Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Books Are Dangerous

Patricia Storms is a cartoonist, graphic designer, bibliomaniac, recovering peanut butter addict who is currently being creative in Toronto, Canada. Her cartoon shows how books can be dangerous. Check out the rest of her creative work.

On her web log, she lists a compilation of "The Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries." The list was put together by a panel of 15 scholars at the request of the website Human Events Online. This is the list they came up with:

The Communist Manifesto
- Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels
Mein Kampf - Adolf Hitler
Quotations from Chairman Mao - Mao Zedong
The Kinsey Report - Alfred Kinsey
Democracy and Education - John Dewey
Das Kapital - Karl Marx
The Feminine Mystique - Betty Friedan
The Course of Positive Philosophy - Auguste Comte
Beyond Good and Evil - Freidrich Nietzsche
General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money - John Maynard Keynes

Honorable Mentions:
On Liberty - John Stuart Mill
Beyond Freedom and Dignity - B.F. Skinner
Origin of the Species - by Charles Darwin
Coming of Age in Samoa - Margaret Mead
Unsafe at Any Speed - Ralph Nader
Second Sex - Simone de Beauvoir
Silent Spring - Rachel Carson

This is quite a diverse list and although these are not necessarily banned or challenged books, the list brought a lot of questions to mind.

In what ways are these books dangerous? Though some of these book undoubtedly contain ideas that if followed can be harmful to society or to a segment of society, could the book alone be the source of problems or do the ideas reflect a philosophy ripe for a following? Could the books alone, without the charisma of Hitler, for example, be taken seriously?

Have some of the books' ideas been imposed through an oppressive regime and how has that influenced our view of the books?

Should most of these books be availabe to anyone? to everyone? How would you decide who should have access? Who would be the "keeper" of these books who decided who could take them out?

What do you think about the right of a bookstore, especiallly a large chain that refuses to keep any or all of these titles in stock or to place an order at the request of a customer?

Are there valuable lessons we can learn by reading these "dangerous" books? What are the consequences of not knowing the perspectives put forward in these books, if any?

Are there books on the list that surprise you? Why?


Rebecca said...

Ahhh.. that list! It was a list put together by a number of right-wing, conservative pundits who are naturally wary of things like feminism and liberty.

fahrenheit451moderator said...

I think I would rather know what "dangerous" people are thinking than not, if indeed ALL of these people can be lumped together as dangerous.