Thanks everyone for your excellent suggestions for my list of Great Books in US Intellectual History. I highly recommend everyone read through the comments section of my post—a thread that might easily serve as a primer for future comprehensive exams in our field. I certainly learned a lot.
So, without further ado, I give you my list of 24 books. These are the books that I plan to read and blog about over the next two years, on average of one per month, give or take. Based mostly on your suggestions, my original list numbered over 40. In other words, I had to make some hard decisions, most of which are particular to my needs and desires. I explain my method a bit below. The list is in order of publication date. Here we go—the list for Andrew’s Great Books in US Intellectual History Series:
- F. O. Matthiessen, American Renaissance: Art and Expression in the Age of Emerson and Whitman (1941)
- Louis Hartz, The Liberal Tradition in America: An Interpretation of American Political Thought Since the Revolution (1955)
- Daniel Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-Events in America (1962)
- Richard Pells, Radical Visions and American Dreams: Culture and Social Thought in the Depression Years (1973)
- Martin Jay, The Dialectical Imagination: A History of the Frankfurt School and the Institute of Social Research, 1923-1950 (1973)
- Drew McCoy, The Elusive Republic: Political Economy in Jeffersonian America (1980)
- Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920 (1981)
- John Owen King III, The Iron of Melancholy: Structures of Spiritual Conversion in America from Puritan Conscience to Victorian Neurosis (1983)
- James Kloppenberg, Uncertain Victory: Social Democracy and Progressivism in European and American Political Thought, 1870-1920 (1986)
- Thomas Bender, New York Intellect: A History of Intellectual Life in New York City from 1750 to the Beginnings of Our Own Time (1988)
- Dorothy Ross, The Origins of American Social Science (1991)
- Anson Rabanbach, The Human Motor: Energy, Fatigue, and the Origins of Modernity (1992)
- Wilfred McClay, The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America (1994)
- James Livingston, Pragmatism and the Political Economy of Cultural Revolution, 1850-1940 (1997)
- Amy Dru Stanley, From Bondage to Contract: Wage Labor, Marriage, and the Market in the Age of Slave Emancipation (1998)
- David Brion Davis, The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution, 1770-1823 (1999)
- Daniel Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (2000)
- Jonathan Holloway, Confronting the Veil: Abram Harris Jr., E. Franklin Frazier, and Ralph Bunche, 1919-1941 (2001)
- Bruce Kuklick, A History of Philosophy in America, 1720-2000 (2001)
- George Cotkin, Existential America (2003)
- Nikihl Singh, Black is a Country: Race and the Unfinished Struggle for Democracy (2005)
- Howard Brick, Transcending Capitalism: Visions of a New Society in Modern American Thought (2006)
- Robert Genter, Late Modernism: Art, Culture, and Politics in Cold War America (2010)
- Andrew Jewett, Science, Democracy, and the American University: From the Civil War to the Cold War (2012)
How did I choose my 24 books? Here are my criteria:
–Books that I have yet to read but have proven highly influential in our field: Bender, Ross, McClay, Davis.
–Books that seem destined to challenge my comfort zone: McCoy, King, Rabanbach, Stanley.
–Books about race in the twentieth century, one of my constant interests: Holloway, Singh.
–Books that might shed light on the relationship between the practice of intellectual history and the Cold War consensus: Hartz, Boortstin.
–Books I have yet to read by authors I enjoy: Matthiessen, Kuklick, Cotkin.
–Books I read in graduate school but want to return to now in light of my interest in the many strange valences of Post-Cold War Consensus Neo-Pragmatism (if that’s a thing): Lears, Kloppenberg, Livingston, Rodgers. (The fact that all four of these authors lay claim to a pragmatic tradition to some degree is weird, isn’t it?)
–Books about the left that relate to my next project: Pells, Jay, Brick.
–Recent books that come highly recommended: Genter, Jewett.
That about sums it up. The main goal is to better understand our field, and to have fun. I should say that one or more readers recommended almost every book on this list. So, again, thank you!
I don’t plan to read these books in any particular order. But, to allow those interested to read along, I will announce which book I am reading one month prior to blogging about it. The first book I will tackle is James Kloppenberg, Uncertain Victory. Estimated blogging date: end of April or early May. Let the games begin.