Wednesday, April 09, 2008


I have to own up that I've never had much time for Brian Eno, but browsing through the Book of Lists this morning while in the smallest room in the house, I encountered the following:

Brian Eno's 18 Mind-Changing Books

1. Brain of the Firm, by Stafford Beer
"The most approachable book about the self-organizing nature of complex systems."

2. Silence, by John Cage
"Music as philosophy (with lots of Zen wit)."

3. The Evolution of Cooperation, by Robert Axelrod
"How time changes relationships: a message of hope."

4. The Clock of the Long Now, by Stewart Brand
"Why we need to think long."

5. Managing the Commons, by Garrett Hardin
"Structural observations about shared resources."

6. A New Kind of Science, by Stephen Wolfram
"Controversial and exciting new approach to the genesis of complex systems."

7. Grooming, Gossip and the Evolution of Language, by Robin Fox
"The origins and limits of human community."

8. The Mystery of Capital, by Hernando de Soto
"Why capitalism can't be just planted anywhere."

9. Labyrinths, by Jorge Luis Borges
"The ultimate 'what if' book."

10. Africa: A Biography of the Continent, by John Reader
"The story of Africa beginning 4 1/2 billion B.C."

11. Animal Architecture, by Karl von Frisch
"One of the best 'beauty of nature' books, academic jaw-dropper."

12. Contingency, Irony and Solidarity, by Richard Rorty
"A great work of modern pragmatism: the antidote to Derrida."

13. Peter the Great, by Robert K. Massie
"Superb biography of a giant located somewhere between Genghis Khan, Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Stalin."

14. Roll Jordan Roll, The World the Slaves Built, by Eugene Genovese
"The unexpected richness and lasting importance of slave culture in America."

15. Folk Song Style and Culture, by Alan Lomax
"An extraordinary theory that singing style is indicative of social structure by the pioneer collector of world music."

16. The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins
"Even if you think you know what this is about, it's worth reading. The atheists' defence."

17. Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville
"He guessed at the best of it, warned of the worst of it, and was right on both counts."

18. Guns, Germs and Steel, by Jared Diamond
"Compelling account of the physical factors shaping world history."

I realize of course that there are one or two books on this list that some people will quibble with and mutter about, (although there isn't as much New Age bollocks on there as one might have expected); I just thought to myself how refreshing it is to encounter an artist who is so clearly engaged with the nature of the world around him. His list demonstrates an enviable sense of curiosity that I doubt you'll find among too many musicians, ambient or otherwise.

Time to update that Wish List.


Martin said...

Update the wish list with what? Books or Eno CD's?

Anonymous said...

It's a great and varied list, and heartening for the reasons you say John. Can I be a smart arse and point out that the book on grooming and gossip is by Robin Dunbar, not Robin Fox?

John said...

Hi Stuart--

You can of course. I copied the list straight from the book. There's a Robin Lane Fox, I think, who write religious books. Maybe he was getting confused between the two.