Wednesday, September 02, 2009

The one hundred best nonfiction books of the 20th Century

Take in this list. I learned a lot just from the list. For all the nonfiction I read I haven't read that many. I read Homage to Catalonia a while back; recommended by a liberal friend.... Churchill, of course.... Feynman, as a supplement to the text in sophomore physics... When I saw George Gilder was on the panel I was afraid his Wealth and Poverty would be ruled out. But, no, it is on the list. National Review Online ( Earlier this year, [1999] Random House announced that it would release a list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century. The publisher had enjoyed success (and controversy) with its 100 best novels; now it would do this. Here at National Review, we decided to get a jump on them by forming our own panel and offering our own list. Under the leadership of our reporter John J. Miller, we have done so. We have used a methodology that approaches the scientific. But-certainly beyond, say, the first 40 books-the fact of the books' presence on the list is far more important than their rankings. We offer a comment from a panelist after many of the books; but the panel overall, not the individual quoted, is responsible for the ranking. So, here is our list, for your enjoyment, mortification, and stimulation. THE PANEL: Richard Brookhiser, NR senior editor; David Brooks, senior editor of The Weekly Standard; Christopher Caldwell, senior writer at The Weekly Standard; Robert Conquest, historian; David Gelernter, writer and computer scientist; George Gilder, writer; Mary Ann Glendon, professor at Harvard Law School; Jeffrey Hart, NR senior editor; Mark Helprin, novelist; Arthur Herman, author of The Idea of Decline in Western History; John Keegan, military historian; Michael Kelly, editor of National Journal; Florence King, author of Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady; Michael Lind, journalist and novelist; John Lukacs, historian; Adam Meyerson, vice president at the Heritage Foundation; Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things; John O'Sullivan, NR editor-at-large; Richard Pipes, historian; Abigail Thernstrom, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute; Stephan Thernstrom, historian; James Q. Wilson, author of The Moral Sense. THE LIST: 1. The Second World War, Winston S. Churchill Brookhiser: "The big story of the century, told by its major hero." 2. The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn Neuhaus: "Marked the absolute final turning point beyond which nobody could deny the evil of the Evil Empire." 3. Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell Herman: "Orwell's masterpiece-far superior to Animal Farm and 1984. No education in the meaning of the 20th century is complete without it." 4. The Road to Serfdom, F. A. von Hayek Helprin: "Shatters the myth that the totalitarianisms 'of the Left' and 'of the Right' stem from differing impulses." 5. Collected Essays, George Orwell King: "Every conservative's favorite liberal and every liberal's favorite conservative. This book has no enemies." 6. The Open Society and Its Enemies, Karl Popper Herman: "The best work on political philosophy in the 20th century. Exposes totalitarianism's roots in Plato, Hegel, and Marx." 7. The Abolition of Man, C. S. Lewis Brookhiser: "How modern philosophies drain meaning and the sacred from our lives." ...

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