Top 100 Non-fiction

Rakesh Bhandari bhandari at phoenix.Princeton.EDU
Sat Jan 22 09:46:45 PST 2000

In an awesome list Sam included

>Twain: King Leopold's Ghost

That's King Leopold's Soliloquy, King Leopold's Ghost being by Adam Hochschild, no? Just thought I would suggest this correction because Twain's book had a tremendous impact on me--hope I have remembered its name.

For popular science--that most important category--perhaps Lancelot Hogben's forgotten intros to maths and science? Martin Gardner's intro to logic and machines (Gardner would doubtless put Carnap's Philosophy of Science near the top)? Morris Kline's Math and Physical Science and End of Certainty books? Edna Kramer's History of Mathematics? Or Alexandrov's , et al Mathematics: Its History, Meaning and Method?

Couldn't leave out Einstein and Infeld's intro to relativity! (by the way, has anyone read Peter Galison's piece on Einstein's Clocks in the latest Critical Inquiry 2000)? Hans Reichenbach From Copernicus to Einstein? Richard Fenyman's Character of a Physical Law and the Easy and Not so Easy 7 pieces? (Bernal's Science in History is a great choice indeed, though I have only read quite selectively through them). Tony Hey's The Quantum Universe? Gerald Holton's Introduction to Concepts and Theories in the Physical Sciences? Gotta read all these myself.

Would have to include Watson and Crick's The Double Helix, wouldn't we?!

Agree with John Maynard Smith's Theory of Evolution, Sam; surpassed his teacher Haldane's Causes of Evolution (though if we are including textbooks Douglas Futuyma's 1998 3rd edition Evolutionary Biology is the most beautiful I have seen); do think JMS' Major Transitions in Evolution with Szathmary will be remembered as a revolutionary work.

How about this sequence from teleology to reductionism to dialectics in the 20th century: Bergson Creative Evolution-Monod Chance and Necessity (include the superb circa 1975 Monod essay in the Ridley reader on evolution)-Lewontin and Levins Dialectical Biologist?

Lewontin, Human Diversity (haven't read Cavalli Sforza's massive encylopaedia of human genetic history, only the popularisation on the human diaspora).

Did like Enrico Coen's The Art of Genes: How Organisms Make themselves. Don't know the best popular intro to genetics or the historically crucial ones (of course Fisher, Kimura, and Lewontin--but things are changing quickly). Coen's is really only on developmental genetics.

Something tells me that I should have read Erwin Schroediger's work on the orgins of greek science and the nature of life by now...

And...Hubert Dreyfus' What Computers Still Can't Do (or does Pierre Levy's Collective Intelligence: Mankind's Emerging World in Cyberspace point in another, more fruitful direction--won't bother with the cruder cyber hype of Ray Kurzweil)?

For history and economic history in particular (Dobb's book belongs here indeed, along with Max Beer's History of Social Struggles and Socialism, as do the historical sections of Rosa Luxemburg's Accumulation of Capital and the books decades later, by Eric Williams, Eduardo Galeano, Walter Rodney and Ramakrishna Mukherjee--these most important *first* steps to tell the global history of capital's expansion), how about Braudel's Perspective of the World and KN Chauduri's Asia Before Europe? Max Weber's sociology of agrarian civilizations and DD Kosambi's Ancient India? Karl Polanyi's Livilihood of Man? Moishe Finkelstein's, aka Moses Finley's, Ancient Economy?

Abbott Usher's History of Mechanical Inventions? Chandler's Scale and Scope? Nathan Rosenberg How the West Grew Rich (I know I am alone on this one--so how about John Hicks A Theory of Economic History?).

Not because I think it is truly a great book (it's hardly that) but because of the effort (so important in its and our time) to understand the problem in its *world historic* totality--The Great Crisis by Stalin's go to man Eugen Varga in the mid 1930s. And Wallerstein is surely one of the few persons to have seriously grappled with this, our problem in its historical unfolding.

What about the massive (pernicious) impact of Wittfogel's Oriental Despotism? And then there's Lawrence Krader's Asiatic Mode of Production.

John Dower's book on the US-Japanese war? Gar Alperowitz's book on the American use of atomic weapons of which I have inexcusably only read summaries. Shoah, though a movie.

Some of my actual Marxian selections are, surprise!surprise!, Henryk Grossmann Law of Accumulation and the Catastrophe of the Capitalist System and Marx, Classical Economics and the Problems of Dynamics(1929, 1943--all dates approximate), EA Preobrazhensky's The Decline of Capitalism (1932?), Kirschheimer and Rusche, Punishment and Social Structure; Pashkunis, Law and Marxism; Leo Huberman Man's Worldly Goods (1936?) William J Blake Marxian Economic Theory and Its Criticism (1939), Franz Neumann's Behemoth: Structure and Practice of National Socialism (1944) and Paul Mattick Marx and Keynes: the limits of the mixed economy (1969) and Economic Crisis and Crisis Theory (1981); Poulantzas State, Power and Socialism (that should get a rise out of the Ellen Wood acolytes); agree with Braverman and in the same vein David Noble Forces of Production.

CLR James and Martin Glaberman's critique of business unionism has proven its importance.

In terms of Marxian philosophy, here's two antithetical choices: Karl Korsch's Karl Marx (1938)and TA Jackson's Dialectics (1936). And Kolakowsi's Main Currents of Marxism (ouch!). And I agree with Debord's society of the spectacle.

Wouldn't include as Marxist Adorno and Horkheimer's Dialectic of Enlightenment, Barthes' Mythologies, Foucault's Order of Thing but would include them.

A few non Marxian economic works: how about Veblen's Theory of Business Enterprise and Schumpeter's Business Cycles? Alvin Hansen's intro book on business cycles. Adolph Lowe's Path of Economic Growth.

Would have to include here Mao's Critique of Soviet Economics and Mahlanabosis' theory of planning for their historical impact at least, no?

And of course Charles Kindelberger Manias, Panics and Crashes and Susan Strange's book on the history of sterling's rise and fall seem quite important--haven't read her that far back yet.

Linguistics--wish I had read Sapir, Jakobsen, Zelig Harris and Noam Chomsky (to whom Neil Smith has written a seemingly very helpful introduction The Twittering Machine). Anthro: Levi Strauss (including the Marxian emendation by Maurice Godelier in Perspectives on Marxist Anthropology), Edmund Leach, Lawrence Krader?

Of course Louis Dumont's book on Indian caste as the antithesis of Western society (to be read with the critical discussions in Sharma, ed. Contextualizing Caste).

Where does Freud belong? Marinetti? Sorel? Spengler? Who has figured out money; Simmel, Keynes, or someone else?

Fiction (two recommendations from the lit prof at home): Christa Wolf Patterns of Childhood, Roa Bastos Eye of the Supreme. Don't know if that's how they have been translated.

Haven't seen Counterpunch's list yet. This is more my wish list of things to read or at least reread (since I probably didn't understand the first time around).

best, rakesh

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