What book do you wish had never been written?

The Argument


February 22, 2004

Craig Eisendrath

One of the most damaging books in history was Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf, which in the early 1920s proclaimed Hitler's anti-Semitism, worship of power and strategy for world domination. Once in power, Hitler and his party, guided by this book, established the National Socialist regime, which led to the concentration camps and World War II.

Craig Eisendrath wrote At War With Time: Western Thought From the Sages to the 21st Century and The Unifying Moment: The Psychological Philosophy of William James and Alfred North Whitehead. His next book, Bush League Diplomacy: How the Neoconservatives Are Putting the World at Risk will be published next month.

John E. McIntyre

So many choices to winnow -- Little Women, Jay McInerney's oeuvre, presidential memoirs -- but winnow we must. Two choices: on moral grounds, Mein Kampf; on aesthetic grounds, Atlas Shrugged.

John E. McIntyre is The Sun's assistant managing editor / copy desk, president of the American Copy Editors Society, quondam English major.

Michael Olesker

Mein Kampf: Less a book than a curse on the whole human race.

Michael Olesker is a metro columnist for The Sun whose most recent book, Journeys to the Heart of Baltimore, was published by the Johns Hopkins University Press.

Terry Teachout

I doubt that mass murder can be blamed, however peripherally, on very many books (Mein Kampf was less a cause than a symptom), but if ever a book were written that inspired the piling up of corpses, it was Karl Marx's Das Kapital. Tens of millions of innocents were killed -- and continue to be killed -- in Marx's name, and whether or not the killers took it in vain, the indelible fact remains that the world would be a far less bloody place if that mad altruist had never been born and his well-intentioned book never written.

Terry Teachout, the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal and the music critic of Commentary, is the author of The Skeptic: A Life of H.L. Mencken, now out in paperback from Perennial. A Terry Teachout Reader, a collection of his essays, will be published by Yale University Press in May.

Dan Rodricks

Perhaps Tolstoy's huge literary masterpiece, War and Peace, should never have been published because it forces us to spend our whole adult lives feeling guilty about not having read it.

Dan Rodricks is a longtime columnist for The Sun and winner of the 2002 National Headliners Award for local-interest commentary. He was host of his own TV show in Baltimore for four years, and a radio show for seven. He has performed lead roles with the Young Victorian Theater Company. To fashion this response, he consulted with his "older, wiser and better-read brother, Joseph V. Rodricks, Ph.D."

Carla Hayden

Little Black Sambo is the book that I most wish had never been written because of its influence on children's literature and the perpetuation of negative stereotypes for generations.

Carla Hayden, Ph.D., is executive director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library and a former children's librarian.

Dan Fesperman

How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie. Although this field manual of glad-handing Babbittry preaches the virtues of sincerity (for personal gain, of course), no other volume has done more to promote grinning insincerity, corporate toadyism and layoffs-with-a-smile. But its greatest sin may have been its role in creating the self-help genre, which plagues us still.

Staff writer Dan Fesperman has covered three wars for The Sun, including the fighting in Afghanistan in late 2001, and was a correspondent in Berlin for the paper. His latest novel, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows, recently won Britain's Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for the best thriller of 2003.

Lisa Simeone

I'm OK -- You're OK, by Thomas Harris. Once this book appeared in 1967, the psychobabble floodgates were open. Most Americans now not only think they're experts on everyone else and engage in fatuous "analysis" of their peers, they also think they're "OK," even when they're not.

Lisa Simeone is the host of National Public Radio's World of Opera and the weekly TV show on foreign affairs, Superpower. Her 20-year career in radio and TV includes reporting for cultural, news and public-affairs programs, and acting as host for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. She lives in Baltimore.

Steve Weinberg

Any of Joyce Carol Oates' novels. Many literary types dismiss Oates' novels: How can anybody so prolific be considered great? But I have read almost all, starting with Them. Then I experience nightmares for weeks on end.

Steve Weinberg is a 35-year veteran of investigative reporting for newspapers, magazines and book publishers. His 1992 book about the craft of biography, Telling the Untold Story, is still in print from the University of Missouri Press. He browses so many periodicals that he carries around a master list to keep track of which issue he read most recently.

Joan Mellen

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