Sunday, August 31, 2008

Unread books

What we have here is the top 106 books most often marked as "unread" by LibraryThing’s users. As in, they sit on the shelf to make you look smart or well-rounded. (via)

Bold the ones you've read, underline the ones you read for school, italicize the ones you own and haven't read or started but didn't finish.

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell
Anna Karenina
Crime and Punishment
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Wuthering Heights
The Silmarillion
Life of Pi : a novel
The Name of the Rose
Don Quixote
Moby Dick
Madame Bovary
The Odyssey
Pride and Prejudice
Jane Eyre
A Tale of Two Cities
The Brothers Karamazov
Guns, Germs, and Steel: the fates of human societies
War and Peace
Vanity Fair
The Time Traveler’s Wife
The Iliad
The Blind Assassin
The Kite Runner
Mrs. Dalloway
Great Expectations
American Gods
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Atlas Shrugged
Reading Lolita in Tehran : a memoir in books
Memoirs of a Geisha
Wicked : the life and times of the wicked witch of the West
The Canterbury Tales
The Historian : a novel
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Love in the Time of Cholera
Brave New World
The Fountainhead
Foucault’s Pendulum
The Count of Monte Cristo
A Clockwork Orange
Anansi Boys
The Once and Future King
The Grapes of Wrath
The Poisonwood Bible : a novel
Angels & Demons
The Inferno
The Satanic Verses
Sense and Sensibility
The Picture of Dorian Gray
Mansfield Park
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
To the Lighthouse
Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Oliver Twist
Gulliver’s Travels
Les Misérables
The Corrections
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
The Prince
The Sound and the Fury
Angela’s Ashes : a memoir
The God of Small Things
A People’s History of the United States : 1492-present
A Confederacy of Dunces
A Short History of Nearly Everything
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Scarlet Letter
Eats, Shoots & Leaves
The Mists of Avalon
Oryx and Crake : a novel
Collapse : how societies choose to fail or succeed
Cloud Atlas
The Confusion
Northanger Abbey
The Catcher in the Rye
On the Road
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Freakonomics : a rogue economist explores the hidden side of everything
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance : an inquiry into values
The Aeneid
Watership Down
Gravity’s Rainbow
The Hobbit
In Cold Blood : a true account of a multiple murder and its consequences
White Teeth
Treasure Island
David Copperfield
The Three Musketeers

There's an awful lot of Neil Gaiman and Neal Stephenson on this list. The latter I understand: his work is a lot easier to start than to finish. The former, though, I don't get.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #12: Postmodernism

"Historians, ancient and modern, have always known what postmodernism professes to have just discovered - that any work of history is vulnerable on three counts: the fallibility and deficiency of the historical record on which it is based; the fallibility and selectivity inherent in the writing of history; and the fallibility and subjectivity of the historian." -- Gertrude Himmelfarb, "Postmodernist History and the Flight from Fact" (1994), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 291.

"History will not stay written. Every age demands a history written from its own standpoint - with reference to its own social conditions, its thought, its beliefs and its acquisitions - and thus comprehensible to the men who live in it." -- William Sloane, AHR 1:1, cited by Gertrude Himmelfarb in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 291-292.

"In the common cause of radicalism, structuralists and poststructuralists, new historicists and deconstructionists, have been able to overlook whatever logical incompatibilities there may be between their theories. (This presents no great problem for deconstructionists, who have an infinite tolerance for contradiction and no regard for 'linear' logic.) Like the communists and socialists of an earlier generation, they have formed a 'popular front', marching separately to a common goal." -- Gertrude Himmelfarb, "Postmodernist History and the Flight from Fact" (1994), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 295.

"Under the impact of postmodernist literary approaches, historians are now becoming more aware that their supposedly matter-of-fact choices of narrative techniques and analytical forms also have implications with social and political ramifications. Essays on the state of the discipline often have a canonical form all their own: first a narrative of the rise of new kinds of history, then a long moment for exploring the problems posted by new kinds of history, followed by either a jeremiad on the evils of new practices or a celebration of the potential overcoming of all obstacles. The literary form that the argument takes has a very strong influence on the way that evidence and arguments are presented." -- Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob, Telling the Truth about History (1994), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 311.

"Our choices are political, social, and epistemological. They are political and social because they reflect beliefs in a certain kind of community of historians and society of Americans. They are epistemological because they reflect positions on what can be known and how it can be logically known. With diligence and good faith they may also be at moments reasonably, if partially, true accounts of the distant and recent past." -- Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt and Margaret Jacob, Telling the Truth about History (1994), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 312.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cult Classics: 14 out of 50

The list is from here, via. Books I've read in bold. Books I started or want to read in italics. Books I wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole in strikeout.

1. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
2. The Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell (1957-60)
3. A Rebours by JK Huysmans (1884)
4. Baby and Child Care by Dr Benjamin Spock (1946)
5. The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf (1991)
6. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath (1963)
7. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)
8. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (1951)
9. The Celestine Prophecy by James Redfield (1993)
10. The Dice Man by Luke Rhinehart (1971)
11. Chariots of the Gods: Was God An Astronaut? by Erich Von Däniken (1968)
12. A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole (1980)
13. Confessions by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1782)
14. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg (1824)
15. Dianetics: the Modern Science of Mental Health by L Ron Hubbard (1950)
16. The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley (1954)
17. Dune by Frank Herbert (1965)
18. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams (1979)
19. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe (1968)
20. Fear of Flying by Erica Jong (1973)
21. The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970)
22. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand (1943)
23. Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R Hofstadter (1979)
24. Gravity's Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (1973)
35. The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln (1982)
26. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith (1948)
27. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino (1979)
28. Iron John: a Book About Men by Robert Bly (1990)
29. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach and Russell Munson (1970)
30. The Magus by John Fowles (1966)
31. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1962)
32. The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa (1958)
33. The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov (1967)
34. No Logo by Naomi Klein (2000)
35. On The Road by Jack Kerouac (1957)
36. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S Thompson (1971)
37. The Outsider by Colin Wilson (1956)
38. The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (1923)
39. The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell (1914)
40. The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám tr by Edward FitzGerald (1859)
41. The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron (1937)
42. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (1922)
43. The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774)
44. Story of O by Pauline Réage (1954)
45. The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942)
46. The Teachings of Don Juan: a Yaqui Way of Knowledge by Carlos Castaneda (1968)
47. Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain (1933)
48. Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1883-85)
49. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
50. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: an Inquiry into Values by Robert M Pirsig (1974)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quotations from Tosh #11: Disciplines

"The monograph has been unsatisfactory, most commonly as literature but often even in the very analytical functions it was designed to perform." -- Richard Hofstadter, "History and the social sciences" (1956), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 218

"The more the historian learns from the social sciences, the more variables he is likely to take account of, the more complex his task becomes. The result may be that his conclusions become more tenuous and tentative, but this is a result to be welcomed. The closer the historian comes, with whatever aids, to the full texture of historical reality, the more deeply is he engulfed in a complex web of relationships which he can hope to understand only in a limited and partial way. While he may acquire some usable methods from the social sciences, I doubt that the new techniques that he may acquire will outweigh the new problems that he will take on. His task has not been simplified; it has been enlarged. His work has not greater certainty, but greater range and depth." -- Richard Hofstadter, "History and the social sciences" (1956), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 220

"Formidable criticisms have been written of the familiar distinction between the nomothetic sciences (which can make general laws about repeatable events) and the ideographic (which seek to understand unique and non-recurrent events)." -- Richard Hofstadter, "History and the social sciences" (1956), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 222-3.

"Unlike the philosopher of history or the philosopher of science; the working historian is not nearly so much interested in whether history can, after all, be logically classed with the natural sciences as he is in how far his mode of procedure is in fact a scientific one or could be changed to resemble it. Certainly, in the broad sense that he operates from a basis in fact, aspires to make warrantable assertions, and works in a self-critical discipline, the historian can see that he has something in common with science. But if the term science has any special meaning, he sees equally important differences. Since in his work quantification plays so limited a role, and since he cannot conduct experiments, or, strictly speaking, make predictions, he naturally feels that the difference between his methods and results and those prevailing in most branches of the natural sciences are of central importance." -- Richard Hofstadter, "History and the social sciences" (1956), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 223.

"Much of the claimed difference between the disciplines is hardly more than a series of attempts by the authors concerned to appropriate the work they happen to do for the discipline they happen to profess." -- Philip Abrams, Historical Sociology (1982), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 226.

"The problem of agency is the problem finding a way of accounting for human experience which recognises simultaneously and in equal measure that history and society are made by constant and more or less purposeful individual action and that individual action, however purposeful, is made by history and society. How do we as active subjects make a world of objects which then, as it were, become subjects making us their objects?" -- Philip Abrams, Historical Sociology (1982), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 227.

"But in the long run, even in the more esoteric branches of history, it must surely be the case that there will always come a moment when the historian, having worked out a solid conceptual basis, will need to start counting: to record frequencies, significant repetitions, or percentages." -- Emmanuele Le Roy Ladurie, The Territory of the Historian (1979), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 238.

"Economic and demographic determinsm has not only been undermined by a recognition of ideas, culture and even individual will as independent variables. It has also been sapped by a revived recognition that political and military power, the use of brute force, has very frequently dictated the structure of society, the distribution of wealth, the agrarian system, and even the culture of the élite." -- Lawrence Stone "The Revival of Narrative: Reflections on a New Old History" (1979), cited in Tosh, ed. Historians on History, p. 257.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Shockingly Apt

Given how odd the questions are, the results are astounding.... [via]

Better than curling....

You Are Badminton
You are quite talented but not very appreciated.
You are detail oriented, very focused, and agile.
You are happy to forsake glory for success in something you truly love.

Apparently, I'm the maven of obscure team sports

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Be it resolved....

Be it resolved
  • The size and type of screws, nuts, and other miscellaneous hardware which come with do-it-yourself kits will be clearly indicated so that replacements can be procured.
  • Any and all baking recipes will clearly indicate a means of testing "done." Poking, toothpicks, jiggling, color, texture, etc., are all acceptable.
  • Farmers markets are wonderful. It's not the farmer's fault if you go home and try to eat a honeydew melon and a dozen ears of corn.
  • Stores which stock modular storage units are required to order more for you if your modular design exceeds the four units on the shelf, so you don't have to keep coming back weekly until you have the dozen you need. Alternately, stocking more than five of each color at a time would be acceptable.
  • Any box which you've moved more than twice without opening is either priceless or garbage, and you'll never know which until you open it.
  • Any room without a built-in light fixture must have a switched outlet


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Comments Elsewhere: Parties and Dreams

Prompted by Jeremy's criticism of dKos's founder, I noted:
I'm not a Kos fan, as you're well aware. I'm actually struck by the fundamentally party-conservative -- not really liberal or progressive, but deeply, Big-D Democratic -- nature of Markos's project and his consistent unwillingness to actually address the coalition nature of the Democratic party. (also by the contrary consistent tendency of Republicans and 'mainstream' news sources to view Markos and the dKos crew as some kind of ultra-liberal, hard-left cadre) He clearly sees constituencies like progressives and women as subgroups within and subordinate to the Party rather than seeing the Party as an alliance of something like equals.
On a lighter note, Terry asked for "not-quite-coherent thoughts" and I offered this
I had a dream just last night in which I saw a short movie in which M*A*S*H* character Margaret Houlihan originally signed up to go to war in WWI, then spent the rest of the dream explaining to someone the historical trajectory of her career. Upon awakening I realized that my dream self neglected to notice that it would make her a lot older than she was, as WWII was actually her first war and the TV show takes place during the Korean conflict.