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.
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.
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.
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.
Appendix: Richard Parmentier’s Books
I add these for convenience. –DBA