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
Jan Assmann Cornell University Press

The Arcades Project
Walter Benjamin Belknap Press

Society and the Holy in Late Antiquity
Peter Brown University of California Press

The Philosophy of the Enlightenment: Updated Edition
Ernst Cassirer Princeton University Press

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

The Masters of Truth in Archaic Greece
Marcel Detienne Zone Books

The Mediation of Ornament
Oleg Grabar Princeton University Press

Marvelous Possessions: The Wonder of the New World
Stephen Greenblatt University of Chicago Press

Language in Literature (Belknap Press)
Roman Jakobson Belknap Press

The King's Two Bodies
Ernst H. Kantorowicz Princeton University Press

On Representation
Louis Marin Stanford University Press

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

The Implications of Literacy
Brian Stock Princeton University Press

Myth and Tragedy in Ancient Greece
Jean-Pierre Vernant, Pierre Vidal-Naquet Zone Books

The Art of Memory
Frances A. Yates University of Chicago Press

The Black Hunter: Forms of Thought and Forms of Society in the Greek World
Pierre Vidal-Naquet Johns Hopkins University Press

Poetry as Performance: Homer and Beyond
Gregory Nagy Cambridge University Press

Orientalism
Edward W. Said Penguin Books

Analyzing Bach Cantatas
Eric Chafe Oxford University Press

Categories of Medieval Culture
A. J. Gurevich Routledge Kegan & Paul

Anatomy of Criticism: Four Essays (Collected Works of Northrop Frye, Volume 22)
Northrop Frye University of Toronto Press, Scholarly Publishing Division

Archaic Roman Religion
Professor Georges Dumézil The Johns Hopkins University Press

History of Madness
Michel Foucault Routledge


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
Ernst Cassirer, Mario Domandi University of Chicago Press

The Riddle of Nostradamus: A Critical Dialogue (Parallax: Re-visions of Culture and Society)
Professor Georges Dumézil The Johns Hopkins University Press

Darsan: Seeing the Divine Image in India
Diana Eck Columbia University Press

Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages
Umberto Eco Yale University Press

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

Byzantium: Revised Edition (British Museum Paperbacks)
Rowena Loverance Harvard University Press

Race Matters
Cornel West Beacon Press

The Many Faces of Realism (Paul Carus Lectures)
Hilary Putnam Open Court Publishing Company

The Origins of Greek Thought
Jean-Pierre Vernant Cornell University Press

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

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

Mental Illness and Psychology
Michel Foucault University of California Press

Metaphysical Song
Gary Tomlinson Princeton University Press

The Rise of Universities (Foundations of Higher Education)
Charles Homer Haskins Transaction Publishers

An Introduction to Legal Reasoning (Phoenix Books)
Edward H. Levi University Of Chicago Press

Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism
Erwin Panofsky 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.

Law, Sex, and Christian Society in Medieval Europe
James A. Brundage University of Chicago Press

Frege: Philosophy of Language, Second Edition
Michael Dummett Harvard University Press

Python
Joseph Fontenrose University of California Press

Traces on the Rhodian Shore
Clarence J. Glacken University of California Press

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

Hitler: 1936-1945 Nemesis
Ian Kershaw W. W. Norton & Company

The Reformation: A History
Diarmaid MacCulloch Penguin Books

After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC
Steven Mithen Harvard University Press

Stonehenge
John North Free Press

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

Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb
Richard Rhodes Simon & Schuster

Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity
Charles Taylor Harvard University Press

God's War: A New History of the Crusades
Christopher Tyerman Belknap Press

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

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

Malinowski: Odyssey of an Anthropologist, 1884–1920
Michael W. Young Yale University Press

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

The Growth of Biological Thought: Diversity, Evolution, and Inheritance
Ernst Mayr Belknap Press: An Imprint of Harvard University Press

Science of Mechanics in the Middle Ages
Marshall Clagett Univ of Wisconsin Pr

The Mechanization of the World Picture: Pythagoras to Newton
Eduard Jan Dijksterhuis 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
Inga Clendinnen Cambridge University Press

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

Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life
Steven Shapin, Simon Schaffer Princeton University Press

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

Galileo: Heretic
Pietro Redondi Princeton University Press

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

The Elementary Structures of Kinship
Claude Levi-Strauss Beacon Press

The Conquest of America: The Question of the Other
Tzvetan Todorov University of Oklahoma Press

Appendix: Richard Parmentier’s Books

I add these for convenience. –DBA

Signs and Society: Further Studies in Semiotic Anthropology
Richard J. Parmentier Indiana University Press