Time to burn some books

Matt Sinclair asks for book recommendations for his Christmas holiday travelling. I've given some suggestions here.

I happened to come across the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's list of Fifty Best and Fifty Worst Books. Now, I don't know what this organisation is or what it does, but its library appears only to have 49 books as it considers The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley to be the fiftieth worst book and fiftieth best book of all time. The citation for the entry as fiftieth worst is: “
By any means necessary”? No, violence was not, and is not, the answer.
The entry for the fiftieth best, however, is:
The spiritual journey of a sensitive and intelligent man who had to wrestle with his own demons and contradictions while battling the condescension of paternalist
liberals and the enervating effects of the welfare state on his people.
I can't quite square the circle. I know Malcolm X is controversial, but being able to dismiss his life with "no ... not [the] answer" doesn't sit with describing him as "sensitive and intelligent". Had this been the fifty most dangerous books of all time (even from a conservative's point of view) it would be rather different, but this is looking for books that can only be described with the superlative of bad. I can't help but hear someone reaching for the matches to start a good book-burning.

The National Conservative Weekly lists the Ten Most Harmful Books - harmful, not bad. Some of the books on there I can understand - this is a conservative publication, and so Marx's Capital and the Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels are to be predicted, and very few would dispute the inclusion of Mein Kampf. Keynes' General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money is also unsurprising. The Kinsey Report is also there; the major problem cited is that:
The report ... said that 37% of adult males had had at least one homosexual experience.
which it puts alongside saying that sexual relationships between adults and children could be beneficial. I think comparing homosexuality to paedophilia, as the National Conservative Weekly does, is indicative of how far we have to move things in the US. I will leave it at that and save venting my spleen.

The NCW report includes some honorable mentions that are unsurpising - Gramsci, Darwin, the Webbs and Ralph Nader are mentioned. I would say here that I think the reason for the inclusion of On the Origin of Species and the Descent of Man is that they made people think about God in the same way that the Kinsey Report made people think about sexuality and challenge the beliefs of their forbears. The very idea, it would seem, that there is a person somewhere who works hard, pays their taxes, gives to charity and is generally good is horrifying and a cause for moral outrage if that person loves someone of the same gender or doesn't believe in God or, horror of horrors! is gay and atheist.

Perhaps not that surprising - one of the books included is On Liberty by John Stuart Mill. They could have chosen utilitarianism, but instead chose to say that the right exists to interfere with another even if they're doing no harm to you.

Two things before I sign off - I own books on the 50 best list from the MMICI (Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars and Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy). Secondly, Matt is lovely and in no way part of the stereotype above - his post just set me thinking.



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