Regarding the Federalist’s Popular Books That People Don’t Actually Read.

Interesting. Of this list*:

  • Have read Atlas Shrugged (sadism porn, frankly).
  • Haven’t read On the Origin of Species (never felt the need).
  • Haven’t read Les Miserables (skipped the musical, too. And the movie. Loved the Animaniacs bit).
  • Have read A Tale of Two Cities (for high school. I think I’ve read a bit of Dickens, actually).
  • Have read 1984 (a hell of a lot more times than the people who love to use it to bash Republicans. Also: masochism porn, frankly).
  • Haven’t read Democracy in America (yes, I am ashamed. I think that I even have it for Kindle).
  • Haven’t read The Wealth of Nations (I have taken a stab at it; hard going).
  • Have read Moby Dick (only once; every time I’ve tried since then, I’ve lost my copy somehow. Seriously weird, actually).
  • I can’t remember if I’ve read The Art of War or not.
  • Have read The Prince (tried to read the Discourses, got sidetracked).
  • I’ve looked at Ulysses.  I’ve looked at it real hard.

I wonder if this really means anything, one way or the other.  I mean, I was an English major; it’s hardly surprising that I like to read.

Moe Lane

*I’ll spare you the tedium of linking each one to its entry. Sorry; it’s been a long week and the kids are on a reduced school schedule.  And I still got four days to go…

15 thoughts on “Regarding the Federalist’s Popular Books That People Don’t Actually Read.”

  1. I’ve read pretty much the same set, swapping _Les Miserables_ for _Moby Dick_. I would like to read _On the Origin of Species_, _Democracy in America_ and _The Art of War_. (I have copies of all three.) I have no desire to read _Moby Dick_ or _Ulysses_.

    I don’t care to read _The Wealth of Nations_; my economics reading tends more to the Austrian than the strictly classical. Right now I’m in the middle of von Mises _The Theory of Money and Credit_. I do also want to get back to Say’s _Treatise on Political Economy_, and Bastiat is always fun.

    So many books, so little time…

  2. I fully admit to not being terribly “well read”, according to any definition that a literature major would accept ..
    I’ve skipped all of Ayn’s stuff.. I know it’s supposed to be inspirational or something, but .. meh. If you’re writing *fiction* to get your fables across, at least have the skill to write *compelling characters*. (or realistic ones, for that matter .. “Gatsby” has the same flaw, IMO)
    Haven’t read Les Miserables, have seen the movie and IIRC the play .. (spoiler) I find the idea of heaven as the perpetual revolution to be completely bug-house nuts, and suspect it was thrown in to appeal to the same faux-intellectuals communism appeals to.
    Have read large chunks of “Art of War”, see no point in reading Machiavelli’s work on the same subject.
    Haven’t seen the need for a deep-dive into biology or economics or democracy, so “no” on “Origin” or “Wealth” or “Democracy”.
    Everything I needed to know about “Moby Dick” I learned from Jean Luc Picard.
    What should frighten you most about this is, I am still significantly better read than the average citizen-voter.

    1. IMO, Machiavelli’s work on the subject is much superior to The Art of War. Tackle him and Clausewitz, and you’re well-grounded on the subject.
      TAoW is short, vague, and has easily-remembered proverbs to cite. Which makes it ideal for posers.
      (And I’ve obviously read The Prince, as well.)
      I’ve read most of Ayn’s stuff. I liked Anthem. Wouldn’t wish The Fountainhead on anybody. Atlas Shrugged ranges between good and blech–it has one of the best defenses of the Gold Standard and does an admirable job of challenging the underlying assumptions of collectivism. OTOH, her own assumptions are badly flawed, there isn’t much depth, and the dead horse is beaten to paste long before Galt gives his never-ending speech.
      Read Voyage of the Beagle (which left no impression) but not On the Origin of the Species.
      Never read Le Mis.
      Read the Tale of Two Cities, hardly remember any of it. One unpleasant woman, and that’s about it.
      1984: I’ve read it. Can’t say I liked it, but it does stick with you.
      Democracy in America, read it long ago, it didn’t make a big impression on me.
      The Wealth of Nations I’ve read. I don’t really recommend it unless you really feel a burning need to see mercantilism eviscerated. (Friedman’s Free to Choose and Hayek’s Constitution of Liberty, OTOH, I highly recommend. The latter is admittedly tough sledding.)
      I liked Moby Dick, but I haven’t ever felt any interest in re-reading it.
      Ulysses? Not a fricking chance. Maybe if I was locked in solitary confinement for years with nothing else. But short of that…

      1. Read enough of Clausewitz to know I’m not going to “tackle him”. Yes, there’s a good bit of collected knowledge in there, but *without the application* for it, no point in reading something that doesn’t interest me.
        Ditto “The Prince”, by the way. I don’t quote Sun Tzu .. okay, I do from time to time, but rarely. More often, the ease of remembering the proverb leads me to making the connection and taking the appropriate action, which is kind of the point. Also makes finding poseurs easy.. they quote but don’t execute.
        Unless I need more out of it than just “trust only what you can yourself control”, I just don’t see devoting the time to “The Prince”.

  3. Read Moby Dick and Two Cities in high school, can’t remember a single thing about either (and don’t care). Read part of The Art of War.
    Detective murder mysteries are more my style…

  4. On the other hand, Moe, I’ll bet you’ve read at least five Heinlein novels and could accurately summarize them. And some of their message has informed your attitudes toward life and politics.

          1. Have Spacesuit — Will Travel and The Star Beast are my two favorite juveniles, though there’s more “character-building” content in Citizen of the Galaxy and Starship Troopers.

  5. Four of eleven here, which probably puts me above a typical public school attendee. Tale of Two Cities was the only one of them I read for school. I did, however, pick up a set of the 1952 edition of the ‘Great Books’ that Britannica did, which I’m (very slowly) reading through, so sometime in the next 10 years I should pick up another four or so.

    1. It’s not even terribly long, though I thought Musashi was more interesting (if more obtuse).
      I’ve read 1984, The Art of War, and The Prince. I’ve read a book by Dickens, but not A Tale of Two Cities.
      I have a copy of Atlas Shrugged, which I bought with the intention of reading … someday. I tried to read Moby Dick … about twenty years ago. Perhaps it will be easier, now, if I ever go back to it. I can honestly say I have no experience with Joyce’s Ulysses. I hear it is famously impenetrable.

  6. Ayn Rand had a marvelous command of the English language but tended to the overly melodramatic. She was better at recognizing problems than solutions.

    I use the phase “pulling a Moby Dick” to describe my reading all but the last 50 pages before discarding it in disgust.

    Every time I started Ulysses I enjoyed it but never picked it up again after putting it down.

    Hugo is better than Dickens in that he did not feel compelled to tie up the loose ends with happy endings. My favorite French novel is The Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas.

    1984 should only be read while remembering that Orwell was a socialist turned anti-Stalinist after they tried to purge her in the Spanish Civil War.

    Want a great American novel? The Wall by Hersey. It starts slow but is worth the setup.

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