If I could pick one book that I think every college freshman should read, it would be…
LOGIC AND CONTEMPORARY RHETORIC, by Howard Kahane.
Subtitled, “The Use of Reason in Everyday Life”. It covers principles of reasoning, invalid and fallacious types of arguments, and it illustrates these ideas with actual examples from advertising and news (politics). Not to make you cynical about advertising or politics — just to make you understand how these businesses work; how to be an informed citizen, to not be gullible, to not take anything for granted.
This had a great influence on me when I first read it, at age 19 or 20. Though I’d done pretty well in high school, UCLA obliged me to take a ‘freshman’ English course, which I took over the summer at Valley College in Van Nuys. The instructor included this book in his curriculum, and I remember nothing else from the course. It’s one of the few textbooks I’ve kept all these years.
Why, yes it is. In fact it’s in its 12th edition, now bylined Nancy Cavender and Howard Kahane, it’s nearly 400 pages (my 3rd edition was 280 pages), and as a textbook, it’s priced $127. Glancing through the index via Amazon’s “Look Inside” function, the later editions have obviously been updated with current examples of news reporting, advertising, and contentious social issues.
So it’s a standard. I’m glad. I just wish everyone would read it.