Books can change the world




WHAT?! No What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe of XKCD fame :frowning:


Isn’t it a little premature to claim something is “world-changing” if it only came out one or two years ago? As far as I can tell, this is just a list of books the article’s author considers important.


Oh, you mean like every finite list of books purporting them to be important? Well, yeah.


My point is that it makes no sense to call anything “world-changing” when it hasn’t had enough time to change the world. The sentence you picked out of my post was there to contrast the previous one, which you chose to ignore.


I didn’t choose to ignore anything. I’m pointing out the odd tendency of hyperbole to be hyperbolic. I’m reminded of that scene in Blast From the Past where Brenden Frasier’s character eagerly (and naively) rushes another character to a typical diner to drink some mediocre coffee. He looks at her expectantly as she takes a careful sip and… declares it unremarkable. Then he points to the generic neon sign on the wall declaring the diner to be the home of “The World’s Best Coffee!”

My point being that you’re taking things too damn literally.


Fair enough. It’s a sore point for me that people use unqualified superlatives to elevate their personal tastes/opinions to the status of objective truth. This kind of thing is easy to ignore in something like advertising, but it hits a little too close to home here.

I guess I just wish this guy would style his article more like a typical best-of-the-year list, rather than using it to make an argument about the world-changing power of books.


Nice of Karen Armstrong to publish a full length book on her claim that religious violence is a myth. Someone should send a few copies to ISIS.


OK, maybe not “world-changing” exactly, but surely they’re at least classics.


The article argues that some books have changed the world and that these books could. It’s more of a prediction than a claim about what the books have already accomplished.

I’ve only read a few reviews of the Armstrong book, but I’m pretty sure that ISIS is exactly the kind of thing she’s addressing. I’m pretty sure that she’d argue that ISIS’s violence has nonreligious roots, and that Islam is window-dressing and advertising. The advertising function is not insignificant, but it’s not the source.


Instant classics (just add water).


I haven’t read Fields of Blood yet but I have read all of Armstrong’s previous works and she is unflinching and absolutely dead-on in her analysis of religious history. Being an ex-nun and historian, her critiques of all the major religious sects and their impacts on modern society are simply outstanding.

I would venture a guess that her argument is not that violence done in the name of religion is a myth but rather the extreme corruption of religious fundamentalism leads to violence. She has argued this point many times before in her other books.


So ah! Not one woman author?


I know, right? Not one, but two!


wooops! I tried to go back and remove the comment…but hit send and was too late!


oops! Karen!


And Roz Chast.


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