Canonical list of texts, across disciplines.

O'Regan, Emlyn (
Wed, 13 Oct 1999 17:34:10 +1000

Ladies & Jellybeans,

I came across the idea of a canonical list of texts a while back (on Transhumantech)? The idea is to set up a centralised database on the web, of reading lists for every conceivable discipline/science/area of interest. It would need to be updated by netizens as they saw fit; people with specific knowledge of a particular area would be able to add/update/criticize reading lists regarding their area(s) of specialty.

Anyone who has studied anything (bookish) has had the experience of finding useless books on subjects, finding mediocre books, and finding the essential
(canonical) texts to which one will refer as the final arbiter on that
subject. For instance, I have a shelf full of computer science & maths texts, some of which I cannot live without (in a professional sense).

What I find irritating is that when I want to move into a different field
(say physics), how do I begin? What is the definitive "introduction" book?
Where do I go from there. How about if I know a bit about waves/particles, and a bit of maths, what would be the best book(s) to get me up to speed on nuclear physics? Often, if you haven't gone into the subject in enough depth
(true by definition for the beginner), you don't even know what questions to
ask to find out where to start, so a web search for this hazy grail is incredibly lengthy and probably fruitless.

What would be useful is something like an annotated master catalog of university course reading lists. Sometimes the texts are inferior or hard to come by, but its a good approximation to a canonical texts list. Also I notice there are lists kicking around the net, but they seem quite specialised, and without much annotation (just a list of books).

Does anyone know if the canonical texts database exists? If so, where? If not, how close an approximation is out there?

Thanks all & sundry