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on 1 January 2010
This is an excellent book. Perhaps a summary taken from the back DJ flap is well put....
"Witty, shocking and instructive, 10 Books That Screwed Up the World offers a quick education in the worst ideas in human history - and how we can avoid them in the future."

To be honest, I've only read one of the books critised in this work - The Descent of Man, by Charles Darwin. However, I found that Wiker's short summary of the crucial themes accurate and his conclusions appropriate. I can be sure that other books covered, such as 'Mein Kampf', are also fairly portrayed and given the treatment they too deserve. (I'm going to check though, by reading each one!).

This book is far better than his previous one, Moral Darwinism, which I found rather dry, even though containing an important message. I recommend this present book, even if only as an introductory text to further investigation and study.
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on 29 April 2010
One of a number of books with relatively similar titles (eg Melvyn Bragg's critically acclaimed book) this is in fact a more overtly ideological affair written from a clearly traditionalist outlook. The author's commitment to classical philosophy and (in particular) the West's Christian heritage becoming increasingly clear as you read through the book. So too does his American outlook: like many US conservatives he has a keen, if very dry sense of humour. However also like many US conservatives, he takes on two attributes that in the UK tend to be ceded only to the Liberal/left. These are firstly an extreme defensiveness which concedes nothing to the opposition; secondly a willingness to play the man rather than the ball and a willingness to hit below as well as above the belt.
Still it's an entertaining voyage however swivel - eyed you may find the captain. Wiker steers his ship without trouble through the shallows of the likes of Hobbes, Marx, Mill and Freidan and skilfully negotiates the choppier waters left by the philosophies of Descartes, Rousseau and Nietzche. Equally, while the likes of Lenin and Hitler seem seem obvious targets his analysis (of the latter in particular) is both impassionned and precise.
There are some slipstreams that he ignores; he has too little to say about the effect on thinking and behaviour produced by technological advance: for example Kinsey's work had influence less because it was any good but because new pharmaceuticals and demographic developments resulting from medical advances meant that sex could become recreational for all (rather than for a Byronic elite as was the case a century earlier). Likewise cultural influences: Mead's South Sea fantasies plainly derive at least in part from those of Gauguin, a generation before her; both reflect the appeal of the exotic opened up by the era of Victorian colonialism.
Only in a couple of places does he run aground. The first occurs in a rather flatfooted assesment of Machiavelli in which he solemnly states that the idea of doing evil that good may result is specifically secular. Given that Islam, which at that time was undoubtedly the world's dominant religion had been spread largely by the sword; and that Christianity would soon be itself advanced by military means, notably in Latin America, this seems unfair on the Italian. His smirk certainly arose from self regard, but it was aimed, if casually, at his creator, not the enemy of his soul.
Secondly is his belief that human behaviour is simply driven by what people believe they are. If man is made in the image of his creator, then his behaviour will follow, to an extent at least, even if he believes himself otherwise. Just because you believe that you have been descended from an amoeba doesn't mean that you behave like one. It is the possibility of redemption available to all that fires all the great world religions, Christianity (I agree) most expertly.
Still, this is a book that has completely changed the way I view the world and I can see myself reading it again and again. All that is needed is a counter tome indicating 10 books that really unscrewed up the world...
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on 8 July 2009
Following the reading of Bragg's book: "12 Books that changed the world" I guessed by the slang title that this was not likely to be a work of similar scholarship but I liked the idea.
In reality the book is a rant against everything that offends a fundamental concept of Judo-Christian values, from abortion to evolution. It is a shame because there is some sound comment on eugenics and the various concepts of nationhood. I have an American friend with a neo-con tendency who would love it but as a scientist and atheist I found much of it far too biased to be of interest or use. Of all the books that have truly 'screwed up the world' and been responsible for schism and death then The Bible must surely head the list with several other 'holy' texts not far behind?
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