Thursday, June 02, 2005

My Summer Reading List

Thanks to PZ's recent article at Pharyngula, I found a list of books that I will devote my four hours' each day commute time to this summer. Interestingly, I made an early start on this reading list (unknowingly) by reading some of these titles, including Mein Kampf (when I was 15), The Communist Manifesto (when I was 18), and the Kinsey Report (when I was 20), but then I stopped. Why? It wasn't as though I stopped reading, but I guess I became interested in more trivial matters. So, I had a strong start by reading three out of ten books on this list by the time I was 20, but none since then!

My numbers are worse for the "honorable mentions"; out of 20 books on that list, I have only read four; The Origin of Species (I read this book three times; do I get extra credit for this?), The Second Sex, Silent Spring (I read this book twice and I read it the first time when I was working in Japan. Is that worth extra credit?) and The Descent of Man.

I am surprised that The Handmaid's Tale is not also included as an "honorable mention", but after I've read them all (provided of course, that the library has copies available), I will be a better judge for what else I think ought to be on these lists. Can you name some books that you think ought to be included on either of these lists, dear readers?

Overall, I am terribly disappointed to realize that I am so poorly read, despite spending most of my lifetime immersed in books. Fortunately, beginning Monday, I will be spending four hours each day in the gaping maw of a speeding subway train. That should provide me with plenty of opportunity to read (or in some cases, re-read) them all. I think a quick trip to the library is in order today even though I am still struggling and sweating over my presentation for my job interview tomorrow.

The List;

    1. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels (1848) Score: 74*

    2. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler (1925-1926) Score: 41

    3. Quotations from Chairman Mao by Mao Zedong (1966) Score: 38

    4. The Kinsey Report by Alfred Kinsey (1948) Score: 37

    5. Democracy and Education by John Dewey (1916) Score: 36

    6. Das Kaptial by Karl Marx (1867-1894) Score: 31

    7. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan (1963) Score: 30

    8. The Course of Positive Philosophy by Auguste Comte (1830-1842) Score: 28

    9. Beyond Good and Evil by Freidrich Nietzsche (1886) Score: 28

    10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes (1936) Score: 23

Honorable Mention:

    1. The Population Bomb by Paul Ehrlich Score: 22

    2. What Is To Be Done by V.I. Lenin Score: 20

    3. Authoritarian Personality by Theodor Adorno Score: 19

    4. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill Score: 18

    5. Beyond Freedom and Dignity by B.F. Skinner Score: 18

    6. Reflections on Violence by Georges Sorel Score: 18

    7. The Promise of American Life by Herbert Croly Score: 17

    8. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin Score: 17

    9. Madness and Civilization by Michel Foucault Score: 12

    10. Soviet Communism: A New Civilization by Sidney and Beatrice Webb Score: 12

    11. Coming of Age in Samoa by Margaret Mead Score: 11

    12. Unsafe at Any Speed by Ralph Nader Score: 11

    13. Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir Score: 10

    14. Prison Notebooks by Antonio Gramsci Score: 10

    15. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson Score: 9

    16. Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon Score: 9

    17. Introduction to Psychoanalysis by Sigmund Freud Score: 9

    18. The Greening of America by Charles Reich Score: 9

    19. The Limits to Growth by Club of Rome Score: 4

    20. Descent of Man by Charles Darwin Score: 2

* A title received a score of 10 points for being listed No. 1 by one of our panelists, 9 points for being listed No. 2, etc. Appropriately, The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, earned the highest aggregate score and the No. 1 listing. These 15 scholars and public policy leaders served as judges in selecting the Ten Most Harmful Books; Arnold Beichman, Prof. Brad Birzer, Harry Crocker, Prof. Marshall DeRosa, Dr. Don Devine, Prof. Robert George, Prof. Paul Gottfried, Prof. William Anthony Hay, Herb London, Prof. Mark Malvasi, Douglas Minson, Prof. Mark Molesky, Prof. Stephen Presser, Phyllis Schlafly and Fred Smith.


© 2004, 2005, 2006 by GrrlScientist

13 Peer Reviews:

Blogger Alon Levy said...

How was The Origin of Species? I'm hoping to read some good non-fiction this summer that isn't about commutative algebra.

About further books on this list, if you're looking for books that will infuriate wingnuts, try A Theory of Justice, The Age of Reason, the Second Treatise of Government, The Structure of Evolutionary Biology (which, I presume, you've read), The Selfish Gene, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion, Why I am not a Christian, and The Affluent Society.

10:19 AM  
Blogger RPM said...

Having only read one of the books on the list (Origin of Species), I'm probably the wrong person to comment on this, but I'll do so anyway. On average, how many of the books on the list have the list's creators read?

10:50 AM  
Blogger Rexroth's Daughter said...

You're lucky you can read in a moving vehicle. I can't. I get nauseous. Four hours a day to read sounds like turning a commute into time well spent. I wonder if any of these have been recorded as books on tape? Listening to it might be an interesting way to spend four hours a day, and not have to hear the general ambiance of the train conversations and noise.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Alon Levy said...

I don't know about the rest of the books, but the Communist Manifesto the judges probably didn't read, because it's a lot less scary than people think. In fact, it spends much more time bashing reactionary socialism, on which modern anti-globalization is based, than bashing capitalism. It's Das Kapital that contains the real crackpot gems.

11:12 AM  
Blogger Alon Levy said...

Unless you read very slowly, listening to a tape is very inefficient. People read aloud at a rate of 200 words per minute at most. People who read without sounding the words in their heads can easily break 500 words per minute. The kind of books I can't read so quickly are those I have to concentrate very hard on, such as mathematics books, but in their case I would have to listen to them several times to follow them.

11:16 AM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

Alon, I thought that The Origin of Species was well-written and engaging. But it also is a reflection of the semantics and writing style of the times, so it might seem excessively wordy to some people.

To answer your question, by reading this book list, I am not trying to piss off the rightwingnuts in particular, I am actually trying to read controversial works so I can formulate my own opinions about them, first-hand (and I do realize that the word "literature" is being stretched to its limits when one thinks of works such as Mein Kampf, which I remember as a long, rambling self-indulgent rant). I also think that pushing any work of literature into the dusty shadows is more dangerous to society than exposing them to the bright light of public scrutiny. Sweeping distasteful ideas under the carpet does not make them go away and in fact, this makes them more attractive to certain personality types.

Thanks for the additional titles, I will try to read those this summer, too (yes, I've read the structure of evobio, but it is due for a re-reading and this summer is a good time to do it, hopefully I have time).

Like you, RPM, I also wonder how many books the list's creators have read.

You might not like subways, RD. they are like flying through a black ocean inside a well-lit bullet. It's possible that you might get motion-sick from a subway ride, although this is an experiment that you will have to perform when you visit me in NYC. :)


1:27 PM  
Blogger Rexroth's Daughter said...

I actually grew up back east-- new jersey to be precise. I used to take the bus into the city all the time, and ride those subways all over the place. Greenwich Village in the 60s was a fine place for a 16 year old to be roaming freely. At that age, I used to love to watch people, and the subways were a distinct portrait of humanity (probably still are). Nowadays, I like to live in retreat. The thought of trains in grimy, black tunnels isn't quite an attractive notion as it was when I was young!
I have only listened to one book on tape, and that was Hillary Clinton reading It Takes a Village. I found it boring. I have a friend who swears by it though, and she keeps her headphones on at work, with her iPod tuned to literature.

4:01 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

Dear Hedwig,

Methinks thou art swimming in a dangerous soup. You will not find right in a world of wrong. The National Consevative Weekly is not an appropriate stimulus to which to respond. You will not find the terms of forensic success in this cultural debate within the cosmology of the right.

I would rather you did not take up the battle and let those who must lead lead. Concentrate on the wonders of the natural world not on politics. Political power is not the concern of scientist or poet. Think of the things the persist outside of laws and government; basically everything which matters most.

Engagement in this debate is as beneath you as it is the Ivory Bill.

Bill, who has read none of these books nor ever will! Poor a leftist as a rightist. Pardon eh moi my intrusion into the library! Back oustide I tromp.

8:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have an author suggestion that you may like. My favorite author is Patricia A. McKillip, I have read and re-read all of her books. My favorite when I first discovered her is the book "The Forgotton Beasts of Eld" and the latest that I just read "Alphabet of Thorn". Her use of language and imagery is just fantastic . . . you can find her in the science fiction (fantasy) section. Look up her name when you are in the library next . . .


11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm extremely confident that you will do well in the presentation. You already know this . . . I'll lend you my confidence and strength that you can do this.

11:38 PM  
Blogger Rhyax said...

Wow, those National Conservative Weekly guys are a scary bunch! I think it's cool that you are going to read those books. I wish I had a four hour commute, so that I too could read some good books. I listen to audiobooks in my truck as I drive to school and back. I have expanded my mind a bit that way, but would love to have more time to sit down and really read.

The Handmaid's Tale is one of my favorites and I think it would piss the conservatives right off. :)

12:03 AM  
Blogger jamie said...

I dunno why Dewey was on that list, but I do know that I had an English prof who leaned heavily on Dewey, and nothing in my own education "clicked" until then. I'm scared that some people consider that dangerous.

I picked up a beautiful pocket-sized copy of "On the Origin . ." at B&N, complete with the gold leafing and scarlet ribbon bookmark like those bibles I grew up with, for like $4, I've only skimmed through it, but I find it elegant. But I have a thing for inordinately long, compound sentences. . .

12:43 AM  
Blogger GrrlScientist said...

I love old books such as the one you describe. But then, I suffer from a incurable disease; chronic biblophilia. But of course, as chronic and incurable diseases go, it could be worse, much worse.


7:11 AM  

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