The 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:
- The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels
- Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler
- Quotations from Chairman Mao by Mao Tse-Tung
- The Kinsey Report by Alfred Kinsey
- Democracy and Education by John Dewey
- Das Kapital by Karl Marx
- The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
- The Course of Positive Philosophy by Auguste Comte
- Beyond Good and Evil by Freidrich Nietzsche
- 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.