Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Top 20 Books You Must Read Before You Die

Yesterday, I discovered my first new "best" or "worst" book list in a long while from the Australian Institute of Public Affairs. The list is titled "Top 20 Books You Must Read Before You Die".

The organisation describes itself as "Australia's leading free market think tank", which will sound unpromising for any except free-market advocates. However, compared with previous book lists by Human Events and The Intercollegiate Studies Institute, it seems even moderate at times.

Two of the books in its list have been condemned by these organisations. In fact, in an e-mail a few years ago, a colleague of my brother wondered why several Human Events judges saw On Liberty as one of the ten most harmfull books of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

On the other hand, both Democracy in America and Reflections on the Revolution in France were included by Human Events in their Ten Books Every Student Should Read in College, and several other books on the IPA list are as libertarian as Mises or Rothbard or Hoppe. Nozick's Anarchy, State and Utopia makes me wonder just how "Austrian" they are. Another interesting feature is a book by Milton Friedman's lesser-known brother and two books that provide a look at Australian history. Of the books in the Intercollegiate Studies Institute's 50 best list, none are present, even though John Paul II's encyclical Centesimus Annus and Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged are included. The very inclusion of Rand, viewed by devout Catholics as an "Architect of the Culture of Death", futher distances this list from Human Events or the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

Whilst lists can never fail to interest me, I cannot say this one will make me buy anything - or even consider it. It is still no mean read because the writer know what they want and argue very well.

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