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Richard Wolin's Top Book Recommendations

Want to know what books Richard Wolin recommends on their reading list? We've researched interviews, social media posts, podcasts, and articles to build a comprehensive list of Richard Wolin's favorite book recommendations of all time.


In Paris in 1954, a young man named André Baudry founded Arcadie, an organization for “homophiles” that would become the largest of its kind that has ever existed in France, lasting nearly thirty years. In addition to acting as the only public voice for French gays prior to the explosion of radicalism of 1968, Arcadie—with its club and review—was a social and intellectual hub, attracting support from individuals as diverse as Jean Cocteau and Michel Foucault and offering support and solidarity to thousands of isolated individuals. Yet despite its huge importance, Arcadie...

Recommended by Richard Wolin, and 1 others.

Richard WolinThis book is by an English historian and it is an important story about the prologue to sexual liberation in France. It has to do with a small and elite homosexual social club called Arcadie. Foucault was invited to speak there in the 1970s and generously donated his fee to charity. This is a very well-written book which is wonderfully researched. The protagonist, who is now in his late 80s, is a... (Source)

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The Black Book of Communism

Crimes, Terror, Repression

Already famous throughout Europe, this international bestseller plumbs recently opened archives in the former Soviet bloc to reveal the actual, practical accomplishments of Communism around the world: terror, torture, famine, mass deportations, and massacres. Astonishing in the sheer detail it amasses, the book is the first comprehensive attempt to catalogue and analyze the crimes of Communism over seventy years.

"Revolutions, like trees, must be judged by their fruit," Ignazio Silone wrote, and this is the standard the authors apply to the Communist experience--in the China of...
Recommended by Richard Wolin, and 1 others.

Richard WolinYes, this is really the leitmotif of my study too which has to do with the disillusionment with Utopianism and the way the hard realities about real existing Communism hit home in the late 60s and early 70s and the transition of the generation of student radicals from ultra left attitudes to becoming advocates of social movements, civil society and human rights activists. (Source)

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Jean-Luc Godard's early films revolutionized the language of cinema. Hugely prolific in his first decade--"Breathless, Contempt, Pierrot le Fou, Alphaville," and" Made in USA "are just a handful of the seminal works he directed--Godard introduced filmgoers to the generation of stars associated with the trumpeted sexuality of postwar movies and culture: Brigitte Bardot, Jean Seberg, Jean-Paul Belmondo, and Anna Karina. As the sixties wore on, however, Godard's life was transformed. The Hollywood he had idolized began to disgust him, and in the midst of the socialist ferment in France his... more
Recommended by Richard Wolin, and 1 others.

Richard WolinWhen one looks back over the history of French Nouvelle Vague or New Wave there are so many outstanding figures: Truffaut, Rohmer, Rivette, Chabrol. They have had a formidable impact but Godard was really the wunderkind and representative of the group. This year is the 50th anniversary of Breathless and there is a major reconsideration of his work. (Source)

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The Lives of Michel Foucault

When he died of an AIDS-related condition in 1984, Michel Foucault had become the most influential French philosopher since the end of World War II. His powerful studies of the creation of modern medicine, prisons, psychiatry, and other methods of classification have had a lasting impact on philosophers, historians, critics, and novelists the world over. But as public as he was in his militant campaigns on behalf of prisoners, dissidents, and homosexuals, he shrouded his personal life in mystery.

In The Lives of Michel Foucault — written with the full cooperation of Daniel...
Recommended by Richard Wolin, Gary Gutting, and 2 others.

Richard WolinYes, I placed this on my list because when Macey published this book in the early 1990s there were a lot of competing biographies on Foucault by people like James Miller and Didier Eribon in France. Foucault led a bold life in many regards, which one can’t say of all philosophers and thinkers. They are often much more monastically inclined. And the other biographies are very good but I think... (Source)

Gary GuttingMacey cites a much deeper issue: Foucault had a horror of any fixed identity. (Source)

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The Words

Jean-Paul Sartre's famous autobiography of his first ten years has been widely compared to Rousseau's Confessions. Written when he was fifty-nine years old, The Words is a masterpiece of self-analysis. Sartre the philosopher, novelist and playwright brings to his own childhood the same rigor of honesty and insight he applied so brilliantly to other authors. Born into a gentle, book-loving family and raised by a widowed mother and doting grandparents, he had a childhood which might be described as one long love affair with the printed word. Ultimately, this book explores and evaluates the... more
Recommended by Eva Hoffman, Richard Wolin, and 2 others.

Eva HoffmanThe Words is a memoir of Sartre’s childhood. It takes him up to the age of 10, and it is a brilliant piece of self-analysis. (Source)

Richard WolinThis is his autobiography and is a wonderful example of Sartre’s excellence as a prose writer. It brims with self-knowledge and self-criticism too. (Source)

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