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My Quantum Library

A practice I’ve adopted since I’ve started blogging is to jot down ideas or questions that I get while surfing the blogosphere. Admittedly, the primary result from this habit is that my desk is usually littered with little pieces of crap on which I’ve scrawled some incoherent sentence fragments. OTOH, sometimes one of these tiny scraps of paper serves to jar my memory and I can return to a topic that interested me. Today is such a day.

A while back, I read an interesting post on “quantum libraries” – the books you read over and over again and learn something new each time. I’ve tried google and technorati to try and find the blogger who is the originator of this term but have failed ( if anyone knows, please shout out in the comments so I can properly link. It’s a great concept and one that applies to all serious readers.

Here is my “Quantum Library”

The Prince

The True Believer

The History of the Peloponnesian War

The Art of War

The Gulag Archipelago


The Lord of The Rings

The Lord of the Flies

I suppose I could “tag”people but instead, I’ll just say that I’m curious about the quantum libraries of the following blogfriends: Dave Schuler, Dr. Chet Richards,  Soob, Lexington Green, Curzon, Smitten Eagle, Jeremy Young, Dr. VonTim of UbiwarCheryl Rofer, TDAXP, Shane and Sean Meade. Post if you have the time.


Joining in on the Quantum Library fun…..

The Innovationist

The Committee of Public Safety


31 Responses to “My Quantum Library”

  1. munzenberg Says:

    It was a convo btw Glenn Anderson and The Innovationist: http://theinnovationist.com/2008/08/the-three-hierarchical-layers-of-books/

  2. Glenn Says:


    This is where I originally saw the idea of Quantum library. Like many things online, it doesn’t matter who originally started the idea but the meme sticks. The Lord of the Rings is an odd book to be in such a library. I’m with you, I would love to see what some of these bright chaps have for such books(so I can read them!)

  3. tdaxp Says:

    The Prince, The Demon-Haunted World, Beowulf, and How to Enter the Soviet Market.

  4. Lexington Green Says:

    These books had a big impact, I think about them, I return to them and look at them even if I do not re-read them front to back.   I am answering this by imagining myself at my house, and thinking of what book I am likely to reach for, as well as ones I think about often, or which had a major impact.  So, off the seat of my pants, this is as close I can get to my Quantum Library, probably.

    1984, Orwell
    Collected Essays, Orwell
    The Sword of Honor Trilogy, Waugh
    The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien
    "History of Liberty in Antiquity" and "History of Liberty in Christianity", Lord Acton
    Individualism and Economic Order, esp. "The Uses of Knowledge in Society", Hayek
    Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America, Hackett Fischer
    The Cousins’ Wars, Phillips
    Our Country, Barone
    The Storm of Steel, Junger
    Molotov Remembers, Resis, ed.
    Conversations with Stalin, Djilas
    The Diamond Age, or A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer, Stephenson
    Suicide of the West, Burnham
    The Making of the Modern World, Macfarlane
    The Riddle of the Modern World, Macfarlane
    Constitutional History of England, Maitland
    Collected Papers, Maitland
    The Screwtape Letters, Lewis
    The Three Ages of the Interior Life, Garrigou-Lagrange
    The Way, Escriva

  5. zen Says:

    Much thanks to Glenn and Munzenberg ! Corrected!
    An impressive list Lex ! But I expected nothing less.
    Regarding Tolkien, he was a professor of philology and an expert on Teutonic, British, Finnish etc. mythology as well as someone who thought fairly deeply about religious ideas ( it was Tolkien, the English Catholic, who converted an atheist C.S. Lewis into a committed Christian; Lewis later went on to be an influential thinker on modern Christianity). As I learn more and go back every few years for a re-read of Tolkien, I’ll come across a passage in LoTR and recognize subtle allusion or borrowing that had entirely escaped me previously.
    A book I left off my list previously is The Revolt of the Masses by Ortega y Gasset.

  6. Lexington Green Says:

    The Lord of the Rings is a poetic / mythic / epic depiction of the defense of the West (especially England and its medieval inheritance) against tyranny and evil.  Where most writers view the West through an Enlightenment frame, and see it as Antiquity then an interregnum followed by Modernity, Tolkien more accurately sees it as Antiquity + Christianity + Teutonic folkways and love of freedom.   Modernity he has little use for.  It is also a depiction of the working of Providence in History through the instrumentality of individual responses to grace, the primacy of the virtues, especially humility, and the unity of prayer and action (e.g. Sam’s prayer for water and sunlight that turns the course of the war in ways he cannot know) and hence anti-Hegelian, anti-Marxist, anti-determinist, anti-economistic.

    I should have added:

    The Man Who Was Thursday, Chesterton
    From Plato to NATO, Gress

  7. Arherring Says:

    I was trying to limit myself to a dozen or so books (though the Wheel of Time would take up most of that), but if I had to pick these are the books that I get something new every time I read them.
    The Art of War – Sun Tzu
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress – Heinlein
    The Principles of War for the Information Age – Leonhard
    The Lord of the Rings – Tolkien
    Ender’s Game – Card
    Neuromancer – Gibson
    Gates of Fire – Pressfield
    The Black Swan – Taleb
    Kim – Kipling
    The Utility of Force – Smith
    The Count of Monte Cristo – Dumas
    War of the Rats – Robbins
    And though I haven’t had the opportunity to re-read it:
    Anathem – Stephenson

  8. Morgan Says:

    My short list of books:

    The Centurions -Jean Larteguy
    The Praetorians – Jean Larteguy
    Feast of Bones – Dan Bolger
    Transformation of War – Martin Van Creveld
    Bugles and A Tiger – John Masters
    Weapons Systems & Political Stability – Carroll Quigley

  9. James Fuller Says:

    Pretty, interesting lists from everyone, here. Now my list might not fit the same areas of everyone else; I feel somewhat obligated to provide my list as the conceptual author.

    My short list:
    The Art of War – Sun Tzu
    Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk
    The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene
    The Richest Man in Babylon – George Clason
    Tribes – Seth Godin
    The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch
    Think on These Things – Krishnamurti
    The Analects – Lun Yu(Confucius)
    Moby Dick – Herman Melville
    Silmarillion(Middle Earths equivalent to The Bible) – J.R.R. Tolkien

    There’s the ten on my list sadly I haven’t had time to read The Art of War or the Analects in book form, only by reading them one law at a time at <a href="http://www.afpc.asso.fr/wengu/wg/wengu.php?l=intro">Wengu</a&gt;. I look forward to reading them in book form would be much easier.

  10. Lexington Green Says:

    It occurs to me that we now have a continuum established.

    There is a range of book categories, ranging from the Quantum library (super-empowered books) to the "White library" (books I’ve read) to the "Gray library" (books I know I want to read, including unread books I own), to — I am making this up — the Black library (unknown unknowns, books I don’t know about yet that I want to read).  I suppose there is also a Null library — books I know I don’t want to read.  

    One function of posts like this is to move books from Black to Gray, and potentially to White and then Quantum.  If we were to maintain the color code I suppose Quantum would be Gold? 

  11. PurpleSlog Says:

    The Prince
    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
    Getting Things Done

    I am trying not to re-read to many things any more. My anti-library is too large.

  12. Tim Stevens Says:

    Some great libraries there. My own selection barely passes muster, and is deliberately limited to ten:

    Vurt (Jeff Noon)
    King Lear (Shakespeare)
    Riddley Walker (Russell Hoban)
    If This Is A Man (Primo Levi)
    Fiasco (Stanislaw Lem)
    Neuromancer (William Gibson)
    A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History (Manuel de Landa)
    Strategy of Deception (Paul Virilio)
    The Birth of the People’s Republic of Antarctica: A Novel (John Calvin Batchelor)

    Honourable mention: The Utility of Force (Rupert Smith)

  13. Zen and the Art of Quantum Libraries « ubiwar . conflict in n dimensions Says:

    […] 2008 Mark Safranksi has an interesting thread developing over at Zenpundit, on the subject of quantum libraries, “the books you read over and over again and learn something new each time”.  […]

  14. Smitten Eagle Says:

    I’ll give this some thoughts along with a perusing of my bookshelves, my nightstand, and my office.

    Semper Fidelis,

  15. The Innovationist Says:

    Spreading The Idea Of Quantum Libraries…

    Zenpundit picked up my idea of quantum libraries and it is now starting to spread through his readers. I added my top ten as of this point in my life in a comment and would like to share them here, with the reasons why I chose them as quantum texts.

  16. Quantum Library « The Committee of Public Safety Says:

    […] Posted October 11, 2008 Filed under: Uncategorized | zenpundit, a blog I subscribe to, had a post on quantum libraries. Quantum libraries are those books you return to time and time again and glean […]

  17. Vonny Says:

    Interesting discussion that has begun.  My short list would be:
    – Elegant Universe, Greene
    – Foundation Trilogy, Asimov
    – The World is Flat, Friedman
    – The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, Feynman
    – Multiple Intelligences, Gardner
    – Ten Theories of Human Nature, Stevenson and Haberman

  18. historyguy99 Says:


    A list of just a few.

  19. historyguy99 Says:

    Here is a link to some of my favorites

  20. Jay@Soob Says:

    I’m in the same boat as P-Slog. The problem with commentary like this is that it grows the anti-library beyond it’s already monumental proportion. If I could simultaneously read two books (one with each eye) at the same time and live well into a century I still haven’t got a chance at reading all the books in my extended anti-library.

  21. Too bad you never knew Ace Hanna » Blog Archive » The Shelves of my Antilibrary Says:

    […] of this blog, I wrote about my antilibrary. Since meanwhile the concept of the quantum library makes the rounds I decided to reblog my antilibrary post as a preparation for the libraries to come. If […]

  22. fabius.maximus.cunctator Says:

    Zen / all

    1st attempt:

    The Prince, Machiavelli
    Discorsi, Machiavelli
    In Stahlgwittern, Jünger
    Gärten und Straßen / Strahlungen, Jünger
    The Sword Of Honour Trilogy, Waugh
    The Riddle Of The Sands, Childers
    Gedanken und Erinnerungen, Bismarck
    Life of the Cesars, Suetonius
    De Bello Gallico, Cesar (Latin-German ed.)
    Churchill, Roy Jenkins
    Servitude et Grandeur Militaires, Alfred de Vigny
    German History 1866-1945, G.A. Craig
    Faustfeuerwaffen, Bock et al. (brick-like reference book on Handguns)
    The Pax Britannica trilogy (Morris)
    Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man trilogy, Sasson

    Churchill – I have most of his books anyhow and reread them (except the Marlborough which I ve read only once).

    Ok, Ill stop now. Strange, I seem to like trilogies.

    BTW. I am in the habit of getting better editions in addition to paperbacks when I find myself rereading books more often, p.ex. my edition of Vigny is a beautiful 1852 half leather one and some of the Brit stuff is from the Folio Society.

    Anyone else suffering from this additional complication of reading sicknesss ?

    Jay, lol, exactly.

    Lexington Green, any further comment on Escriva ?

  23. The Innovationist Says:

    The Three Hierarchical Layers Of Books…

    My friend, Glenn, over at My Adventure to Enlightenment is studying-abroad this semester in Morocco. He’ll be leaving in a few weeks and realized he only has room for roughly 6 books in his luggage. He is looking for books that have re-readabilit…

  24. Dave Dilegge Says:

    Animal Farm

  25. deichmans Says:


    Good books — and many other great ones in the Comments. I have posted my QL here.

    vr/ shane

  26. A.E. Says:

    I rarely re-read books, but there are several that I do come back to mentally all the time.

    "Welcome to the Desert of the Real," Slavoj Zizek,

    "The Coming Anarchy," Robert D. Kaplan,
    – "Warrior Politics"

    -"Simulacra and Simulations," Jean Baudrillard

    -"Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace," Edward Luttwak

  27. Hyperreality and Democracy « Antilibrary Says:

    […] have been planning to re-read Baudrillard’s Simulacra and Simulations (a key part of my Quantum Library), so I perked up when Struggles With Philosophy analyzed the debates as a form of hyperreality: Can […]

  28. Yours Truly Says:

    Zen : Some of the dudes have mentioned SunTzu & Paul Virilio. I would suggest Senore Machiavelli & Herr von Clausewitz. Or do they qualify for the Antilibrary?

  29. zen Says:

    machiavelli ‘s Prince is definitely in my Quantum Library. I have also read The Discourses twice. Clausewitz is in neither having been read once but he’s headed in the direction of the Quantum library

  30. Chicago Boyz » Blog Archive » Ten Books I Want To Read Again Says:

    […] that re-reading, or at least wanting to re-read is a sign that a book is part of a person’s quantum library. I have more, but I will pick […]

  31. Too Bad You Never Knew Ace Hanna | The Shelves of my Quantum Library Says:

    […] few days ago @zenpundit wrote on his blog about the concept of the quantum library. Jay@Soob has tracked this idea back to a posting on The Innovationist blog. Here a quantum library […]

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