I love book lists. There is really no wrong way to create the list; breadth of topics are just as interesting as a narrowly focused list. We love to list things in general: top forty songs, top 100 books of all time, top 5 favorite movies, etc… There are infinite ways to enumerate objects and for lovers of lists, or those interested in meta-listing, I highly recommend Umberto Eco’s The Infinity of Lists, which is a beautiful collection produced in collaboration with the Louvre.
One can learn much from a list of favorites. Reflecting on my favorite books, I detect a theme of satirical, skeptical, and distrustful attitudes toward authority: Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Catch-22, The Castle, Atlas Shrugged, and Slaughterhouse 5. Ironically, my time in the military strengthened this feeling.
And then there as those with complex characters and tragedy: For Whom the Bell Tolls, East of Eden, and The Brothers Karamazov. I’m not sure what to make of these other than they are very character-driven novels and I’ve always preferred characters to plot. But, I’ve had a very powerful reaction to the stories in these novels.
A few years ago, I was fascinated by the books of Lost, which has some classic works of fiction. Recently, I’ve come across a great list by way of Bret Victor. I just finished The Inmates are Running the Asylum, a book on the sad state of computer interaction design in 1998! (Spoiler: things aren’t that much better). Then I read, How Children Fail, which is a truly inspirational book. I thought I was blown away by the One World Schoolhouse, but little did I know that 48 years earlier a more radical critique of our education system was written.
Both books are blog posts in their own right. Reading How Children Fail is a bit depressing actually. This books clearly outlines the failure of No Child Left Behind, decades before the bill was inked. While not on his list, I’m looking forward to reading What the Dormouse Said: How the Sixties Counterculture Shaped the Personal Computer Industry. But once Bleeding Edge arrives, that’s all I’ll be reading!