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The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought From Ancient Times to Today Hardcover – 2004


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 498 pages
  • Publisher: MJF Books - Fine Communications (2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1567316786
  • ISBN-13: 978-1567316780
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.8 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,934,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Mr. Cummings summed it the best.
B. Alattar
Anyone who has not read at least 20% of the books in the table of contents need not try this book until they have.
Matthew C. Cummings
Most of the time they are agnostic ideas, but he is not so "coherent" all the time.
Renis Cerga

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Matthew C. Cummings on September 29, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I struggled through the enitre book, and then read all the comments here, and the sum total of all of this is as follows:

1. Seymour Smith does suffer for the same impenetrable prose that he castigates many of the authors he is writing about, especially, as mentioned before, the lengthy sentence structure he is in love with. (As you can see, it is contagious)

2. Anyone who has not read at least 20% of the books in the table of contents need not try this book until they have. Smith is tracking influences in western thought and without a BA in Philosophy, you may not stand a chance

3. He is an agnostic liberal, and not liberal in the American Dem/Rep fashion, but as in liberal like a British left Labour type. His suggested venom towards the church, to be fair about it, is based mostly on judgements of the behavoir of the Catholic Church from 800 - 1700, which almost everyone can agree was not their finest hour.

4. His comments on Gnosticism are interesting as he sees a tie in between it and many of the undelying themes of modern religions. I would suggest anyone interested in this actually do some original source reading with an open mind. Smith does at least point you in some good directions for that.

5. Be prepared to consult a dictionary to define some words chosen by Smith. Also, many of the reviews expect that you have read the work in question. One unfortunately gets the feeling that Smith is sometimes either trying to show off his knowledge, or like many professors (and some I met at Oxford) one who just likes to hear himself talk.

In summation, the earlier the entry the better. His reviews of ancient literature are the best in the book, as he focuses much more on thinkers than pieces.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By NotPerfectBut on September 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
I initially had the same reaction as some here regarding Marty's style. But after familiarizing myself with him and his work, I realized that the problem was all mine.
Most of us are coming to a bona fide phenomenon like Seymour-Smith from the standpoint of modern article writing, i.e. hack writing. This is now the norm and has become our standard.
Marty, on the other hand, has been reading primarily truly great literature, in unimagineable quantities, his entire life. In addition to this book, for example, one should take a gander at his 1450 page "The Guide to Modern World Literature". He had read all the authors' entire ouevre, plus apparently their letters, as well as all of the major critical assessments of each.
So, let's give him the benefit of the doubt that he probably knows what a good sentence looks like.
In addition, Anthony Burgess compared him favorably to Samuel Johnson (no less), and before Marty passed away he produced what has been hailed as an "extraordinary" collection of poems.
But, besides his style, is the content. I personally can't imagine that there has been any single book produced in modern times which has said so many important, perhaps essential, things about the written works, and their authors, which have, more or less, created western civilization.
I don't believe that those of us who surf the internet, or are intellectually mostly consumers of information, have earned the right to pass judgement on something as truly substantive and meaningful as this book.
Try reading all the works he has and I guarantee you, that his sentences will start to seem downright awe-inspiring...
This book, and the books it is about, should be required reading by anyone prior to their being awarded any kind of college degree.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Leon M. Bodevin on September 23, 2006
Format: Hardcover
As a sort of intro humanities course this is certainly worth reading. Martin Seymour-Smith brings to bear a lot knowledge on the books he writes about and more often than not he is able to look at the books and their authors in novel ways. If there is one criticism I have of this book it is that the author can come off as terribly arrogant. But if he is arrogant then his analysis is also incisive and almost always rings true. And I definitely came away with a few books to add to my wish list. Also worth reading is Seymour-Smith's Guide to 20th Century Literature.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 1, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I am sorry to admit that I have rather mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, it is a fantastic collection of what are undoubtedly some of the most influential books know to man. Given the limitation of 100 books, Seymour-Smith has done a fine job, in terms of scope and of wise selection.
HOWEVER, I have found this book to be one of the most convoluted reads I have ever experienced. For example, in the chapter concerning Wollstonecraft's "Vindication of the Rights of Woman" (page 301), the reader is assaulted with this sentence: "William Goodwin, who became Mary's loving husband - she lost her life after giving birth to their daughter, who became Mary Shelley - devoted much of his time to the memory of her and to the printing of her writings (including her letters to him in the candid and explicit 'Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman); but for many years she was known as a "prostitute" and her ideas rejected on such grounds, or on grounds like it - "lascivious", "disgusting", "shameless", "advocate of priapism" (this from a Rev. Polwhele, horrified by the discussion of the "organs of the generation" in one of her books)." A PERIOD! FINALLY A PERIOD! Alas, the books is full of such sentences, lined one after another throughout the book.
One also needs a good encyclopedia readily available, as the book also has a number of editorial errors: for instance, the same chapter on Wollstonecraft states she was born in 1859 (page 301), when of course, this is not the case. I also noted some errors in the chapter on Heroditus.
So, while I find the content of this book excellent beyond reproach (when it is not in error), I must say the writing itself is laborious to follow. Still, I would recommend the book as a good introduction to some classic books that should be on everyone's reading list.
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