3QD Editors Pick Their Favorite Books of 2004

When I posted the “10 Best Books of 2004” according to the New York Times, Matt Jones responded by asking what the 3 Quarks Daily’s editors’ favorite books were. Being suckers for this kind of flattery, we are happy to give a top ten list of our own, in no particular order (the other editors declined to pick books):

1.  Cruising Modernism by Michael Trask

“A literary critical exploration of early twentieth-century apprehensions of class consciousness and desire, for example in the commingled alarmism over sexual deviancy, vagrancy and consumerism.  A strong feature of the book is its wide-ranging attention to the aesthetic (Henry James, Stein, Hart Crane, Cather), the philosophical (pragmatism), the political (Progressive reformers) and the social-scientific (early sociology), making a strong case for its argument’s historical validity.” –Asad Raza

2.  A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness by V.S. Ramachandran

“Not very many people realize that over the last couple of decades, cognitive scientists have quietly been mapping the brain, figuring out how we think and perform the mental miracles that we do even in routine mentation. One of the most interesting figures in this effort has been V.S. Ramachandran, a man who has designed and performed ingenious experiments to show how the mind actually works. This is no mere theorizing, à la Freud; this is hard science, and the brain is shown to be a thing of extreme beauty. Rama, as he is affectionately known, delivered the 2003 Reith Lectures for the BBC, which have been collected into book form here. Rama is a writer of sharp wit, and his delightfully wry sense of humor shows frequently in his lively prose.” –Abbas Raza

3.  Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies by Ian Buruma & Avishai Margalit

“An interesting attempt to defend urban cosmopolitanism from an Internationalist non-Eurocentric standpoint.” –Morgan Meis

4.  Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror by Mahmood Mamdani

“Mamdani lays the responsibility for 9/11 at the doorstep of Reagan and his cold war policies, especially as pertaining to Afghanistan, in the most cogent and logically progressive argument I have read anywhere. Filled with important historical details, the author demonstrates an extraordinary grasp of current events and Mamdani sounds almost better than Chomsky in his criticism of the West’s War on Terror.” –Azra Raza

5.  The Complete Elegies of Sextus Propertius, new translation by Vincent Katz

“It is tough to translate the amazing Roman poet who feels so damn modern. Vincent Katz does an admirable job.” –Morgan Meis

6.  Desperately Seeking Paradise by Ziauddin Sardar

“Sardar shows that Islam is as complex and contradictory and full of tensions and as resistant to simplication, as Christianity or Judaism. This is a wonderfully enlightening book, full of information and informed opinion, even revisiting the Rushdie affair in an interesting way.” –Sughra Raza

7.  The Plot Against America by Philip Roth

“In this fictional account of the events surrounding the 1940 US elections, the pro-Nazi Charles Lindbergh wins against FDR. Roth describes the events as a 7 year old Jewish boy in NJ and graphically exposes the Fascist government’s attempts to assimilate the Jews into mainstream America. As the world this family has known comes crashing down in slow motion through a series of terrifying incidents, the fear being experienced by the tender little boy, the brave father, the converted older brother and the incredibly stable and brave mother is palpable. I finally understood what Arendt meant by the banality of evil.” –Azra Raza

8.  Selected Poems 1963-2003 by Charles Simic

“It is too hard for me to describe Simic’s surreal hypnotic voice. He constantly tries to wrench meaning and hope out of dark places, and so can be deeply uplifting.” –Abbas Raza

9.  The Artificial White Man by Stanley Crouch

“There is no one so relentlessly Crouchy as Stanley Crouch. A unique American hero.” –Morgan Meis

10. The Ancestor’s Tale by Richard Dawkins

“This is Dawkins’s best book in years, and he has never written less than a brilliant book. The literary conceit which lends the book its title is, of course, that of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Dawkins’s tale is that of all of life. Starting in the present he travels back in time to meet the common ancestor of humans and chimpanzees, then further back to meet other ancestors connecting us to other life forms, and so on, until we are at the origin of life itself. At close to 700 dense pages, the book is filled with a massive amount of biological information. The sweep of Dawkins’s erudition is truly astounding, and if you find yourself getting exhausted at times by the relentless and seemingly endless litany of facts, keep going: at some point toward the end, I had the supremely ecstatic experience of being absolutely awed at the majestic grandeur, variety, and tenacity of the whole history of life, as well as at the prodigious effort that has gone into classifying and understanding it.” –Abbas Raza

HAVE A GOOD HOLIDAY! And please add other suggestions as comments…