This is not a list of the 25 “best” books I can think of—but rather a list of 25 books that opened doors for me. Most were first read a long time ago. The list will be different tomorrow.
Given to me by my mother when it was first published, this is the book that gave me my first real clues about urban history and the relationship of form and social life. It also made me a modernist.
A first serious critical armature for sorting out the meaning of taste.
As succinct and singular an explanation of urban causality as there is.
Has the dilemma of modernity been better expressed?
I do have a tooth for dystopia and this is a coolly familiar one.
The man was a remarkable straight talker. No better summary of the commodification of space.
I am a sixties guy and this was a key anthem.
The first of Freud’s books I read and therefore the portal to vast worlds.
The young boy’s handbook of functionalist aesthetics and representation.
In which it is made clear that our relationship to cities is not just functional but imaginative.
America unpacked with hilarious, amazingly fluid style.
Never has a cultural condition been caught so deadpan dead to rights.
Well, Shakespeare was the greatest writer ever. In a saturnine mood today, so I pick my favorite comedy.
A book that took away much adolescent fuzziness in thinking about the idea of the good.
The first book to make me cry.
Another anthem. Captures the double dream of imaginative and spatial freedom.
Tender, precise, and perfect.
The book through which I learned how to read closely and had my utopian streak nicely jazzed.
The book that brought the swastika to the living room of every Jewish family in America also launched my fascination with the ur-porno of those incomprehensible events.
The origin point of systematic and political green thinking.
From which I learned much about both the universality and particularity of literature. (Includes one of the greatest weepy scenes in literature.)
Confirmed my modernist bent, offered the first picture seen of Michel de Klerk’s post office, and—via its shimmery prose—made the idea of writing about architecture plausible.
The funniest book ever written.
The most sustained act of literary invention of all time, one of those works after which things are simply not the same.
A really funny, brilliant book that makes fiction continuingly relevant and possible.
Brilliant list, Sorkin