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James’ top 25 Books of all time

In case you didn’t make it to the end of project XXXV this is my list of 25 most important/favorite books of all time, and my reasons why:

The History of the Warfare between Science and the Theology (Freely available as a text file online at about 100 places)

The Complete Works of Plato (Freely available at the Perseus Archive along with other good stuff)

The Complete Works of Nietzsche (all philosophy between Plato and Nietzsche can be skipped.) When possible read him in Kaufman’s translations. (Somewhere here should also go Skepticism and Animal Faith by George Santayana)

Narcissus and Goldmund (Hesse) (Really – everything by Hesse is good, but if you only get one, get this one. — Steppenwolf, The Glass Bead Game, Siddhartha, Damien also worthy.)

The Marriage of Cadmus and Harmony; Ka; and The Ruin of Kasch – Roberto Calasso – The first 3 parts of a 5 part series. Impossible to summarize well. I’m sure the final two books will go here also when they are complete. (update K., The 49 Steps, and Il Rosa Tiopolo also)

Calculus in two Volumes by Thomas Apostol (Rare) How it is presented is important. There isn’t a remotely close second to this book – if the subject interests you then read this presentation. He gets much more into the why than just memorizing formulas. The book presents honest mathematical thinking.

The Single Volume Edition of Halliday and Resnick “Fundamentals of Physics” Black cover c. 1991 (Rare)
Clear and complete (as an introduction.) The 7th edition of this book is availible in Europe and looks great, but I miss the “Black Brick”. (I am almost ready to find another better written introduction to Physics book and would appreciate recommendations if anyone has any.)

Magick : Liber ABA (Book 4) Second Revised Samuel Weiser Edition Second Reprint (2000) If you had to pick a single work on meditation, ceremonial magic, OR religion this would be it – if you get two take also Frazier’s Golden Bough (There is an Unabridged version in some University Libraries that runs to 10 volumes — get that one if you can), if you get three take also Campbell’s Masks of God (complete series). But you really only need one. (How many books about the taste of coffee would you recommend as compared to a drought of coffee?)

Finnegans Wake – the greatest linguistic achievement in the history of man. It will never be surpassed. Art will evolve past the book – but this book represents the most that will ever be achieved by a book as book. Literature, to go forward from this monumental achievement needs to become film, performance art (living ones life as art) and meta-text – works which span several different Media – (such as Peter Greenaway’s Tulse Luper Project). Finnegan’s Wake is the Ontologico-historical end of text as literature, it possibly could go beyond this point, but it will not.

Ada, or Ardor – Nabokov. (Hands down his best work. Possibly the best novel after Ulysses)

Gödel, Escher, Bach – an Eternal Golden Braid. Explores fundamental questions relating to cognition.

In Search of Lost Time – Marcel Proust

The Collected Poems of Rainer Maria Rilke – Stephan Mitchell’s translation. Best lyric poetry of all time in any language. (Seamus Heaney has some dazzlingly good English poems — but as for density in a single work nothing surpasses the Elegies)

The Complete Works of James Joyce (minus Finnegans Wake, which gets its own entry.) Every phase of his work deserves a year’s study.

The Second Sex – Simone de Beauvoir (a lot of really tedious conversations can be avoided by reading and digesting this marvelous book)

Building Scientific Apparatus: A Practical Guide to Design and Construction (A collection of things that everyone living in a technological society should know how to do. Nothing in this book is particularly hard to understand. It demystifies technology.) If this book captivates you there are two others: The Art of Electronics, and Ingenious Mechanisms that also belong on your book shelf.

The Island of the Day Before – Umberto Eco (better than Foucault’s Pendulum, far better than the Name of the Rose – not that “Name” is bad!)

Infinite Jest – David Foster Wallace. Oh heart break. I had forgotten this was in here. What a beautiful beautiful man.

The Modern Sequel to the Odyssey – Nikos Kazantsakis – his best work. The greatest epic poem in any language ever. Period.

The Guide to Getting it On – because it is irresponsible to possess genitals without knowing how to enjoy and share them properly.

Order out of Chaos – Ilya Prigogene – this book will save you from having to read dozens of poorly written popular science garbage toss offs about chaos theory and self organization.

Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison. Exquisite. Painful. An affirmation that the pain of race is just another species of human pain. You, racist, understand the pain that you inflict.

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September 22, 2008 - Posted by | 40th Birthday Project

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