Slate asks: What's the most influential book you read in college?
David Brooks, columnist, the New York Times
This is going to sound awfully pompous (but hey, I went to the University of Chicago), but the two most important books I read in college were Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France and Hobbes' Leviathan . I loathed both books at first reading, but they both explained how little we can rationally know about the world around us and how much we have to rely on habits, traditions, and intuition. I've been exemplifying our ignorance on a daily basis ever since.
Har, har, har. Really. Is there a center to David Brooks at all? Jeez Louise, if you asked me that question when I was in my mid-twenties I might have apologized for sounding pompous. In middle age I realize that everything I did back then was pompous. You're supposed to be discovering new intellectual continents in college, unless you're just there hoping to add to the world's sum total of knowledge in marketing techniques. If it sounds so pompous now to say it changed your world then, what are we supposed to make of that column a couple months back that insisted on "Conservative" intellectual superiority because y'all sit around discussing Burke and Hobbes on weekends?
And David, really, if you're gonna try the self-deprecation schtick, do it as an aside. This isn't the first time you've erected a twenty-five foot billboard reading "DAVID BROOKS IS DISARMINGLY MODEST".
I hate "what book influenced you the most" questions. I enjoyed Hobbes' Leviathan as well but I can't pick just one or two or three books. But then, maybe Brooks enjoys Hobbes because he (Brooks) is also solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. Well, maybe not poor.
I dunno, really. Everything I read influences me in *some* way. I learn something I didn't know before, or I see something some way I didn't before. Isn't that, uh, the point of reading?
I may just be exceptionally malleable, I suppose.
As far as books that *profoundly* influence you, the people I know of who can immediately name one book that did that tend to name stuff like The Turner Diaries and Catcher in the Rye.
NYAH! I had to read Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France for school, and piffle to Brooks. He hasn't read the whole thing. No, I don't think so. He only name-drops it anyway.
I wouldn't trust anyone who says Reflections on the Revolution in France is his FAVORITE book anyway.
Then again, like Burke, he goes all gooey when faced with the Marie Antoinette types in our administration.
Wouldn't it have been hilarious if he'd said "L'Ordre du discours" by Foucault or something? Or, most appropriately, Babbitt? Or would that give the game away?
Upon reflection I think the most influential book I read in college was "Summer Camp Virgins" especially when the camp counsler tricks the young coed into her first M-F-F threesome... Beats Burke all to hell...
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