Dangerous Books

August 8, 2006 | 10 books mentioned 4

coverThe conservative weekly Human Events has a new spin on the “most important books” list. The magzine rounded up some “conservative scholars and public policy leaders” to compile a list of the “Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries.” The list is more than a year old, but it was resurrected from obscurity when somebody posted it to the Netscape social news site, where some genuinely interesting conversation about the list has been taking place.

People love making book lists — sometimes I feel like half the posts on this blog are dedicated to them — but labeling books as dangerous treads some unfortunate ground. Clearly the compilers of this list are ideologically opposed to the books on the list, but labeling the books as “dangerous” implies that we have nothing to gain from reading books that diverge from our point of view or from reading books that helped inspire some of the worst events in recent history. That the list also lumps books like Mein Kampf together with The Feminine Mystique should also make people queasy. Here’s the top ten:

  1. The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels
  2. Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
  3. Quotations from Chairman Mao by Mao Tse-Tung
  4. The Kinsey Report by Alfred Kinsey
  5. Democracy and Education by John Dewey
  6. Das Kapital by Karl Marx
  7. The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
  8. The Course of Positive Philosophy by Auguste Comte
  9. Beyond Good and Evil by Freidrich Nietzsche
  10. General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money by John Maynard Keynes

I have to assume it wasn’t a mere oversight that Ann Coulter’s books didn’t make the list.

created The Millions and is its publisher. He and his family live in New Jersey.


  1. This is quite an intriguing list- I can understand the fear of Hitler or even Nietzsche, but John Dewey… who stated such "harmful" ideas in "Democracy and Education" as "the learning in school should be continuous with that out of school. There should be a free interplay between the two." -Or another "harmful" thought when addressing the nature of method in education Dewey demands,"Expressed in terms of the attitude of the individual the traits of good method are straight-fowardness, flexible intellectual interest or open-minded will to learn, integrity of purpose, and acceptance of responsiblity for the consequences of one's activity including thought."…gee now that's a really "harmful" notion….especially to the list writers who included Dewey's tome-

  2. The runner's up list is just as intriguing. I was surprised evil old Darwin didn't make the top 10. At least he was a runner-up for offering us science. And I guess Einstein's general theory of relativity didn't make the cut, since I guess, technically, it started out as a paper.

  3. Interesting post. Last week I calculated that the first editions of all these books would cost about $300,000, which is surprising since one typically assumes wealthy people skew conservative and wouldn't want the Communist Manifesto on their bookshelf.

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