About Me

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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fifty books for our times

This list published at Newsweek is introduced as follows:

We know it's insane. We know people will ask why on earth we think that an 1875 British satirical novel is the book you need to read right now — or, for that matter, why it even made the cut. The fact is, no one needs another best-of list telling you how great The Great Gatsby is. What we do need, in a world with precious little time to read (and think), is to know which books — new or old, fiction or nonfiction—open a window on the times we live in, whether they deal directly with the issues of today or simply help us see ourselves in new and surprising ways. Which is why we'd like you to sit down with Anthony Trollope, and these 49 other remarkably trenchant voices.

It's a classy looking list, though rather eccentric. I've read surprising few of the books that it contains. There's very little science fiction, I notice (Philip K. Dick's Do Android's Dream of Electric Sheep? and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein are about the only ones ... and there is also very little in the way of fantasy).

There's also little that relates to science, but it includes Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution Is True, which is kind of neat - in fact, I found out about this list via Jerry's blog. Thanks for the info, Jerry, and congratulations!


Hazel said...

I've read surprising few of the books that it contains.

Well I'm glad I'm not the only one! I generally do better at these type of lists.

and there is also very little in the way of fantasy).

Yep, but the Susan Cooper they have picked is brilliant - I loved those books as a kid.

Unknown said...

hmpff. i am used to my #2 all time favourite book 'the things they carried' being neglected by such lists, but not 'the quiet american'.

graham greene's short work is not only brilliantly written, but it seems to be more relevant today post-vietnam (not to mention during-iraq) than it was when it was written.

there are so many huge ideas summarised in a short novel that extremely relevant today, i am calling bullshit to any top 50 list that doesn't contain it.