Many “bests” lists or ranked-reading lists tend to be matters of opinion, even if objective merit remains a meaningful standard of rational evaluation. Yet isn’t it interesting to compare favorite books and novels and discover that some our favorites also rank high on other lists?
For those libertarian sci-fi/fantasy fans who have the curiosity and time to look beyond our own Prometheus Awards track record of 100 past winners in all categories, an online list compiled of “Books to understand the world” makes for interesting reading….
…Especially because two of the most notable Prometheus Award winners are prominently featured on the list.
Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four – both early inductees into the Prometheus Hall of Fame and bestselling works ranking among the best-known and most influential dystopian novels of the 20th century – are among the books recommended and briefly described on the list, compiled by writer-researcher João Uva, Portugal-based investment counselor and Value of Stocks blogger.
These two dystopian novels are grouped with another dystopian classic (Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World) among the very few novels on the list, which also includes quite a few non-fiction classics, both ancient and modern.
Here’s how Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is described on the recommended list:
“This novel has been praised by many as a work of genius, and it’s easy to see why. The story is set in a future America where the government has become oppressive and the economy is in shambles. The protagonists are a group of industrialists who go on strike against the government, eventually leading to a revolution.
The book is crammed full of ideas about philosophy, economics, and politics, making it one of the most intellectually stimulating novels around. It’s sure to make you think long and hard about the world around you. It’s nearly 1400 pages long, but it’s well worth the effort.”
(For more about Atlas Shrugged, check out this review-essay and also this different but complementary review essay among the many Appreciations of past Prometheus winners posted on the Prometheus blog as part of the LFS’s now-complete Appreciation series.)
And here’s how Uva describes Orwell’s classic:
“This is another classic that is essential reading for understanding the world we live in. It’s a story about a totalitarian government that controls its citizens through fear and propaganda. This book will make you think about the role of government in our lives and how it can be used to control us.”
(For more about Orwell’s novel, here’s the Prometheus blog’s Appreciation.)
On his blog, Uva also highlights many widely recognized works of literature as well as more recent non-fiction books on various lists.
The blog offers a separate list of “intellectual books for advanced readers.”
“An intellectual novel is a book that requires the reader to think critically and deeply about the characters, events, and themes. These books are usually challenging and thought-provoking, often exploring controversial topics.
They can be fiction or nonfiction, but they must make the reader question their own beliefs and assumptions,” Uva writes.
Also on that list is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment, Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago.
Here’s a concise example, for Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago:
“An epic account of the Soviet Union’s prison camp system. It is a harrowing read, but it is also an important piece of history. The reason this book is so important is that it gives a voice to the millions of people who were imprisoned and killed by the Soviet regime. It’s also a grim reminder of the capacity for human cruelty. “
Among the novels recommended on the blog’s “introductory” list: J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, and Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Thus, in terms of widely recognized literature that’s stood the test of time, our two Prometheus Hall of Winner winners are in excellent company.
THE VALUE OF INTELLECTUAL READING
Uva, an ardent advocate of literary and reading, views what he calls “intellectual reading” as an important prerequisite for a successful career and a well-lived life.
“Intellectual books are those that make you think. They force you to examine your beliefs and look at the world in a new way. There are many different types of intellectual books, but which one is best for you?
“Intellectual reading is defined as reading material that is thought-provoking and requires mental effort to understand. This type of reading can be beneficial in expanding your knowledge and improving your critical thinking skills.
There are many different genres of intellectual books, so there is sure to be something for everyone. If you’re looking for something to improve your knowledge, consider a book on history or philosophy. For something more challenging, try a classic novel or a book on physics or mathematics.
No matter what type of intellectual book you choose, make sure to take your time and really think about what you’re reading. Try to identify the main ideas and draw connections between the concepts presented in the book and your own life experiences. By engaging with the material in this way, you can maximize the benefits of an intellectual reading.”
* Prometheus winners: For the full list of Prometheus winners, finalists and nominees – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website, which now includes convenient links to the full set of published appreciation-reviews of past winners.
* Read “The Libertarian History of Science Fiction,” an essay in the international magazine Quillette that favorably highlights the Prometheus Awards, the Libertarian Futurist Society and the significant element of libertarian sf/fantasy in the evolution of the modern genre.
* Watch videos of the 2022 Prometheus ceremony with Wil McCarthy, and past Prometheus Awards ceremonies, Libertarian Futurist Society panel discussions with noted sf authors and leading libertarian writers, and other LFS programs on the Prometheus Blog’s Video page.
* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit all-volunteer association of freedom-loving sf/fantasy fans.
Libertarian futurists believe that culture matters! We understand that the arts and literature can be vital, and in some ways even more powerful than politics in the long run, by sparking innovation, better ideas, positive social change, and mutual respect for each other’s rights and differences.