Thursday, March 30, 2006

The National Review 100

"Earlier this year, Random House announced that it would release a list of the 100 best non-fiction books of the century. The publisher had enjoyed success (and controversy) with its 100 best novels; now it would do this. Here at National Review, we decided to get a jump on them by forming our own panel and offering our own list. Under the leadership of our reporter John J. Miller, we have done so. We have used a methodology that approaches the scientific. But-certainly beyond, say, the first 40 books-the fact of the books' presence on the list is far more important than their rankings. We offer a comment from a panelist after many of the books; but the panel overall, not the individual quoted, is responsible for the ranking. So, here is our list, for your enjoyment, mortification, and stimulation."


Richard Brookhiser, NR senior editor
David Brooks, senior editor of The Weekly Standard
Christopher Caldwell, senior writer at The Weekly Standard
Robert Conquest, historian
David Gelernter, writer and computer scientist
George Gilder, writer
Mary Ann Glendon, professor at Harvard Law School
Jeffrey Hart, NR senior editor
Mark Helprin, novelist
Arthur Herman, author of The Idea of Decline in Western History
John Keegan, military historian
Michael Kelly, editor of National Journal
Florence King, author of Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady
Michael Lind, journalist and novelist
John Lukacs, historian
Adam Meyerson, vice president at the Heritage Foundation
Richard John Neuhaus, editor-in-chief of First Things
John O'Sullivan, NR editor-at-large
Richard Pipes, historian
Abigail Thernstrom, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute
Stephan Thernstrom, historian
James Q. Wilson, author of The Moral Sense.

1. Churchill, Winston S. The Second World War.
Brookhiser: "The big story of the century, told by its major hero."

2. Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr I. The Gulag Archipelago.
Neuhaus: "Marked the absolute final turning point beyond which nobody could deny the evil of the Evil Empire."

3. Orwell, George. Homage to Catalonia.
Herman: "Orwell's masterpiece -- far superior to Animal Farm and 1984. No education in the meaning of the 20th century is complete without it."

4. Hayek, F. A. von. The Road to Serfdom.
Helprin: "Shatters the myth that the totalitarianisms 'of the Left' and 'of the Right' stem from differing impulses."

5. Orwell, George. Collected Essays.
King: "Every conservative's favorite liberal and every liberal's favorite conservative. This book has no enemies."

6. Popper, Karl. The Open Society and Its Enemies.
Herman: "The best work on political philosophy in the 20th century. Exposes totalitarianism's roots in Plato, Hegel, and Marx."

7. Lewis, C. S.. The Abolition of Man.
Brookhiser: "How modern philosophies drain meaning and the sacred from our lives."

8. Gasset, José Ortega y. Revolt of the Masses.
Gilder: "Prophesied the 20th century's debauchery of democracy and science, the barbarism of the specialist, and the inevitable fatuity of public opinion. Explained the genius of capitalist elites."

9. Hayek, F. A. von. The Constitution of Liberty.
O'Sullivan: "A great re-statement for this century of classical liberalism by its greatest modern exponent."

10. Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom.

11. Johnson, Paul. Modern Times.
Herman: "Huge impact outside the academy, dreaded and ignored inside it."

12. Oakeshott, Michael. Rationalism in Politics.
Herman: "Oakeshott is the 20th century's Edmund Burke."

13. Schumpeter, Joseph A.. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy.
Caldwell: "Locus classicus for the observation that democratic capitalism undermines itself through its very success."

14. Weber, Max. Economy and Society.
Lind: "Weber made permanent contributions to the understanding of society with his discussions of comparative religion, bureaucracy, charisma, and the distinctions among status, class, and party."

15. Arendt, Hannah. The Origins of Totalitarianism.
Caldwell: "Through Nazism and Stalinism, looks at almost every pernicious trend in the last century's politics with stunning subtlety."

16. West, Rebecca. Black Lamb and Grey Falcon.
Kelly: "For its writing, not for its historical accuracy."

17. Wilson, Edward O. Sociobiology.
Lind: "Darwin put humanity in its proper place in the animal kingdom. Wilson put human society there, too."

18. II, Pope John Paul. Centissimus Annus.

19. Cohn, Norman. The Pursuit of the Millennium.
Neuhaus: "The authoritative refutation of utopianism of the left, right, and points undetermined."

20. Frank, Anne. The Diary of a Young Girl.
Helprin: "An innocent's account of the greatest evil imaginable. The most powerful book of the century. Others may not agree. No matter, I cast my lot with this child."
Caldwell: "If one didn't know her fate, one might read it as the reflections of any girl. That one does know her fate makes this as close to a holy book as the century produced."

21. Conquest, Robert. The Great Terror.
Herman: "Documented for the first time the real record of Stalinism in the Soviet Union. A genuine monument of historical research and reconstruction, a true epic of evil."

22. Muggeridge, Malcolm. Chronicles of Wasted Time.
Gilder: "The best autobiography, Christian confession, and historic meditation of the century."

23. Einstein, Albert. Relativity.
Lind: "The most important physicist since Newton."

24. Chambers, Whittaker. Witness.
Caldwell: "Confession, history, potboiler -- by a man who writes like the literary giant we would know him as, had not Communism got him first."

25. Kuhn, Thomas S. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

26. Lewis, C. S.. Mere Christianity.
Neuhaus: "The most influential book of the most influential Christian apologist of the century."

27. Nisbet, Robert. The Quest for Community.

28. ed., 11th. Encyclopedia Britannica.
Helprin: "The infinite riches of the world, presented with elegance, confidence, and economy."

29. Mitchell, Joseph. Up in the Old Hotel.

30. Chesterton, G. K.. The Everlasting Man.
Lukacs: "A great carillonade of Christian verities."

31. Chesterton, G. K.. Orthodoxy.
O'Sullivan: "How to look at the Christian tradition with fresh eyes."

32. Trilling, Lionel. The Liberal Imagination.
Hart: "The popular form of liberalism tends to simplify and caricature when it attempts moral aspiration -- that is, it tends to 'Stalinism.'"

33. Watson, James D.. The Double Helix.
Herman: "Deeply hated by feminists because Watson dares to suggest that the male-female distinction originated in nature, in the DNA code itself."

34. Feynman, Richard Phillips. The Feynman Lectures on Physics.
Gelernter: "Outside of art (or maybe not), physics is mankind's most beautiful achievement; these three volumes are probably the most beautiful ever written about physics."

35. Wolfe, Tom. Radical Chic and Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers.
O'Sullivan: "Wolfe is our Juvenal."

36. Camus, Albert. The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays.

37. Banfield, Edward C.. The Unheavenly City.
Neuhaus: "The volume that began the debunking of New Deal socialism and its public-policy consequences."

38. Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams.

39. Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

40. Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man.

41. Becker, and Ethan. Joy of Cooking, Irma S. Rombauer, Marion Rombauer Becker.

42. Hofstadter, Richard. The Age of Reform.
Herman: "The single best book on American history in this century, bar none."

43. Keynes, John Maynard. The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.
Hart: "Influential in suggesting that the business cycle can be modified by government investment and manipulation of tax rates."

44. Jr., William F. Buckley. God & Man at Yale.
Gilder: "Still correct and prophetic. It defines the conservative revolt against socialism and atheism on campus and in the culture, and reconciles the alleged conflict between capitalist and religious conservatives."

45. Eliot, T. S.. Selected Essays.
Hart: "Shaped the literary taste of the mid-century."

46. Weaver, Richard M. Ideas Have Consequences.

47. Jacobs, Jane. The Economy of Cities.

48. Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind.

49. Sowell, Thomas. Ethnic America.

50. Myrdal, Gunnar. An American Dilemma.

51. Freud, Sigmund. Three Case Histories.
Gelernter: "Beyond question Freud is history's most important philosopher of the mind, and he ranks alongside Eliot as the century's greatest literary critic. Modern intellectual life (left, right, and in-between) would be unthinkable without him."

52. Wilmot, Chester. The Struggle for Europe.

53. Parrington, Vernon Louis. Main Currents in American Thought.
King: "An immensely readable history of ideas and men. (Skip the fragmentary third volume-he died before finishing it.)"

54. Huzinga, Johann. The Waning of the Middle Ages.
Lukacs: "Probably the finest historian who lived in this century. "

55. Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Systematic Theology.
Neuhaus: "The best summary and reflection on Christianity's encounter with the Enlightenment project."

56. Tyng, Sewell. The Campaign of the Marne.
Keegan: "A forgotten American's masterly account of the First World War in the West."

57. Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.
Hart: "A terse summation of the analytic method of the analytic school in philosophy, and a heroic leap beyond it."

58. Lonergan, Bernard. Insight: A Study of Human Understanding.
Glendon: "The Thomas Aquinas of the 20th century."

59. Heidegger, Martin. Being and Time.
Hart: "A seminal thinker, notwithstanding his disgraceful error of equating National Socialism with the experience of 'Being.'"

60. Blake, Robert. Disraeli.
Keegan: "Political biography as it should be written."

61. Babbitt, Irving. Democracy and Leadership.
King: "A conservative literary critic describes what happens when humanitarianism over takes humanism."

62. White, William Strunk & E. B.. The Elements of Style.
A. Thernstrom: "If only every writer would remember just one of Strunk & White's wonderful injunctions: 'Omit needless words.' Omit needless words."

63. Burnham, James. The Machiavellians.
O'Sullivan: "Burnham is the greatest political analyst of our century and this is his best book."

64. Pobedonostsev, Konstantin P.. Reflections of a Russian Statesman.
King: "The 'culture war' as seen by the tutor to the last two czars. A Russian Pat Buchanan."

65. Berlin, Isaiah. The Hedgehog and the Fox.

66. Genovese, Eugene D.. Roll, Jordan, Roll.
Neuhaus: "The best account of American slavery and the moral and cultural forces that undid it."

67. Pound, Ezra. The ABC of Reading.
Brookhiser: "An epitome of the aging aesthetic movement that will be forever known as modernism."

68. Keegan, John. The Second World War.
Hart: "A masterly history in a single volume."

69. Parry, Milman. The Making of Homeric Verse.
Lind: "Genuine discoveries in literary study are rare. Parry's discovery of the oral formulaic basis of the Homeric epics, the founding texts of Western literature, was one of them."

70. Wilson, Angus. The Strange Ride of Rudyard Kipling.
Keegan: "A life of a great author told through the transmutation of his experience into fictional form."

71. Leavis, F. R.. Scrutiny.
Hart: "Enormously important in education, especially in England. Leavis understood what one kind of 'living English' is."

72. Gaulle, Charles de. The Edge of the Sword.
Brookhiser: "A lesser figure than Churchill, but more philosophical (and hence, more problematic)."

73. Freeman, Douglas Southall. R. E. Lee.
Conquest: "The finest work on the Civil War."

74. Mises, Ludwig von. Bureaucracy.

75. Merton, Thomas. The Seven Storey Mountain.
Neuhaus: "A classic conversion story of a modern urban sophisticate."

76. Zweig, Stefan. Balzac.
King: "On the joys of working one's self to death. The chapter 'Black Coffee' is a masterpiece of imaginative reconstruction."

77. Lippmann, Walter. The Good Society.
Gilder: "Written during the Great Depression. A corruscating defense of the morality of capitalism."

78. Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring.
Lind: "For all the excesses of the environmental movement, the realization that human technology can permanently damage the earth's environment marked a great advance in civilization. Carson's book, more than any other, publicized this message."

79. Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Christian Tradition.
Neuhaus: "The century's most comprehensive account of Christian teaching from the second century on."

80. Bloch, Marc. Strange Defeat.
Herman: "A great historian's personal account of the fall of France in 1940."

81. Douglas, Norman. Looking Back.
Conquest: "Fascinating memoirs of a remarkable writer."

82. Adams, Henry. Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres.

83. Jarrell, Randall. Poetry and the Age.
Caldwell: "The book for showing how 20th-century poets think, what their poetry does, and why it matters."

84. Rougemont, Denis de. Love in the Western World.
Brookhiser: "What has become of eros over the last seven centuries."

85. Kirk, Russell. The Conservative Mind.

86. Gilder, George. Wealth and Poverty.

87. McPherson, James M.. Battle Cry of Freedom.

88. Edel, Leon. Henry James.
King: "All the James you want without having to read him."

89. White, E. B.. Essays of E. B. White.
Gelernter: "White is the apotheosis of the American liberal now spurned and detested by the Left (and the cultural mainstream). His mesmerized devotion to the objects of his affection-his family, the female sex, his farm, the English language, Manhattan, the sea, America, Maine, and freedom, in descending order-is movingly absolute."

90. Nabokov, Vladimir. Speak, Memory.

91. Wolfe, Tom. The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test.

92. Behe, Michael J.. Darwin's Black Box.
Gilder: "Overthrows Darwin at the end of the 20th century in the same way that quantum theory overthrew Newton at the beginning."

93. Foote, Shelby. The Civil War.

94. Wanniski, Jude. The Way the World Works.
Gilder: "The best book on economics. Shows fatuity of still-dominant demand-side model, with its silly preoccupation with accounting trivia, like the federal budget and trade balance and savings rates, in an economy with $40 trillion or so in assets that rise and fall weekly by trillions."

95. Wilson, Edmund. To the Finland Station.
Herman: "The best single book on Karl Marx and Marx's place in modern history."

96. Clark, Kenneth. Civilisation.

97. Pipes, Richard. The Russian Revolution.

98. Collingwood, R. G.. The Idea of History.

99. Manchester, William. The Last Lion.

100. Starr, Kenneth W. The Starr Report.
Hart: "A study in human depravity."

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