One of the books that I am reading right now is This I Believe II: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women, the second such collection edited by Jay Allison and Dan Gedimen of essays that people have written for the This I Believe project.
I love this project and these essays so much. I have been paying attention (and even writing my own) since it was reintroduced in 2005. The project actually started in the 1950s with Edward Murrow. He would get people from all different walks of life – some famous and some not – to write a short essay and read it on the radio about their personal philosophy. Some amazing essays came out of that original series and it was apparently very popular and reproduced all over the world. But it was sort of forgotten until 2005 when Jay Allison and Dan Gedimen brought it back. I’m not sure if NPR is still recording and featuring the essays on the radio, but the website is still going strong and new essays are still being added.
The books are collections of some of the best essays that have been submitted and recorded. The first book included several essays from the original series in the 1950s, but this one is entirely new essays. There are several volumes on themes as well (love, motherhood, etc.).
The essays are meaningful and thoughtful, even though rarely over three pages long (three minutes or so when recorded for the radio). I love reading them, but I find it most satisfying to spread out and read very slowly – an essay at a time. So I’ve been reading it for several weeks and am likely to be doing so for quite a while more, since I’m not quite halfway through yet. I find that the experience is so much richer for me if I savor and ponder each essay a little bit, though. Each is different and I by no means agree with all of them, but each has something extremely valuable and interesting to say about life. This may be one of the best projects I know of for helping someone understand how other people think and feel. It’s an amazing collection and I am so happy to be reading through more of these essays!