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June 16, 2005

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radek

Number of books I own: Around 300 currently. Though I always drop off a few at my folks house and I'm not counting those.

Last Book I Bought: Patrick O'Brian, Mauritius Command and John Keegan History of War

Last Book I Read: John Keegan, 3/4 through O'Brian.

Five books that mean a lot to me: This is one of those questions that really don't have a right answer. But I'll try.

The book I've read the most number of times: Sienkiewicz's Trilogy - probably somewhere close to 20 times, first time when I was 7, though my Dad used to read it to me before that. Both Polish and English (both the classic Jeremiah Curtin translation as well as the newer one by Binion). More or less I end up reading at least one of the volumes once a year.

The book I've read the second most number of times:
Jaroslav Hasek's Good Soldier Svejk. Both Polish and English and I made a stab at the Czech once. It is the funniest book ever written.

(runners up here would include Mesa Selimovic The Fortress, The First Circle by Solzhenitsyn and the Possessed by Dostoyevsky - I have very Slavic tastes when it comes to pure literature)

I'm excluding reference books (broadly construed - so Mas-Collel would fall in this category) since you consult them a lot, but you don't read them front to back except maybe once.

The book which has influenced what I'm doing now the most
International Trade: Theory and Evidence by James Markusen et al. It was the first 'real' economics book I read and it kicked my ass. But after I was done I knew what I wanted to do with my life. It's a pretty good econ textbook, though not the best - just the first for me. The second 'real' econ book I read was Walter Nicholson's Microeconomics. The third the 'Dornbusch and Fisher' version of the 'Dornbusch' mentioned above.

And speaking of getting your ass kicked by a book, the book that really whooped me when I first picked it up would also be Rudin: Principles of Mathematical Analysis, though I got around to it much later than Abiola.

Another great book that I can't currently think of a category for but somehow deserves to be mentioned: One Hundred Years of Solitude.

Abiola Lapite

"Jaroslav Hasek's Good Soldier Svejk. Both Polish and English and I made a stab at the Czech once. It is the funniest book ever written."

Now *there's* one title I keep telling myself I have to read, and keep forgetting to actually get around to.

"Another great book that I can't currently think of a category for but somehow deserves to be mentioned: One Hundred Years of Solitude."

For me, the most eye-opening of Garcia-Marquez' books was "The Autumn of the Patriarch." The book has everything - penerating remarks on human foibles, deep psychological insight, phantasmagorical events, clever political commentary, biting sarcasm - and the funniest thing about it is that despite the "magical realism" of it all, many of the excesses it describes are so true to the sorts of experiences I've seen with real life dictators that the "magical" elements of the story seem at most to be mild exaggerations.

Kenji

This is a pretty cool post. How about the same questions/items applied to films (to be a little more "post-modern" =D)?

Won Joon Choe

I feel the same way about Bertie Russell's History of Western philosophy. Like you, I discovered it rather early (in 7th grade) and was mesmerized by Bertie's prose and panache. But the book hasn't aged well for me, as Bertie wasn't really qualified to write of a book of this nature. I forgot who said it (maybe Sidney Hook?), but the only philosopher Bertie was qualified to write about was Leibniz; or as one of my own (Straussian) political philosophy prof. used to say: "Good ole Bertie couldn't tell the difference between Plato and platypus." I would not recommend this book at all--though there isn't really a synoptic work on the history of Western philosophy that I would confidently advance as a replacement either.

Kenji

"I would not recommend this book at all--though there isn't really a synoptic work on the history of Western philosophy that I would confidently advance as a replacement either."

What about Strauss and Cropsey's History of Political Philosophy? There was a time when I loved that book (before I started getting into postmodern theory).

Won Joon Choe

Strauss-Cropsey is limited to political philosophy and doesn't touch the perennial themes of what we would call "pure" philosophy, e.g. epistemology. I am not sure if it is necessarily the best introduction to political philosophy either, because it lacks unity due to being written by multi-authors. (I think Sheldon Wolin's Politics and Vision is incontestably the best survey of political philosophy written by a single author.)

Kenji as a postmodernist, oh no! :)

Won Joon Choe

As an aside, it seems like we are going the opposite directions intellectually, Kenji. These days I am just reading policy stuff--totally wedded to the earth. I must've read Kissinger's A World Restored & his 3-volume memoirs at least three times each the last year or so.

john

Kenji,

You are into postmodern theory???

Please elaborate for us.

John

Won Joon Choe

John, it's no more shocking than you running a tech company! :)

Kenji

I am past postmodern theory (tired of deconstructing) and have found hope in American pragmatism (along the lines of C.S. Peirce, Dewey, etc.). (Having said that, I should disclose that I am currently reading Best & Kellner's "Postmodern Theory"---So, maybe, I'm not quite through with postmodern theory.)

I have been heavily influenced by an emerging group of advocates for a new type of government called "Democratic Experimentalism," which is being promoted by a team of academics mostly at Columbia, Harvard, and MIT. If you are interested in learning about this new idea, check out the article by Michael Dorf and Charles Sabel titled "A Constitution of Democratic Experimentalism" in the March 1998 issue of The Columbia Law Review.

Won Joon Choe

Kenji,

One of my old professors, Larry Sager, was a huge fan of that article. So I had to read it when I did an independent study with him. And you didn't have to persuade me that you are a pragmatist :)

Elizabeth Stevens

This is a *very* old post, but let me throw out another great author you might like who heavily influenced Kafka's absurdism (and Nietzsche's too!): Heinrich von Kleist. There are plenty of his works in the original German on Google Print or Spiegel's Project Gutenberg.

The essay "Ueber das Marionettentheater" will give you a good idea of Kleist's thought and style.

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