What are the five most seminal books in whatever field you're interested
September 6, 2013 7:05 AM Subscribe
Imagine you're allowed to give a nobel prize for five of the most seminal books of the past 50-60 years in whatever field you're interested and/or invested in. What would they be?
The Nobel is usually given out to applied research and application and theory is eschewed. In this case you can give it to theoretical works as well.
posted by RapcityinBlue to education (9 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
I'm on an academic book spree and looking for the most seminal books in different academic areas. I've narrowed it down to the past 50 years but it's not exactly a hard and fast rule, so you can pick something within the past 60. And by seminal I mean works that have led to substantial changes in the field--paradigm shifts if you want it call it that--and have been major contributions. Generally I'm looking for books published by Academic PResses as it gives them a certain credibility and legitimacy although there have been vast important works written for more mainstream publishers (see Putnam's Bowling Alone, for example). Honestly, I'd just like to know the five most important works in various disciplines that have guided the trajectory of that field of knowledge and opened things up in a new way.
Here is an example from a field I like:
1. Logic of Collective Action by Mancur Olson (Why collective action is prone to failure)
2. An Economic Theory of Democracy by Anthony Downs (Applied the logic of economics to elucidate problems in Democratic participation)
3. Who Governs by Robert Dahl (Great work of applied political science that set the standard for nearly all work afterwards)
4. Governing the Commons by Elinor Ostrom (she won the Nobel Prize for this) (scrupulous take on the way communities avoid the the tragedy of the commons phenonomenon noted by Garrett Hardin)
5. Congress by David Mayhew (Elegant work of theory and empirical analysis on that venerable political institution. The assumption that political agents seek first to be re-elected was a seminal moment in simplifying the intentions of political agents that helped improve american political theory)
I am sure linguistics would include something by Chomsky like Syntatctic Structures while economics seems to me more about writing articles as I'm not sure what great academic books have been published in that field.
You can narrow it down and make the field as specific as you'd like. Hell, I'd be fine reading about Gaelic Literature as well.