Was Peter FitzSimons robbed?

The Top Ten Most Influential Books of All Time.

10. The Influence of Sea Power Upon History (1890), Alfred Thayer Mahan
9. History of the Peloponnesian War (5th century B.C.), Thucydides
8. On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres (1543), Nicolaus Copernicus
7. Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883), Friedrich Nietzsche
6. The Prince (1513), Niccolò Machiavelli
5. The Republic (380), Plato
4. Das Kapital (1867), Karl Marx
3. On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin
2. The Quran
1. The Bible

What’s your score? How many have you read, does it matter, is the list a good one, would you bump one title and replace it with another? To me, if you’ve read even half of those books but not Moby-Dick, you’re not well-read yet. As for the Bible, I’ve had no success reading it from cover to cover. Like a lot of people, I’ve come to see it as something you culturally, liturgically and existentially assimilate over a lifetime. Maybe that’s what is special about it. It is alive: organic, ubiquitous, ever-present, evolving narratively in what theologians call the ‘economy of salvation.’ (I can’t confirm a rumour that this was also the working title of Wayne Swan’s memoir of his management of the GFC). Having said that, I’ve come to believe there’s a lot in the Old Testament – hard sayings and God in different guises – that Western culture has abandoned to its detriment.

This entry was posted in Books and writing, Cultural Issues. Bookmark the permalink.

54 Responses to Was Peter FitzSimons robbed?

  1. Ƶĩppʯ (ȊꞪꞨV)

    influential should be split into a beneficial list and a catastrophic list

  2. Call me Ishmael but I have not read all those books. I’m embarrassed to say I had not heard of No.1. Off the top of my head, I’d add The Gulag Archipelago.

  3. Roger

    Two outstanding omissions:

    St Augustine’s The City of God, a cornerstone of Western civilisation, and The Confessions. arguably the first autobiography in Western literature.

    I’m afraid Nietszche and Mahan would have to go to accommodate them.

  4. Roger

    influential should be split into a beneficial list and a catastrophic list

    My thought also.

  5. ACTOldFart

    Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Newton) De Revolutionibus described the heavens. Principia changed the world

  6. Leo G

    Was Peter FitzSimons robbed?

    When it comes to historical lies, let Herodotus be your guide.

  7. Roger

    Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica (Newton) De Revolutionibus described the heavens. Principia changed the world

    And then Albert came along.

  8. Watch Your Back

    I’d remove the Bible and the Quran as they’re a given anyway.

    I’d also omit Thucydides.

    Marx was an idiot.

    This gives me four new picks:

    1. The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

    2. The Histories by Herodotus

    3. Bleak House by Charles Darwin

    4. Animal Farm by George Orwell.

  9. a reader

    Let’s at least get Darwin’s title correct: On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life

  10. Rafe Champion

    Plato’s Republic, most of the bad ideas in communism are there.
    Moby Dick is good on the whaling industry.
    A few cartoons.

  11. Rafe Champion

    One of my favourites. Moby Dick driving in Manhatten.

  12. Alessio

    “Everytime I find the meaning of life, they change it” by Daniel Klein

  13. yarpos

    The Art of War – Sun Tzu

  14. C.L.

    One of my favourites. Moby Dick driving in Manhatten.

    Ahahahahahaha. I saved that one to my hard drive.
    Larson – one of the greatest of all time.

  15. Some History

    Warne managed to get $1M for his baggy green, to go to bushfire relief. Pirate Pete offered 6 of his signed books for auction to the same end. Early in the week the Pirate was hoping to raise $12 by Saturday (today). It’s all gone quiet on that auction. Does anyone know how the Pirate’s auction fared?

    Australian authors including Benjamin Law, Peter FitzSimons and Yassmin Abdel-Magied have already offered prizes including signed back catalogues, coffee catch-ups and yum-cha lunches.

    https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/voices/culture/article/2020/01/06/selling-yum-cha-nudes-how-people-are-fundraising-during-bushfire-crisis

    https://www.sbs.com.au/news/authorsforfireys-australian-writers-rally-around-to-raise-funds-for-bushfire-relief

  16. What would Thucydides do?

    Anyway, I would have thought that the writings (a treatise rather than a book) of Sun Tzu would have rated fairly high.

  17. Bruce of Newcastle

    I’d replace Nietzsche with Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey.

    I’ve only read the Bible and Thucydides, so take that recommendation with a dose of siren song.

  18. Arky

    I have copies here of and have read:

    9. History of the Peloponnesian War (5th century B.C.), Thucydides
    7. Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883), Friedrich Nietzsche
    6. The Prince (1513), Niccolò Machiavelli
    5. The Republic (380), Plato
    3. On the Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin
    1. The Bible

    ..
    I would put Plato above all but the Bible.
    Sadly missing is anything from classical Chinese literature, such as A Journey West or Hong Luo Meng.

  19. Arky

    Plato above all except the Bible, add in A Dream of Red Mansions.

  20. old bloke

    I would pull number 7 from that list, Thus Spake Zarathustra (1883), Friedrich Nietzsche as it reflects Nietzsche’s words rather than Zarathustra’s. The only words from Zarathustra which still exist are found in the some passages in the Gathas in the Zend Avesta, and there’s no Nietszcheian “Superman” to be found there.

    Zarathustra was a disciple of the Prophet Jeremiah, and his original teachings were more in line with strict, orthodox Jud-aism, and more closely resembled the teachings of the Essenes than any other group.

  21. Arky

    Thus Spake Zarathustra is shit.
    The Genealogy of Morals or BGE are a better place to start with the syphilitic one.

  22. sfw

    I read most of the Old Testament when I was around 12 or so, couldn’t get into the New Testament, much more blood and violence in the old. Don’t that it influenced me though.

  23. Turtle

    I agree, Arky.Zarathustra is just a poetic allegory of the ideas in BGE and Genealogy.

  24. Chris Harper

    No. All wrong.

    The bible and the Quran have influenced their respective civilizations, but have had much less effect on others. The mostly influential books ever have influence all societies, for the rest of time, and only two books have accomplished this.

    The first, Isaac Newton’s ‘Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica’ removed the supernatural from the physical world and, for the first time, rendered it unnecessary as a source of explanation.

    The second, Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ achieved the same with respect to Humanity.

    Unlike all the other books listed, these two books altered the view of the universe, across all literate societies, for all time,in a way in which no other book ever has.

    In fact, they changed the intellectual viewpoint so radically that most people today have little to no understanding of how much their world view differs to that of their ancestors.

  25. Chris Harper

    I would certainly put Adam Smith ‘The Wealth of Nations’ well above ‘Kapital’.

  26. Mick Gold Coast QLD

    Some years ago Phil Kearns, former Wallaby hooker, captain for a bit and now Foxtel commentator, announced he was preparing his first book “The 100 Best Rugby Scrums” and its sequel “The second 100 Best Rugby Scrums”/”Scrums – the next best hundred”/ something like that.

    I found that exciting – any front rower would.

  27. Tim Neilson

    The first, Isaac Newton’s ‘Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica’ removed the supernatural from the physical world and, for the first time, rendered it unnecessary as a source of explanation.

    The second, Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ achieved the same with respect to Humanity.

    Really?

    Both explained what happens.

    Neither explains how or why.

  28. Watch Your Back

    I’d like to alter my top 10 please.

    I agree with Arky that Thus Spake Zarustra is merde.

    And with others who recommend Newton’s Principia..

    There’s also Locke and Hobbes, David Hume and Kierkegaard!

    I’d forgotten the Red Mansions.

    Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter….

  29. Roger

    The first, Isaac Newton’s ‘Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica’ removed the supernatural from the physical world and, for the first time, rendered it unnecessary as a source of explanation.

    The second, Charles Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ achieved the same with respect to Humanity.

    Both remain of historical and literary interest, of course, but anyone relying on the ideas set forth by these two authors as foundational to their worldview is hopelessly out of date with modern science. We’ve learned since that the physical world and life are complex phenomena that cannot be explained by simplistic mechanistic processes.

  30. Vagabond

    I’d replace Nietzsche with Homer’s The Iliad and The Odyssey.

    Agree, they are essential pre-reading for James Joyce’s Ulysses, the greatest novel of the 20th century.

  31. jrm

    De Rerum Natura by Lucretius. Haven’t read it in its entirety but have read a fair bit about it. Rediscovered in 1417, and loved by the Renaissance humanists for its fine Latin, that poem influenced both Machiavelli and Newton as well as Erasmus Darwin (and, through him, Charles) and the many other upper crust intellectual types who helped create our present endarkenment.

  32. Spurgeon Monkfish III

    My Bro’ Jack

  33. Phill

    Is Geographia by Ptolemy in the running? Perhaps it should be,

    Also, I would replace Das Capital with The Communist Manifesto. Both were bullshit, but the Manifesto was far more widely read.

  34. Roger

    De Rerum Natura by Lucretius.

    A seminal literary work, but does a poem – evan a didactic one – qualify as a book?

  35. Robbo

    Here is a piece about serious literature written by people who had command of language so how the hell did that moron FitzSimons come into it? He’s a total dill who can’t even punctuate properly.

  36. Harry Newman

    Edward Gibbon’s “Rise and fall of the Roman Empire” encapsulated how it happened before … and how it will happen again! Got to be up the top.

  37. Tim Neilson

    “The Magic Pudding”.

    It’s the basis for public finance in almost every country in the world.

  38. David Brewer

    Am not well-read enough to know, BUT…

    – would replace Nietzsche with Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams. Nietzsche was only ever read by intellectuals, who derived a variety of different messages from him. Freud permeated into mass culture: we talk of repression, complexes, the unconscious, “my ego”, “working through my problems” etc. because of him.
    – would replace Marx’s Kapital with his and Engels’ Communist Manifesto. Kapital required great learning, but its core economic doctrine was pretentious pseudo-scientific nonsense, soon disproved. The Communist Manifesto was a programme for social action that is still powerful in people’s minds today.

    Shakespeare may feel cheated, given the number of his characters’ utterances that are forever on people’s lips, but I suppose his world-view is too nebulous to call his works influential. Even so, I would give him a guernsey any, day to, keep FitzSimons off, the pitch.

  39. John A

    Shakespeare may feel cheated, given the number of his characters’ utterances that are forever on people’s lips, but I suppose his world-view is too nebulous to call his works influential. Even so, I would give him a guernsey any, day to, keep FitzSimons off, the pitch.

    Ah, so you would honour him in the breach, rather than the observance?

  40. Chris Harper

    Roger,

    Both remain of historical and literary interest, of course, but anyone relying on the ideas set forth by these two authors as foundational to their worldview is hopelessly out of date with modern science.

    You miss the point, out of date science or not, these two books are the demarcation between science as a societal worldview and not science. That science has developed since is a given.

    Besides, I disagree with your assessment. Newton may no longer be the central figure in physics, but there is no question but that Darwin remains central to life sciences. Much has been built on the foundations he laid, but there has been no Einstein equivalent to replace him.

  41. faceache

    Nearly any Papal encyclicals over the centuries, except for Francis’.

  42. Porter

    Hmm I posted something but it is not appearing. I must have included a naughty word but I don’t know which.

  43. Porter

    [HERE IT IS, Porter – C.L.].

    ————————————

    For influence I would probably replace Plato’s Republic with the Plato’s Phaedo (or ‘On the soul’) as it was known in his time. It’s sort of a Platonic ‘ascent of the soul’. Questions around the relationship between body and soul seem to have dominated western intellectual life, well, for millenia and Platonic vocabulary and ideas remained in use. I’d say that was more influential. Well, that is what I think (I am not expert).

    I haven’t read Marx. I attempted to once but couldn’t really understand it or persist with it. Too turgid. Probably not just a function of the nineteenth century translation.

    I haven’t read Mahan.

    For obtuse reasons (= a phase of reading about the history of the printing), I always remember Copernicus for helping found the Polish printing enterprise because of his translation of Simocatta’s letters (http://copernicus.torun.pl/en/archives/simocatta/) although this contribution wasn’t recognised until the 18th century. I also remember something about the manuscript of his De Revolutionibus containing a suppressed passage from Lysis’s letter to Hipparchus in an Aldine collection of letters. But I can’t remember if I have actually read De Revolutionibus. Probably not.

    Reading the Bible cover to cover takes persistence and it is difficult given many ancient genres are unfamiliar to people and other books are not really designed for cover to cover reading (like lists of proverbs). On the other hand, there is a sort of overarching narrative that runs from Genesis to Kings which people should be able to follow. I have done it about 3 or 4 times in my life. I recommend it as it has been such a huge influence in our language, culture and in the world generally. I found it helpful to read it with some sort of introduction or commentary explaining what you are about to read (no, people, Genesis is not a science text). There are some boring bits in the Old Testament like genealogies but when you read up on why they were possibly inserted into the text (people aren’t really sure) it becomes more interesting even if you skip actually reading the details of them as they sort of act as literary markers.

    The Koran I have read once – in a Penguin translation I think. No narrative structure so makes it a difficult read without any guidance. I have never been tempted to reread it.

    All the rest, yes. Prince and Zarathustra I own. Also Bible, Koran, Thucydides, Republic, can’t remember if I have Darwin or Marx. Darwin, I confess I skimmed the last 100 pages or so as it was a bit repetitive. Sometimes it read like a stream of consciousness. He was a tortured man ol’ Charlie. From what I understand his constant refrain of natura non facit saltum was first coined by an economist – I don’t know for sure and I can’t be bothered googling – but this has been challenged in recent years anyway. That would probably make Darwin something like the Keynes of biology.

  44. old bloke

    There are some boring bits in the Old Testament like genealogies but when you read up on why they were possibly inserted into the text (people aren’t really sure)

    Porter, those lists of names proved to be very useful to a [email protected] scholar who was studying the migrations of the Israelite tribes into Europe. Those names are found throughout the secular ancient histories as the clan names of various sub-tribal groups, who generally re-coalesced together in their new countries.

  45. The Barking Toad

    Why isn’t “Green Eggs & Ham” by Dr Seuss on top?

Comments are closed.