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Summer of Ethics: Our Reading and Watch List

Our 2022-23 academic year programming featured amazing authors on various topics, each having a perspective on ethical issues. Improve your summer and dive into our reading and watch list built around Center events from this past year – let your ethical journey begin.




How to Be Perfect: The Correct Answer to Every Moral Question by Michael Schur

Michael Schur, the creator of the TV show The Good Place and producer and writer for The Office, offers wit and insight into moral and ethical questions in his latest book. His talk, How to Get to "The Good Place": A Conversation with Michael Schur, which occurred on Stanford’s campus in February, discusses highlights from the book as well as moral obligations and how intentions matter.



Pure Colour by Sheila Heti

Heti’s novel, Pure Colour, is about the shape of life from beginning to end. Winner of the Governor General’s Award of Canada, this book explores art, critics, the world, grief, and aging. At her May talk at Stanford, Heti discussed her book, the writing experience, and her new writing interests around artificial intelligence.



Poison Ivy: How Elite Colleges Divide Us by Evan Mandery

Informed by his personal experiences at Harvard and as a professor for 25 years at the City University of New York, Mandery critiques elite colleges for creating paths to admission that are available almost exclusively to the wealthy. His conversation with Law Professor Rick Banks dives into the faulty U.S. education system and how it exacerbates income inequality.




Either/Or by Elif Batuman

A sequel to her debut novel, The Idiot, Batuman’s Either/Or follows the character of Selin throughout her sophomore year at Harvard as she attempts to make sense of what happened the previous summer. Full of social observations and humor, you’ll be amused at Selin’s journey of becoming. Learn more about her motivation for writing this book from this Stanford Daily article that covered her campus talk. 



Cancel Wars: How Universities Can Foster Free Speech, Promote Inclusion, and Renew Democracy by Sigal R. Ben-Porath

In Cancel Wars, Ben-Porath argues that the escalating struggles over “cancel culture,” “safe spaces,” and free speech on campus are a manifestation of broader democratic erosion in the United States. She sets out to demonstrate the university's role in our society and how it can model free speech in ways that promote democratic ideals. Watch her conversation on campus to learn more about her emphasis on common ground and democratic renewal.



Reasoning of State: Realists, Romantics and Rationality in International Relations by Brian C. Rathbun

By turning our attention to how states respond to being wronged rather than when they do right and realizing the moral basis of the groups interacting in foreign affairs, Rathbun shows that morality is virtually everywhere in international relations. His talk, Right and Wronged in International Relations: Seeing the Ubiquity of Morality in Foreign Affairs, discusses how the inescapability of our moral impulses owes to their evolutionary origins in helping individuals solve recurrent problems in their anarchic environment.



When Crack Was King: A People's History of a Misunderstood Era by Donovan X. Ramsey

And one last recommendation, hot off the presses, that we’ll be featuring at an event this fall — Donovan X. Ramsey’s When Crack Was King: A People's History of a Misunderstood Era. Ramsey was the Center’s 2021 selected author for our annual Manuscript Workshop, where we host an author to discuss a book project that addresses or illuminates ethical issues in public life. Using people-first journalism, Ramsey tells the story of the crack epidemic of the 1980s and ‘90s through the experiences of four people who lived through it.

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Carly Chillmon is the Communications Director at the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society.