This essay presents the author's personal choice of the most significant1 books to have been published since Gutenberg's invention of the printing press in 1455. I have selected the books I consider most significant for our time by determining which advance fundamental human values of supreme importance for this time of unfettered greed, violence, and ignorance.
Significant books advance fundamental human values either directly or indirectly. For example, the works of Emile Zola reveal the values of discernment (Zola's understanding of the complex political situation in France) and courage (Zola's willingness to face animosity in his struggle for justice for Alfred Dreyfus). The works of Charles Dickens support fundamental human values indirectly by providing a striking depiction of evil in the character of the unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge, while at the same time illustrating the awakening of understanding and compassion on the part of the transformed Scrooge.
There have been a number of attempts to select outstanding books, none more biased and wrong-headed than the Dr. Robert Hutchins-Mortimer Adler series: Great Books of the Western World, published by Encyclopedia Britannica at the cost of two million dollars. The reactionary-Roman Catholic bias of the selection is no more apparent than in two full volumes dedicated to the works of Aquinas. In his outstanding critique of the series, Dwight Macdonald achieves the right tone:
"In its massiveness, its technological elaboration, its fetish of The Great, and its attempt to treat systematically and with scientific precision materials for which the method is inappropriate, Dr. Adler's set of books is a typical expression of the religion of culture that appeals to the American academic mentality. . . They have failed to overcome the two greatest barriers to a modern reader's understanding and enjoyment of the Great Books -- that their authors were largely foreigners in both place and time."The author has chosen the books listed below because they meet these additional criteria:
"The Book-of-the-Millennium Club," The New Yorker, November 29, 1952
The fundamental intellectual and moral values on which Western Civilization was founded are now being systematically perverted into their opposite, as depicted in books and as evidenced in real life.
- The book is exceptionally well-written.
- It contains well-developed ideas and themes.
- The book is based on an extensively developed point of view or line of argument.
- The book reveals and encourages genuine human emotional, intellectual, and spiritual qualities.
- The book advocates human personal development: intellectual and ethical improvement.
Fundamental Human Values Positive Value Perversion or Inversion Reason, Intellectual Autonomy, Self-Awareness Cunning, Mind-Control, Deliberate Ignorance Individualism Egomania, License, Greed Altruism, Social Cohesion Totalitarianism, Capitalism Rule of Law, Justice Rule of Corrupt Officials Learning, Education Programming, Training, Conditioning Commonwealth, Democracy Dictatorship, Plutocracy Economic Commonwealth Fascism, Imperialism, Globalization Prepared Military, National Defense Pre-emptive Unending War, Militarism Information as Basis of Commonwealth Misinformation, Propaganda, Brainwashing
Our current situation in America is one in which capitalist fascism has utterly destroyed most of the structures and elements of our entire civilization. We find ourselves in a state of anarchy and fantasy where almost every entity (person, operation, element) has been debased into its worst, most depraved opposite. Our supposed democracy is in reality a pathocracy: a corrupt political-economic system in which capitalist psychopaths and sociopaths have seized power and rule in an insane (psychotic) manner that enhances their power and wealth while utterly destroying working class people. The reading of truly significant books by the working class can assist in countering the capitalist-fascistic bias and foster the development of progressive lives.
Listed below are the ninety-five books the author considers to be the most significant books for our time. The books are not lissted in order of significance. (In some cases, you can click on the image to link to additional information.)
1 Significant: meaningful, noteworthy, knowing, momentous, important, marked, notable, striking, serious, material, vital, critical, considerable, impressive, eloquent, pronounced, conspicuous, weighty
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