Attempt to Fulfill Bramwell's Postulates for Most Influential Books List

I earlier explained why I wouldn't take part in the recent round-robin on the books that influenced me the most, but now I've changed my mind because Austin Bramwell has issued precise guidelines on how to construct a truly effective list. He postulates that your list ought to implicitly make the following ten statements:
  1. “I admit that I was pretty silly at age 18.”
  2. “My interests are more diverse than you know!”
  3. “I have read deeply enough in the Western Canon to consider the Great Books my friends.”
  4. “I am not afraid to defend a book that you may hate.”
  5. “I may have my biases, but I have still learned from the other side.”
  6. “I have a well-formed, coherent worldview.”
  7. “Gosh, I sure was precocious as a kid!”
  8. “I’ve got some serious candlepower up here.”
  9. “There’s no way the rest of you guys have read anything as obscure as this.”
  10. “I may be highly literate but I’m not a snob.”
Now, that's material I can work with! It would be easy enough to construct a list that totally kicks ass, and indeed Bramwell suggests specific books you ought to include to make the above points. But that's tennis without a net. So, to make it fun, I'll limit myself to books I have actually read - thereby doing almost the exact thing Bramwell's post so amusingly criticizes. I've taken a few liberties in the rationales for inclusion department, though. In fact, some of them are complete and utter bullshit. And here we go:
  1. Daniel Lagache, Psychoanalyse ("Psychoanalysis"): Some of us, including myself, really fell for it when we were taught Freudianism in psychology class (11th grade, I think). Fascinating stuff for impressive young minds - fucking, killing, speculating about the real reason behind other people's seemingly innocuous behaviour - but when we got to Jung and he was trying to make us believe that a cow and a cave were basically the same thing we started to have second thoughts. Or first thoughts. Whatever.
  2. Various books on Lemmings. After having seen the rather good film Lemming, I read a number of these in preparation for a presentation at a sort of club we had for a short time with a few friends, where each time someone would present something on a topic that's decidedly not in his field of specialization. Due to the small size of the group and people spontaneously moving out of town, the group regrettably seized to exist and I never gave (or even properly prepared) the presentation, but I did learn that one type of lemmings is called Lemmus Lemmus by biologists, a name I found affably ridiculous. You connect the dots.
  3. Herman Melville, Moby-Dick: Illustrates problems of translation (I've read it in both English and German) as well as the truth of the opinion that you may break any rule of construction if it works for the piece in question.
  4. Rupert Sheldrake, Sieben Experimente, die die Welt verändern könnten (translation of Seven Experiments That Could Change the World): Interesting throughout, this book convincingly makes the point that a scientific mindset (or whatever you want to call it) means not blindly sticking to the views that are currently accepted as the ones any right-thinking person holds, but rather following the scientific method wherever it may lead us. A bit short on the extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence front, though.
  5. Paul Feyerabend, Wider den Methodenzwang (translation of Against Method): Though it ultimately fails as an argument, it was still a much-needed antidote to my uncritical acceptance (and perhaps naive reading) of Popper's views on science and led me to more nuanced thinkers and thinking about these issues.
  6. Adam Smith, Der Wohlstand der Nationen; Karl Popper, Die offene Gesellschaft und ihre Feinde (translations of The Wealth of Nations and The Open Society and Its Enemies, respectively): Ought to be required reading for anyone growing up in a country not historically known for putting a huge emphasis on liberties. (Confession: I skipped Smith's chapter on the development of the price of silver, ca. 1680-1740 or whatever it was.)
  7. [Author forgotten], Logisches Denken ("Logical Thinking"): This book had lots of tasks in it that I really enjoyed solving when I was about twelve years old. Later I learned that these kinds of things make up IQ tests. And I really enjoyed doing them. Wink, wink.
  8. Niklas Luhmann, Soziale Systeme (translated into English as Social Systems): Like many German professors of sociology, I have come to the conclusion that Luhmann's whole approach to sociology is ass-backwards. Unlike many of those, I have come to the conclusion by reading (among other of his books) the central piece of Luhmann's body of thought. All of it. And understanding it. Every time I think back to that time, it reminds me that one must strive to explain complex ideas in simple language. And what a valuable lesson that is.
  9. Kai Damkowski, angst sucht hase: This novel by the regrettably little-known Hamburg punk writer shows that even if your work clearly betrays the strong influence of a master - in this case Henry Miller - it can still surpass the master's works in quality; a fact little believed despite the popularity of the shoulders of giants quote. More importantly, however, a short conversation with the brilliant author demonstrated quite convincingly that even geniuses are mere mortals, and not always particularly charismatic ones. I would have agreed with that view in the abstract, but since that fateful night I really feel it.
  10. René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, Asterix comics (all of the original 24 co-authored volumes, plus a few more, translated into German): This series about the Gallic contemporaries of Caesar, who love beatin' up Roman soldiers, ass-kick-started my enduring interest in ancient Roman history.
Bramwell offers a list of criteria by which to judge a list:
erudition (it should show how widely the blogger has read), plausibility (it should not claim that the blogger read Principia Mathematica at age 10), inventiveness (it should be unpredictable), freedom of thought or freedom from dogma (it should not unwittingly depict the blogger as an ideologue) and gumption (it should show that the blogger is unafraid to defend unpopular opinions).
Let's check:
  • Erudition is, naturally, satisfied by #9, though I'm particularly proud of #2, which makes the point with force.
  • Plausibility. Well, if you have doubts, you're wrong, bitch.
  • Inventiveness. #s 2, 3 (how many people have actually read that book, let alone in two languages?), 9, 10.
  • Freedom of thought or freedom from dogma. #s 4, 8, to a lesser extent 5. And I haven't even mentioned Marx. Oops.
  • Gumption. #4, pretty much by design. Depending on where you are, #s 1, 4, 5, 6 and 8 can all count.
Boy, what a man! I'm not married, by the way.

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