William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Best Books Project

Best Books ProjectI need your help. Together, we will reach out to those whom we consider to be possessed of the Biggest Brightest Brains and ask them to provide a list of must-read books.

There is praise to be had for the mediocre, the entertaining, the quixotic. But time is pressing and attention must needs be focused. Let us ask our betters what are the quintessential positive works to which we should commit ourselves. Which are the constructive books that led them to the views which they now hold, the views which, to our eyes anyway, make us consider these people worthy of respect?

By “constructive” I mean Das Kapital or Introduction to Psychoanalysis, as important as they are to history, won’t appear because they are entirely destructive. (Yes, if you consider Marxist or Freudian works to be compelling, you are invited not to contribute.)

Let’s not add books which we ourselves find worthy, lest this degenerate into another Internet list ending with Ayn Rand and the autobiography of [Insert Faddish Celebrity Here] top of the pops.

I’m counting on you to put in the leg work on this. If we don’t sweat, this effort will fail. You’ll have to track down and pester people on your own. And you’ll have to remember to do it, which is worse. Call them, email them, find them at book signings, lectures, or elsewhere.

Which people? Any whom you consider brilliant—which does not mean “academic” (though many brilliant academics exist). Those whom you are certain sure who legacies will be lasting.

We can’t, at least until the last trump, question the dead, but if you are able to produce solid evidence that a past peerless personage recommended a book, then send it along, too.

Books may be in any language on any subject, in or out of print. The only criterion is that they should be fundamental, foundational, and generally positive and constructive.

Write them below, or if you prefer anonymity, email all names and lists to books@wmbriggs.com.

Please use the following template. Feel free, of course, to add your own salutations etc. but keep intact the central plea.

Dear [Insert Name Here],

Could I beg of you the favor of listing no more than 10 books which you consider fundamental, foundational, and generally positive and constructive?

We are collecting a list of the best books recommended from the best minds, which will be published broadly (and freely) on the Internet. Please don’t worry about naming the obvious or consider that another might name a well known work. Just put down what you think is best.

The list will be at http://wmbriggs.com/bestbooks

I am reaching out to you because of my admiration for your achievements and because I believe we could all benefit from your experience about what is the best way to gain knowledge through reading.

Simply, the books you list should be those that you wish everybody would read.

Thanks very much for your help.

Sincerely,

Yours Truly

The list will be compiled, covered with our own blend of secret statistical sauce, and revealed in the space below.

Please copy this post far and wide; email it around. Tweet it, update your Facebook status with it (use the buttons below). I’ll remind us of the project from time to time, keeping it “sticky” by putting a link in the right sidebar. I imagine this will take months to years to complete.

Incidentally, I had a stab at such a list (my own choices) some month’s back. Essential (Philosophical) Conservative Book List; Initial Post.

Best Book List

Book, Author, Recommender

Bible, God et alia, Obvious.

14 Comments

  1. Two books:
    An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith, recommended by late John R. Conrad, late President of S&C Electric Co. Chicago, Il.

    The History of England, from the Accession of James II, T.B. Macaulay, recommended by John R. Conrad

  2. Briggs

    26 March 2013 at 10:26 am

    j ferguson,

    Both excellent recommendations!

  3. Let’s examine the task:

    Reach out to those whom we consider to be possessed of the Biggest Brightest Brains and ask them to provide a list of must-read books…

    …the constructive books that leading them to the views held, & which make us consider these people worthy of respect…’

    ….but….

    “Let’s not add books which we ourselves find worthy,….”

    ….and….

    Exclude works considered “destructive.”

    SO, in other words we are to seek out from the “best & brightest” only those books that that:

    a) influenced them, provided,
    b) they do not contradict a view or value [however right or misguided] held by Briggs.

    The tasking has built into it a self-censoring criteria that absolutely guarantees any list generated is pre-determined to meet Brigg’s values, and NEVER contradict those values!

    Why not just let Briggs come up with his own list?

  4. Briggs

    26 March 2013 at 10:49 am

    Getting better, Ken. You nearly made a point.

  5. Briggs, you’ve just proven Ken’s point.

  6. Briggs

    26 March 2013 at 12:27 pm

    Good grief, tom. Lighten up.

  7. Ludwig von Mises: “The Theory of Money and Credit,” “Liberalism,” and “Human Action.”

    Friedrich Hayek: “The Road To Serfdom” and “The Constitution of Liberty”

    Robert Higgs: “Crisis and Leviathan”

    Isabel Paterson: “The God of the Machine”

    Clarence Carson: “The Flight From Reality” and “The American Tradition”

    Frederic Bastiat: “The Law”

  8. A lot of time could be saved by identifying those Biggest Brightest Brains that wrote their own books–that way we could skip reading & digesting & processing the stuff they claim they were inspired by & just read what they wrote. More to the point that way & the sooner one gets to the point the sooner one can mover further on from there.

    Still, I don’t understand why some truly erroneous books would be rejected outright. Its a staple of good universities to have the students dredge up & study old false works having seductive appeal — knowing things are wrong & studying the “logic” therein helps one recognize the slippery logic slopes that otherwise go undetected. Having done this a bit, one gets a sense that something’s amiss when the same old (and it’s usually the same old) tired tactics are applied that indicate the thinking written down isn’t all it might be cracked up to be.

  9. Start at the beginning. Mortimer J. Adler “How to Read A Book”

  10. OK, if I understand the task correctly, I am going to send the request to the following and I will let you know what if any replies I get.
    In no particular order:
    His Holiness Benedict XVI, Pope Emeritus
    Don Rumsfeld
    Richard Lindzen
    Daniel Kahneman
    Gary Wills
    Thomas Sowell
    Lord John Eatwell (President of my college, Queens’ College, and my former tutor)
    Charles Krauthammer
    Edward Tufte
    Alan Furst
    Unless you have a personal connection with any of the above, we should try to avoid sending them multiple requests.

  11. Nassim Taleb: ANTIFRAGILE: THINGS THAT GAIN FROM DISORDER

    Matt Ridley: THE RATIONAL OPTIMIST: HOW PROSPERITY EVOLVES

    Daniel Yergin: THE QUEST: ENERGY, SECURITY AND THE RE-MAKING OF THE MODERN WORLD

  12. Matt:
    Which is it to be: Our personal recommendations or the recommendations of famous folks who are likely to be well read?

  13. The Tao Te Ching.

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