Richard Parmentier is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at Brandeis University. His studies in semiotic anthropology Signs in Society and Signs and Society discuss the subject the context of its “twin peaks” of Charles Sanders Peirce and Ferdinand de Saussure. I discovered Parmentier’s Amazon Listmania! lists many years ago–I believe they were linked off of a Hans Blumenberg book–and they were responsible for introducing me to a number of works of great scholarship.

Unfortunately, Amazon subsequently discontinued its Listmania! feature and deleted all lists that had ever been posted. This still dismays me. The internet does not cater to intellectual content and Amazon had, in its way, managed to cultivate a disorganized but incredibly worthwhile amount of organic intellectual work.

I archived Parmentier’s lists before they were taken down, and he has kindly permitted me to repost them here. I encourage people to delve into the lists and discover something new.

I have retained Parmentier’s introductory notes at the beginning of each list.

David Auerbach

1. Really Important Books

I keep a special selection of books close-to-hand in my study, not because they contain information I need to refer to on a regular basis but because each embodies a particular mode of argumentation that I find useful to keep in mind (and difficult to remember in detail). In the (hypothetical) event of having to abandon ship, I hope I would have time to grab at least these volumes.

Death And Salvation In Ancient Egypt
Assmann, Jan (Author), Lorton, David (Translator)
Cornell University Press

Mimesis: The Representation of Reality in Western Literature - Fiftieth-Anniversary Edition
Erich Auerbach (Author), Willard R. Trask (Translator), Edward W. Said (Introduction)
Princeton University Press

The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays (University of Texas Press Slavic Series)
Bakhtin, M. M. (Author), Holquist, Michael (Editor), Emerson, Caryl (Translator), Holquist, Michael (Translator)
University of Texas Press

Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art
Belting, Hans (Author), Jephcott, Edmund (Translator)
University of Chicago Press

The Arcades Project
Benjamin, Walter (Author), Eiland, Howard (Translator), McLaughlin, Kevin (Translator)
Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press

Etymologies and Genealogies: A Literary Anthropology of the French Middle Ages
Bloch, R. Howard (Author)
University of Chicago Press

The Genesis of the Copernican World (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought)
Blumenberg, Hans (Author), Wallace, Robert M. (Translator)
The MIT Press

Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity
Brown, Peter (Author)
University of California Press

The Philosophy of the Enlightenment: Updated Edition
Cassirer, Ernst (Author), Gay, Peter (Foreword)
Princeton University Press

Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150-1750
Daston, Lorraine (Author), Park, Katharine (Author)
Zone Books

The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece
Detienne, Marcel (Author), Lloyd, Janet (Translator), Vidal-Naquet, Pierre (Foreword)
Zone Books

Language in Literature
Jakobson, Roman (Author), Pomorska, Krystyna (Editor), Rudy, Stephen (Editor)
Belknap Press

Futures Past: On the Semantics of Historical Time (Studies in Contemporary German Social Thought.)
Koselleck, Reinhart (Author), Tribe, Keith (Translator)
Columbia University Press

Ramus, Method, and the Decay of Dialogue: From the Art of Discourse to the Art of Reason
Ong S.J., Walter J. (Author), Johns, Adrian (Foreword)
University of Chicago Press

Freud y filosofía: Un ensayo de interpretación
Paul Ricoeur (Author), Denis Savage (Author)
Motilal Banarsidass

The Implications of Literacy
Stock, Brian (Author)
Princeton University Press

The Black Hunter: Forms of Thought and Forms of Society in the Greek World
Vidal-Naquet, Pierre (Author), Szegedy-Maszak, Andrew (Translator)
Johns Hopkins University Press

Edward W. Said (Author)
Penguin Books, Limited (UK)

Analyzing Bach Cantatas
Chafe, Eric (Author)
Oxford University Press

Archaic Roman Religion
Dumézil, Professor Georges (Author)
The Johns Hopkins University Press

History of Madness
Foucault, Michel (Author), Khalfa, Jean (Editor), Murphy, Jonathan (Translator)

2. Great Short Books

When challenged to present a substantive yet succinct account of their subject matter in less than 150 pages, a number of scholars have written remarkable short books. Some of these books were originally lecture series and, thus, maximize the clarity of presentation. Others represent syntheses or summaries of larger works of scholarship. And, in some cases, authors have expanded what was basically an article-length work into a tidy monograph. I don’t include in this list books that collect independent articles.

The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy
Cassirer, Ernst (Author), Domandi, Mario (Translator), Domandi, Mario (Introduction)
University of Chicago Press

The Riddle of Nostradamus: A Critical Dialogue (Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society)
Dumézil, Professor Georges (Author), Wing, Ms. Betsy (Translator)
The Johns Hopkins University Press

Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India
Eck, Diana (Author)
Columbia University Press

Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages
Eco, Umberto (Author), Bredin, Hugh (Translator)
Yale University Press

The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things
George Kubler (Author)
Yale University Press

Medieval Architecture, Medieval Learning: Builders and Masters in the Age of Romanesque and Gothic
Radding, Charles M. (Author), Clark, William (Author)
Yale University Press

On the Medieval Origins of the Modern State (Princeton Classics, 21)
Strayer, Joseph R. (Author), Tilly, Charles (Foreword), Jordan, William Chester (Foreword)
Princeton University Press

Race Matters
West, Cornel (Author)
Beacon Press

Mind in Society: The Development of Higher Psychological Processes
Vygotsky, L. S. (Author), Cole, Michael (Editor), John-Steiner, Vera (Editor), Scribner, Sylvia (Editor), Souberman, Ellen (Editor)
Harvard University Press

The Origins of Greek Thought
Vernant, Jean-Pierre (Author)
Cornell University Press

The Decipherment of Linear B (Canto)
Chadwick, John (Author)
Cambridge University Press

Babylon, Memphis, Persepolis: Eastern Contexts of Greek Culture
Burkert, Walter (Author)
Harvard University Press

The Old World and the New: 1492-1650 (Canto)
Elliott, J. H. (Author)
Cambridge University Press

Mental Illness and Psychology
Foucault, Michel (Author), Dreyfus, Hubert (Foreword)
University of California Press

Metaphysical Song
Tomlinson, Gary (Author)
Princeton University Press

Man and Nature in the Renaissance (Cambridge Studies in the History of Science)
Debus, Allen George (Author)
Cambridge University Press

An Introduction to Legal Reasoning
Levi, Edward H. (Author)
University of Chicago Press

Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism
Erwin Panofsky (Author)
Archabbey Publications

3. Big Books

Here are some big books in my collection that cover the topic without the constraint of space. There is some comfort in knowing that one will not need to read another book on a topic for quite a while.

The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, Vol. 1
Braudel, Fernand (Author)
University of California Press

Medieval Latin and the rise of European love-lyric
Dronke, Peter (Author)
Oxford University Press

Joseph Eddy Fontenrose (Author)
University of California Press (Berkeley/LA)

Alexander to Actium: The Historical Evolution of the Hellenistic Age (Volume 1)
Green, Peter (Author)
University of California Press

Radical Enlightenment: Philosophy and the Making of Modernity 1650-1750
Israel, Jonathan I. (Author)
Oxford University Press

The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making
Johns, Adrian (Author)
University of Chicago Press

Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis
Kershaw, Ian (Author)
W. W. Norton & Company

After the Ice: A Global Human History, 20,000–5000 BC
Mithen, Steven (Author)
Harvard University Press

A History of Medieval Spain (Cornell Paperbacks)
O'Callaghan, Joseph F. (Author)
Cornell University Press

The Machiavellian Moment: Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition
Pocock, John Greville Agard (Author)
Princeton University Press

Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb
Rhodes, Richard (Author)
Simon & Schuster

Family, Sex, and Marriage: 1500 To 1800
Stone, Lawrence (Author)
Penguin UK

Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity
Taylor, Charles (Author)
Harvard University Press

God’s War: A New History of the Crusades
Tyerman, Christopher (Author)
Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press

How to Kill a Dragon: Aspects of Indo-European Poetics
Watkins, Calvert (Author)
Oxford University Press

Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton (Cambridge Paperback Library)
Westfall, Richard S. (Author)
Cambridge University Press

History of the Goths
Wolfram, Herwig (Author), Dunlap, Thomas J. (Author)
University of California Press

Utopian Thought in the Western World (Belknap Press)
Manuel, Frank E. (Author), Manuel, Fritzie P. (Author)
Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press

The Mechanization of the World Picture: Pythagoras to Newton
Dijksterhuis, Eduard Jan (Author), Dikshoorn, C. (Translator)
Princeton University Press

4. Risky Books

Here are a group of books that take risks, either in advancing an original hypothesis, charting a new direction for research, or proposing an innovative methodology. Not everyone will agree with these authors, but readers will be struck by their creativity and daring and will be envious of their ability to take a path less traveled by.

Aztecs: An Interpretation
Clendinnen, Inga (Author)
Cambridge University Press

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind
Jaynes, Julian (Author), Jaynes, Julian (Author)
Mariner Books

Composers at Work: The Craft of Musical Composition 1450-1600
Owens, Jessie Ann (Author)
Oxford University Press

Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made
Genovese, Eugene D. (Author)

Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe
Boswell, John (Author)

The Anger of Achilles: Mênis in Greek Epic (Myth and Poetics)
Muellner, Leonard (Author)
Cornell University Press

From Scythia to Camelot (Arthurian Characters and Themes)
C. Scott Littleton (Author), Linda A. Malcor (Author)

The Elementary Structures of Kinship
Levi-Strauss, Claude (Author)
Beacon Press

Appendix: Richard Parmentier’s Books

I add these for convenience. –DBA

Signs in Society: Studies in Semiotic Anthropology (Advances in Semiotics)
Parmentier, Richard J. (Author)
Indiana University Press