Nassim Taleb's Favorite Books

The “Black Swan”-author Nassim Nicolas Taleb have published a list of his favorite books on his home page. It’s an  interesting collection, and every one is well worth reading. Check out the list.

“I am often asked by journalists for a list of my favorite books – I don’t know what “favorite” means for a journalist.”

Nassim Nicolas Taleb


“I am often asked by journalists for a list of my favorite books – I don’t know what “favorite” means for a journalist. I treat books as friends; you miss them when you don’t see them for a while,” professor Taleb writes in a new post.

“As with friendship; you do not judge friends, you do not mix business and friendship. I even physically separate literature from more functional books (different libraries).  I feel I am corrupting literature by having scientific or the philistinic “nonfiction” in the same area.”

“Perhaps the best test of one’s appreciation for a novel is whether one craves it at times, enough to reread it,” Mr. Taleb suggest.

“Rereading a novel is far more enjoyable than reading it for the first time. Many I have read more than twice, some (like Il deserto dei tartari, un taxi mauve, Paulina 1881), more than five times.”

“Up to the age of 25, you read wholesale & in a mercenary way, to “acquire” a possession, to build a “literary culture” and  do not tend to re-read except when necessary.”

“After 25, you lose your hang-up and start re-reading –and it is precisely what you re-read that reveals your literary soul –  what you like,” Taleb concludes.

Here’s Nassim Taleb’s Favorite Books:

(Written after 1900)

* Dino Buzzati Il deserto dei tartari ( As a child, I viewed the world into two types of people: those who read the deserto and were therefore marked by it, and the rest. Francois Mitterand, who was not my cup of tea, seduced me when on the literary panel Apostrophes he went on and on passionately talking about the book –“j’ai été marqué par ce livre”, he said, his eyes gleaming).

* Albert Cohen Belle du seigneur (A Proust, but with a Levantine soul and personal manners, and aggressively heterosexual. )

* Valdimir Nabokov Marenshka, his (first?) novel, when he was an exile in Berlin, before he became complicated. I reread & reread the final scene.

* Patrick Modiano Villa triste (“Je m’attachais à elle comme un noyé”).

* Graham Greene The End of the Affair

* Michel Déon Un taxi mauve (I’ve read it six times; people tell me he is a médiocre writer –I don’t know what médiocre means)

* Graham Greene The Burnt-Out Case

* Louis-Ferdinand Céline Voyage au bout de la nuit

* Marcel Proust A l’ombre des jeunes filles en fleurs (The second book)

* Marcel Proust Albertine disparue (Proust is more limpid towards the middle/end)

* Pierre-Jean Jouve Paulina 1881 (I never understood why I keep reading it)

* Julian Barnes Flaubert’s Parrot

* Thomas Mann Death in Venice

* Thomas Mann The Magic Mountain

* Andre Breton Najda

* Alessandro Barrico, Seta

* W. Somerset Maugham The Razor’s Edge

* George Orwell Keep the Aspidistra Flying

* Marguerite Yourcenar, Mémoires d’Hadrien ( Animula, vagula, blandula / hospes comesque corporis / quæ nunc abibis in loca / pallidula, rigida, nudula / nec, ut soles, dabic jocos” ).

* André Malraux La condition humaine

* Robert Graves I Claudius

* André Maurois Climats

* Maurice Barrès La colline inspirée . Barrès is the finest French prose, emotional, unhindered with intellectualism, grand, ambitious, incantatory, uninhibited. In a way like Malraux, but without the show-off, he does not try to impress you as much. [There is nothing wrong for a writer to show-off; when he has charm…]

* Dino Buzzati Un amore, the story (no doubt autobiographical) of a refined and cultured man who falls in love (beyond the point of relinquishing his dignity) with a dancer & occasional prostitute. [I recently discovered that Buzzati actually married her & that she is still alive in Milan]

* Alain-Fournier Le grand maulnes

* Lawrence Durell Justine

* Ernest Hemingway The Sun Also Rises

* Anita Brookner Hotel du Lac

* Gregor von Rezzori Memoirs of an Antisemite

* Lawrence Durell Cléa

* John Steinbeck Tortilla Flat

* Italo Svevo Una vita

* Jorje Luis Borges, Ficciones

* Elsa Morante La storia

* Nina Berberova The Tattered Cloak & other stories

* Amin Maalouf Léon l’africain (“ils etaient amis en silence”)

* Elias Canetti Auto-da-fé

* Alain de Botton How Proust Can Change Your Life

* Graham Greene Travels with my Aunt

* Milan Kundera The Unbearable Lightness of Being

* Milan Kundera Immortality

* Alberto Moravia La noia

* Alberto Moravia La Romana

* John Kennedy Toole A Confederacy of Dunces

* Franz Kafka Amerika

* Arthur Conan Doyle All the Sherlock Holmes stories. The good thing is that it is easy to forget the plot.

* Romain Gary Lady L

* E. M. Forster Howard’s End

* Kazio Ishiguro The Remains of the Day

* Robert Musil The Man Without Qualities(Vol 1)

* Henry de Montherlant Les jeunes filles

* Witold Gombrowicz, Ferdyduke


Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s Home Page


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0 thoughts on “Nassim Taleb's Favorite Books

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