To those of you who follow the blogosphere religiously like I do, you will have noticed the most recent meme is naming the top 10 books that influenced you the most. Ross Douthat, David Bernstein, Matt Yglesias, Joe Carter, Arnold Kling, Tyler Cowan, Peter Suderman and Andrew Norton have been amongst the many who have contributed. And it certainly is a great idea.
So, as far as I can tell, the purpose behind this exercise is to signal your intelligence to people, as well as the depth of your character, by picking primarily obscure books, but specifically those that connote deep-reasoning, thereby giving you a real sense of intellectual gravitas and emotional depth.
So. I thought I might as well give it a go. Here are my choices:
FA Hayek – The Fatal Conceit: This book demonstrates my libertarian credentials, but, unlike The Road to Serfdom or Free to Choose, the fact that I chose a more obscure book demonstrates my intellectualism, and the fact that I understand political philosophy at a deeper level that most libertarians. Plus, it allows me to talk about some of the more complex issues Hayek gets into that no-one actually understands (but think others do)
Leo Tolstoy – Anna Karenina: This one’s for the ladies. Any man knows that to impress females you quote Pride and Prejudice. But this has become so standard as to become practically worthless. Anna Karenina has the same advantages, but being Russian, carries greater bonuses. (I will end this by referencing the fact that I considered placing Lolita on the list, as that demonstrates not only that I’m interested in/understand female psychology, but also that I’m interested in language and wordplay. And then, in saying that it didn’t make the list, I demonstrate my understanding that it isn’t that good a book)
Milan Kundera – The Unbearable Lightness of Being: It’s Czech, it’s intellectual, it’s about philosophy ‘n stuff, need I say more? But really, the great think about this book is that everyone knows it and everyone raves about it, yet pretty much no-one has actually read the damn thing. So it really is the perfect choice.
Thomas Szasz – The Myth of Mental Illness. I can demonstrate my interest in the human mind, the relationship between the individual and society, and show that I’m a contrarian (not even mentioning the implications on libertarianism and public policy) Win!
St. John Climacus- The Ladder of Divine Ascent: Whilst many people would simply choose The Bible, doing so would signal the fact that I’m Christian, but nothing more. By choosing the Ladder, I demonstrate my understanding of the importance of living a life of virtue, and how Christianity is more than a mere intellectual abstract notion for us to debate, and as such, that I’m a truly spiritual person. I can defiantly then talk about how it has affected the way I live my life in such a profound manner, and show that I am a man of deep virtue, substance, and character. I will end with a self-deprecating note on how it shows me how much of a failure to live up to ideals I am, to highlight my humility, my understanding of the importance of grace and frailty of human nature, and to show that I’m not being pretentious with this list in the slightest.
GK Chesterton – Orthodoxy: This list wouldn’t be complete without quoting Chesterton, the “intellectual’s Christian” (in contradistinction to CS Lewis). Liking Chesterton will earn me Brownie points with everyone worth it, and show that I’m not only limited to reading Orthodox writers
F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby: Teenage angst for intellectuals! What better way to show the depth of your emotional state than with this classic? Plus, it has the precise kinds of imagery that all the girls swoon over.
Fredric Bastiat – The Law: Although this book is quite well read, which may make it seem that I’m deviating from my strategy of picking lesser-read books, by choosing something short and simple, it shows that I appreciate such things also, so great is my character (as well as obviously demonstrating my knowledge of economics)
Herman Melville – Moby Dick: The fact that I would have actually read this tomb should be enough to impress anyone, but just in case this wasn’t enough, at this point I’ll talk about how it made me reshape how I viewed human nature and all that jazz.
(At this point, I deliberately stop at nine, and don’t list a full 10, to demonstrate how difficult and challenging I find this task, because I’ve put so much thought into it)
Honourable Mentions (Here I put works that also make me seem smart, but I don’t have to back up, allowing the reader of this blog to infer that I’m brilliant and t): Die Profundus (all girls love Wilde, right?) , Paradise Lost, Lord of The Rings and Metamorephoses shall be my choices.
So, all up, I think this list fulfills its role in signaling that I’m pretty awesome. And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?
(Note: If any of you were unable to work out that this was a parody and I haven’t even read half of these books, please do not read my blog ever again. Thank you. To everyone else, yeah I know this wasn’t as funny as it should be; the idea I think was good, but the execution lacking. Sorry. I’m not very good at satire. Take this as your chance to make your own versions!)