If I was ever going to instigate a purge of books containing ideas I find offensive, sexist or just plain incoherent, I know where I’d start: my own living room. Fact is, I’ve got loads of them. So much so that were I of a similar persuasion to those who recently attacked the volunteer-run Vancouver Women’s Library, I’d never leave the house.
I’d go way beyond spraying walls, throwing wine on books and intimidating anyone trying to get within reach of the written word. After all, surely no self-respecting feminist should own works such as The Rules for Dating, Fifty Shades of Grey and Thomas The Tank Engine: The Complete Collection. I ought to no-platform myself.
And yet I’m not about to do so, no matter how shameful some of my literary choices have been. Isn’t there value in encountering ideas other than those with which one already agrees – even if one’s mind remains unchanged at the end? Certainly I would never have finished my PhD were I to have excluded all of the books – most books, in fact – that I was to find somewhat or even extremely sexist. And I learned from these book, just as I learned from the books that only seemed to confirm my own preconceptions. There is more than one way to enrich a worldview.
Here, for instance, are five of the books that a different me might have wanted banished from my bookshelves, but which, nonetheless, have changed my own way of thinking.
Image: By Raysonho @ Open Grid Scheduler / Grid Engine (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons