Sunday, March 21, 2010

Ten Most Influential Books, With Some Blanks

Try as I might, I couldn't come up with a list of ten books that had been highly influential for me. It's odd: I do read a lot, but I think I have a lot of resistance to being influenced. Here's what I have:

During high school (an impressionable time):
Rhinoceros, Eugène Ionesco
Mo Tzu: Basic Writings, Burton Watson (trans.)

Late teens, early 20s:
Technics and Civilization, Lewis Mumford
Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, Erving Goffman
Communitas, Paul and Perceval Goodman

Time of wandering:
100 Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez

Since becoming an economist:
Rise and Fall of Freedom of Contract, P. S. Atiyah
John Dewey and American Democracy, Robert Westbrook

It's interesting that I couldn't think of a single economics book that left an imprint. What have I been missing?


Anonymous said...

Das Kapital? Theory of Money/Interest?

Perhaps the problem is that most "original," popular and influential economic ideas are disseminated through secondary sources and thus don't have the same direct effect of more distinctive and isolated works. said...


Good point. I have read most of the classics, but most of my views of them were initially formed by secondary sources, with The Worldly Philosophers by Heilbroner that I listed being responsible for many of those views. His summary held up pretty well on later encountering the actual works of the classics. I read it at about the time I decided to switch to economics from physics, and it played a major role in that.


I like Ionesco, Mumford, the Goodmans, and Marquez on your list, although for Mumford I prefer The City in History, which I make students in Urban Economics read sections of.

Peter Dorman said...

Mumford was during my hippie period. I haven't read him in maybe 30 years and have no idea what I would make of him today. But he seemed to be the right blend of visionary and crunchy back then (along with the Goodmans).

As for the point about second-hand economics, this is probably true, but my problem is more basic: I just wasn't moved much by either Marx or Keynes. I've come to appreciate Keynes' voice nowadays, even more than his economics.

In a strange way, I have been most deeply influenced by the economists I found myself arguing against, or at least with. Kip Viscusi would hold a place of high honor on that list (10 most influential pushbacks), for instance.

Steve said...

not strictly about economics but how about "America Who Pays the taxes" Sure opened my eyes to the disparate tax treatment of middle class and wealthy Americans.