The 100 Most Influential Books

Last week, I saw a newspaper website which listed the 100 most important books ever written. The list was chosen by a group of experts. As soon as the list was published, people started writing comments. ‘What happened to the Bible? Or the Koran?” Where was Dostoevsky? And so forth.

Well, it did get me thinking about the books that I would have put on that list. Of course, I couldn’t begin to determine what books were important for all of mankind, or even for me. But I can think about those books that I read and said “wow!” about.

I am not going to list all 100 now. But I will start, and then will keep adding, and maybe subtracting, until I hit 100. And they won’t be in any order, except the order in which I think of them, although maybe at the end, I will move them around. And I am sure you will be surprised at what makes up the list. Here goes:

J.R.R. Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. (I am not sure why this came first into mind. But during my first year at law school, I got a case of the flu or some such thing, and started reading, and kept reading, and finished three days later.)

Graham Hancock’s The Sign and the Seal. (The story of the Ark of the Covenant, how it was taken from Jerusalem and moved to Ethiopia, and what all of this had to do with the Templars, the Order of Christ and the Freemasons.)

Various novels and books of short stories by Isaac Bashevis Singer, the first of which was Satan in Goray. (I was mesmerized by the imaginative use of language and image and fantasy in Polish Jewish and New York Jewish stories.

The books of Robert Ardrey, starting with African Genesis. (A totally fresh look and what mankind really is and how he inevitably came to be that way)

The novels of Jorge Amado, the first of which I read was Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon (This time, fantasy and reality mix in northeast Brazil, but with a rhythm quite different from Singer’s, but equally appealing.

Arthur Schlesinger’s “The Age of Roosevelt” series, starting with The Crisis of the Old Order, which taught me that history could be written to be read as easily as a novel.

Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, which I started with trepidation.

Cervantes’ Don Quixote, which I read when I was still in high school, as part of a class, and which i found to contain world class humor.

The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky

The short stories of Anton Chekhov.

OK, that’s a start.

On Tuesdays I think of a law school classmate who now lives in Albuquerque. For one of the reunion books, he wrote that he is very active in civic affairs, his biggest responsibility being taking out the trash faithfully every week.

Well, it is 10:45 on Tuesday night. Time for me to put in my time as a responsible citizen.


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