. Like with most things, it depends on your definition of philosophy (“What is literature?” is also such an unanswerable question because the definition itself is quite undefinable). What I define as philosophy I try to show that through my shelf of Popular Philosophy titles, that philosophy is for everyone and not just for serious, bearded scholars. That it’s definitely not boring or difficult per definition. I also have a shelf of Philosophical Fiction now, that people buy from a lot, too. In the end, everything can be brought back to the questions How? What? and Why?
Which book or philosopher should everyone have read?
María: Wittgenstein. His Tractatus is about the imperfections of language. There is always distance between what can be said and what must be shown. It’s difficult reading, though. In Philosophical Investigations he talks about various topics, including the myth of the machine, where the machine is perfect, in theory, but in practice the real world interferes. As EBM chief I can relate to that!
Jilles: When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chödrön, who became a Buddhist in her forties. She is a deeply profound woman whose writing can dissect your mind. For the non-Buddhists I recommend Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn. One hundred very short chapters about how you can meditate in everyday life (and already do, often without realising it). It’s such a beautifully-made book, the writing so approachable, the message so loving.
Ester: Deleuze. In The Logic of Sense he gives many short explanations on a variety of subjects. His way of thinking is one I enjoy and can follow well, and I like his alternative way of looking at objects, language and literature. Also, Three Lives (or any other work) by Gertrude Stein. What she is capable of doing with language is ridiculously magnificent.
You can meet more section buyers here.
Ebooks available for The History of Western Philosophy, Wherever You Go, There You Are, The Art of Happiness, When Things Fall Apart, Peace of Mind, Tao Te Ching, DK Philosophy Book, The Consolations of Philosophy, The Art of War, Tractatus Logico-philosophicus, Philosophical Investigations, Wherever You Go, There You Are and Three Lives.
The Eastern Philosophy titles mentioned by Jilles can be found in the Religion and Mindfulness sections at ABC The Hague.