T Nation

Your Favorite Book?

I hope this thread isn’t a repeat in PWI. I know it gets brought up a lot in the GAL forum. I wanted to get an idea from PWI posters what books they enjoy most. Whether it’s for helping shape their political or economic beliefs, or just for pleasure. I’ll start with a couple of mine.

The Leviathan
The Federalist Papers
The Histories (Herodotus)

Those are a few. I’ll think of more.

These are not necessarily "favorites, " per se (I’m more a literature fan, anyway), but books I do believe should be essential reading for any student of history, particularly Western history.

The Soul of Battle : From Ancient Times to the Present Day, How Three Great Liberators Vanquished Tyranny
Why the West Has Won
Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise to Western Power - all by Victor Davis Hanson

A History of Warfare - Sir John Keegan (One of our great military historians who unfortunately for us, passed away just this August)

On War - Carl von Clausewitz

These are just a few off the top of my head. If you want to pick one from the lot, Why the West Has Won or pretty much any book I’ve ever read by Victor Davis Hanson is guaranteed to be both entertaining and insightful. Hanson is a great storyteller, and his books read like fiction. I’ve never finished a book of his without feeling disappointed I’d come to the end. And I’ve always left the book thinking about the subject matter in a way I’d never before encountered.

Totally unrelated throwaway bonus book: Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches - Marvin Harris.

Great title, eh? That’s what prompted me to buy it at Half-Price books around 15 years ago. I’ve learned a lot in that time, and I no longer believe all of his extremely interesting theories about the origins of our cultural habits, but he, too, has a highly entertaining, fast-paced, accessible writing style that begs you to keep turning pages. And he, like Hanson will not let you leave his book without the feeling that you’ve at least learned a new way of looking at the world around you. Even if he is not always right, the most valuable lesson you can gain from his books is how to analyze.

I’ve also found Harris’s ideas to be a lot more compelling than his more well-known protege, Jared Diamond.

Ancient Evenings by Norman Mailer

The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy by Thomas Sowell

Political books:

The communist manifesto. ( Marx and Engels )
Anarchism. ( Guerin )
Selected texts by anarchist thinkers( a Pax book )
Political thinking.( norwegian text book in political philosophy, not a favorite but to show I have read more than just marx and anarchists. )

I have read other books with texts by Marx, they are like collections of various smaller texts of him, but since it ages ago, I cant remember its name.

I want to read Adam Smiths wealth of nations since its a classic,but havent yet.

Historical books:

The history of the western civilisation. ( text book ) ( not very amusing, but very informative and basickly it takes you from sumeria to our time )

The origin of the modern world ( or something similar ) by Robert B Marks. ( a good read )

the problem of evil/history of bestiality triology by Jens Ingvald Bjoerneboe. ( historical fiction btw )

Europa from 300-1300. ( text book )

I will get some more info on this books later.

The Essays of Ralph Waldo Emerson
It’s a tough read (especially if English is not your first language) but well worth the time. Maybe not a book that helped shaped my political/economic beliefs, but a book that helped shape my personal beliefs. I often find myself going back to this book in order to re-read several passages.

I always heard that one of the best books ever written was Robert Caro’s The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York

[quote]nickj_777 wrote:
I always heard that one of the best books ever written was Robert Caro’s The Power Broker[/quote]

Was going to post about this.

The most amazing feat of research I’ve ever read. Wading through it is at times a chore though.

Also Caro’s series on LBJ, particularly the first.

This is a great idea for a thread.

I’ll mix literature and non-fiction here:

Literature: The Brothers Karamazov, 1984, Blood Meridian, The Naked and the Dead, The Sound and the Fury, Money (Martin Amis), a new one called Ransom by David Malouf (retelling of part of the Iliad…loved it).

Non-Fiction: Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Elements of Style (absolutely essential), The Frontier in American History (Turner), The Lessons of History (Will Durant), Civil Disobedience, Plagues and Peoples (McNeill). Definitely read Rosen’s Justinian’s Flea–one of the most important and underrated books out there, in my opinion.

Actually, as a book of literature, I like the Bible. Outside of the religious aspect, I think it’s a fascinating book of literature. The depth, breadth and meaning of each passage and book have endless prospects for reflection and thought.
It’s also an interesting look in to the complexities and intricacies of our ancient brethren. That their struggles and successes as a group and as individuals is not unlike our own though our circumstances are different the core struggles are the same.

It’s not the only book I read. I read non-fiction generally. John Adams was a great read, I am currently going through ‘George Washington: A life’.
I enjoyed ‘Crazy from the Heat’ by David Lee Roth, ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ (hated the movie, loved the book), All the Harry Potter books, the Lord of the Rings trilogy, ‘An American Life’ (biography of Jerry Garcia) , ‘No One Here Get’s out Alive’, etc. I have read tons of books about musicians.
I really should do some lighter reading at times though. I am drawn toward the heavier shit for some reason.

[quote]pat wrote:
‘No One Here Get’s out Alive’ [/quote]

Loved it, and love Jim, though he was a raving lunatic at times.

The two books I have always enjoyed re-reading: The Giver by Lois Lowry and To Kill a Mockingbird

[quote]smh23 wrote:

[quote]pat wrote:
‘No One Here Get’s out Alive’ [/quote]

Loved it, and love Jim, though he was a raving lunatic at times.[/quote]

Actually I should have mentioned also ‘Light My Fire’ by Ray Manzarek which is a way more thoughtful look into the inner workings of the Doors and Jim’s life by somebody who knew him well and personally. Some of the stuff in the ‘No One Here Gets Out Alive’ was exaggerated or simply not true. And he expresses his extreme hatred of The Doors movie which he deems an utter fiction.

[quote]pat wrote:

[quote]smh23 wrote:

[quote]pat wrote:
‘No One Here Get’s out Alive’ [/quote]

Loved it, and love Jim, though he was a raving lunatic at times.[/quote]

Actually I should have mentioned also ‘Light My Fire’ by Ray Manzarek which is a way more thoughtful look into the inner workings of the Doors and Jim’s life by somebody who knew him well and personally. Some of the stuff in the ‘No One Here Gets Out Alive’ was exaggerated or simply not true. And he expresses his extreme hatred of The Doors movie which he deems an utter fiction. [/quote]

hmm, thanks for the heads up. I’ll look into Light My Fire.

“Atlas Shrugged” Rand’s insight and foresight were simply amazing.

“The Fountainhead” Rereading it for the 10th time as we speak. Great quote from the character Ellsworth Toohey
“Don’t set out to raze all shrines, you’ll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity and the shrines are razed . . . Kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument of human joy. Learn to use it as a weapon of destruction. Turn it into a sneer. It’s simple. Tell them to laugh at virtue. Don’t let anything remain sacred in a man’s soul and his soul won’t be sacred to him. Kill reverence and you’ve killed the hero in man” (p. 637).

Another Fountainhead quote that has stayed with me, Roark: “No. I hate incompetence. I think it’s probably the only thing I do hate. But it didn’t make me want to rule people. Nor to teach them anything. It made me want to do my own work in my own way and let myself be torn to pieces if necessary.”

“Blood Meridian” Cormac McCarthy is the balls! “A man’s at odds to know his mind cause his mind is aught he has to know it with. He can know his heart, but he don’t want to. Rightly so. Best not to look in there. It ain’t the heart of a creature that is bound in the way that God has set for it. You can find meanness in the least of creatures, but when God made man the devil was at his elbow. A creature that can do anything. Make a machine. And a machine to make the machine. And evil that can run itself a thousand years, no need to tend it.”
Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian

“The Road” Cormac McCartht. As a father my heart ached but ached for more.
“Just remember that the things you put into your head are there forever, he said. You might want to think about that.
You forget some things, dont you?
Yes. You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.”
Cormac McCarthy, The Road

“Catch 22” The only book that made me laugh, all by myself, till tears rolled down my face.

To second Jeaton, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead have both had a huge impact on me.

Others :

Economics In One Lesson - Awesome book. If the average person could keep in mind this one single lesson ( broken window fallacy) we would have a radically different political landscape.

2001 A Space Odyssey

Clockwork Orange

For Whom the Bell Tolls

7 Habits

The Intelligent Investor

[quote]smh23 wrote:
This is a great idea for a thread.

I’ll mix literature and non-fiction here:

Literature: The Brothers Karamazov, 1984, Blood Meridian, The Naked and the Dead, The Sound and the Fury, Money (Martin Amis), a new one called Ransom by David Malouf (retelling of part of the Iliad…loved it).

[/quote]

Smh I knew there was a reason I had such a good feeling about you, particularly as a writer. I’ve only not read those last two, and the others are some of my VERY favorite.

He has not earned the right to call himself a lover of literature who has not experienced the sheer, druglike ecstasy of reading Blood Meridian with a dictionary close at hand. Particularly “Attacked by Comanches.”

He is THE great writer of our age. Since you opened up this can of worms:

Cormac McCarthy - Anything he’s written, but particularly the aforementioned and Suttree, followed by Child of God, The Crossing (by FAR the best book of the Border Trilogy…Billy Parham is so much cooler a character than the hyper-emotional John Grady Cole), Outer Dark. I actually have a first edition hardcover of his play, The Stonemason. Found it at a used book store around 15 years ago before anybody knew who McCarthy was. I’ve been reading him nearly 20 years, since I learned about Blood Meridian and Judge Holden (!!!) in a gushing review from Harold Bloom.

William Faulkner - Again, anything, but don’t miss Light in August, As I Lay Dying, The Wild Palms/If I Forget Thee, Jerusalem, Absalom! Abasalom!, Go Down, Moses, a collection of his short stories, is a great starter for those who’ve never read one of his books.

Shakespeare - King Lear!!!, Henry IV, Hamlet, Othello, too many others to list

Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamazov, The Idiot (think YOUR woman is psycho?)

Malcolm Lowry - Under the Volcano (one of the best novels (autobiographies?) ever written, in my opinion…and Lowry’s inability to overcome his addiction, astoundingly chronicled in that novel, is one of the greatest cultural losses of our time.

Less heavy:

Kurt Vonnegut or Douglas Adams. Breakfast of Champions and the Hitchhiker series are some of the most entertaining “comedic literature” I’ve ever come across.

I’m absolutely positive I’ll have more later.

How in the hell did I forget to include Hemingway and Melville on my list? The Sun Also Rises and Moby Dick

Here is the passage I mentioned earlier. It is almost certainly my favorite two pages out of all the literature I’ve ever read, which is no small amount. McCarthy is a master of language, a child of Faulkner, but where Faulkner’s dense vocabulary and run-on sentences occasionally become ponderous, McCarthy is just as prolix if not moreso, yet the language is always exactly right for the tale it tells. No matter how few commas or periods or how many times you come across yet another word you’ve never seen before, you never feel like you are being made to feel dumb. It is more like watching an Olympic athlete perform, you can only sit in rapt awe and admiration at such unimaginably flawless execution.

I’ll post the passage in my next post, as this one got too long again. I HIGHLY recommend you take the time to read it. You will not be disappointed and if you’ve never read anything by McCarthy, you’ll almost certainly be dying to by the end.

“Attacked by Comanches” -Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian

"Behind them came a herd of several hundred ponies. The sergeant looked for Candelario. He kept backing along the ranks but he could not find him. He nudged his horse through the column and moved up the far side. The lattermost of the drovers were now coming through the dust and the captain was gesturing and shouting. The ponies had begun to veer off from the herd and the drovers were beating their way toward this armed company met with on the plain. 

Already you could see through the dust on the ponies’ hides the painted chevrons and the hands and rising suns and birds and fish of every device like the shade of old work through sizing on a canvas and now too you could hear above the pounding of the unshod hooves the piping of the quenas, flutes made from human bones, and some among the company had begun to saw back on their mounts and some to mill in confusion when up from the offside of those ponies there rose a fabled horde of mounted lancers and archers bearing shields bedlight with bits of broken mirrorglass that cast a thousand unpieced suns against the eyes of their enemies.

A legion of horribles, hundreds in number, half naked or clad in costumes attic or biblical or wardrobed out of a fevered dream with the skins of animals and silk finery and pieces of uniform still tracked with the blood of prior owners, coats of slain dragoons, frogged and braided cavalry jackets, one in a stovepipe hat and one with an umbrella and one in white stockings and a bloodstained weddingveil and some in headgear of cranefeathers or rawhide helmets that bore the horns of bull or buffalo and one in a pigeontailed coat worn backwards and otherwise naked and one in the armor of a spanish conquistador, the breastplate and pauldrons deeply dented with old blows of mace or sabre done in another country by men whose very bones were dust and many with their braids spliced up with the hair of other beasts until they trailed upon the ground and their horses’ ears and tails worked with bits of brightly colored cloth and one whose horse’s whole head was painted crimson red and all the horsemen’s faces gaudy and grotesque with daubings like a company of mounted clowns, death hilarious, all howling in a barbarous tongue and riding down upon them like a horde from hell more horrible yet than the brimstone land of christian reckoning, screeching and yammering and clothed in smoke like those vaporous beings in regions beyond right knowing where the eye wanders and the lip jerks and drools.

Oh my god, said the sergeant.

A rattling drove of arrows passed through the company and men tottered and dropped from their mounts. Horses were rearing and plunging and the mongol hordes swung up along their flanks and turned and rode full upon them with lances.

The company was now come to a halt and the first shots were fired and the gray riflesmoke rolled through the dust as the lancers breached their ranks. The kid’s horse sank beneath him with a long pneumatic sigh. He had already fired his rifle and now he sat on the ground and fumbled with his shotpouch. A man near him sat with an arrow hanging out of his neck. He was bent slightly as if in prayer. The kid would have reached for the bloody hoop-iron point but then he saw that the man wore another arrow in his breast to the fletching and he was dead.

Everywhere there were horses down and men scrambling and he saw a man who sat charging his rifle while blood ran from his ears and he saw men with their revolvers disassembled trying to fit the spare loaded cylinders they carried and he saw men kneeling who tilted and clasped their shadows on the ground and he saw men lanced and caught up by the hair and scalped standing and he saw the horses of war trample down the fallen and a little whitefaced pony with one clouded eye leaned out of the murk and snapped at him like a dog and he was gone. Among the wounded some seemed dumb and without understanding and some were pale through the masks of dust and some had fouled themselves or tottered brokenly onto the spears of the savages.

Now driving in a wild frieze of headlong horses with eyes walled and teeth cropped and naked riders with clusters of arrows clenched in their jaws and their shields winking in the dust and up the far side of the ruined ranks in a piping of boneflutes and dropping down off the sides of their mounts with one heel hung in the withers strap and their short bows flexing beneath the outstreched necks of the ponies until they had circled the company and cut their ranks in two and then rising up again like funhouse figures, some with nightmare faces painted on their breasts, riding down on the unhorsed Saxons and spearing and clubbing them and leaping from their mounts with knives and running about on the ground with a peculiar bandylegged trot like creatures driven to alien forms of locomotion and stripping the clothes from the dead and seizing them up by the hair and passing their blades about the skulls of the living and the dead alike and snatching aloft the bloody wigs and hacking and chopping at the naked bodies, ripping off limbs, heads, gutting the strange white torsos and holding up great handfuls of viscera, genitals, some of the savages so slathered up with gore they might have rolled in it like dogs and some who fell upon the dying and sodomized them with loud cries to their fellows.

And now the horses of the dead came pounding out of the smoke and dust and circled with flapping leather and wild manes and eyes whited with fear like the eyes of the blind and some were feathered with arrows and some lanced through and stumbling and vomiting blood as they wheeled across the killing ground and clattered from sight again. Dust stanched the wet and naked heads of the scalped who with the fringe of hair below their wounds and tonsured to the bone now lay like maimed and naked monks in the bloodslaked dust and everywhere the dying groaned and gibbered and horses lay screaming."

[quote]Cortes wrote:

[quote]smh23 wrote:
This is a great idea for a thread.

I’ll mix literature and non-fiction here:

Literature: The Brothers Karamazov, 1984, Blood Meridian, The Naked and the Dead, The Sound and the Fury, Money (Martin Amis), a new one called Ransom by David Malouf (retelling of part of the Iliad…loved it).

[/quote]

Smh I knew there was a reason I had such a good feeling about you, particularly as a writer. I’ve only not read those last two, and the others are some of my VERY favorite.

He has not earned the right to call himself a lover of literature who has not experienced the sheer, druglike ecstasy of reading Blood Meridian with a dictionary close at hand. Particularly “Attacked by Comanches.”

He is THE great writer of our age. Since you opened up this can of worms:
[/quote]

I guessed you were a McCarthy guy by your nonfiction tastes above. I’m so glad you mention Suttree because it’s the only major McCarthy novel I haven’t read and I’ll be starting it within a week or two.

In related CM news:

Boom. McCarthy wrote the screenplay, Ridley Scott is directing, and Bardem, Pitt, and Fassbender are starring.