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September 22, 2005 11:41 PM   Subscribe

The fifty most cited books. At the time the list was compiled in the 1980s, the most cited book in the humanities and social sciences was Thomas Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions, followed by James Joyce's Ulysses. Noam Chomsky makes the top 20 with two works on linguistics. And, for those who prefer natural science, you should know the most cited scientific paper of all time is Protein Determination by Oliver H. Lowry. Alternately, you could just skip academia and go for the top 40 most important books according to World Literature Today, the 100 most loved according to the BBC, or you could just decide which books matter most to you. So what makes a book important, and which books qualify?
posted by blahblahblah (35 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I know that the book most often cited as justification or inspiration for violent crime is the Bible.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:41 AM on September 23, 2005


For those who will ask.
posted by undule at 5:42 AM on September 23, 2005


F of B, christ, you can shit on a dime!
posted by undule at 5:43 AM on September 23, 2005


Adventure/Travel books. Heres the National Geographic Top 100 list.
posted by stbalbach at 6:14 AM on September 23, 2005


What?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:17 AM on September 23, 2005


I know that the book most often cited as justification or inspiration for violent crime is the Bible.

Also the book most often lifted from bookstores. Thou shalt not pay.
posted by scratch at 6:20 AM on September 23, 2005


Citation for F of B's comment.
posted by eustacescrubb at 6:28 AM on September 23, 2005


Can I just say that I find "One Hundred Years of Solitude" to be one of the most tedious and overrated "classic" novels ever? Thanks.
posted by Decani at 6:30 AM on September 23, 2005


Metafilter: You can shit on a dime.
posted by leapingsheep at 6:30 AM on September 23, 2005


Citation for F of B's comment.

Thanks, eustacescrubb. However, I'd be more interested in seeing a citation for "shitting on a dime." What does that mean?
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:35 AM on September 23, 2005


The first list is extremely illuminating.

Finnegan's Wake is at number thirteen. What do you cite from that? Given that it's is almost impossible to know what Joyce was talking about. Of course this can be a great advantage, if like the rest of your colleagues you are bullshitting like hell.
posted by johnny novak at 6:36 AM on September 23, 2005


I know that the book most often cited as justification or inspiration for violent crime is the Bible.

Also - although admittedly speaking only from my experience - the book least read by those who claim the most for it. I've had great fun with door-to-door bible thumpers by telling them about bits of the bible they clearly had no knowledge of at all. One kindly old god-bothering space case simply refused to believe what I said about Deuteronomy 23:1 until I grabbed my trusty KJV, showed it to her and told her to make sure her husband looked after his meat and two veg. I think I caused a minor tremor in a rock-filled head that day.
posted by Decani at 6:39 AM on September 23, 2005


The WLT is a certainly a list of books worth reading.

johnny novak-The citations could just as easily be saying, "Unlike FW, this book makes sense;" or "We all know FW is a load of garbage, like Chomsky's theories, but that doesn't make Kuhn's paradigms any less important as an example of..."
posted by OmieWise at 6:41 AM on September 23, 2005


One kindly old god-bothering space case simply refused to believe what I said about Deuteronomy 23:1

Tee hee. Deuteronomy 23:12-14 are lots of fun, too.

12 Thou shalt have a place also without the camp, whither thou shalt go forth abroad:

13 and thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:

14 for the LORD thy God walketh in the midst of thy camp, to deliver thee, and to give up thine enemies before thee; therefore shall thy camp be holy: that he see no unclean thing in thee, and turn away from thee.


Flush toilets are un-Christian! It's holes in the ground for you guys!
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:46 AM on September 23, 2005


I would submit that the most influential book of the twentieth century, world-wide, is the Diary of Anne Frank. It has been translated into more than 67 languages, with 31 million copies sold, and is the most widely-published and read memoir of World War II. As it such has done more than anything else to focus attention on the Holocaust, which is certainly the central historical event of the century. Global and local history and politics from civil rights and national liberation movement to the spotlight on poverty and racial disparities during the Katrina disaster (not to mention Israeli/Middle Eastern events) have been inspired by, influenced by or illuminated by widespread study of the Holocaust tragedy -- and the Diary of Anne Frank has been the first and principal introduction for millions of people to the human dimensions of that event.
posted by beagle at 6:49 AM on September 23, 2005


nice theory Omie, but I don't think so.

The WLT seems like a pretty random pick of books from the last 75 years. I'm not sure what criteria they used, but I agree that most of the books are worth reading, apart from Haldor Laxness who bites.
posted by johnny novak at 6:50 AM on September 23, 2005


stalbach

thanks for that list, which is probably going to bankrupt me at Amazon. Of the ones I have read, I think my favourite is The Road to Oxiana by Robert Byron.
posted by johnny novak at 7:00 AM on September 23, 2005


Faint of Butt, "shit on a dime", prob. derived from "stop on a dime", indicating in this sense, precision, ie, good call.

And as for the 50 Most Cited Books, one caught my eye, Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

-r
posted by rmmcclay at 7:23 AM on September 23, 2005


Nothing after 1975 eh?

Hm.
posted by petebest at 7:25 AM on September 23, 2005


I like the Lowry link. And I thought Stony Brook Pharmacology was the only non-pharmacological pharmacology department.
posted by exogenous at 7:34 AM on September 23, 2005


Man. Who knew my injured stones would cause me so much ongoign grief. Damn you, Deuteronomy!
posted by maxsparber at 7:56 AM on September 23, 2005


wrt the BBC list, I love that the BFG by Roald Dahl is in there at number 56. It was my all time favorite book as a kid, and I still read it occasionally.
posted by gaspode at 8:20 AM on September 23, 2005


Can I just say that I find "One Hundred Years of Solitude" to be one of the most tedious and overrated "classic" novels ever? Thanks.

You could say it if it makes you feel better. Then you can go shit on a dime!
posted by iamck at 8:34 AM on September 23, 2005


Faint of Butt, "shit on a dime", prob. derived from "stop on a dime", indicating in this sense, precision, ie, good call.

Thanks, rmmclay. I was hoping that was what it meant, but I couldn't figure out whether to read it as "you possess great accuracy and pinpoint precision" or "you befoul things of value."
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:36 AM on September 23, 2005


7
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
posted by Ugandan Discussions at 8:53 AM on September 23, 2005


Faint of Butt writes "Thanks, rmmclay. I was hoping that was what it meant, but I couldn't figure out whether to read it as 'you possess great accuracy and pinpoint precision' or 'you befoul things of value.'"

I suspect he meant both (but I don't know for sure).

rmmclay-Thanks for the link to the Tractatus, I didn't know it was online. Awesome, and bilingual too.
posted by OmieWise at 8:53 AM on September 23, 2005


johnny novak, your welcome, enjoy, I sure have been, amazing books.
posted by stbalbach at 8:57 AM on September 23, 2005


Heh...I was just about to complain about that Nat Geo list you linked stbalbach because it didn't have Tschiffley's Ride. And then when I went to link it....well, I sense you know about it already. ;- )
posted by peacay at 10:52 AM on September 23, 2005


The Road to Oxiana is awesome. I think I read an article in the LRB and sought it out. There was supposed to be a new edition coming out, but I never saw it, so I had to hunt in some campus library.
posted by maledictory at 10:56 AM on September 23, 2005


The 50 most cited list only goes through 1983. I know that resource is still around in libraries. Anyone got linkage to a more recent list? Trends in scholarship have changed a bit since '83.
posted by wheat at 11:07 AM on September 23, 2005


peacay, yeah I just finished reading Tschiffely's Ride (and wrote a Wikipedia bio about him). I'm surprised he is not better known!
posted by stbalbach at 11:41 AM on September 23, 2005


So what makes a book important, and which books qualify?

Important books illuminate aspects of the human spirit, and teach or reflect in an original voice.

My own list would run to hundreds of entries, most of which I keep personal copies, and only a handful of which have been published in the last 50 years. Nothing wrong with modern writing, IMO, but I find the majority of best sellers are like newspapers- good for sharing and conversation, not so much for re-reading and reflection over time. A book has got to have staying power in my interests, if I'm going to keep moving it along with me. And some of these old friends, I've packed and moved for 35 years, dozens of times.
posted by paulsc at 11:53 AM on September 23, 2005


Books that will indeuce a mindfuck
posted by cip at 2:30 PM on September 23, 2005 [1 favorite]


johnny novak : What's your beef with Halldór Laxness?

I've got nothing against Laxness, having been forced to read him due to that pesky "Welcome to Iceland. Here is a recently translated book by our Nobel Prize winner! Enjoy!" business. The Fish Can Sing is a pretty good book.

Other books on this list though... I'm trying to read A Hundred Years of Solitude for the second time and I'm discovering why I put it down the first time. This book goes nowhere!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:11 PM on September 23, 2005


Please don't let johnny novak encourage you to miss out on Halldor Laxness's incredible Independent People. Novels don't choke me up much, but this one did.
posted by escabeche at 10:25 PM on September 23, 2005


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