Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Book Questions

I'm mostly settled into the new place this week and what should happen but I get tagged by Tom Biro on the subject of books. Here goes:

Total number of books owned?

I'd say somewhere less than a hundred. I'm kind of abnormal on this account since for many years, I was a professional student (i.e. someone who changed his major a lot). As such, I've always had easy access to university libraries. Consequently, I didn't buy a lot of books since many more were right there for me.

The last book I bought?

It's been a long time since I bought a book since getting into PR and blogging. Basically every book I get now is free. I'd say the last book I bought was Arab Politics: Class, Power and International Involvement, but I could be wrong.

The last book I read?

Bad News by former CBS correspondent Tom Fenton. Really a great book, too bad no one in the TV news biz was listening. It's almost the kind of book I would have written if given the platform to write on the subject of television news.

Five (six) books that mean a lot to me?

Man of the House, the autobiography of Tip O'Neill, the Democratic Speaker of the House during the 80s. I came across the book when I was 13. I didn't understand everything in it but it set me on the road to being interested in politics. Rereading it since, I still enjoy it.

War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy's classic historical novel set during the Napoleonic Wars. I read it first in high school and remember admiring Tolstoy's insights into the human condition. I still do. I imagine my admiration for W&P is probably one of the main reasons I don't read a lot of fiction since most authors are miles behind a translated Tolstoy.

The Closing of the American Mind by Alan Bloom. It was the first philosophical book I ever read. Looking back, I don't like the book as much as I did at the time. Its real value lies in how Bloom tried to get people to question our shared assumptions, particularly with regard to democracy and popular culture.

Politics by Aristotle. Really the fountainhead of all of today's political analysis (whether you're aware or not). Like all of the surviving writings of Aristotle, the prose is more lecture note than anything else. Still, anyone who is interested in politics should read it and see just how long many of the debates we have nowadays have been around.

Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays by Michael Oakeshott. Probably the book that has most influenced my political thought more than any other. I came into it a committed rationalist liberal (in the classical sense) and left completely different, which is to say, I care more about the reasoning behind a particular policy than how it fits within someone else's ideological framework. This isn't the kind of book you can flip through on the beach but I highly recommend it.

The Stranger by Albert Camus. A great little philosophical novel with the message that being cynical isn't superior. Far better in the original French.

Now to pass along the tag to some folks whose answers I'd like to see (and who I hope have the time and inclination to reply): Eric Scheie, Ed Cone, Mark Tapscott, Alan Mutter and Sean Hackbarth.