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Building the Antilibrary

Due to a combination of good fortune, review copies sent by publishers and exercising wide-ranging discretion over a budget account at work, I’ve added an eclectic mix of tomes to the ever rising Antilibrary book pile.  Some of these are recommendations from readers left in my comment section last January ( working on improving my traditionally lame following -up skills)

   Alexander II The Last Great Tsar by Edvard Radzinsky

    Engaging the Muslim World  by Juan Cole

    The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda’s Leader by Peter Bergen

      The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 1: The Spell of Plato

                          and  The Open Society and Its Enemies, Vol. 2: Hegel and Marx by Karl Popper

      Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software

and   Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life by Steven Johnson

            How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker

    Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets 

                                 by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

  Real Education: Four Simple Truths for Bringing America’s Schools Back to Reality  

                                by Charles Murray

   Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

  Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations 

                                by Clay Shirky

   The Hyperlinked Society: Questioning Connections in the Digital Age 

                                  by Joseph Turow & Lokman Tsui

  Islands in the Clickstream: Reflections on Life in a Virtual World 

                                   by Richard Thieme

Engaging the Muslim World is not long for the Antilibrary, as I have already begun reading it and will review it here soon. Some of these books can be read relatively quickly, a day or two but others, like The two volume The Open Society, I expect will require a greater investment of time and thought. It pays rich dividends though.

Note, Richard Thieme, despite his past as a scholar-clergyman of the Episcopalian Church, is not t be confused with the historicist, fundamentalist, theologian, Colonel R.B. Thieme.


Ha! A good one arrived today, courtesy of Columbia University Press:

   The Scientific Way of Warfare: Order and Chaos on the Battlefields of Modernity

                                        by Antoine Bousquet

13 Responses to “Building the Antilibrary”

  1. Lexington Green Says:

    Very interested to hear what you think of Juan Cole.  He is obviously very knowledgeable.  But he also has an edge of Leftish hysteria in some of the things I read by him, before I gave up on him. 

  2. zen Says:

    Hi Lex,
    Juan had his marketing peeps send me a copy. Reviewing one of his scholarly books would be a lot easier than this one which is essentially foreign policy and polemical in nature. Of course, that’s the value in reading authors with whom you have some normative disagreements; it forces you to read and think with greater care than with a book from one’s own side of the aisle.
    So far, Cole is at his best in this book explaining the nuances intra-Arab/intra-Muslim politics or his more measured criticism of American public diplomacy or hamhanded actions of the CPA/Bush administration in Iraq- there’s genuinely useful material that a lot of ppl on the Right will miss because the gratuitous (and at times, specious) potshots Cole takes along the way will cause them to hurl the book across the room.

  3. Lexington Green Says:

    I am at the point where I don’t even have an aisle. 
    But I do wish the academics who are knowledgeable would discard the polemical baggage.  Who is it for?  If their case is good, just make it. 
    One of the reasons it took so long for the public to figure out how badly botched the Iraq war had become was this very factor.  Everybody discounts academics and the media.  So if some academic who actually knows what he is talking about on substance gets up and is larding the meat with lots of gratuitous lefty verbal gestures, people say "ho hum, yeah, he hates the Republicans, they are all evil and always wrong, American imperialism, Amerikkka = fascism, yadda yadda".  It is like crying wolf all the time.  
    These guys need to get out more.  Living in a self-created monoculture is destroying their value and relevance and effectiveness. 

  4. zen Says:

    Heh. You have an aisle Lex, you just think some of the congregants in the pews are politically incompetent boneheads. And sadly, you are correct.
    Setting aside Professor Cole personally, academia is Left primarily because ppl in hiring positions tend to hire and tenure ppl much like themselves and "bong" outsiders, political or methodological. Long before we were born, the political tenor of the humanities and social sciences in our best universities were actually very conservative, even reactionary. Characters like Thorstein Veblen, Franz Boas, Charles Beard, William Appleman Williams etc. were great and controversial exceptions. But when the Marxist Left gained a toehold in American academia after WWII they eventually colonized the whole system and marginalized mainstream points of view.  The "right wing" of my history department as an undergrad was a prof who was a New Dealer liberal and it went Leftward from there.

    It happens in the sciences as well, it’s just that the disputes there – outside of global warming orthodoxy – are only infrequently partisan and are more personal and paradigmatic in nature. Ask Shane Deichman sometime for his Edward Teller story. 🙂

  5. zen Says:

    That said, the monoculture effect you describe is unhealthy for students and society in general -it is also marginalizing universities themselves.

  6. democratic core Says:

    It’s not even the Marxist Left anymore.  Instead, we have these nitwits like Ward Churchill or William Ayers acting as the representatives of the academic Left.  I’d like to bring Marx back from the dead – he’d beat the crap out of these phonies.  What is an "antilibrary"?

  7. zen Says:

    hi dc,
    True, the academic Left has moved far away from orthodox Marxism which, at least, had an internal and consistent logic.
    An "Antilibrary" are all the books you own that you have not read yet, that stare at you from the shelves. The term was coined by Nassim Taleb in The Black Swan. For more info go here.

  8. Selil Says:

    There is always going to be the reactionary leftist hysterical upside down orangoutangs of academia. They haven’t quite evolved into real people, they don’t bathe enough, and they are just cute enough to not be offensive. There is a more lucid group of academics but I would not call them "conservative" or even political. Some are quite liberal but they challenge others to discussion. Some are quite conservative but rarely identify as such and will clear the deck in a good rambling discussion. There are even journals such as Academic Questions that identify some of these issues. It is easy to orient and focus on those polarizing entities while ignoring the other 90 percent of the population. Thanks for the book list Zen, I’ve got a few, picking up a few more, and picked up a few you mentioned before.

  9. LFC Says:

    I read the post (but not the comments). Publishers send you free review copies of books hoping that you will write a review here, on your blog?  I’m impressed.

  10. zen Says:

    Hi LFC,
    Thanks! Yes, they do.  I’ve learned a little (ok – very little) about the dynamics of the publishing industry from working with Nimble Books on several projects and from watching the experience of friends like Tom Barnett and others who have written what would be considered "big" books. You’d be surprised at how hard authors have to work on promoting if they are below the Tom Clancy/J.K.Rowling/Steven King tier in order to have a profitable book that generates real money in terms of royalties. Or for academic books where profit is not as important, to have a real "buzz". Every review matters and for every ten free books you send out, if one guy reviews it, count yourself fortunate. Every radio or TV appearance is gold, even small markets. The draw here from a business standpoint is quality of readership – many academic, journalist, mil, gov, blogger types who like national security topics and who buy large amounts of serious books. Lexington Green, who comments upthread, for example, has an immense personal library and that can be said for many of my regular commenters.

  11. Seerov Says:

    I own a few of these but have recently read Murray’s "Real Education."  People sometimes point out the GOP’s lack of intellectualism compared to the Left.  IMO, Murray makes up for any lack of intellectualism on the American Right with just his body of work alone. IOW, Murray’s work is so good that it’s better than all the Left Wing scholarship ever done in this country put together.  There are times when I think this country’s only hope for survival would be to implement Murray’s ideas relating to the welfare state, education, and social policy.  I served in OIF and I consider Murray a much braver man than I am. I have to hide behind an Internet screen name to discus un-PC subjects while Murray does so freely.

  12. Lexington Green Says:

    Interested to know if Bousquet is any good. 

    My antilibrary recently outran existing shelf space, a recurring crisis in my life.

  13. zen Says:

    hi Seerov
    PC idiocies are both laughable and worrisome. I have to wonder if most of the multiculti types are aware that the intellectual founders of their movement ( formerly "Cultural Pluralism" back then) in America were, in the 1930’s, Ivy League reactionary profs who admired Fascism and went on to work for the USG at the Psychological Warfare Board during WWII. If ever Leo Strauss’ thesis on exoteric/esoteric readings applied, it was to that bunch.
    Hi Lex,
    Bousquet has written an academic book but having recently read Osinga and Clausewitz, you are well primed to read it – you will know exactly where he’s going in many of the chapters. I will finish Juan Cole and then start Bousquet as I continue to read P.W. Singer’s Wired for War. I’m starting Outliers too ( that’s a "treadmill book" for the gym 🙂 )
    My shelf space is cramped. I have an enormous ledge in the master bedroom about 12 ft off the ground that will be used in the future and I can still buy several more shelf extensions for the book cases in the office. Taking about 100 books to work where I have storage closests, reduced me to about 5 packing boxes in the garage but I’m not sure if those books will ever be shelved properly. It’s a hodgepodege of diplo primary sources and misc.

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