Sunday, April 18, 2004


Hey, I've only just noticed this post by Harry at Crooked Timber:

This is a request for help. A student came to me with Will Durant’s list of 100 necessary books which he (the student) thinks needs updating. He, the student, wants to know what books the educated person should have read, that have been published since 1970. I am just about the worst person for him to come to, since unlike all my CT colleagues I am narrowly read and utterly lacking in erudition in subjects other than cricket, children’s TV, the history of the far left, and my professional interests. But you, the readers, are a different matter, and I have access to you. So, submissions, please, of the two books you think every educated person should have read, published 1970 or later. Your reward will be in heaven…
I hope it's not too late to come to their rescue. Anyhoo, these are my recommendations:

The Exquisite Melancholia of Persimmon Leaves by Iskander Karamanoglu. The story of an albino Kabardian dwarf at the court of the pasha of the Sanjak of Novi Bazar and his tragic, unrequited love for a lemon tree. Magical in its realism, yet realistic in its magic. Beautifully translated from the East Rumelian.

A Million Billion Trillion Squillion Gadzillion: An Introduction to Really Big Number Theory by Larry Krailsheimer and Morton Garalnick. Forget string theory, this is the cutting edge of mathematics. Awesome, paradigm-shifting, looks great on your shelf.

What is "What"?. A translation of Jacques Derrida's Qu'est-ce que c'est "qu'est-ce que c'est"?. Derrida questions the very nature of our questions and thinks we should be posing new ones such as whyre? (pourquoú?) and whow? (quimment?). A book that challenges the foundations of Western logic.

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