[Note: Every Friday on First Thoughts we host a discussion about some aspect of pop culture. Todays theme is personality-defining books. Have a suggestion for a topic? Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org .]
If you could have just one book to explain yourself, what would it be?, asked the books editors at Amazon.coms blog Omnivoracious . In his response to the question, uber-blogger Glenn Reynolds couldnt decide between The Road to Serfdom and The Singularity is Near . Longtime readers of Instapundit won’t be surprised by the selectionshe’s always been a vocal supporter of both libertarianism and transhumanismbut the choices are nevertheless revealing. If all that a person knew about Reynolds was that those two books helped to explain him, they would be in possession of a surprising amount of information.
When I discussed that post with Jody Bottum we agreed that one book would not be enough to represent the breadth of a person. However, with two data points a broader spectrum of likes, passions, and interests comes into focus. That led us to pondering the question, “If you had a shelf of books to help explain yourself, which two books would form the outer boundariesthe bookendsof you?”
The bookends of Jodys personality are Bonaventure’s Itinerarium and Dickens’ David Copperfield . That information alone is almost as revealing about his interests as knowing that he has a Ph.D. in philosophy or that he was once the Books and Arts editor at The Weekly Standard .
My own bookends, Larry McMurtrys Lonesome Dove and Abraham Kuypers Lectures on Calvinism , are similar to Jodys pattern though wildly different in content. Armed with that data, and a familiarity with those books, you could probably fill in quite a few details about my background and worldview.
Now its your turn: What pair of books define the spectrum of your personality? What two works would you list to give a person a clue about who you are? (For this exercise, let’s assume it is already clear which work of sacred scripture (the Torah, the Bible, the Book of Mormon, etc.) most influenced you.) Tell us your selections or, if you post them on your own blog, leave a link, in the comment section.
Update: I originally misheard the boss when he said Jane Austens Mansfield Park and the Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas. I thought those were his choices but he was just giving a possible example.