Ten Books I Want To Read Again

I have too little time to read, let alone re-read. But there are certain books that had an impact on me, that I think about from time to time, and that I have an urge to re-read. I suppose that re-reading, or at least wanting to re-read is a sign that a book is part of a person’s quantum library. I have more, but I will pick ten:

• Charles Norris Cochrane, Christianity and Classical Culture: A Study of Thought and Action from Augustus to Augustine
• Eric Rucker Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros
• Robert A Heinlein, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
• Homer, The Iliad
• George Orwell, 1984
• Quentin Reynolds, They Fought for the Sky: The Dramatic Story of the First War in the Air
• Thomas Sowell, Knowledge and Decisions
• Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace
• Evelyn Waugh, The Sword of Honor Trilogy
• H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

A few years ago I re-read Starship Troopers, which had a huge impact on me when I was 11 years old. It was just about as good as I remembered it. I also re-read 1984 about five years ago. I first read 1984 when I was ten years old. I read it a couple of times afterwards. It is absolutely foundational to my thinking. In the ensuing years, I have read almost everything else by Orwell. I found that 1984 was much better than I remembered it being — So much so that I will certainly to go back to it one more time.

For some reason, the ten books above are nagging at the back of my mind to be re-read.

Please feel free to provide your own lists and observations in the comments.

16 thoughts on “Ten Books I Want To Read Again”

  1. 1. Microeconomics by Samuel Bowles. Yes, he’s a former Marxist, but he and Gintis are the ones harmonizing culture with microeconomics.
    2. Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. Yes, she’s a pro-choice feminist, but the thing I love about sociobiology is that even the feminist are pro-marriage. It shows that sexual promiscuity is a self-interested power-play.
    3. Sick Societies by Robert Edgerton. I’ve already read it twice and I always learn more. Debunks the myth of the noble savage and the view that primitive societies are egalitarian.
    4. Moral Theory by David Oderberg. Rigorous modern treatment of the morality of natural rights, and a sustained attack on utilitarianism. I do not agree with Oderberg’s moral realism though.
    5. A Farewell to Alms by Gregory Clarck. The best of the Rise of the West genre, and always debunks the “incentives and institutions matter” theory of economic development. Sorry, culture is what matters.
    6. Gut Feelings by Gerd Gizerenger. A powerful corrective to behavior economics. Dazzling. What Blink by Gladwell should have been.
    7. No Excuses by Abigail Thernstrom. Great review of the literature on black poverty and education, made accessible for the general reader.
    8. The Nurture Assumption by Judith Rich Harris. Still wrapping my head around group socialization. Parents matter, but only between groups, not within. This may explain why multiple regression analysis only shows a relatively modest impact on parents.
    9. Theories of Distributive Justice by John Roemer. Yes, he’s a former (current?) Marxist, but it is a rigorous mathematical introduction to political philosophy and has salient criticisms of utilitarianism, Rawls, and Dworkin.
    10. Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig. A Christian apologist who consistently wins debates against atheists. I’m up to date on only a couple of the topics (Kalam and the design argument). Most of the book remains untapped.

  2. Human Accomplishment by Charles Murray. A provocative demonstration of what Christendom has accomplished. Unfortunately I think our best days are behind us.

  3. Good topic. However, I am afraid that my list is not as long as yours. Here are my three:

    1. Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. — A book foundational to my understanding of American political institutions and culture. It really is due for a more critical reread; the first time I read it I did not believe in writing in the margins.

    2. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury — A dystopia novel that far outclasses all others in the genre. I pair it with DiA for a reason: quite recently the thought occurred to me that Bradbury provides the perfect picture of Tocqueville’s “soft despotism.”

  4. Good post. I’d not heard of some of those. Going to give this some thought – sort of nominations for the quantum library but not yet in it, as you described. One book on my list would be Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom and another would be Nonzero by Robert Wright.

  5. T. Greer — that’s only two. What’s the third one?

    Renminbi — have not read that one. I never paid much attention to Charles Murray. The reviews seemed to capture the ideas adequately and I already pretty much agree with him.

    Zen, I read Bloom’s Closing and took away a very different impression from what most people seem to think about it. I have mulled writing something about it over the years. Have not read Nonzero.

  6. Lexington,

    Too little time to read strikes a chord with me. The idea of re-reading becomes simultaneously another task and a pleasure to strive for. I recently re-read The Moon is a Harsh Mistress and found it even more thought-provoking this time around. Like you I find Heinlein absolutely fundamental to my worldview, especially the contradictions. Also like you I have the Iliad on my list. I am currently re-reading (for the third time) Manliness by Harvey C Mansfield and am getting so much from it. I find his ideas on manliness both important and provocative.

    If I had the time, these would be my ten:

    James Bowman, Honour, a history. Intelligent, beautifully written study of honour among men and its uses and contradictions.

    Carlo D’Este, A genius for war, a life of General George S Patton. Militarily sound and biographically incisive.

    David Halberstam, The reckoning. The cold reporting of how Japanese carmakers took the market from US automakers. Written in 1986, very relevant today.

    Ernest Hemingway, the Sun Also Rises.

    The Iliad. It has to be the Robert Fagles edition, he has brought so much light on the classics (and made them so readable) that he deserves a knighthood or whatever is the American equivalent.

    Tracy Kidder, The Soul of a New Machine

    A.L. Rowse, The England of Elizabeth.

    Roger Scruton, Arguments for conservatism. Few modern philosophers have Scruton’s ability to see the pastoral and the humane and tie them back to conservatism.

    Robert Stone, Outerbridge Reach. Loneliness and loss of faith are always somewhere in Stone’s novels but they never present themselves as more nakedly dangerous than here.

    John Sugden, Sir Francis Drake, a biography. A masterpiece of detective work, academic study and love. Given the poverty of sources for much of Drake’s life, the story told in this book is wonderfully full and elegantly written.

    I now realise that the problem with writing this comment is that I am already justifying to myself the taking of time to read these books, which, given my other commitments, is not a good thing.

    Incidentally it is Robert Heinlein’s birthday in a couple of weeks (7th of July) and I will posting about him on that day, on my website http://www.whatmakesaman.net



  7. Worth multiple readings…

    Thomas Flanagan’s “Year of the French,” a beautifully-written novel about revolutionary Ireland…Ralph Peters called this “the best historical novel written in English,” and he’s not far wrong.

    Peter Drucker, “The Age of Discontinuity,” thoughts about society from 1969. The ones about education are still particularly relevant.

    Walter Miller, “A Canticle for Leibowitz”…categorized as SF, but really a philosophical/theological novel.

    Heinrich Heine, essays & poems…can’t remember the name of this edition, but it’s one of the few cases I’ve seen where poetry is actually translated in a way that really works in the target language.

    Arthur Koestler, “The Age of Longing”…one of his lesser-known works, “about” an American girl who has an affair with a Russian Communist, but really about Western civilization’s loss of self-confidence. I’ve been meaning to post something about this book.

    I’m currently re-reading two short books by C P Snow:

    –The Two Cultures, about the disconnect between science and the humanities

    –Science and Government, about WWII-era debates within the British government about radar and bombing policy, and the larger question of scientific decision-making in secret.

  8. Lex-

    Sorry about that. I copy/paste comments from a word processor, and it seems I missed the final part. One more reason to get firefox, eh?

    Statecraft: How to Restore America’s Standing in the World by Dennis Ross. I am unsure if I will reread all of this; the best part of the book were the two chapters detailing the inner workings of Bush 41 during the lead up to the Gulf War, and his management of the collapsing Soviet Union.

    I wish I could go through my library and a couple of more titles to the list, but I am afraid that my antelibrary takes precedence here. To be honest, I do not know how you 10-book folks find the time to reread all of so much material. Perhaps I am just a slower reader than most?

  9. 1. The Iliad / The Odyssee. I am listening to the Yale Open lectures of Prof. Kagan on Ancient Greece at present. Btw. Why do you gen`lemen reread the Iliad only ?
    2. Edmund Blunden “Undertones of War” – very underrated WWI memories. In a way as good as Sasson and Jünger but quite unknown it seems.
    3. Roy Jenkins – Churchill. Perhaps the best WSC bio today, written by a man who knows Brit politics from experience.
    4. The Mitrokhin Archive (2 volumes) – in case we forget what the old order in the East was based on …
    5. Carl Schmitt: Die Diktatur (1921) – I despise the author but ha has a d`d sharp, incisive mind. Recently read that his stuff has been reevaluated in the US after 9/11.
    6. A. v. Seeckt. Moltke, Ein Vorbild – the architect of the Reichswehr pays tribute the elder Moltke. One of these books with no bloody practical relevance at all but very well written indeed.
    7. Luciano Canfora. Ceasar. The author is very controversial for other reasons but an excellent classicist I wd say.
    8. Simone Bertière, Mazarin. Richelieu`s successor. I know far too little about this period.
    9. Egon Friedell, Kulturgeschichte der Neuzeit (cultural history). Last read this a teenager and was fascinated by the author`s brilliance and erudition. Still have it, but it was been untouched for years. Another voice from a period which ended when the Nazis occupied Vienna – the author promptly jumped to his death from a window.
    10. S. Courtois Le Livre Noir Du Communisme. Formidable array of facts and arguments
    when dealing with the progressive apologia.

  10. “I do not know how you 10-book folks find the time to reread all of so much material.”

    T. Greer — I only said I would LIKE TO re-read them. I did not say I would have time to actually do so.

    John, good list. I agree about Hemingway, D’Este.

    Anonymous, where are you going to post about Heine? Do you have a blog? Link?

    FM: Good list. Nothing against the Odyssey. I never read it! I do want to re-read the Iliad, though. Agreed about Jenkin’s Churchill. The rest sound good. I have the Black Book of Communism sitting here. Haven’t read it yet. Preaching to the choir in my case.

  11. Lex…oh, good grief, I did it again…”anonymous” with the Heine & Koestler, etc, was me.

    When I find my copy of the Heine book, I’ll post some of the poems.

  12. Ha! I, too, just finished reading The Moon is a Harsh Mistress. I was surprised at its technical plausibility and relevance–Sci fi doesn’t usually age that well. But then, it was really more history then technology. I think its reputation as a classic well deserved.

  13. Lex,

    I was more or less raised on Polyphem, the sirens, Circe etc. (children`s version of course). That is not to say that one should negect the Iliad.

    Btw, on Zen you mention Peter Hopkirk. I only know On Secret Service East of Constantinople. Smashing book. Quite well researched afaik and reads like Buchan.

    Vy busy professionally at present, but intending to buy more of this bloke`s books.


    Good to read that someone out there reads Heine. I read him in German, naturally. He has a reputation in France, or used to, but seems little known in the anglosphere. Whoever can translate that well is a master.

  14. I am thrilled to have read this post (and ZenPundit’s). There are a lot of books here that I have never heard of before that it seems I need to make time for. I am grateful for this!

    I can think of around five books I would want to read again if I had the time:

    1. The Fifty Year Wound- Derek Leebaert

    2. Global Brain- Howard Bloom

    3. Blue Highways- William Least-Heat-Moon

    4. Family & Nation- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

    5. William F. Buckley- Stained Glass (shamefully, the only one of his series I was able to read, passing the time in 2005 in a USO lounge in Seattle with it)

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