Monday, June 20, 2005

Most Intellectually Exciting Books

A few folks took up my call to list their three most intellectually exciting books written in the past decade. Herewith the results of that challenge:

Triona Trog lists Finders Keepers by Seamus Heaney, Defying Hitler by Sebastien Haffner, and Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Este.

Natalia at Unknown Strains lists John Guillory's Cultural Capital, Colleen Lye's America's Asia, and Lisa Robertson's The Weather and also Anne Cheng's The Melancholy of Race. [must avoid Stanford/Berkeley rivalry joke about Berkeley Ph.D. chosing four when asked to choose three... (and to be fair, Natalia did choose Cheng only if she could get in a fourth)].

I thought also that Tiruncula had also posted her three, but I am being a doofus about getting into the archives and can't find it.

If there was anyone else whom I've rudely missed, please ping me and I'll correct.

I think that the difference between all of these books (and the three I noted) is remarkably huge, and it goes to show that intellectual excitement is a very individual thing. There are indeed massively influential works, but I wonder how many of them are genuinely exciting to a large group of people; maybe there're just popular, not deeply influential.


Tiruncula said...

I haven't actually responded to your interesting challenge, but I've been thinking I should. Maybe you read my mind and not my archives, links to which (archives, not mind) I've hidden in a vain attempt to protect the innocent. My concern is that my list would consist of books with even smaller readerships than Gretsch and the last shreds of my anonymity would blow away. But I do want to think about what three books have most shaped the way I go about being a medievalist, scholar and teacher. Will get on this shortly back over at my place.

Triona Trog said...

When I wrote my list I wondered just how "intellectual" some folks might consider the books I chose. Still, I can get into a very good discussion of the ideas and issues that each of those books raises with just about anyone who's able to carry on a conversation. So, I think that means something. An intellectual book, to me, is a book that stimulates me to ask other questions, bring up issues, talk, read more. It doesn't necessarily have to be highly philosophical to do that - it just has to illuminate reality in some particularly provoking and serious way.

Tiruncula said...

Update: My response is over here at my place.

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