Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy | Edmund Husserl

The cover of Husserl's Phenomenology and the Crisis of PhilosophyYou just never know what you’re going to find in a second-hand bookstore. Somewhat dejected that my go-to bookstore had closed up shop in Kingston, I walked back to the car along a side street where I stumbled upon Berry & Peterson Booksellers. I left with an armful of treasures, including this volume from Husserl.

Edmund Husserl (1859–1938) was a German philosopher who wrote and rewrote voluminous manuscripts in which he presented a type of philosophy that would be just as rigorous as scientific investigation: phenomenology. Although phenomenology would come to be associated with the existentialists who would follow—Heidegger, Sartre, and de Beauvoir—Husserl was its midwife.

Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy consists of three parts:

  1. A helpful introduction to Husserl and his philosophy by translator Quentin Lauer
  2. “Philosophy as Rigorous Science,” an early essay by Husserl (1911)
  3. “Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man,” a late lecture by Husserl (1935)

To be honest, had I not already read Cresswell & Poth’s Qualitative Inquiry & Research Design and van Manen’s Phenomenology of Practice, I would have been quite lost navigating Husserl’s thought. Reading Husserl in light of these other books was like watching sinew and flesh attach to the dry bones.

Husserl’s obviously not for everyone, but if you’re doing phenomenological research or are interested in the philosophical roots of the existential movement, these essays are a good place to start.


Husserl, Edmund. Phenomenology and the Crisis of Philosophy. Translated by Quentin Lauer. New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1965.

The Water Knife | Paolo Bacigalupi

The cover of Bacigalupi's The Water KnifeAngel Velasquez is a water knife. He cuts water supplies to drought-stricken towns in the American Southwest to make his employer’s desert thrive. Set in the near future, Bacigalupi imagines what the world could become when human greed and cut-throat litigation run wild.

Bacigalupi set the bar high with The Windup Girl. Unfortunately, The Water Knife doesn’t live up to is predecessor. While he is still able to create a terrifyingly plausible near future, this book is more thriller, less social commentary.

I’m aware that many people may in fact prefer The Water Knife to The Windup Girl. This newer book reads like a soon-to-be optioned movie thriller. If that’s what you enjoy, then The Water Knife has action to spare. If you’re more interested in the world we are creating, then the over-the-top shockers and cliff-hanging chapters leave little room for reflection.


Bacigalupi, Paolo. The Water Knife. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015.

Neverwhere | Neil Gaiman

The cover of Gaiman's NeverwhereNeil Gaiman can do no wrong. From American Gods to The Sandman, from The Ocean at the End of the Lane to Norse Mythology—everything he writes is compelling. Gaiman has the ability to transport you into alternate worlds that feel, despite their fantastical nature, just as real as the chair in which you read them.

In the introduction to this, the Author’s preferred text, Gaiman explains that

I wanted to write a book that would do for adults what the books I had loved when younger, books like Alice in Wonderland, or the Narnia books, or The Wizasrd of Oz, did for me as a kid. (xii)

He succeeded. Neverwhere is the story of the underside of London where people who fall through the cracks live. It’s a place where rats are honored, villains have careers that last for centuries, and character like Door can, well, open doors. Think Narnia only darker and far more dangerous.

To echo the words that Guy Gavriel Kay wrote to first-time readers of The Once and Future King, I envy everyone who has not yet read this book. You have the gift of being able to read Neverwhere for the first time.


Gaiman, Neil. Neverwhere. Author’s Preferred Text. New York: William Morrow, 2015.

Resident Aliens | Stanley Hauerwas & William H. Willimon

The cover of Hauerwas and Willimon's Resident AliensFirst Century Philippi was a colony of Rome. It was the place where grizzled Roman soldiers would settle when their warfare was over. Consider it a mini Rome—a place where Roman law and values reigned. It was to the Christians in this Roman colony that Paul wrote, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20 NRSV). In the same way that Roman citizens embodied Roman values in Philippi, heavenly citizens are called to embody heavenly values while in the colonies on earth.

Resident Aliens is a fiery book. In it, Stanley Hauerwas and William H. Willimon describe a tragic situation: the colony of heaven is starting to look like the kingdoms of this world! Rather than being different, the church tries to fit in. In contrast to this capitulation, the goal of Hauerwas and Willimon is

to empower people in the church by exciting their imaginations to see what wonderful opportunities lie at the heart of Christian ministry—once the integrity of the church is reclaimed. (144)

The world has changed. Christendom has fallen. Rather than mourn, Christians can view this as a blessing. The church is no longer church-by-default. It must, once again, be the colony of heaven.


Hauerwas, Stanley and William H. Willimon. Resident Aliens: Life in the Christian Colony. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1989.

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