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What books are you reading now?

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"An elegant woman does not overdress." - Jean Cocteau

Shall we consider Cocteau's words an indictment against postmodernism- perhaps more specifically, these so called "sprawling" postmodern novels? Is it a lack of elegance that accounts for the turgidity, the sometimes ostentatious nature of the previously named genre?

So I'm at the local used bookstore and I pick up a copy of Thomas Pynchon's often labeled magnum opus, Gravity's Rainbow. And the gentleman at the register, someone with whom I have in the past carried on brief conversations, an older fella and seemingly well educated, says, "Ah, picking up some light reading, eh?" Given the reputation of the novel, I chuckled. And to my surprise, he launched, with what could rightfully be construed as bitterness in his voice, into this great beratement of the so called "postmodern novel;" he stated that it was all word play, syntatic manipulation, lexicon, and that when you finally pull back the curtain, you find nothing. I purchased the novel and went on my merry way.....

It has taken me a solid week to get 150 pages into the book, and I have found the challenge of its profoundly difficult vocabulary and dense prose to be rewarding; from the beginning I have been unable to escape this feeling that I am reading something wonderful, and have found elegance and substance in its dress- nevermind Cocteau and the old man at the register.........

Edited by DeadCanDance

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I have just recently read "If Not, Winter" by Anne Carson. It's a translation of many of Sappho's poetry fragments; they're often very beautiful, tantalizingly so-- many of the fragments are only one or two words! Interestingly, what made me get it was seeing a few of the quotes of Sappho on the main Academy page here. Thanks!

I'm also reading "Theology after Wittgenstein" by Fergus Kerr. I haven't read enough to come to a finished conclusion on it, but from what I've read it seems to be a decent book. I've read the later Wittgenstein fairly extensively and I haven't spotted any real problems with how Kerr uses him to criticize certain ideas in theology, particularly cartesianism.

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About 3/4 through John Deely's massive thousand page tome Four Ages of Understanding. The book is magisterial, stunning in depth and absolutely rich in details. I doubt I will ever read a better history of philosophy. A central thesis of this book is that the modern age of Philosophy ( officially inaugurated with Descartes but obviously nascent before him) was in error, taking the Way of Ideas ( which leads to the epistemological quagmire of modernity and Idealism) instead of the Way of Signs ( Semiotics) which only now is being recovered. What is important about this book is the light it shades on the Latin Age of philosophy, high scholasticism, which has been ignored by moderns...to their own detriment. I hope to post on this soon.

Needless to say, we're dealing with concepts and techniques which enable one to escape the dreaded problem of the external world and moreover, a vocabulary for speaking of how the physical and cultural world interact without the world, in essence, being an inverted pyramid (the only thing 'real' is atoms twirling and everything else 'supervenes' on top of this void). As I said earlier in the thread, Deely's writing is technical to a fault and quite forbidding but repeated and slower reading sheds light on what is happening here.

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The last four books I've read recently in receding chronological order:

1. Anthony Gottlieb's The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance

I've only just started reading this one, and am up to the chapter on Zeno. It's very well written and gives special thanks to several bigger names in philosophy, who presumably helped to shape it. From what I've read so far, I would recommend it.

2. Christopher Belshaw and Gary Kemp's 12 Modern Philosophers

A very brief but densely written account on the main ideas of recent influential philosophers such as Quine, Davidson, Rorty, Williams, Singer and McDowell. Worth reading for people like me who want an idea of what modern philosophy has been up to; especially since I wasn't familiar with the ideas of Williams or Mcdowell before reading this. I was very impressed with the ideas of McDowell, especially.

3. Avrum Stroll's Wittgenstein

I was motivated to re-read my copy of this well-written book to get a refresher of, especially, the ideas of the later (post-Investigations) Wittgenstein. I was motivated to re-read this after reading:

4. Ray Monk's Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius

I really enjoyed this biography. Having read W's three main books (including 'On Certainty'), and many articles online, this book still managed to fill out the gaps in my knowledge, to give a very rounded picture of W as a person. While it does cover his philosophical ideas well [including references to W's unpublished work], the book's main strength is in giving an insight into Wittgenstein's character, influences and personality through his personal relationships - and Monk's generous quoting of the written correspondences - with Russell, Moore, Ramsay, Keynes and others.

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Wow... this is a great place for literature lovers. My first time here. Plan to visit and participate more often....

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Parsec, I plan on reading Monk's biography of Wittgenstein eventually. Glad to know it's as good as I've heard!

I just read Sam and Max: Surfin' the Highway by Steve Purcell. It's a comic book about the absurd adventures of a dog and a rabbity-thing. <ahttp://www.galilean-library.org/site/uploads/emoticons/default_icon_biggrin.gif' alt=':D'> It's very funny in a surreal way. I'd played some of the Sam and Max episodic games from Telltale and had to get the original comics. I definitely recommend it; you can see a strip here to find out if its style suits you.

Additionally, I finished reading Theology after Wittgenstein by Fergus Kerr. I was a little wary at the beginning because Kerr immediately goes into discussing some rather esoteric subjects for a few pages at the beginning of his book, but I discovered that he actually does quite a good job of illustrating the main ideas in Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations-era thought. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this book even to someone who just wants an introduction to the later work. Additionally, Kerr remarks on the prevalence of Cartesian ideas about the soul and salvation in modern Christian thought and this provides a very interesting read in itself.

Edited by John Castillo

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Parsec, I plan on reading Monk's biography of Wittgenstein eventually. Glad to know it's as good as I've heard!

Hi John. Yes, I would highly recommend it, especially to a fellow enthusiast of Wittgenstein's work. And thanks for the recommendation of Kerr's book; I'll have to try and track down a copy. Sounds interesting.

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I just finished A World Lit Only by Fire by Manchester, a history book on the Renaissance and Reformation, and am almost done with Kurson's Shadow Divers, a fantastic yarn about the discovery of a U-boat in 1992 by crack divers. Have been digging through my Durant collection for information on the Tudors and the Reformation for research, and also I've been eyeballing Phillipia Gregory's The Virgin's Lover. :mrgreen:

My next book will be Tulip Fever by Moggach for the bookclub, and I am itching to return to philosophy soon. :lol:

(Posted via mobile device)

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I have been reading the book pictured below; I have thoroughly enjoyed it. Economists are infamously boring and terrible writers; this does not apply to Shlaes. Her book is thoroughly engaging, and at times almost poetic. It is basically a reevaluation of the Great Depression and The New Deal, and a refutation of the standard academic model of the New Deal as a kind of secular salvation.

51vx0EjplWL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA240_SH20_OU01_.jpg

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I have been reading The Portrait of a Lady. What a fantastic novel. The protagonist is so alive and dynamic, I feel everything she expresses with joy (this is due to the talent of the author, the master Henry James).

I also love the narrative style, how H. James interrupts, brilliantly, a dialogue by wandering on the thoughts and musings of the characters minds.

I have been reading too, de Quincey Confesions and Vonneguts Slaughterhouse-five. Two excellent books! One with one of the most beautiful proses I have witnessed and the other a black comedy and war criticism, plus some ideas concerning time and free will.

P.d: I am preparing two reviews and some commentaries for the above mentioned books:p

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Ah, Portrait of a Lady. A fine masterpiece of literature they just don't make anymore these days. :roll:

I was intitially intrigued to read it once my Mother and older Sister condemned the book on the grounds of the strong, independent female protagonist behaving only as a typical male writer would characterize her. :lol:

Despite being an American, James belongs up there with the greats of 19th century literature - I read him during a year where I read a bunch of other classics from the 19th century (The Red and the Black, Madame Bovary, Vanity Fair, Picture of Dorian Gray, and so forth).

I finished Tulip Fever after a couple of days. Here's what I wrote in an email: A gripping page turner, a richly crafted tale, yet a chick lit (technically a harlequin romance) swaddled in historical fiction garb. .... The story was formulaic, yet perhaps necessary - for romance tastes better when it ends in bittersweet tragedy. The formatting (brief characters that alternate between characters' vantage points, excellent description of the world of 18th century holland during the height of tulip mania, penetrating painting analyses) rescues the book from mediocrity. Perhaps the Girl with the Pearl Earring is a better candidate...

Also, finished the Virgin's Lover. Decent read, but unremarkable.

Am now in the middle of Schopenhauer & Nietzsche by Georg Simmel, and about to start Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. :rock:

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I reading wittgenstein by Avrum Stroll now.

"Don't think , but look"(Philosophical Invvestigations, 66)

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I usually like to read more than one book at a time, and the two which I am currently reading are The Kindly Ones by Jonathan Littell and The Life of the Mind by Hannah Arendt, both of which I picked up in used book stores during a recent trip to Chicago.

Hugo recommended the Littell book to me a couple of months ago, and, since in my experience he has good judgment with regards to the reading materials he recommends, I looked up the book on Amazon. At the time, I did not notice any used copies being available, and given the review from The New Yorker which describes the work as "long sections of bureaucratic analysis alternate with moments of mind-numbing sadism" with a main character who is "a caricature of moral failure (he fantasizes at length about sodomizing his twin sister)" and who "encounters a cast of unintentionally comic characters, such as an obese and flatulent proponent of the Final Solution", I did not feel like spending the $30 list price for the book. I also figured that with such a review I could expect to soon find a much less expensive used copy, and, sure enough, I did. (There are now extremely inexpensive copies available.)

Anyhow, despite reviews such as that found in The New Yorker and some of those found on Amazon, I highly recommend this book. One of the less favorable Amazon reviews notes "that this massive novel explores an intriguing question: how apparently ordinary people could have become complicit in horrors", and that, indeed, is what this novel is about. That same reviewer said that he "assumed that a book weighing in at just under 1000 pages must have something substantial to say on the matter" but "t simply crash-lands where the narrative ends. And in case you're guessing that the book is *deliberately* left open-ended to keep the reader thinking, I must say that I find that hard to credit. The story just ... stops."

I have not yet finished the book, but, even leaving the "intriguing question" unresolved would in no way detract from the worthwhileness of the book, because the question which is the core and heart of the story is one which should engage the personal involvement via the self-consideration of the reader willing to contemplate how he would act in those and similar circumstances. For such a willing reader, the book provides opportunity to analyze the natures of personal character and morality and the effects of worldly context -- meaning that there is a lot in this book which would make for plenty of good discussions, discussions which I think Hugo should start for us. Heh.

It is quite by accident that I am reading Arendt's book along side the Littell book. Actually, it turns out to be a very amusing pairing of books because the narrator of the Littell book tells a story about Eichmann which concludes with the narrator lambasting the idea that the person of Eichmann would lead to the association of banality and evil (as Arendt did in Eichmann in Jerusalem), but the narrator, in justifying his disparaging of the "banality of evil" notion actually ends up confirming precisely what it was that led Arendt to make that association.

In large part, Arendt's notion regarding the banality of evil depends on the all too common lack of thinking, and the first section of Arendt's The Life of the Mind deals specifically with, and is entitled, "Thinking". In typically Arendt fashion, her analysis of thinking goes far beyond the conventional use of the word, and whether or not the invisible Eichmann, his internal self, was utterly devoid of Arendtian thinking or merely constituted by a very (but not extraordinarily) limited form of this thinking, Arendt's point about the banality of evil emanating from non-thinking is ultimately confirmed by Littell's narrator when he remarks that Eichmann's "ability to think on his own was extremely limited." After all, according to Arendt, thinking by its very nature is something one does on one's own.

The second part of The Life of the Mind deals with "Willing". I read somewhere that there was eventually supposed to be a third section on "Judging", but Arendt died without having similarly tackled that topic. Judging makes an appearance in this work, primarily in use as contradistinction to thinking and willing, but, so far, this Arendt book is very thought provoking and, therefore, very enjoyable.

Michael

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Am now in the middle of Schopenhauer & Nietzsche by Georg Simmel, and about to start Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. :rock:

Despite my best efforts, i've been derailed by my girlfriend's persistence. I'm reading the latest bilge from Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol. She wanted to discuss some of the issues about religion therein, and I couldn't pass that up. Within the first few pages, I'm quickly reminded why I hated Da Vinci Code: implausible leaps of logic. I'm now a hundred-plus pages in and the sheer amount of implausible events has me wondering about the author's disdain for his audience. Does he think we're stupid or something? :roll:

I'm rushing through it (no chance of missing anything subtle) in order to rush back to my more substantial reading (Schopenhauer & Nietzsche and Let The Right One In). :rock:

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Am now in the middle of Schopenhauer & Nietzsche by Georg Simmel, and about to start Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist. :rock:

Despite my best efforts, i've been derailed by my girlfriend's persistence. I'm reading the latest bilge from Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol. She wanted to discuss some of the issues about religion therein, and I couldn't pass that up. Within the first few pages, I'm quickly reminded why I hated Da Vinci Code: implausible leaps of logic. I'm now a hundred-plus pages in and the sheer amount of implausible events has me wondering about the author's disdain for his audience. Does he think we're stupid or something? :roll:

I'm rushing through it (no chance of missing anything subtle) in order to rush back to my more substantial reading (Schopenhauer & Nietzsche and Let The Right One In). :rock:

He is one of the top four in bookstores (the other ones being Harry Potter, Twilight and Eragon):evil:. Every time I go to any of those place where-good-books-used-to-be-sold, there I see a dozen of his books and of the other above mentioned books, with other works of their respective authors.

I am reading now Cicero Selected Works and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by *Goes to google and search extremely complicated author name* Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

The selected works contains two speeches, a dozen of letters and two essays. I am on the first speech Against Verres; is persuasive and eloquent, but it seems that Cicero exaggerates, as a good rhetorician, the charges made. Nonetheless, reading in english his speeches is a let down in experience:|, not because the translation is bad, but because, he was a a master of Latin and in that language, is where one can see his brilliance and genius as an orator.

Concerning the "fiction" novel, I read a bit before but stopped because I was busy with The portrait of a Lady (A masterpiece, beautiful descriptions of the characters wants and reveries, a sad, understandable and interesting plot and over everything else, a lovely heroin:rock:. It touched me in the last chapters and what an end!:shock:), but I began again now, and it seems to portray the harsh atmosphere of the Soviet labor camps. It is somewhart autobiographical.

I might do a review of the novella, since in TGL there is a person passionate about Russian literature:lol:.

Edited by Paulus

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I postponed the reading of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, but not for long, since I am almost done with Kafka's The Trial.

The novel is so oppresive, tense and mysterious. The behavior of the advocates is curious and the court has that unknown atmosphere, that sometimes reminds me of Lovecraft. Also, Kafka adds some humorous events which soften it a bit :mrgreen:.

The great critic Steiner says of the novel:

"No other voice has borne truer witness to the dark of our times… The Trial exhibits the classic model of the terror state. It prefigures the furtive sadism, the hysteria which totalitarianism insinuates into private and sexual life, the faceless boredom of the killers. The labyrinth of his meanings opens out, at its secret, difficult exists, to the high roads of modern sensibility, to what is most urgent and relevant in our condition"

I am mostly agreeing with that, Still have to finish the novel though.:mrgreen:

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I recently finished McCarthy's Blood Meridian; I would rank it as one of the best American novels published in the second half of the twentieth century, or at least, one of the best I have been acquainted with. It was also one of the most disturbing pieces of literature I have ever read; it was the fullest embodiment of this sense of macabre about the world and our existence in it that I have probably ever experienced.

On a lighter note, I am still trudging, though enjoyably, through Russell Kirk's The Conservative Mind.

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I have no familiarity with the works of Paul Feyerabend; I have not read Feyerabend's Against Method; I do not know, other then what you might find in some intro to philosophy book, anything about what Feyerabend's program was. My mind is a Feyerabend-less mind.

The copy I ordered from Amazon of Feyerabend's Farewell to Reason came in the mail today. I read a few pages, and smiled real big, now I see what all the commotion is about. This guy is not playing around; I mean, he is vicious!!! VICIOUS!!!! I think he shall also prove to be absolutely brilliant.

Edited by DeadCanDance

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I have no familiarity with the works of Paul Feyerabend; I have not read Feyerabend's Against Method; I do not know, other then what you might find in some intro to philosophy book, anything about what Feyerabend's program was. My mind is a Feyerabend-less mind.

The copy I ordered from Amazon of Feyerabend's Farewell to Reason came in the mail today. I read a few pages, and smiled real big, now I see what all the commotion is about. This guy is not playing around; I mean, he is vicious!!! VICIOUS!!!! I think he shall also prove to be absolutely brilliant.

Wife will not be very happy about this reading DCD.:roll:

Just joking of course :lol:, since I remember you told me that she has a low opinion of philosophy:-(.

I am reading two fiction booke's: Persuasion and The Mill on the Floss. I like very much Mill on the Floss, it shows a charming relation between a sister and her brother. One ( the sister) is a repressed genius, because she is eager to learn and understand but her environment is not very helpful on this respect. She is also cute and loving. But what I like the most is the depiction of her love to her brother and her wit. Other amusing and interesting aspects is it pseudo-autobiographical narrative and observations of different aspects of human life in the town. I have not finished it yet, so I can speak much about it.

I am also re-reading Descartes Discours de la m

Edited by Paulus

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Finished that short story fiasco (only 1 was decent, Graham Green's) and consumed the first 4 books of the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series. So now I'm getting into Michael Moorcock's Elric, via reissued collection. Already read the first book back in the day, but could not find the sequels.

For my Analytic Philosophy class I'm studying Kuhn's Structure of Scientific Revolutions. seems far less radical than its reputed to be, sad to say. Which leads me to the view that one should be wary of the initial reception of a groundbreaking work, for there's insufficient distance from their time & themselves in order to offer a fair interpretation.

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I've done pitifully little reading. I'm currently thumbing through The Computational Beauty of Nature from time to time. Beyond general interest, I'm trying to find some topic to latch onto, for a senior capstone in mathematics. I need something accessible yet with substance. G

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Not I. :mrgreen:

Just finished The Broom of the System. Because it was less of a novel with a story and more of an intellectual attempt at debunking both modernism and postmodernism, I didn't much like it. The characters failed to be engaging, the plot was purposely disconnected, and the satirical subtext overwhelmed the narrative to the point it seemed pointless to read in the first place. If you're not familiar with Pynchon or Barth (classic american authors of pomo literature) or Wittgenstein, this book will go right over your head. The witty structure and the amusing names and the odd characters save this book from an utter crap grade.

(Posted via mobile device)

I haven't read this book yet (and I think it may go over my head too) but I am interested to know how it attempts to debunk modernism and postmodernism.

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Modernism is the result of the death of God where the old certainties of Western thought crumbled and lost their metaphysical guarantee. (Freud, Darwin, etc.) Modernist authors gave up the realism of the 19th century writers and focused on the fragmented subject. Proust's memories, Joyce's mythical method, Faulkner's distinction between time and dure are exemplars of modernist writing.

The many references to Ludwig Wittgenstein's Philosophical Investigations in the book essentially demonstrated how pervasive language was in our lives, and Wallace sprinkled bits of that across the novel. Wittgenstein's philosophy (language has meaning only when 2 or more people agree on the rules of speech) was the antidote to the self-reflexivity of John Barth and the post-modern authors of the 60s and 70s. Crudely put, many postmodern thinkers argue that words have little/no connection to objects or things they name, for language replaces them. Sentences have meaning only in relation to other sentences, and so on.

Writers are supposed to use words to depict reality, but in doing so, they alienate reality itself. Barth claimed that all modernist authors tried to use words in order to get closer to reality, with many techniques like stream-of-consciousness, but ended up constructing an artificial reality separate from the real world. Thus, postmodern authors use the same literary conventions self-consciously and invent fiction that overcomes the exhaustion of writing by exaggerating it. Wallace tried to find the way out of this vicious circle by invoking Wittgenstein in response to Barth and his postmodern idols like Derrida.

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Thank you all for the info regarding your libraries, I held it to be fascinating stuff; though unfortunately, the only two books that I could make out in Camp's photo were Charlie Wilson's War and The Philosophy of Schopenhauer.

Here a, belated, list of my books. I will not post all of them though, unless you would like to know them all :p (and perhaps comment on them or whatever you feel like doing :)). They are of various types/genres, from dictionaries and technical manuals to poetry and graphic novels.

I never knew how many I had, and just today I suddenly thought should I do a list of my books? Strangely, while doing that task, I felt quite a bit of pleasure :duh::p. Ah! this dumb fetichism! :-)

Printed by me:

  1. On the Sublime and the Beautiful Burke
  2. The Love of Books de Bury
  3. Beethoven Life and Symphonies Various
  4. Articles on composers (Beethoven, Mozart, etc.) Various
  5. Consolation of Philosophy Boethius
  6. The Will to Believe William James
  7. Leviathan selected books (1 and 2) Hobbes
  8. The 2nd treatise of Civil Government Locke
  9. Discourse on Inequality Rousseau
  10. The Social Contract Rousseau
  11. An Intro. to the Principles of Morals and Legislation Bentham
  12. A Vindication of Natural Society Burke

  13. Intro. to Theology Nicolau (spanish)
  14. Intro. to Theology Latourelle (spanish)
  15. On the Aesthetical Education of Man Schiller
  16. The Love Letters of Abelard and Heloise (plus a tribute by Pope)
  17. Metaphysics Aristotle
  18. The Analects Confucius
  19. Confessions of an English Opium Eater de Quincey
  20. Reflections and Moral Maxims Rochefoucauld

Books

  1. Selected Poems Percy Shelley
  2. Selected Poems Tennyson
  3. Selected Poems Wordsworth
  4. Selected Poems Coleridge
  5. Selected Poems Blake
  6. Selected Poems R. Browning
  7. Faust Goethe
  8. From Hell Alan Moore
  9. Paradise Lost and Regained Milton
  10. Complete Poems Keats
  11. Complete Works Shakespeare
  12. Complete Works Wilde
  13. Dictionary of Science
  14. Selected Writings Descartes

  15. Our Lady of the Flowers Genet
  16. On the Origin of Species Darwin
  17. The World as Will and Representation Schopenhauer
  18. Beyond Good and Evil Nietzsche
  19. Leonardo da Vinci Kenneth Clark
  20. Our Oriental Heritage Will Durant

I have in total (printed by me and books - given and bought -): 266. Printed 136 and books 130 something :p. My collection is small compared to BDS or Campanella. :)

Ah! I also have Audiobooks, none bought, I either downloaded them from clandestine places or through librivox.

Edited by Paulus

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