Wednesday, March 24, 2010

10 Highly Influential Books

The listing of influential books has gone viral in the blogosphere. Here are my own contributions, starting with two books that taught me about what legal scholarship could aspire to be:

1. J. Willard Hurst, Law and Economic Growth: The Legal History of the Lumber Industry in Wisconsin, 1836-1915 (University of Wisconsin Press 1964).

2. Robert C. Ellickson, Order without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes (Harvard 1991).

3. Thomas C. Schelling, Choice and Consequence: Perspectives of an errant economist (Harvard 1984) (it was only later that I read Tom's Micromotives and Macrobehavior, which quite rightly figures prominently on many others' lists of most influential books).

4.  Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge 1990).

5.  J.H. Dales, Pollution, Property and Prices: An Essay in Policy-making and Economics (Toronto 1968).

6.  Richard McKeon, ed., The Basic Works of Aristotle (Random House 1941).

7. Karl R. Popper, Conjectures and Refutations: The Growth of Scientific Knowledge (Routledge 1963).

8. Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain (1924).

9.  Janos Kornai, The Socialist System: The Political Economy of Communism (Princeton 1992).

10. Herbert Simon, Models of My Life (Basic Books 1991)

Needless to say, if Ronald Coase had published "The Problem of Social Cost" (1960) as a book, rather than an article, it would be at the top of my list. Other influential works that didn't quite make the cut include Kant's Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals, Henry Louis de la Grange's multi-volume biography of Gustav Mahler, Leszek Kolakowski's Main Currents of Marxism, various works by John Stuart Mill, Charles Darwin's The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication (1868) (an under-appreciated study of artificial, in contrast to natural, selection), Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962), and last, but by no means least, Doug North's Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance (Cambridge 1990).

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