Friday, June 03, 2005

Blogger Book Tag

I've been simul-tagged by Lanny Cardow, a friend from Queen's who is completing a Master's degree in Political ChicaneryPolitical Management at George Washington University, and Aaron Lee-Wudrick, who is busy completing a law degree at the University of Western (isn't that an omelette? Ha ha).

Number of Books That You Own:

Yikes. I'm a used books fan, and also received the Ontario Libertarian Party's library a while back. My parents also run a book business. All told, I'd say I own about a thousand books or so. That doesn't mean I've read them all, mind you, just that I own them...

Last Book Bought:

I bought two books at one go, so I'll name both: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point). And Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen (blah).

Last Book I Read:

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton. It's a pretty decent account of what makes us nervous and unhappy--namely, status. It begins with an appeal to an apparent paradox: we've gotten dramatically richer in the Western world by almost every conceivable standard (go capitalism!), but, according to surveys, we're no happier (ah shit). Why is that? We're anxious about our status, that's why. De Botton goes through a list of things we can do to help ourselves out of this status trap, and relies on great philosophers, literature, satire, amongst other things, to help us 'get' that we shouldn't feel so anxious. It was pretty good.

I'm cheating, but the same day I finished reading the first installment of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. It chronicles the awful tale of the Beaudelaire orphans who go from one misadventure to another. 'Misadventure' here means 'a really awful adventure punctured by misfortune.' (If you've read the books, you'll understand).

Five Books that mean a lot to me:

This one's tough. I'm sure I'll revise this. Off the top of my head (and so biased by recall):

Concluding Unscientific Postscript, by Soren Kierkegaard. Now, look, I'm not sure exactly what to say about this book, except to point out that it is existential, and that it punctures Hegelian pretenses. I found it to be a great source of all sorts of interesting thoughts.

I'll put Friedrich Nietzsche's On The Genealogy of Morals in the same category as this Kierkegaard book, and for a good reason. Both puncture absolutist, all-embracing philosophies (the World Spirit style philosophy of Hegel, and the Christian philosophy respectively). Both urged a kind of return to individualism, and of a deeper connection with oneself. The point of life, says Kierkegaard, is becoming--which is a constant process and not an end-point or goal--which means 'turning in' or 'becoming subjective.' People read nihilism and anxiety into these. I didn't. I found both to be inspiring and encouraging.

The Fountainhead
, by Ayn Rand. I suppose I have to mention this book, if only because it was so important to me when I was younger. I still think of it every now and then, and consider it very influential. I read this book in about three days, spending one entire day in my pajamas in my living room at 25 Clergy Street, skipping all my classes, stopping only for coffee refills (I think I made myself a sandwich or two that day as well).

Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. It really is worth the praise, near as I can tell. I particularly like the existential tone the book strikes. I never liked Count Vronsky and Anna as much as I did Levin. I sympathized throughout the novel with the two lovers, but I was mostly taken by Levin the farmer.

The Heathen's Guide to World Religions, by William Hopper. William is a good friend of mine, and this book, which has had several aborted starts, is one of the funniest I've read. You can't buy it just now (unless you ask me for a copy, then I can lend it your way), but I'm sure William is working on getting another edition published shortly. Of course, I'll let everyone know when that happens.

Respecting Persons in Theory and Practice, by Jan Narveson. I prefer this book to The Libertarian Idea, if only because it covers a lot more material, and gives you a better sense of the depth of this man's philosophical thinking. Jan covers more than plain politics here, wading into environmental issues, business ethics and questions about future generations.

Since I'm a big cheater, I'll also add David Hume's A Treatise of Human Nature (Book III Of Morals) to this list. Why? Because, it turns out, David Hume is right on just about everything in this. No, really. Re-read it with an eye for where he's wrong. You'll see that he rarely is.

I'm tagging the following five blogs:

Transformative Change
(David Lizoain in particular)
Zeitgeist Schadenfreude (my man, Jason Song)
Dinner Table Donts (Peter Thurley)
Ahab's Whale (James MacDuff and Mike McNair in particular)
Grumpy Young Crank (a.k.a. Eli Schuster)

Get to it.


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