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Memoirs of a Superfluous Man

4.27  ·  Rating Details ·  121 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
Memoirs of a Superfluous Man By Albert Jay Nock 1994 Paperback
Paperback, 326 pages
Published March 1st 1994 by Hallberg Pub Corp (first published 1943)
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Jul 18, 2015 Nostalgebraist rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfic-misc
Hard to know how to rate this. It's well-written, and it's pretty interesting as a historical document (Albert Jay Nock was a significant proto-libertarian figure who influenced Ayn Rand among others). And taken solely as the rambling, genially cynical blather of an eccentric old codger, it's a lot of fun, although for me that sort of enjoyment ceased long before the book was over. But ultimately the book is repetitive, pompous, inane, and confused, and I can't imagine recommending that anyone ...more
Jan 08, 2010 Matthew rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: cantankerous old coots
Recommended to Matthew by: my father
Shelves: politics
This is a book of ideas that loosely relate to the life of Albert Jay Nock, a libertarian writer, man of letters and prophet of doom. A fairly private man, his memoirs were pretty barebones. He doesn't say anything about his wife and children, nor does he mention his time as an Episcopal priest. He talks about his childhood and education, growing up at the dawn of the 20th century. He talks about his publications, books he read and his opinions on war, women's liberation and politics.
There wer
Sep 30, 2012 Kwame rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A powerful book. As my dad would say "This is some heavy shit, potna, you ain't ready for this bwoh. This is grown folks reading, rookie" lol. Nook deemed himself superfluous because he did couldn't accommodate his mind to the interest of the gross national product or the purposes of the nation state. A self-educated man, raised in Brooklyn and fond of dictionaries, Nook acquired the habit of reading Greek and Latin at the age of eight. His memoir is less an account of his life than it is a ...more
Nov 19, 2012 Jeremy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition


Every person of any intellectual quality develops some sort of philosophy of existence.

Whatever a man may do or say, the most significant thing about him is what he thinks.

One of the most offensive things about the society in which I later found myself was its monstrous itch for changing people.

As a French writer lately remarked, American society is the only one which has passed directly from barbarism into decadence without once knowing civilisation.

When the sanctions of law, religion an
May 18, 2013 JP rated it it was amazing
This is one of my absolute favorites. Nock is the self-educated man who thinks with logic, seeks importance, and acts, within his environment, on that which is important; and he is an elitist. Nock learned Greek and Latin on his own with limited direction from his father. He describes the law of diminishing returns in education: "Socrates chatting with a single protagonist meant one thing, and well did he know it. Socrates lecturing to a class of fifty would mean something woefully different, so ...more
Aug 24, 2013 DROPPING OUT rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can I give a book ten stars? I guess not, but if I could, this book would merit eleven!

I must thank Seth for recommending this to me last year. I bought a copy (Ludwig von Mises Institute, 2007) and began reading it last evening. Seth, I cannot thank you sufficiently.

Albert Jay Nock (1873-1945) was a maverick journalist who willingly called himself a "radical," meaning he favored a return to individual responsibility and liberty, as opposed to "statism" (as espoused, in his day, by President Roo
Sep 30, 2012 Ronald rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book should be required reading before any American is permitted to vote or run for office. At bottom it is about human nature and the mistakes of people and governments which cannot or will not see things as they are. Being slightly uneducated, I had never heard of the guy until last year while reading Barzun's "From Dawn to Decadence." You can look him up on Wikipedia to read his biography and a list of his writings. All I can say is the book was great and defies traditional labels ...more
Fred R
Apr 27, 2011 Fred R rated it it was ok
At first I enjoyed it as fresh old Americana, but the precious tone soon began to wear on me. Nock has the over-confident egotism of an auto-didact, and his general pronouncements seem to me almost entirely lacking in merit. It is fine to point out that the State grows by swallowing up Society, but when you wish to tear down Society as well, your position becomes, for me, merely frivolous.

I endorse his position on education (that all are not equally equipped for its demands), but he is even too
Roman Skaskiw
Feb 21, 2016 Roman Skaskiw rated it it was amazing
A nuanced sensibility and profound critique of education, government and society. I think I understand his pessimism and intellectual isolation. A beautiful book from the most well read person I've ever encountered.

I loved this book so much that I ended up talking about it for almost three hours. Check it out:

Zachary Moore
Sep 30, 2012 Zachary Moore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Nock's memoirs are an engagingly written series of observations of life in the early 20th century that are sure to provoke much thought. I found him a bit too pessimistic about the possibility of human improvement but I agree that human improvement is largely a matter of individual initiative. I also found his discussion of religion to be almost entirely in agreement with my own views on the subject.
Jörn Dinkla
Jul 03, 2015 Jörn Dinkla rated it really liked it
Shelves: politics, biographies
Very interesting book about life, philosophy, political thought and culture in the USA from 1880 to 1943. I lived my whole live in germany and it is very interesting for me to get first hand information about the history of the USA. This makes so much more sense than the story that is told in the mainstream media (that it is a pure capitalistic country). Sometimes the book is a little tedious, but overall it is a must read.
Nov 12, 2012 Heather rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading the Kindle version.
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Apr 09, 2012
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Jan 12, 2015 Ian rated it it was amazing
A life-changing book. Perhaps the best thing I read in 2014.
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“Another strange notion pervading whole peoples is that the State has money of its own; and nowhere is this absurdity more firmly fixed than in America. The State has no money. It produces nothing. It existence is purely parasitic, maintained by taxation; that is to say, by forced levies on the production of others. “Government money,” of which one hears so much nowadays, does not exist; there is no such thing.” 8 likes
“the State is everything; the individual, nothing. The individual has no rights that the State is bound to respect; no rights at all, in fact, except those which the State may choose to give him, subject to revocation at its own pleasure, with or without notice. There is no such thing as natural rights; the fundamental doctrine of the American Declaration of Independence, the doctrine underlying the Bill of Rights, is all moonshine. Moreover, since the State creates all rights, since the only valid and authoritative ethics are State ethics, then by obvious inference the State can do no wrong.” 3 likes
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