As conservatives, unlike the left with its belief that material causation is all, we know that ideas have consequences. To gird for the battle of ideas, I recommend not only Richard Weaver’s 1948 classic by that title, but also Benjamin Wiker’s excellent companion volumes, Ten Books That Screwed Up the World (2008) and Ten Books Every Conservative Must Read (2010).
Centennial Institute brought Wiker to Denver for three lectures this week. He lit up the room every time—first with CCU students, then with donors and trustees, then with faculty and staff.
The titles on his bad list, actually 15 in all, include The Prince by Macchiavelli, Discourse on Method by Descartes, Leviathan by Hobbes, Inequality Among Men by Rousseau, Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels, Utilitarianism by Mill, Descent of Man by Darwin, Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzsche, State and Revolution by Lenin, Pivot of Civilization by Sanger, Mein Kampf by Hitler, Future of an Illusion by Freud, Coming of Age in Samoa by Mead, Sexual Behavior in the Human Male by Kinsey, and The Feminine Mystique by Friedan.
On Ben Wiker’s good list are another 15, though he terms the last one an impostor. They include The Politics by Aristotle, Orthodoxy by Chesterton, New Science of Politics by Voegelin, Abolition of Man by Lewis, Reflections on the Revolution in France by Burke, Democracy in America by Tocqueville, the Federalist Papers, the Anti–Federalist Papers, Servile State by Belloc, Road to Serfdom by Hayek, The Tempest by Shakespeare, Sense and Sensibility by Austen, Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, the Jerusalem Bible, and (coincidentally timed with the new movie just out) Atlas Shrugged by Rand.
Your turn now: Which books don’t belong where Wiker put them, and why? Which books would you add to the all–time bad list and all–time good list? Or on a more personal level, what are some titles that you would nominate as particularly magificent—or awful—because of what they have meant in your own life?
Let the games begin.
Benjamin Wiker at Colorado Christian University on April 15 lauding Jane Austen or excoriating Jean Jacques Rousseau; I forget which.