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The best (not-so-well-known) books you've read

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What are the best 3 or 4 books that you consider must-reads you would recommend to friends, excluding any books by Rand or other Objectivists.


  • the book is not a classic (Aristotle, Bible, Shakespeare), and perhaps not even that well-know
  • I'm only interested in books you have read completely.
  • the book which has helped you and continues to help you every now and then -- perhaps in a way you think or in the way act.
  • you found the book interesting -- i.e. you did not have to push yourself through it

Just titles would be sufficient. Any type of explanation -- no matter how pithy -- would be even better.

Edited by softwareNerd
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I enjoyed "the book of lost things". It's not especially profound or philosophically stimulating, but I immediately found the premise to be really cool and wanted to read more. It's a compilation of most of the classic Brothers Grim fairy tails, but mutated drastically.

A fun story and an exciting climax. Hope someone makes a movie of it, because there are some scenes I would love to see.

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A longtime favorite is Comrade John by Merwin & Webster, 1907. They also wrote Calumet 'K', which Rand named as her favorite novel. Comrade John is at once a suspense story and a satire of Elbert Hubbard and the Roycrofters, an anti-industrial, live-the-simple-life movement of the era. I first read it when hippies were hot, and the insincere sappiness of the "Beechcrofters," as the novel calls them, struck a contemporary chord. Herman Stein, the group's prophet, a mix of charlatan and Nietzschean Superman, hires John Chance, an architect who specializes in amusement parks, to design a temple for the group and let Stein pass it off as his own design. In addition, he and his crew are to pose as members so that the Beechcrofters will think that their own pursuit of "beauty through toil" put the building up. Then things start going wrong.

I suspect that this is where Rand got the idea of architectural ghosting in The Fountainhead.

The Online Books Page has the full text of this and several other works by the same authors.

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Well, I can't think of any way in which it helped me, but I enjoyed it, and it certainly fits the requirement for not being well known:

It's Auto da Fé (original title Die Blendung), by Elias Canetti. The main (and only significant) character is an obsessive, socially isolated book collector living in Vienna, and the novel follows the dark, more horrifying than funny, comedy of his existence, especially his irrational decision to marry his simpleton housekeeper. It's one of the few (serious, I'm not counting adventure novels I read as a kid) novels I just couldn't put down as I was reading it.

It's not well known, because it was written in '35 an promptly banned by the Nazis, and I think it's the only piece of fiction Canetti ever wrote. But he did win the Nobel, much later, for a non-fiction work.

Edited by Nicky
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For Les Miserables fans:

Cosette: The Sequel to Les Miserables, Laura Kalpakian



For those that enjoy Emily Dickinson:

Rose MacMurray's Afternoons with Emily



For those that enjoy Sylvia Plath:

Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath Stephanie Hemphill


And lastly, 4.

I hesitate to even mention this one, as it is one that has stopped me reading altogether almost 2 years ago, (long but very interesting story that I don't want to fray up this thread to discuss it)

for Phantom Phans, READ AT YOUR OWN RISK:

My Phantom: The Memoir of Christine Daaé written by Anstance Tamplin


And lastly, 4.

And since I am not counting the last one, I will get to add this one:


A Noble Treason written by Richard Hanser

The White Rose was a resistance group, an anti-Hitler group founded by students in Germany. These students and affiliates from 1942-43 secretly distributed leaflets around various cities, doing what they could to passively resist the totalatarian government they were all under. At the time, everyone was watched to curb such resistance, but they managed to get plenty of these leaflets out there, but some were eventually caught and the main ones beheaded by Nazis. Though they were religious (Christian) in nature, some of these leaflets and their story I have found so interesting. This book was well written, too, in description of the group. Let me show you fine examples of that with quotations:

What made the shock to the Nazi heirarchy so jolting was that this is the first opposition to the rule of Adolf Hitler that had broken through to the light of day. It was the first public break in the universal lockstep imposed on German society by its leaders.

Now the state itself was reacting as if the whole National Socialist system were suddenly in mortal danger. And not from the massive assaults of the Red armies in the East, or from the invasion that was sure to come in the West, but from these three - a girl and two young men - […]

What was most disturbing to the judge and the prosecution was that all three of the accused had grown up under the aegis of National Socialism and had been schooled, trained, and nurtured by it. The National Socialist state had indoctrinated them from their earliest youth, shaping their views of the world and saturating their minds with the philosophy of Adolph Hitler and his political movement.

This was not the reaction of a normal government which had merely caught a few of its young citizens agitating against the status quo, as young people so often do. It was, rather, as if the authorities, to their horror, had accidentally uncovered a coven of witches and warlocks capable of bringing the whole structure of the state crashing down with the dark magic of their abominable incantations - those forbidden words that were being scattered to the four winds of Germany on scraps of paper called leaflets.

Here's what one of the leaflets distributed said:

Sabotage in armament plants and war industries, sabotage at all gatherings, rallies, public ceremonies, and organizations of the National Socialist Party. Obstruction of the smooth functioning of the war machine (a machine for war that goes on solely to shore up and perpetuate the National Socialist Party and its dictatorship). Sabotage in all the areas of science and scholarship which further the continuation of the war - whether in universities, technical schools, laboratories, research institutes, or technical bureaus. Sabotage in all cultural institutions which could potentially enhance the "prestige" of the fascists among the people. Sabotage in all branches of the arts which have even the slightest dependence on National Socialism or render it service. Sabotage in all publications, all newspapers, that are in the pay of the "government" and that defend its ideology and aid in disseminating the brown lie.
Edited by intellectualammo
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  • 3 months later...

1. Dumas Malone's six-volume biography of Thomas Jefferson.

2. Patrick O'Brian's astonishing Aubrey/Maturin series of novels (first one is Master and Commander). I have found no other writer who takes such joy in language. And the protagonists, while not Objectivist heroes, are admirably rational Men of the Enlightenment.

3. Great fun: Bill Bryson's earlier books, including The Mother Tongue, The Lost Continent, Neither Here Nor There, Notes from a Small Island.

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2. Patrick O'Brian's astonishing Aubrey/Maturin series of novels (first one is Master and Commander). I have found no other writer who takes such joy in language. And the protagonists, while not Objectivist heroes, are admirably rational Men of the Enlightenment.

Can't believe I didn't mention O'Brian myself, considering I'm reading the Mauritius Command now! Maturin is one of my favourite literary characters - a scholar of anything and everything - there could be no better role model in life.

Maturin does seem to have some concern for individual freedom - he has a few bust-ups with Aubrey over the order, control and punishment he witnesses in the Navy, etc.

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Thank you, all, for the recommendations. I've added the books to my "list". Here are my recommendations:

Influence - by Cialdini

The Discoverers - Daniel Boorstin

Up the Organization - by Robert Townsend

Modern Times - Paul Johnson

Trustee from the Toolroom - Nevil Shute

Economics in on Lesson - Henry Hazlitt (eBook available somewhere online)

Captain Blood - Rafael Sabatini (Audio from Librivox) ( My guess is that readers of Master & Commander will like this book)

The Scarlett Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne (A study in the human need for psychological visibility)

For anyone with a special interest in the history of Philosophy: "India: What it can teach us" - Max Műller (Gutenberg -- including free Kindle edition)

For anyone with a special interest in banking and business-cycles: "Lombard Street: A description of the Money Market" -by Walter Bagehot

For anyone with a special interest in the Great Depression: "Economics and the Public Welfare" - by Benjamin Andersen

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Some of my favorite fiction books are: Jacob's Hands - (about a healer who gives too much of himself away), The Long Walk - (stays with you long after you finish the book), The Razor's Edge - (it's a classic, but definitely has to be on the list.. the only character who's happy is the one that doesn't let anything stand in his way), The Rule of Four - (about two students obsessed with their work.. it's amazon reviews don't do it justice at all).

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