T. Greer recently shared the contents of his own quantum library — the books and articles that, no matter how often they are returned to, provide fresh insights and new knowledge.
It struck me as a list of yet more books to add to my anti-library — the books on the shelf that have so much potential to be read one day. I’ve been meaning to read — rather than read about — most of his list, namely:
- Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America.
- James Madison, John Jay, and Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers.
- Marcus Aurelius, Meditations.
- Ibn Khaldun, Muqaddihmah.
- Azar Gat, War in Human Civilization.
- Vaclav Smil, Energy in Nature and Society: General Energetics of Complex System.
One book in his quantum library, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, has crept into my own. I originally read a borrowed copy in one day in eighth grade — one school day, uncharacteristically ignoring all the classes I was nominally attending — and then I re-read it maybe 15 years later, and I did in fact get much more out of it. It certainly seems prescient in our social-media world.
Similarly, I’ve gone back and re-read Asimov’s Foundation, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, Moore’s Watchmen, and Herbert’s Dune — all for a mix of entertainment and enlightenment.
Despite the fact that I’m a Tolkien-geek by any normal measure, the same pattern holds for his Hobbit and Lord of the Rings — I read each once in childhood and once in adulthood, and they were very different experiences each time. In fact, the only thing I remembered from my childhood reading of Lord of the Rings was that there were super-orcs who could travel by day. I haven’t yet made it to my adult re-reading of his Silmarillion.
When it comes to more scholarly works, I suppose I’ve read Sun-Tzu’s Art of War multiple times, and Machiavelli’s Prince, as well, but they’re both quite short. I concede that I got very little out of Musashi’s Book of Five Rings either time I read it.
There are quite a few books that I haven’t re-read, but I have read fairly deeply the first time through:
- Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel
- Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms
- Richard Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene
- Eliyahu Goldratt’s The Goal
I won’t touch on television and film except to point out that I really should re-watch Groundhog Day.