What books have inspired a Metro State professor?

Bute (MPR Photo/Jeffrey Thompson )

Metropolitan State University sociology professor Monte Bute lists some of his favorite books in a Pioneer Press commentary.

Here are some excerpts:

The Rebel: An Essay on Man in Revolt, Albert Camus

In this book, he rejects murder as a political tactic, whether committed by terrorists or revolutionaries. Being a realist and understanding human frailties, he advocates rebellion rather than revolution. He concisely defines the rebel and rebellion: “What is a rebel but a man (person) who says no”; and, “I rebel — therefore we exist.”

The Children of Light and the Children of Darkness, Reinhold Niebuhr

In the ’60s and ’70s, I was an unreconstructed student radical, a naive utopian. When reality sobered me up, Niebuhr saved me from cynicism and despair. He wrote, “The preservation of a democratic civilization requires the wisdom of the serpent and the harmlessness of the dove. The children of light must be armed with the wisdom of the children of darkness but remain free from their malice.”

Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil, W.E.B. Du Bois

His feminism is evident in “Damnation of Women,” where he recalls the four women of his boyhood — “They existed not for themselves, but for men.” From Du Bois, I learned the art and craft of using auto-biography as a tool for sociological analysis, and that activism is for the long haul (some 65 years for him).

Facing Unpleasant Facts, George Orwell

In this collection, we get hints of his experiments with truth: as a colonial police officer in Burma, a dishwasher in Paris, a hobo in London, a chronicler of England’s industrial working class, and a participant in the Spanish Civil War.

His biography, shaped by world history, led him “to make political writing into an art.” Orwell’s intellectual honesty and his prose style have been the standard by which I have measured myself.

Read his full essay here.