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Letters to a Young Contrarian [Paperback]

Christopher Hitchens
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Nov 2002 Letters to a Young...
In the book that he was born to write, provocateur and best-selling author Christopher Hitchens inspires future generations of radicals, gadflies, mavericks, rebels, angry young (wo)men, and dissidents. Who better to speak to that person who finds him or herself in a contrarian position than Hitchens, who has made a career of disagreeing in profound and entertaining ways.This book explores the entire range of "contrary positions"-from noble dissident to gratuitous pain in the butt. In an age of overly polite debate bending over backward to reach a happy consensus within an increasingly centrist political dialogue, Hitchens pointedly pitches himself in contrast. He bemoans the loss of the skills of dialectical thinking evident in contemporary society. He understands the importance of disagreement-to personal integrity, to informed discussion, to true progress-heck, to democracy itself. Epigrammatic, spunky, witty, in your face, timeless and timely, this book is everything you would expect from a mentoring contrarian.

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Letters to a Young Contrarian + The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Non-Believer + Hitch 22: A Memoir
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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; New edition edition (25 Nov 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465030335
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465030330
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 8 x 0.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 14,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was the author of Letters to a Young Contrarian, and the bestseller No One Left to Lie To: The Values of the Worst Family. A regular contributor to Vanity Fair, The Atlantic Monthly and Slate, Hitchens also wrote for The Weekly Standard, The National Review, and The Independent, and appeared on The Daily Show, Charlie Rose, The Chris Matthew's Show, Real Time with Bill Maher, and C-Span's Washington Journal. He was named one of the world's "Top 100 Public Intellectuals" by Foreign Policy and Britain's Prospect.

Product Description

Review

"Hitchens is expanding his influence, showing the next generation how to 'think independently'." - USA Today"

About the Author

Christopher Hitchens is a contributing editor to Vanity Fair. His numerous books include Letters to a Young Contrarian and Why Orwell Matters.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The ensuing pages represent my tentative acceptance of a challenge that was made to me in the early months of the year 2000. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
34 of 34 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Guidebook for thinking 15 Mar 2006
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME
Format:Paperback
In an earlier day [mine] it was Paul Goodman's "Growing Up Absurd." Today, it's Hitchens' "Letters." Hitchens demonstrates he's a worthy successor to Goodman's role as a mentor to young people. Goodman wrote at the height of protests over civil rights, race and gender equality and war in Viet Nam. Hitchens assaults various icons of this generation with skillful prose and deep insight. "Unthinking acceptance" is his chief target. He is always worth reading, even if you are in opposition with his conclusions. This series of "letters" to young people is Hitchens at his best. He seeks to respond to the query asking "how a radical or 'contrarian' life may be lived." His persistent theme is to question whatever "accepted wisdom" is encountered.
He opens with some definitions and explanations for his use of the unusual term "contrarian." Earlier terms, such as "dissenter," "iconoclast" and "freethinker" are generally applied to religious heretics. "Intellectual," coined during the Dreyfus Affair in France, retains a record of scornful judgment and is too limited. Hitchens prefers "contrarian" as helping the independent mind keeping focussed on "how it thinks" instead of "what it thinks." He reminds the young reader that maintaining independent thought is a lonely and essentially thankless task. In fact, he reminds us that if somebody expresses admiration for your insights, you're probably doing something wrong!
In this collection there are no polemics, no identified targets, no vituperation against individuals or institutions. The theme is encouragement of individual thinking and reflection. No particular issues are raised and examined. Instead, patterns of thinking and the actions taken are considered.
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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational 20 Aug 2005
Format:Hardcover
From the introduction of this book onwards, it is clear that Christopher Hitchens is extremely well read and can quote extensively to support his arguments. I found this inspirational, indeed probably more so than some of the arguments he puts forward. Not only did this book make me want to be more familiar with some of the texts he mentions (Zola and Orwell to name a few) but also to become better acquainted with Hitchens' own writing, since I suspect this is not one of his best works.
I liked the format of this book, which is one of a series of "Letters to a Young xyz" written by well-recognised authorities on the subject 'xyz'. Hitchens has used short chapters for each of his letters, which makes the book easy to read in short bursts and then reflect upon. Each chapter/letter picks up where the last one left off and Hitchens often refers to a reply to the previous letter, not included in the book, presenting a counter-argument or clarification. This works well.
I think this book will appeal to anyone despairing of the cult of celebrity and the globalization of the bland. It's a reader's read, enjoyable at a number of levels and worth re-reading during periods of existentialist doubt...
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14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I may not agree with all the conclusions that Mr Hitchens comes to, but, as he himself states, this is a book about how to think, not what to think. It gives courage to those who believe intellectual thought should not be left to politicians or professors in ivory towers, nor to the dogmatists of the left and right, but should be conducted by every day people so they can challenge the assumptions and truths constantly fed to us. Christopher Hitchens is intelligent and witty. Most of his examples are comments on his life and changing attitude and I look forward to reading more from this brilliant contrarian.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
A great idea from Hitchens (that's Christopher, not to be confused with Peter, his right-wing [...] younger brother). Challenging the youth of today to match the rebelliousness of his '60s youth, he poses questions around international issues with the intention of arousing our young people from their seeming complacency and acceptance of the new world global order. This is ideal for parents of the baby-boomer generation who are frustrated at their off-spring's unquestioning life-style and failure to see Che Guevara tee-shirts as anything more than fashion statements. Whether they can get their kids to read it is another matter. Revolt, damn you, revolt.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I wish I'd read it when I was younger 2 Dec 2012
By Guy
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is quite different from much of Hitchens' output. It's neither journalism nor polemic, but a very thoughtful book about what it means to be a 'Contrarian' and to challenge the status quo and conventional opinion, and why it is important to do so.

This is Hitchens, he of the erudite but meticulous and common-sense argument, so this certainly isn't a book on 'why everyone else is wrong'. It is a guide to how to challenge yourself and others to get to the nub of issues, written in the form of answering letters to an imaginary young reader who poses questions about how and why and when we should be 'Contrarian'. Hitchens answers with warmth, humour, and rigour. Even if you don't feel you need his guidance (he book can feel slightly patronising at times), it is an enjoyable read and raises and tries to answer various philisophical and moral challenges. Like most of Hitchens best writing (I'm aware many will disagree), it is valuable because his approach to the topic is level-headed, honest, and inquisitive.

A short, powerful book which simultaneously challenges us to question orthodoxies, and gives us the tools and encouragement to do so. I wish I had read it at nineteen when it was released, but I'm still glad I got around to it at thirty.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Maybe you'll be different after reading this.
It's great. The individual letters are each 5 or so pages long so it makes a good book to read before bed. Read more
Published 16 days ago by Mr. W. A. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiritn
A wonderful book leading to more books, from Hitchens, a brave soul who had the mettle to face life in all its challenges, headlong.
Published 8 months ago by scottishdude
5.0 out of 5 stars A mesmerising read
This book reminded me of one of Hitchen's thought "If you can speak, you can write." He certainly excels at both.
Published 12 months ago by Cachemoi
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing
An amazing book, as long as the 'young' reader has a good understanding of the world, its history and language.
Published 13 months ago by Matthew
5.0 out of 5 stars The Profound Sentence
For me, what marks out Christopher Hitchens as a writer is how, as I read his prose, I cannot help but find an abundance of profundity, with tutelage in each word or turn of phrase... Read more
Published 15 months ago by T. T. Rogers
4.0 out of 5 stars A very good synthesis of Hitchens
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I am only recently acquainted with Hitchens' work, but I consider this to be a worthy starting point for anyone wishing to understand the... Read more
Published 15 months ago by F. Preo
5.0 out of 5 stars A Promethean Guidebook
Brilliant essay written in the form of a series of letters. I first came across Hitchens through his writings for the magazine, Vanity Fair and have been a keen listener since. Read more
Published 18 months ago by demola
1.0 out of 5 stars George Galloway owned Hitchens
This book should have been hundreds of pages of apologies for all the crimes against humanity that the smug neo-conservative Christopher Hitchens supported. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Zero
5.0 out of 5 stars At once indignant and intellectual in Hitchens' now inimitable style.
In this book Hitchens writes on themes of dissent, skepticism, stoicism, revolution, reason and principle. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Neil
5.0 out of 5 stars But what happens when the young contrarian grows older?...
Christopher Hitchens left us last year, far too young for an exit. My initial introduction to his work occurred in Paris, in 2002, when I walked by the Village Voice bookstore, and... Read more
Published 22 months ago by John P. Jones III
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