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Felix

The Ten Most Beneficial Books Of The 19th/20th Century

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Well, I guess we all agree on Atlas Shrugged.

I would include "the origin of the species" and definitely more science-books.

Any suggestions?

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After a bit of consideration it seems that this list would be harder to compile as opposed to its counterpart.

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One way is to take each field/subject and think about a book that changed things in that subject. Funnily enough, in my own field -- software development -- I cannot think of a radical book. If pressed, I'd point to Donald Knuth's books, but those are only applicable to a very narrow field, so they won't make a general list.

In business and investment, I'd say: Security Analysis by Dodd and Graham, not so much for the particulars of its content as much as for being a seminal effort to organize knowledge on the subject. Again, probably won't make it to a general list.

On economics, since we're limited to the 19th and 20th centuries, I cannot name Adam Smith. Most of the more modern ones are useless.

In politics, Thomas Paine and people who influenced the U.S. founders were 18th century. So... yes, I'm stumped too.

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Two books come to mind:

Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. A very clear and lucid presentation of just why a free market is necessary to a free democratic society.

The Hero With A Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. This book is a great study on the importance of heroic mythology in cultures around the world since the Dawn of Man. Campbell's ideas have had an indirect effect on American pop culture in the 20th century. Filmmakers, screenwriters, novelists, and comic book artists have been inspired by his ideas to create great contemporary hero myths.

:smartass:

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Rise and Fall of the Third Reich

The Black Book of Communism is an important "sequel" to that book.

The Road To Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek is a book that David Horowitz has called "the Karl Marx of the libertarian/conservative worldview."

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Two books come to mind:

Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. A very clear and lucid presentation of just why a free market is necessary to a free democratic society.

I shall have to add it to my list. :D Which unfortunately is growing faster than I'm likely to ever get through it. :( How did it compare with Economics in One Lesson? Which book probably would have been my choice in this area. I realize Hazlitt wrote it as a primer, but its the book I keep coming back to whenever I have a basic question in the area of economics.

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I shall have to add it to my list. :lol: Which unfortunately is growing faster than I'm likely to ever get through it. :P How did it compare with Economics in One Lesson? Which book probably would have been my choice in this area. I realize Hazlitt wrote it as a primer, but its the book I keep coming back to whenever I have a basic question in the area of economics.

Capitalism and Freedom is more philosophical while Economics in one lesson deals more with economics as far as I see it. I like both of them. But I still think that Economics ... is more beneficial because you can refer to it for later questions. But this doesn't stop Capitalism and Freedom from being a must on a reading list. Sorry. :D

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Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Funnily enough, in my own field -- software development -- I cannot think of a radical book. If pressed, I'd point to Donald Knuth's books, but those are only applicable to a very narrow field, so they won't make a general list.

By Knuth I assume you are referring to The Art of Computer Programming. If so, I agree. I've never found another source for comp sci that goes into such detail on everything related to the subject.

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Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

oops...I didn't notice you said 19th/20th century. I guess that would exclude Decline and Fall, sorry. :)

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... "Economics in One Lesson" ...
What is the "one lesson"? How would you summarize it? Is it a lesson about a specific topic in Economics or about the approach to Economics (e.g. the epistemology of economics)?

I have my own answer, but I'd be interested in hearing yours first :)

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What is the "one lesson"?

I do not own the book. I once read it in our university library. But as far as I remember the 'one lesson' was that all influence of force upon a free market results in short-term benefits for some at the cost of the rest and bad long-term effects for everyone.

Now I want to know your version. :)

Edited by Felix

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The lesson is here: http://jim.com/econ/chap02p1.html

The full book is here: http://jim.com/econ/contents.html

One way is to take each field/subject and think about a book that changed things in that subject. Funnily enough, in my own field -- software development -- I cannot think of a radical book.

I have a number in my Amazon list - the three star rated ones: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/guide...8564770-2562365

As far as great books go, two that come to mind are a collection of essays “Science and Human Values” by James Bronowski and the essay “Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth” by Ludwig von Mises.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist

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Of those, I've only read "Mythical Man Month" and would agree. "Code Complete" has been on my wish-list for a while, but I've not bought it because I know it will simply lie on my shelf. Another book that is on my list is "Peopleware - by Tom deMarco"

Edited by softwareNerd

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"Code Complete" has been on my wish-list for a while, but I've not bought it because I know it will simply lie on my shelf.

That's what I thought, but the advice in that book has totally transformed the way I think about programming – you can’t afford to code without reading it.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist

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... as far as I remember the 'one lesson' was that all influence of force upon a free market results in short-term benefits for some at the cost of the rest and bad long-term effects for everyone. Now I want to know your version. :pirate:
Yes, that is one example. They do not have to be long-term and short-term. More accurate to say "seen" and "unseen", in Hazlitt-like language. Or, in language more appropriate to Objectivists, we might say "the focussed upon" and the "not focussed upon".

That's what I thought, but the advice in that book has totally transformed the way I think about programming – you can’t afford to code without reading it.
Sold! It will be in my next Amazon order. If only I'd made that decision 6 hours earlier, I'd have combined it with something else for free shipping!

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Hard to say; a lot of the most important work has been in the form of academic papers rather than books (Turing and Einstein would be 2 examples). Ayn Rand's novels would obviously be up there though, along with Darwin's Origins, Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations, Chomsky's review of Skinner which destroyed behaviorism academically, pretty much everything written by Nietzsche, Knuth's computer programming series (just because its _read_ by a small group doesnt mean that others dont benefit from it indirectly), Kinsey's Sexual Behavior, and Orwell's 1984 which has made people a bit more distrustful of government.

There's also a lot of specialised scientific 'books' which I havent read, but assume are highly important: Maxwell's treatise on electrodynamics, Mises on economics, etc.

Edited by Hal

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Well, I guess we all agree on Atlas Shrugged.

I would include "the origin of the species" and definitely more science-books.

Any suggestions?

For the 19-th century I would say -A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism- by James Clerk Maxwell is probably the most important book published that century. From it flows the entire field of electrodynamics and it was the ground work for Einstein later researches which culminated with Einstein's famous -On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies-, aka The Special Theory of relativity.

Maxwell's alteration of the equations for the electric and magnetic fields that included the term for the "displacement current" produced the theory of electromagnetic waves (in short light and radio) was probably the most important single event of the 19-th century. Compared to this scientific breakthrough, all the political and economic roiling and broiling of the 19th C. is of little consequence.

Bob Kolker

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Funnily, I was thinking about such a list myself and I'm delighted to find it already. The "other list" of the most harmful books is quite useless IMHO unless you were religious and looking to "shield" yourselves from others' opinions.

In the present list, I would include "On Liberty" by JS Mill and other books by Classical Liberal authors like Lord Acton ("Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.") Of course, I agree that revolutionary books on evolution and modern physics should be included.

1984
I was actually a little disappointed with this. In particular, the ending was totally hopeless.

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Every book by Peter F. Drucker. There was no wiser man (he died recently in his nineties).

Don't even think of starting a business or becoming a senior manager IF you don't have this man's books on your shelf! Don't.

Perhaps the most important lesson you can get from him is just how to manage yourself (look for his free article on the web called "Managing Oneself" and you'll get totally addicted to the man, don't tell me I never warned you!)

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I suggest The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by Dr. Julian Jaynes. I often wondered why Miss Rand never attempted to use this to cite historical examples to accompany the theoretical ideas of the mysticism of the God concept. She was still alive when he first published this work. But still today, it seems to be ignored by Peikoff, et al.

http://www.julianjaynes.org

Review and summary:

If you are new to Julian Jaynes's theory, start by reading his book, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, or his article, "Consciousness and the Voices of the Mind," which can be found in the Articles by Julian Jaynes section.

"When Julian Jaynes...speculates that until late in the second millennium B.C. men had no consciousness but were automatically obeying the voices of gods, we are astounded but compelled to follow this remarkable thesis through all the corroborative evidence..."

- John Updike, in The New Yorker

"This book and this man's ideas may be the most influential, not to say controversial, of the second half of the twentieth century. It renders whole shelves of books obsolete."

- William Harrington, in Columbus Dispatch

"Having just finished The Origin of Consciousness, I myself feel something like Keats' Cortez staring at the Pacific, or at least like the early reviewers of Darwin or Freud. I'm not quite sure what to make of this new territory; but its expanse lies before me and I am startled by its power."

- Edward Profitt, in Commonweal

"He is as startling as Freud was in The Interpretation of Dreams, and Jaynes is equally adept at forcing a new view of known human behavior."

- Raymond Headlee, in American Journal of Psychiatry

"The bold hypothesis of the bicameral mind is an intellectual shock to the reader, but whether or not he ultimately accepts it he is forced to entertain it as a possibility. Even if he marshals arguments against it he has to think about matters he has never thought of before, or, if he has thought of them, he must think about them in contexts and relationships that are strikingly new."

- Ernest R. Hilgard, Professor of Psychology, Stanford University

"The weight of original thought in it is so great that it makes me uneasy for the author's well-being: the human mind is not built to support such a burden."

- D.C. Stove, in Encounter

At the heart of this book is the revolutionary idea that human consciousness did not begin far back in animal evolution but is a learned process brought into being out of an earlier hallucinatory mentality by cataclysm and catastrophe only 3000 years ago and still developing. The implications of this new scientific paradigm extend into virtually every aspect of our psychology, our history and culture, our religion - and indeed, our future. In the words of one reviewer, it is "a humbling text, the kind that reminds most of us who make our livings through thinking, how much thinking there is left to do."

* * *

Presents a theory of the bicameral mind which holds that ancient peoples could not "think" as we do today and were therefore "unconscious," a result of the domination of the right hemisphere; only catastrophe forced mankind to "learn" consciousness, a product of human history and culture and one that issues from the brain's left hemisphere. Three forms of human awareness, the bicameral or god-run man; the modern or problem-solving man; and contemporary forms of throwbacks to bicamerality (e.g., religious frenzy, hypnotism, and schizophrenia) are examined in terms of the physiology of the brain and how it applies to human psychology, culture, and history.

* * *

"O, what a world of unseen visions and heard silences, this insubstantial country of the mind! What ineffable essences, these touchless rememberings and unshowable reveries! And the privacy of it all! A secret theater of speechless monologue and prevenient counsel, an invisible mansion of all moods, musings, and mysteries, an infinite resort of disappointments and discoveries. A whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone, questioning what we will, commanding what we can. A hidden hermitage where we may study out the troubled book of what we have done and yet may do. An introcosm that is more myself than anything I can find in a mirror. This consciousness that is myself of selves, that is everything, and yet is nothing at all - what is it?

And where did it come from?

And why?"

- excerpt from the introduction to The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

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