Top 10 Books

I thought I’d join in on the thread going around asking people to name the ten books that influenced them. I’ll leave legal books out to make this more interesting.

1.  Inside the Third Reich (Albert Speer) – The best book about evil ever written, precisely because Speer (one of Hitler’s close friends and ministers) tries so hard to explain his actions without admitting that he knew about the Holocaust.  This requires more reading between the lines than any other book.

2.  On War (Carl Von Clausewitz) — This unfinished work captures certain fundamental concepts about politics in a way that no other does.

3.  I, Claudius (Robert Graves) — I’ve always identified with the main character for some reason.

4.  Moby Dick (Herman Melville) — “All visible objects are but as pasteboard masks.”  Plus, there are whales.

5.  Julius Caesar (William Shakespeare) — Maybe this shouldn’t count because it’s a play, but Antony’s funeral oration is one of the few speeches that I can recite from memory.  (Though I also love Caesar’s “I am constant as the Northern Star” speech right before he gets hacked to pieces.)

6.  Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds (Charles Mackay) — Still the best book on economic bubbles.

7.  The English Constitution (Walter Bagehot) — Well, OK this is a law book, but Bagehot was not a lawyer, so I’m making an exception.

8.  Titan (Ron Chernow) — This biography of John D. Rockefeller Sr. is a model for how I want to write my biography of John Bingham.  (More on that soon.)  Chernow’s biography of Alexander Hamilton deserves an honorable mention.

9.  Don Quixote (Miguel de Cervantes)  — There’s something oddly compelling about it.

10.  Lend Me Your Ears (William Safire) — Sure, it’s just an anthology of great speeches, but the study of rhetoric is underrated and you can’t do better than this volume.

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1 Response

  1. AYY says:

    I haven’t read Lend Me Your Ears, but if you want to read something else with great oratory, pick up one of the collectons of Thomas Macaulay’s parliamentary speeches. All the ones I read were zingers.