[Paleopsych] NR's List of the 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Century
checker at panix.com
Sat Jun 11 20:43:35 UTC 2005
NR's List of the 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Century
[Another strange list. It's far from clear what the panel means by "best"! I've
actually read about a quarter of them.
[3 means I read it over thirty years ago, when I first started reading free
market economics books and wandered into the writings of conservatives.
[c means books I read at the urging of Christian friends. If there is a Hell, I
may be going there, for none of these books caused me to repent my sins.
[s means some. No one reads the entire 11th edition, which is now online. I got
a copy around 1972. And hardly anyone goes through all of Max Weber's Economy
[x means I read it once, within the last 30 years, and x2 means I read it once
a long time ago and reread it more recently.
Earlier this year, Random House announced that it would release a
list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century. The
publisher had enjoyed success (and controversy) with its 100 best
novels; now it would do this. Here at National Review, we decided
to get a jump on them by forming our own panel and offering our own
list. Under the leadership of our reporter John J. Miller, we have
done so. We have used a methodology that approaches the scientific.
But-certainly beyond, say, the first 40 books-the fact of the
books' presence on the list is far more important than their
rankings. We offer a comment from a panelist after many of the
books; but the panel overall, not the individual quoted, is
responsible for the ranking. So, here is our list, for your
enjoyment, mortification, and stimulation.
Richard Brookhiser, NR senior editor
David Brooks, senior editor of The Weekly Standard
Christopher Caldwell, senior writer at The Weekly Standard
Robert Conquest, historian
David Gelernter, writer and computer scientist
George Gilder, writer
Mary Ann Glendon, professor at Harvard Law School
Jeffrey Hart, NR senior editor
Mark Helprin, novelist
Arthur Herman, author of The Idea of Decline in Western History
John Keegan, military historian
Michael Kelly, editor of National Journal
Florence King, author of Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady
Michael Lind, journalist and novelist
John Lukacs, historian
Adam Meyerson, vice president at the Heritage Foundation
Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things
John O'Sullivan, NR editor-at-large
Richard Pipes, historian
Abigail Thernstrom, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute
Stephan Thernstrom, historian
James Q. Wilson, author of The Moral Sense.
If you would like to purchase one of these classic books, simply
click on the title and you'll be taken to Amazon.com.
1. The Second World War, Winston S. Churchill
Brookhiser: "The big story of the century, told by its major hero."
Vol. 1, The Gathering Storm
Vol. 2, Their Finest Hour
Vol. 3, The Grand Alliance
Vol. 4, The Hinge of Fate
Vol. 5, Closing the Ring
Vol. 6, Triumph and Tragedy
2. The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
Neuhaus: "Marked the absolute final turning point beyond which nobody
could deny the evil of the Evil Empire."
3. Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell
Herman: "Orwell's masterpiece-far superior to Animal Farm and 1984. No
education in the meaning of the 20th century is complete without it."
x2 4. The Road to Serfdom, F. A. von Hayek
Helprin: "Shatters the myth that the totalitarianisms 'of the Left'
and 'of the Right' stem from differing impulses."
5. Collected Essays, George Orwell
King: "Every conservative's favorite liberal and every liberal's
favorite conservative. This book has no enemies."
6. The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper
Herman: "The best work on political philosophy in the 20th century.
Exposes totalitarianism's roots in Plato, Hegel, and Marx."
c 7. The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis
Brookhiser: "How modern philosophies drain meaning and the sacred from
x2 8. Revolt of the Masses, José Ortega y Gasset
Gilder: "Prophesied the 20th century's debauchery of democracy and
science, the barbarism of the specialist, and the inevitable fatuity
of public opinion. Explained the genius of capitalist elites."
3 9. The Constitution of Liberty, F. A. von Hayek
O'Sullivan: "A great re-statement for this century of classical
liberalism by its greatest modern exponent."
3 10. Capitalism and Freedom, Milton Friedman
x 11. Modern Times, Paul Johnson
Herman: "Huge impact outside the academy, dreaded and ignored inside
12. Rationalism in Politics, Michael Oakeshott
Herman: "Oakeshott is the 20th century's Edmund Burke."
x 13. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy, Joseph A. Schumpeter
Caldwell: "Locus classicus for the observation that democratic
capitalism undermines itself through its very success."
s 14. Economy and Society, Max Weber
Lind: "Weber made permanent contributions to the understanding of
society with his discussions of comparative religion, bureaucracy,
charisma, and the distinctions among status, class, and party."
15. The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt
Caldwell: "Through Nazism and Stalinism, looks at almost every
pernicious trend in the last century's politics with stunning
16. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West
Kelly: "For its writing, not for its historical accuracy."
s 17. Sociobiology, Edward O. Wilson
Lind: "Darwin put humanity in its proper place in the animal kingdom.
Wilson put human society there, too."
18. Centissimus Annus, Pope John Paul II
19. The Pursuit of the Millennium, Norman Cohn
Neuhaus: "The authoritative refutation of utopianism of the left,
right, and points undetermined."
3 20. The Diary of a Young Girl, Anne Frank
Helprin: "An innocent's account of the greatest evil imaginable. The
most powerful book of the century. Others may not agree. No matter, I
cast my lot with this child."
Caldwell: "If one didn't know her fate, one might read it as the
reflections of any girl. That one does know her fate makes this as
close to a holy book as the century produced."
21. The Great Terror, Robert Conquest
Herman: "Documented for the first time the real record of Stalinism in
the Soviet Union. A genuine monument of historical research and
reconstruction, a true epic of evil."
22. Chronicles of Wasted Time, Malcolm Muggeridge
Gilder: "The best autobiography, Christian confession, and historic
meditation of the century."
23. Relativity, Albert Einstein
Lind: "The most important physicist since Newton."
24. Witness, Whittaker Chambers
Caldwell: "Confession, history, potboiler-by a man who writes like the
literary giant we would know him as, had not Communism got him first."
25. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas S. Kuhn
c 26. Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis
Neuhaus: "The most influential book of the most influential Christian
apologist of the century."
x 27. The Quest for Community, Robert Nisbet
s 28. Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th ed.
Helprin: "The infinite riches of the world, presented with elegance,
confidence, and economy."
29. Up in the Old Hotel, Joseph Mitchell
30. The Everlasting Man, G. K. Chesterton
Lukacs: "A great carillonade of Christian verities."
c 31. Orthodoxy, G. K. Chesterton
O'Sullivan: "How to look at the Christian tradition with fresh eyes."
32. The Liberal Imagination, Lionel Trilling
Hart: "The popular form of liberalism tends to simplify and caricature
when it attempts moral aspiration-that is, it tends to 'Stalinism.'"
33. The Double Helix, James D. Watson
Herman: "Deeply hated by feminists because Watson dares to suggest
that the male-female distinction originated in nature, in the DNA code
34. The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Richard Phillips Feynman
Gelernter: "Outside of art (or maybe not), physics is mankind's most
beautiful achievement; these three volumes are probably the most
beautiful ever written about physics."
3 35. Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers, Tom Wolfe
O'Sullivan: "Wolfe is our Juvenal."
36. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays, Albert Camus
3 37. The Unheavenly City, Edward C. Banfield
Neuhaus: "The volume that began the debunking of New Deal socialism
and its public-policy consequences."
3 38. The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud
3 39. The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs
x 40. The End of History and the Last Man, Francis Fukuyama
41. Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker, and
42. The Age of Reform, Richard Hofstadter
Herman: "The single best book on American history in this century, bar
43. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, John Maynard
Hart: "Influential in suggesting that the business cycle can be
modified by government investment and manipulation of tax rates."
3 44. God & Man at Yale, William F. Buckley Jr.
Gilder: "Still correct and prophetic. It defines the conservative
revolt against socialism and atheism on campus and in the culture, and
reconciles the alleged conflict between capitalist and religious
45. Selected Essays, T. S. Eliot
Hart: "Shaped the literary taste of the mid-century."
3 46. Ideas Have Consequences, Richard M. Weaver
3 47. The Economy of Cities, Jane Jacobs
x 48. The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom
49. Ethnic America, Thomas Sowell
50. An American Dilemma, Gunnar Myrdal
An American Dilemma, Vol. 1
An American Dilemma, Vol. 2
51. Three Case Histories, Sigmund Freud
Gelernter: "Beyond question Freud is history's most important
philosopher of the mind, and he ranks alongside Eliot as the century's
greatest literary critic. Modern intellectual life (left, right, and
in-between) would be unthinkable without him."
52. The Struggle for Europe, Chester Wilmot
53. Main Currents in American Thought, Vernon Louis Parrington
King: "An immensely readable history of ideas and men. (Skip the
fragmentary third volume-he died before finishing it.)"
x 54. The Waning of the Middle Ages, Johann Huzinga
Lukacs: "Probably the finest historian who lived in this century. "
55. Systematic Theology, Wolfhart Pannenberg
Neuhaus: "The best summary and reflection on Christianity's encounter
with the Enlightenment project."
Systematic Theology, Vol. 1
Systematic Theology, Vol. 2
Systematic Theology, Vol. 3
56. The Campaign of the Marne, Sewell Tyng
Keegan: "A forgotten American's masterly account of the First World
War in the West."
3 57. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, Ludwig Wittgenstein
Hart: "A terse summation of the analytic method of the analytic school
in philosophy, and a heroic leap beyond it."
58. Insight: A Study of Human Understanding, Bernard Lonergan
Glendon: "The Thomas Aquinas of the 20th century."
59. Being and Time, Martin Heidegger
Hart: "A seminal thinker, notwithstanding his disgraceful error of
equating National Socialism with the experience of 'Being.'"
60. Disraeli, Robert Blake
Keegan: "Political biography as it should be written."
61. Democracy and Leadership, Irving Babbitt
King: "A conservative literary critic describes what happens when
humanitarianism over takes humanism."
3 62. The Elements of Style, William Strunk & E. B. White
A. Thernstrom: "If only every writer would remember just one of Strunk
& White's wonderful injunctions: 'Omit needless words.' Omit needless
63. The Machiavellians, James Burnham
O'Sullivan: "Burnham is the greatest political analyst of our century
and this is his best book."
64. Reflections of a Russian Statesman, Konstantin P. Pobedonostsev
King: "The 'culture war' as seen by the tutor to the last two czars. A
Russian Pat Buchanan."
65. The Hedgehog and the Fox, Isaiah Berlin
66. Roll, Jordan, Roll, Eugene D. Genovese
Neuhaus: "The best account of American slavery and the moral and
cultural forces that undid it."
67. The ABC of Reading, Ezra Pound
Brookhiser: "An epitome of the aging aesthetic movement that will be
forever known as modernism."
68. The Second World War, John Keegan
Hart: "A masterly history in a single volume."
69. The Making of Homeric Verse, Milman Parry
Lind: "Genuine discoveries in literary study are rare. Parry's
discovery of the oral formulaic basis of the Homeric epics, the
founding texts of Western literature, was one of them."
70. The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling, Angus Wilson
Keegan: "A life of a great author told through the transmutation of
his experience into fictional form."
71. Scrutiny, F. R. Leavis
Hart: "Enormously important in education, especially in England.
Leavis understood what one kind of 'living English' is."
72. The Edge of the Sword, Charles de Gaulle
Brookhiser: "A lesser figure than Churchill, but more philosophical
(and hence, more problematic)."
73. R. E. Lee, Douglas Southall Freeman
Conquest: "The finest work on the Civil War."
3 74. Bureaucracy, Ludwig von Mises
75. The Seven Storey Mountain, Thomas Merton
Neuhaus: "A classic conversion story of a modern urban sophisticate."
76. Balzac, Stefan Zweig
King: "On the joys of working one's self to death. The chapter 'Black
Coffee' is a masterpiece of imaginative reconstruction."
77. The Good Society, Walter Lippmann
Gilder: "Written during the Great Depression. A corruscating defense
of the morality of capitalism."
78. Silent Spring, Rachel Carson
Lind: "For all the excesses of the environmental movement, the
realization that human technology can permanently damage the earth's
environment marked a great advance in civilization. Carson's book,
more than any other, publicized this message."
79. The Christian Tradition, Jaroslav Pelikan
Neuhaus: "The century's most comprehensive account of Christian
teaching from the second century on."
80. Strange Defeat, Marc Bloch
Herman: "A great historian's personal account of the fall of France in
81. Looking Back, Norman Douglas
Conquest: "Fascinating memoirs of a remarkable writer."
82. Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres, Henry Adams
83. Poetry and the Age, Randall Jarrell
Caldwell: "The book for showing how 20th- century poets think, what
their poetry does, and why it matters."
84. Love in the Western World, Denis de Rougemont
Brookhiser: "What has become of eros over the last seven centuries."
85. The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk
86. Wealth and Poverty, George Gilder
87. Battle Cry of Freedom, James M. McPherson
88. Henry James, Leon Edel
King: "All the James you want without having to read him."
89. Essays of E. B. White, E. B. White
Gelernter: "White is the apotheosis of the American liberal now
spurned and detested by the Left (and the cultural mainstream). His
mesmerized devotion to the objects of his affection-his family, the
female sex, his farm, the English language, Manhattan, the sea,
America, Maine, and freedom, in descending order-is movingly
90. Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov
3 91. The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe
x 92. Darwin's Black Box, Michael J. Behe
Gilder: "Overthrows Darwin at the end of the 20th century in the same
way that quantum theory overthrew Newton at the beginning."
93. The Civil War, Shelby Foote
94. The Way the World Works, Jude Wanniski
Gilder: "The best book on economics. Shows fatuity of still-dominant
demand-side model, with its silly preoccupation with accounting
trivia, like the federal budget and trade balance and savings rates,
in an economy with $40 trillion or so in assets that rise and fall
weekly by trillions."
95. To the Finland Station, Edmund Wilson
Herman: "The best single book on Karl Marx and Marx's place in modern
96. Civilisation, Kenneth Clark
97. The Russian Revolution, Richard Pipes
98. The Idea of History, R. G. Collingwood
99. The Last Lion, William Manchester
Last Lion: William Spencer Churchill: Vol. 1 Visions of Glory, 1874-1932
Last Lion: William Spencer Churchill: Vol. 2 Alone, 1932-1940
100. The Starr Report, Kenneth W. Starr
Hart: "A study in human depravity."
More information about the paleopsych