Looking for books set up as dialogues or conversations.
November 1, 2012 3:59 PM   Subscribe

Looking for books which are structed as conversations or debates between two or more people on interesting, educational subjects.

Just finished 'This is Not the End of the Book' by Umberto Eco and Jean-Claude Carriere, and loved it. These two educated, erudite men debated books, literature, history and so on in a witty yet educational way. They covered so many topics, but the book was not (imho) boring or tedious to read.

What I especially liked about it was that I feel they covered some pretty well-worn topics, but since they are both so smart and educated, they actually had meaningful stuff to say that wasn't just punditry. And when there were diversions, they were diversions which enlightened, entertained and gave me a list of subjects to learn more about.

And I loved the structure of it being set up like a conversation, where the editor would posit a question and both authors would sound off, respond to each other and carry on this great dialogue. It was a fun way to read.

So...more like this?
posted by JoannaC to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Well, Plato certainly comes to mind.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:09 PM on November 1, 2012 [4 favorites]

And, right up there with Plato, there's Michael Ian Black and Meghan McCain's America, You Sexy Bitch.
posted by box at 4:14 PM on November 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

Perhaps not on target but in a similar spirit: "Sophie's World," an epistolary philosophy course/mystery.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:18 PM on November 1, 2012

Public Enemies may be up your alley. It's a correspondence between Michel Houllebecq and Bernard-Henri Lévy. I haven't read it. It seems to focus more on the writers' public lives than the Eco/Carrière book does.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:26 PM on November 1, 2012

C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. The topics might be far afield, but it is a creative use of the form.
posted by Fichereader at 4:47 PM on November 1, 2012

Ishamael by Daniel Quinn is really good, he took the teacher-student format from Plato.
posted by bradbane at 4:54 PM on November 1, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're interested in programming, "Coders At Work" is a series of interviews---conversations, really---between Peter Siebel and various Great Men of CS.

If you're into old physics, Two World Systems is a fake dialogue (trialogue?) between three personas, eventually explaining Galilean astronomy.
posted by d. z. wang at 5:54 PM on November 1, 2012

Like Shaking Hands With God, featuring Kurt Vonnegut and Lee Stringer.
posted by book 'em dano at 6:16 PM on November 1, 2012

Anathem by Neal Stephenson is a great SF adventure and coming of age story, but it also happens to feature multiple dialogues on philosophy.
posted by yasaman at 7:47 PM on November 1, 2012

This is a movie, but My Dinner With Andre.
posted by empath at 7:50 PM on November 1, 2012

If you're musically inclined at all, Fux's Gradus Ad Parnassum is a seminal work on harmony and counterpoint that has influenced Western music since 1725. Large sections of it are presented as a dialogue between student and master; I found what I read of it rather delightful, and have long meant to track down the rest. (So thank you for bringing it to mind - hopefully my library has a copy!)
posted by Someone Else's Story at 8:33 PM on November 1, 2012

Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis is the conclusion of a trilogy and consist largely (if my 20-year-old memory is right) of a debate between two characters concerning good and evil.
posted by LarryC at 9:37 PM on November 1, 2012

I can't remember it all that well but I think Ian McEwan's Solar kind of does this, and Milan Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being also sort of does this, although it's the narrator taking on themselves rather than another character, mostly.
posted by jojobobo at 11:08 PM on November 1, 2012

Also- non books version, The West Wing does exactly this on tv.
posted by jojobobo at 11:08 PM on November 1, 2012

Later in her career Jane Jacobs wrote several books in dialogue format. Here zompist reviews her. And David Warsh says:
Jacobs was nearly 75 when she began Systems of Survival. The immense success of The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) was well in the past; so were the frustrations of her more analytical The Economy of Cities (1969) and the disappointment at the reception of Cities and the Wealth of Nations (1984). She had nothing more to prove, so she wrote Systems in a manner that was more congenial to her — as a dialogue among half a dozen friends from different walks of life who meet on fourteen occasions to discuss various threats to the prevailing “great web of trust in the honesty of business.” It contains some of her most original and provocative thinking. But Systems is not easy to digest, and the book has not yet gained the audience it deserves.

“This is no novel,” says the fictional Armbruster near the beginning. He is a publisher who convenes the sessions. “This is a tradition older than the novel. Dialogue – didactic talking heads, if you will – goes back to Plato and possibly to the dawn of consciousness about right and wrong, whatever that was. The form – disagreements, speculations, second thoughts, questions, answers, amended answers – it’s suited to the problematic subject matter. Let’s give it a try? What harm can it do?”
You can also find this format in much earlier writing: Galileo and Fontenelle are two I've read and liked (though not in their online forms; I read Stillman Drake's Galileo translations and H.A. Hargreaves' version of Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds).
posted by cgc373 at 12:26 AM on November 2, 2012

Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid consists of interspersed chapters of prose text covering everything from computer science to biology to consciousness, and Socratic diagolues between Achilles and Mr. Tortoise which relate allegorically to the following chapter. Aside from happening to have dialogues, it is also one of the best books ever written.
posted by cthuljew at 1:21 AM on November 2, 2012

'America, You Sexy Bitch' looks like just the thing I am looking for. And less than 3 bucks in the Kindle store! Thanks.
posted by JoannaC at 6:14 AM on November 2, 2012

Trialogues from the Edge of the West, featuring Ralph Abraham, Terence McKenna & Rupert Sheldrake will either be your cup of tea, or not. But it definitely fits your request, and it is a fascinating read!
posted by 1367 at 6:43 AM on November 2, 2012

1001 Nights
posted by taltalim at 9:42 AM on November 2, 2012

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