100 Books

Hi Guys

Here my list of 100 books.  What it’s a list of ranges from the pomo “its my list and everylist is is as good as any other” to the pompous “this is the list that will make you a renaissance man”.

I’m torn about questions like “am I now obliged to read them?”
Suggestions for length preserving additions and subtractions are welcome.

Farid of course is outraged.


100 Books you must read[1] to live

(Approximately chronological)

  1. Iliad: Homer. Vital for understanding tragedy as the death of someone great.
  2. The Odyssey: Homer. Brilliant tale of amazing voyage – probably all made up while cavorting with sirens.
  3. The Republic and other dialogues: Plato. As beautiful as a siren, this book will seduce you into wanting a philosopher king.
  4. The Politics, the Nicomechean Ethics and other selected works: Aristotle. Come back to earth, and to such earthly delights as democracy [sort of].
  5. Histories, Herodotus. Has a defence of real democracy – selection by lot. Must read it.
  6. The Peleponesian War, Thucydides
  7. I Ching: ?, OK, so I really couldn’t start with a book I hadn’t read. Bad for my karma? Oh that reminds me
  8. The Karma Sutra. Get an illustrated version, you deserve a break. The movie will do, but there no reason to deny yourself both pleasures.
  9. The Bhagvan Gita and the Ramayana, unknown prophet (or perhaps cheerleader): Death is not tragedy, souls are reborn. So up and at ’em! Cosmic recycling man.
  10. The Torah, various prophets: God’s having a bad few days, and we almost get exterminated (the dinosaurs however didn’t fit on the Ark).
  11. The New Testament, various disciples: The prozac kicks in.
  12. The Koran, Mohammed: God’s words. Verbatim. Honest.
  13. The essential works of Buddhism. All suffering comes from desire. Suffering can be ended. And (honest) a simple eight step program on how.
  14. The Aenid, Virgil. Aenas escapes from Troy and founds Rome – but I thought Romulus and Remus did. Must read it.
  15. Aesop’s Fables, Aesop presumably. Slow and steady wins the race.
  16. The Art of war, Sun Tzu. Use your enemies strength against him.
  17. The Prince, Machiavelli. Advice on how to.
  18. 1001 Nights, Sheherzade: Tall tales, and how to tell them. And the implicit lesson, keep your lover interested. Worth a thousand and one rules books. Ad again, get the illustrated version.
  19. Canterbury tales, Chaucer: Good modern English translation, please. Must read it.
  20. Selected works of Shakespeare, Shakespeare (Must include Macbeth, Hamlet, Lear, Othello, Romeo and Juliet, Julius Cesar, Richard III, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night and a few choice sonnets): Turns homer onto himself. Now people tragically meet their deaths because of an excess of love or some passion that overrides reason.
  21. Selection of English Poetry: Xanadu. Daffodils, Cats and Mustard gas(?!?). And it rhymes (mostly).
  22. Selection of World poetry in transalation:
  23. The Rubaiyat of Omar Kayam, Omar Khayam:

A glas of wine, a bowl of cream, and thou… (And he’s my namesake. Again get an illustrated version. Need I say more.)

  1. Leviathan, Hobbes: Musharaf meets his match (or progenitor anyhow)
  2. A treatise on human nature, Locke. On why this is also a bad idea – and demonstrating how now idea since Aristotle is really new.
  3. The wealth of nations and The Metaphysics of Morals, Smith. Everything you ever needed to know about economics or morality.
  4. Confessions and Discourses on the origin of inequality. Meet a savage lover and the original noble savage.
  5. Robinson Crusoe, Defoe. Noble savage get awful lonely, till Friday comes around.
  6. An introduction to the principles of morals and legislation, Bentham. Utilitarianism and how to legislate your way to its ideals.
  7. The Enlightenment reader, . Brings it all together.
  8. The Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Federalist Papers, The founding fathers and their disciples. The crowning achievement of the eighteenth century enlightenment. The best constitution ever written, better than anything we would get today, but with lots of room for perfection (maybe we just needed language to evolve so “men” meant all of humanity, not just white males).
  9. The Origin of the Species, and the Descent of man Darwin. Evolution, not revolution. Man is a beast.
  10. The Communist Manifesto (and selected passages from Das Capital etc.), Marx.
  11. A social history or Britain, Trevelyan. Fundamental to understanding 19th century Britain, Charles Dickens and the evolution of the welfare state (Ok, I admit I just made all that up but good guess, right)
  12. War and Peace, Tolstoy. Tragedy, revisited. And a glimpse of the Russian soul.
  13. Pride and prejudice, Austen. The original novel of manners, a lesson on when No means No, and a lesson in writing well.
  14. Fairy tales, Grimm. Grim fairy tales.
  15. The golden bough, . Classical myths from Hercules to Bewoulf.
  16. The Leopard, . Life in Italy in the garibaldi years. Movie optout. The movie with Burt Lancaster and Claudia Cardinal is great, so you can. But the book is beautiful, so you really shouldn’t.
  17. Flatland, ???: Two dimensional beings refuse to comprehend a three dimensional world.
  18. The complete works of Sherlock Holmes, Doyle. Murder mysteries at the fin de siècle.
  19. Alive in wonderland and Through the looking glass. A caterpillar sitting on a mushroom smoking a hookah. And a walrus and a carpenter walking hand in hand.
  20. The code of the Woosters, Wodehouse. Hillarious. And a brilliant insight into class, and tantalizingly close to giving you that recipe to fix a hangover.
  21. The interpretation of dreams, Freud. Id, ego and superego. Unreadable (I think I tried). Video opt out – watch entire series of Fraser and Sopranos.
  22. The general theory of employment, interest and money, Keynes. How to spend yourself out of a recession and other useful macroeconomic tricks.
  23. The history of Western Philosophy, Russell. An opinionated compendium by a mathematician with a Nobel Prize for literature.
  24. The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbitt:
  25. The wizard of Oz.
  26. 1984 and Animal Farm: Prophesies and satire on the corruption of communist societies by a leading socialist.
  27. The Road to Serfdom and The Constitution of Liberty, Hayek. Provocative thoughts on liberty and the modern welfare state.
  28. A Theory of Justice, Rawls. How a veil of ignorance brings you to the greatest good of the bottom billion.
  29. Anarchy, State and Utopia, Nozik. Even more provocative thoughts by a modern libertarian.
  30. Structure and change in Economic History, North. ?
  31. Guns, germs and steel, Diamond. ??
  32. Collapse, Diamond
  33. Life on earth, Attenborough.
  34. A brief history of time, Hawking.
  35. Social theory and social structure, Merton.
  36. The hitchhikers’ guide to the galaxy. The meaning of life is 42!?!
  37. The book of questions, Neruda. Lose yourself in the rhythm of questions.
  38. The Feynman lectures on physics, Feynman. Physics explained like never before by a Nobel Prize winner.
  39. The Double Helix, Watson
  40. Silent Spring, Carson. Watch Inconvenient Truth with it.
  41. The structure of scientific revolutions, Kuhn. A landmark work on the sociology of science.
  42. The second sex, Beuvoir. I kept losing it. Freudian slip?
  43. Fanny, Jong. You need a break.
  44. Scott’s Original Micsenally, Scott. Everything you’ve always wanted to know about everything, but were too afraid to look for.
  45. Oh the places you’ll go, Seuss.
  46. The essential Calvin and Hobbes, Watterson
  47. The essential Asterix, Gosciny and Uderzo
  48. The essential Tintin, Gosciny and Uderzo
  49. The essential Iznogoud
  50. Where the wild things are, Sandak. Wild.
  51. Life on Earth, David Attenborrough. All the world’s creatures in pictures.
  52. Globalization and its discontents, Stiglitz. A discourse on political economy from a Nobel laureate who served on the frontlines.
  53. The language instinct, Pinker. How we speak.
  54. How the mind works, Pinker. How the mind (might) work.
  55. Goedel, Escher, Bach, The oneness of mathematics, art and music.
  56. Foundation, Asimov. The future. Remarkable imaginations of the possibilities once imagined.
  57. 100 years of solitude, Marquez.
  58. Midnight’s children. India growing up.
  59. Haroun and the sea of stories, Rushdie. A brilliant satire, better than Swift, about the freedom of expression. Read it to your children. Grow up.
  60. Orientalism, Said.
  61. The (new) book of lists.
  62. The Guiness Book of World Records.
  63. The 100, .. The 100 More influential people of all time.
  64. The ground beneath her feet, Rushdie. A tragic romp.
  65. The golden gate. Makes a start more swift than weighty, and then carries on in audaciously iambic pentameter to save hearts stored in formaldehyde (no, not literally, and its not really pentameter but a close cousin if you really wanna know).
  66. A suitable boy, Seth. Romeo and juliet (and hints of Romeo and Romeo) played out with an air of Seinfeldian nothingness and narrated with a prose worthy of Jane Austen).
  67. When we were orphans, Ishiguro
  68. Collected plays of Tom Stoppard (Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and Arcadia, and Rock and Roll), Stoppard. Plays that make you stop and think. Playfully. (Watch them if you can).
  69. The Invisible city, Calvino
  70. Time’s Arrow, Amis. You’ll be convinced time flows backwards.
  71. Fingersmith
  72. Ghostwritten
  73. The Assault on Reason
  74. The visual display of quantitative information, Tufte.
  75. The elements of style (Illustrated version), Strunk, White and Kalman. Essential guide on how to write (and shows why all books should be illustrated)
  76. Robert’s Rules of Order, Robert presumably
  77. How to talk about a book you haven’t read, ???. Backflaps at Blackwells (or Bookculture for New Yorkers).

Close calls

A Fine Balance, Mistry (too tragic – I might change my mind)

Never let me go, Ishiguro (way too tragic, I wont)

The Ancestor’s tale (needs an edit and illustrations – though if that’s the purpose of this list….)

The order of things, Foucoult (unreadable)

Kapital, Marx (unreadable)

The critique of pure reason, Kant (unreadable)

[1] Or at least watch the movie


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