Best Non-Fiction of the Century
Jude Wanniski
April 20, 1999


Memo To: William F. Buckley, Jr.
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Thanks to the National Review

What a pleasant surprise to find a jury of my peers selecting The Way the World Works as one of the most important non-fiction one hundred books of the Twentieth Century! There are so many people on your list of judges with whom I am not on speaking terms that I'm amazed I made the cut. Thanks to the National Review for beating Random House to the punch on this project and congratulations to you for making the cut yourself, deservedly so for God and Man at Yale.

It's of course a very interesting list, even if compiled solely by men and women of the right. (Or neither you nor I might have made the cut.) Of course if I were among the judges, I would have protested inclusion of the Starr Report and the Joy of Cooking, as devaluations of the coin. But there is enough C.S. Lewis and Hayek as counter-balance. To a political economist, Ludwig von Mises' magnum opus, Human Action, has to be one of the best of the century, yet it did not make the list while his lesser Bureaucracy did. Hmmm. I was also surprised at the 11th edition of the Britannica being selected, although I will not quibble. How could the judges have missed Will and Ariel Durant's majestic History of Civilization? I would also found a spot for Mein Kampf, which did have an impact on the politics of the century. One book I would have nominated is Risk, Uncertainty and Profit by Frank Knight, which derived from the doctoral thesis he wrote early in the century. It doesn't get much attention these days, but as I think the 21st century will see a restoration of individual risk-taking as the driving force of the global economy, Knight's theoretical breakthrough will finally enjoy its place in the sun.

I'm going to provide a link to your website here so those interested in seeing the top hundred can also make a bookmark for the NR. And I will invite our readers to come into the TalkShop and make recommendations to the list, off and on. Hopefully, our books will survive that test.