Tuesday, June 14, 2005

One of the Ten Most Harmful Books

Via the marvellous Isabella at Magnificent Octopus, a link to the commentary on the "Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries" as chosen by Human Events, The National Conservative Weekly. I don't have a link to the original list. says:
Only one of the books on the list -- Adolph Hitler's Mein Kampf -- has a direct body count attached to it, but even with millions left dead in its wake, the academics who devised the list still deemed it only the second most harmful book of the past 200 years. It was beaten out by Marx and Engels' The Communist Manifesto, which suggests that, given the choice, conservatives would prefer to face the gas chamber than pay workers a fair wage.

The rest of the list can be evenly divided into pinko handbooks (Quotations from Chairman Mao; Das Kapital; General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money), feminist/sex ed. texts (The Kinsey Report, The Feminine Mystique) and books that suggest God may just be an imaginary dude with a big beard (Democracy and Education, The Course of Positive Philosophy, Beyond Good and Evil).
The post has a casual tone which is sort of infectious. But, while in our era Communism may seem broken and anachronistic, it's ignorant or disingenuous to discount the harm caused in earlier times by "pinkos." Authors often do not foresee the uses to which their words will be bent. The Manifesto was brandished by generations of leaders who in its name unleashed a nightmare of vicious murders - even of hundreds of thousands of those workers whose nobility it limned - and widespread starvation and destruction of livelihoods and cultures. Perhaps the person mocking its inclusion is too young to remember. proposed its own alternate set of harmful books including:
The Pet Goat, Siegfried Engelmann and Elaine Bruner: This heartwarming story of a boy and his goat is so insidiously mesmerizing that it kept George W. Bush transfixed for a full seven minutes after learning that the first plane had hit the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
I've been staring out the window trying to figure out what a list of Ten Most Harmful Books to me would contain. At this moment, the only one that comes to mind is Jane Smiley's The Greenlanders, because I found that book so demoralizing and inexorably pessimistic that after I read it I thought it was pointless to go on and found even taking a shower to be barely worth the effort.

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At 2:36 PM, Anonymous Lynn S said...

I can't believe some people are still obsessing over The Seven Minutes. Sheesh! There are so many things wrong with that I hardly know where to begin. It doesn't matter; nobody would listen anyway.

At 10:47 PM, Blogger Isabella said...

FYI, original list here:

Although summaries of the books chosen are provided, no reasoning is given for their inclusion.


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