October 03, 2003
OK, one more!

Actually, before I take off I want to make my long-intended contribution to Noah Millman's game: name the ten most important books you've never read. I'm not even going to try to rank-order them, but here goes:

-- Milton's Paradise Lost. I've seen excerpts and they always make me want to read more, but I've never gotten around to it. Plus it's such a seminal work in the Western religious and literary imagination. A lot of people think the whole story is actually in the Bible.

-- The Q'uran. I probably know less about Islam than any major world religion, but its importance is obvious.

-- Darwin's Origin of Species. I've read so much about it, but I've never read the original. I've always figured a lot of it's out of date, but it would be interesting to see the work that started it all.

-- Anything by Wittgenstein. I confess this is largely for tactical reasons: whenever Telford and I argue about epistemology, he brings up Wittgenstein, and nothing brings out his "you have much to learn, my young padewan" attitude more. If I knew what the heck he was talking about, it would make those arguments a lot more productive.

-- St. Augustine's Confessions. Another seminal work in the Western religious imagination, and also what sounds like an interesting conversion story.

-- Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto. I was scheduled to read it in my poli-sci class before I dropped out (it's a long story) and I regret having missed it. Something that had a huge impact on a lot of people who read it, to put it mildly.

-- Herman Melville, Moby-Dick. Portraits of obsession always interest me, but I've always been daunted by the fact that even my mother couldn't finish it.

-- Anything by Thomas Aquinas. Again, largely because it gets quoted at me a lot. Telford also thinks it might appeal to my desire for Christianity to be more systematic. (Unfortunately, it sounds like it's based on outdated natural-law systematics, but I guess I could only find out by reading it.)

-- Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. Much loved by people I respect, but it just sounds so depressing, I never really had the heart to pick it up.

-- Cervantes, Don Quixote. Ok, that's cheating because I've read part of it, but I still have to finish it!

Posted by Camassia at October 03, 2003 09:25 AM | TrackBack

re: Wittgenstein--I'd recommend a class with a real, honest-to-God Wittgensteinian to really appreciate him.

I love Wittgenstein--I've read the _Tractatus_, written a paper over _The Philosophy of Mathematics_, and really want to read _On Grammar_.

Posted by: Katherine on October 3, 2003 06:38 PM

Good list - but you're tougher on yourself than I was on myself. I've read only part of Paradise Lost, for instance, but gave myself credit. Ditto the Quran. Ditto Aquinas, of which I've only read relatively short excerpts in a class in college.

Haven't read Augustine; that should probably have been on my list. You could knock The Communist Manifesto off on a commuter train ride; it's very short. And not really worth it.

My wife couldn't finish Moby Dick either, but I think it's magnificent. Might be a boy thing. If you haven't read any Dostoevsky, read Notes From Underground first, which is a pure distillation of his genius and relatively short besides. If you like that, read The Brothers Karamazov. I'd put C&P further down the list in importance.

I haven't read Darwin myself, and I never know whether these sorts of "worldly philosophers" - Darwin, Adam Smith, etc. - are really people you need to read, or whether the key thing is to get their ideas. But my wife has read Darwin, and says it was a great experience. I almost wonder whether a good biography of the man wouldn't be more interesting, though.

Enjoy good books while the light has not yet failed!

Posted by: Noah Millman on October 5, 2003 01:22 PM
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