June 06, 2005
Dangerous Books
Posted by Christine Hurt

Several weeks ago, Ann Althouse linked to the Ten Most Dangerous Books List.  As you can see, the authors of this list seem to have similar political/social/economic viewpoints.  This week, Kevin Drum promulgates a competing Ten Most Dangerous Books List, which seems to reflect an equal and opposite political/social/economic viewpoint.

I have a completely different thought.  Books aren't dangerous.  Maybe I feel about books the same way that others (not me) feel about guns.  A gun is a tool.  People can be dangerous, like Hitler and Mao were dangerous on the one hand and the Russian secret police on the other, but books aren't.

At the end of my Junior year in high school, we had to write an essay on what book we liked least in our English class.  I chose The Grapes of Wrath.  Even though I'm sort of a socialist hippie, I did not like the way that Steinbeck got to manipulate the story.  He had the power as author to make the government-run farms nice, clean, and more humane than the privately-owned farms.  If the book were a researched piece of nonfiction with cites, that would be fine with me, but I was uncomfortable with the manipulative power of unsupported narrative.  (I felt the same way reading Atlas Shrugged.)  However, I ended my essay by noting that the first time that I read it, I thought it was too dangerous to let people read, for instance, a child of mine.  Then I realized that banning dangerous books was not the answer.  More ideas were the answer.  I still believe that.

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