Posted by: Lisa Hill | August 4, 2009

The TLS 100 Most Influential Books since WW2

The Times Online has published a list of the 100 Most Influential Books since World War 2. To see the article click here.

Now, I’ve read some of these (the ones in the blue font) – but honestly, wouldn’t your heart sink to your boots if this were your undergraduate book list?

BTW there appear to be 4 influential females…


  • 1. Simone de Beauvoir: The Second Sex (Le Deuxieme Sexe)
  • 2. Marc Bloch: The Historian’s Craft (Apologie pour l’historie, ou, Metier d’ historien)
  • 3. Fernand Braudel: The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II (La Mediterranee et le monde mediterraneen a l’epoque de Philippe II)
  • 4. James Burnham: The Managerial Revolution
  • 5. Albert Camus: The Myth of Sisyphus (Le Mythe de Sisyphe)
  • 6. Albert Camus: The Outsider (L’Etranger) See my review
  • 7. R. G. Collingwood: The Idea of History
  • 8. Erich Fromm: The Fear of Freedom (Die Furcht vor der Freiheit)
  • 9. Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno: Dialectic of Enlightenment (Dialektik der Aufklaerung)
  • 10. Karl Jaspers: The Perennial Scope of Philosophy (Der philosophische Glaube)
  • 11. Arthur Koestler: Darkness at Noon
  • 12. Andre Malraux: Man’s Fate (La Condition humaine)
  • 13. Franz Neumann: Behemoth: The structure and practice of National Socialism
  • 14. George Orwell: Animal Farm
  • 15. George Orwell: Nineteen Eighty-four
  • 16. Karl Polanyi: The Great Transformation
  • 17. Karl Popper: The Open Society and Its Enemies
  • 18. Paul Samuelson: Economics: An introductory analysis
  • 19. Jean-Paul Sartre: Existentialism and Humanism (L’Existentialisme est un humanisme)
  • 20. Joseph Schumpeter: Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy
  • 21. Martin Wright: Power Politics


  • 22. Hannah Arendt: The Origins of Totalitarianism
  • 23. Raymond Aron: The Opium of the Intellectuals (L’Opium des intellectuels)
  • 24. Kenneth Arrow: Social Choice and Individual Values
  • 25. Roland Barthes: Mythologies
  • 26. Winston Churchill: The Second World War
  • 27. Norman Cohn: The Pursuit of the Millennium
  • 28. Milovan Djilas: The New Class: An analysis of the Communist system
  • 29. Mircea Eliade: Images and Symbols (Images et symboles)
  • 30. Erik Erikson: Young Man Luther: A study in psychoanalysis and history
  • 31. Lucien Febvre: The Struggle for History (Combat pour l’histoire)
  • 32. John Kenneth Galbraith: The Affluent Society
  • 33. Erving Goffman: The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
  • 34. Arthur Koestler and Richard Crossman (eds): The God That Failed: Six studies in Communism
  • 35. Primo Levi: If This Is a Man (Se questo un uomo)
  • 36. Claude Levi-Strauss: A World on the Wane (Tristes tropiques)
  • 37. Czeslaw Milosz: The Captive Mind (Zniewolony umysl)
  • 38. Boris Pasternak: Doctor Zhivago See my review
  • 39. David Riesman: The Lonely Crowd 40. Herbert Simon: Models of Man, Social and Rational
  • 41. C. P. Snow: The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution
  • 42. Leo Strauss: Natural Right and History
  • 43. J. L. Talmon: The Origins of Totalitarian Democracy
  • 44. A. J. P. Taylor: The Struggle for Mastery in Europe
  • 45. Arnold Toynbee: A Study of History
  • 46. Karl Wittfogel: Oriental Despotism: A comparative study of total power
  • 47. Ludwig Wittgenstein: Philosophical Investigations (Philosophische Untersuchungen)


  • 48. Hannah Arendt: Eichmann in Jerusalem: A report on the banality of evil
  • 49. Daniel Bell: The End of Ideology
  • 50. Isaiah Berlin: Four Essays on Liberty
  • 51. Albert Camus: Notebooks 19351951 (Carnets)
  • 52. Elias Canetti: Crowds and Power (Masse und Macht)
  • 53. Robert Dahl: Who Governs?: Democracy and power in an American city
  • 54. Mary Douglas: Purity and Danger
  • 55. Erik Erikson: Gandhi’s Truth: On the origins of militant nonviolence
  • 56. Michel Foucault: Madness and civilization: A history of insanity in the Age of Reason (Histoire de la folie a l’age classique)
  • 57. Milton Friedman: Capitalism and Freedom
  • 58. Alexander Gerschenkron: Economic Backwardness in Historial Perspective
  • 59. Antonio Gramsci: Prison Notebooks (Quaderni del carcere)
  • 60. H. L. A. Hart: The Concept of Law
  • 61. Friedrich von Hayek: The Constitution of Liberty (Die Verfassung der Freiheit)
  • 62. Jane Jacobs: The Death and Life of Great American Cities
  • 63. Carl Gustav Jung: Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Erinnerungen, Traeume, Gedanken)
  • 64. Thomas Kuhn: The Structure of Scientific Revolutions
  • 65. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie: The Peasants of Languedoc (Les Paysans de Languedoc)
  • 66. Claude Levi-Strauss: The Savage Mind (Le Pensee sauvage)
  • 67. Konrad Lorenz: On Aggression (Das sogenannte Boese)
  • 68. Thomas Schelling: The Strategy of Conflict
  • 69. Fritz Stern: The Politics of Cultural Despair
  • 70. E. P. Thompson: The Making of the English Working Class


  • 71. Daniel Bell: The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism
  • 72. Isaiah Berlin: Russian Thinkers
  • 73. Ronald Dworkin: Taking Rights Seriously
  • 74. Clifford Geertz: The Interpretation of Cultures
  • 75. Albert Hirschman: Exit, Voice, and Loyalty
  • 76. Leszek Kolakowski: Main Currents of Marxism (Glowne nurty marksizmu)
  • 77. Hans Kueng: On Being a Christian (Christ Sein)
  • 78. Robert Nozick: Anarchy, State and Utopia
  • 79. John Rawls: A Theory of Justice
  • 80. Gershom Scholem: The Messianic Idea in Judaism, and other essays on Jewish spirituality
  • 81. Ernst Friedrich Schumacher: Small Is Beautiful
  • 82. Tibor Scitovsky: The Joyless Economy
  • 83. Quentin Skinner: The Foundations of Modern Political Thought
  • 84. Alexander Solzhenitsyn: The Gulag Archipelago
  • 85. Keith Thomas: Religion and the Decline of Magic

BOOKS OF THE 1980s and beyond

  • 86. Raymond Aron: Memoirs (Memoires)
  • 87. Peter Berger: The Capitalist Revolution: Fifty propositions about prosperity, equality and liberty
  • 88. Norberto Bobbio: The Future of Democracy (Il futuro della democrazia)
  • 89. Karl Dietrich Bracher: The Totalitarian Experience (Die totalitaere Erfahrung)
  • 90. John Eatwell, Murray Milgate and Peter Newman (eds): The New Palgrave: The world of economics
  • 91. Ernest Gellner: Nations and Nationalism
  • 92. Vaclav Havel: Living in Truth
  • 93. Stephen Hawking: A Brief History of Time (I read one chapter and gave up.)
  • 94. Paul Kennedy: The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers
  • 95. Milan Kundera: The Book of Laughter and Forgetting
  • 96. Primo Levi: The Drowned and the Saved (I sommersi e i salvati)
  • 97. Roger Penrose: The Emperor’s New Mind: Concerning computers, minds, and the laws of physics
  • 98. Richard Rorty: Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature
  • 99. Amartya Sen: Resources, Values and Development
  • 100. Michael Walzer: Spheres of Justice


  1. With all due respect to whoever compiled this list for the Times, he or she doesn’t get out much – even as far as the library apparently.

    You may love or loathe Hemingway’s ‘The Old Man & the Sea’ but it is high on every creative writing course reading list in the world, particularly in Asia, and as a writer in the 21st C you are basically defined by which side of the Hemingway’s vs Every Other Prose Style divide you fall down on. Similarly, no place for Flannery O’Connor’s ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find’, which, along with Faulkner’s work, defined the Southern Gothic genre and, in addition to being arguably the most prevalent stylistic and thematic influence on American writing and film making about America today, which influence spills over in great quantities to Canada and Australia, helped shine a light on the plight of the South and contributed to the social changes of the 60s.

    Obviously this list is light on fiction, but to suggest the Kundera book nominated here (albeit very much about politics and change) has had a greater influence on society than the two American one’s – remember Castro used to inspire workers and soldiers during and after the Cuban revolution with readings from Hemingway – is either to have an anti-American bias or have your head in the sand.


    • Hello Patrick – I have your latest book, The Darkest Little Room steadily making its way up the TBR Pile!
      I agree, I think this is a silly list, and what is really depressing is how often it shows up as a popular post in my stats. I love book lists, mainly for the way they inspire me to widen my horizons, but this one is depressingly unenticing and has never had the slightest influence on my reading at all. If a list of influential books can’t influence me to read ’em, well, I wonder just how influential the books themselves might be…
      In fact, reading through the list again now, it makes me wish that somebody like David Lodge or Ian McEwan would spoof the committee meetings of the earnest compilers!


  2. Ah, hey Lisa, I often read your blog and saw the list over there on the left and assumed it was recent. Hope you like the new novel.


    • No, this list is from 2009 – but it still gets lots of hits from people searching for it. Who knows why, eh?
      PS I try to read review books in order of receipt, and I have a bit of a backlog but I am certainly looking forward to it:)


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