Marie Kondo, the Japanese television star of Tiding Up with Marie Kondo (Netflix), wrote in her book The Changing Magic of Tidying Up – ‘I now keep my collection of books to about thirty volumes at any one time’. The phrase was misquoted on social media, as if she had implied that one should only have thirty books. That was not what she wrote. But it got us thinking: what are the thirty books that have most influenced us?

There’s the perennial ‘desert island’ challenge. What is the one book that you would take if you were to be stuck for the rest of your life on an island? We typically answer – Karl Marx, Capital. But that is not the only book that influenced us. We decided to follow Marie Kondo’s advice and each pick thirty books that influenced us. This is the 20th anniversary of LeftWord Books – so our temptation is to pick books that we have published over these years. But that’s cheating. So instead, we have produced two lists, uneven and unkempt, untidy – to borrow Marie Kondo’s words.

Have we missed books? Surely. These are only non-fiction work, and these are those available in English. There are books in other languages that deeply impacted us – such as Namvar Singh’s Doosri Parampara Ki Khoj, Jyotirao Phule’s Gulamgiri, and Carmen Lyra’s Bananos y hombres. And there are novels that have shaped our separate sense of who we would like to become – such as Tolstoy’s Resurrection, Premchand’s short stories and Haifa Zangana’s prison books.

But that’s all very well. We made these lists. We also decided to not repeat a book from each other’s lists which took some doing as there are multiple books that could have easily found a place in both the lists. Hope they are useful in some way for you.

Vijay’s list

  1. Aijaz Ahmad, In Theory.
  2. Anabel Hernandez, Narcoland.
  3. Angela Davis, An Autobiography.
  4. Antonio Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks.
  5. BR Ambedkar, Annihilation of Caste.
  6. Che Guevara, Man and Socialism in Cuba.
  7. CLR James, Beyond a Boundary.
  8. Eduardo Galeano, Open Veins in Latin America.
  9. EMS Namboodiripad, Mahatma and His Ism.
  10. Fawaz Turki, The Disinherited. Journal of a Palestinian Exile.
  11. Fidel Castro, Biography with Two Voices.
  12. Frantz Fanon, Wretched of the Earth.
  13. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Solitude of Latin America.
  14. Hanna Batatu, The old social classes and the revolutionary movements of Iraq.
  15. John Berger, Ways of Seeing.
  16. John Reed, Ten Days That Shook the World.
  17. José Carlos Mariátegui, Seven Interpretive Essays on Peruvian Reality.
  18. Karl Marx, Capital.
  19. Karl Marx and Fredrich Engels, Communist Manifesto.
  20. Kwame Nkrumah, Neo-Colonialism.
  21. Lenin, Selected Works.
  22. Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine.
  23. P. Sainath, Everybody Loves a Good Drought.
  24. Paul Sweezy and Paul Baran, Monopoly Capital.
  25. Rosa Luxemburg, The Accumulation of Capital.
  26. Ruth First, The Barrel of a Gun: Political Power in Africa and the Coup d’etat in Africa.
  27. Ryszard Kapuscinski, Travels with Herodotus.
  28. Samir Amin, Accumulation on a World Stage.
  29. Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa.
  30. WEB Du Bois, Black Reconstruction in America.

Sudhanva’s list

  1. Amilcar Cabral, National Liberation and Culture.
  2. Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Cultural Writings
  3. Ariel Dorfman, How to Read Donald Duck.
  4. Augusto Boal, Theatre of the Oppressed.
  5. B.R. Ambedkar, Riddles in Hinduism.
  6. Bertolt Brecht, The Messingkauf Dialogues.
  7. D.D. Kosambi, An Introduction to the Study of Indian History.
  8. D.P. Chattopadhyay, Lokayat.
  9. Dario Fo, Tricks of the Trade.
  10. Donald Norman, The Design of Everyday Things.
  11. E.M.S. Namboodiripad, History of Indian Freedom Struggle.
  12. Fidel Castro, History Will Absolve Me.
  13. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, The Fragrance of Guava.
  14. Irfan Habib, Agrarian System of Mughal India.
  15. Isadora Duncan, My Life
  16. Joe Sacco, Palestine.
  17. Liu Shaoqui, Three Essays on Party Building.
  18. Mao Zedong, On Contradiction.
  19. Maria Montessori, The Discovery of the Child.
  20. Naomi Klein, No Logo.
  21. Ngugi Wa Thiongo, Decolonising the Mind.
  22. Oliver Sacks, Awakenings.
  23. Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
  24. Peter Brook, The Empty Space.
  25. Prasanna, Indian Method in Acting.
  26. Robert Penn, It’s All About the Bike.
  27. Romila Thapar, Shakuntala.
  28. Rosa Luxemburg, Reform or Revolution.
  29. Shanta Gokhale, Playwright at the Centre.
  30. Stephen Jay Gould, Beautiful Life.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *