Saturday, August 12, 2006

Tag, I'm It

Kevin Andre Elliot tags me for a book meme. I've never been tagged before. Gosh, this is exciting. So, without further delay...

1. One book that changed your life?

Easy money. Critical Race Theory: An Introduction. I've read better books on the subject. Hell, I've read better books period. But (fittingly enough), this book was my introduction to the field, and caused a major turnabout in my political and moral philosophy. And I was glad. I read it the summer I graduated from High School. Prior to that, I had described myself as in a "slow spiral towards libertarianism." I had read John Stuart Mill's On Liberty and loved it (still am a fan, in fact), but the problem was I could only poorly rationalize my redistributive economic beliefs within Mill's paradigm. This constituted a problem. Unfortunately, it seemed like the argument behind the Harm Principle was unassailable, and I felt like I had no choice but to accept it lock, stock, and barrel.

Finding this book was pure luck (or destiny, depending on your view). In a debate round my senior year, an opponent ran an "essentialism critique" against me. Despite thinking he said "centralism", and despite only having a vague idea of what post-modernism was up until that point (beyond the popular misconceptions: "Those wacky post-modernists. They don't believe the chair exists!"), I was intrigued. Somehow, research on post-modernism led me to Critical Race Theory. And Delgado and Stefancic's book seemed like a promising primer.

Ironically, my turn towards CRT came at about the same time as I shifted my political affiliation from a self-identified Democratic Socialist to a moderate liberal. I'm probably the only person for whom CRT assisted in a shift to the middle of the political spectrum.

2. One book you have read more than once?
Like Kevin, I tend to read all my books more than once (assuming I like them). So the question is meaningless to me. My dad and I used to constantly fight over this: he was always forcing me to read new books, I always wanted to re-read my favorites.

3. One book you would want on a desert island?
Ooof. I'm going to go with Malaria Dreams. If I'm on a Desert Island, I'll probably need some comic relief (you know, to distract from the fact that I'm boned). And Stuart Stevens is a funny, funny man.

4. One book that made you laugh?
See #3. But I also love comic books--Doonesbury, Calvin & Hobbes, Foxtrot, The Boondocks, Non Sequitur, and Dilbert being my favorites.

5. One book that made you cry?
The Promise, by Chaim Potok. It's the lesser-known sequel to The Chosen--a great book in its own right. But The Promise I found absolutely terrifying. I don't read sad books, so being scared out of my mind (because of the inhumanity of the characters, not because of gore-fest horror narrative) is as close as I get.

6. One book you wish had been written?
Please Don't Wish Me a Merry Christmas: A Critical History of the Separation of Church and State by Stephen M. Feldman. It was probably the only major work in the area of Critical Jewish Law. I even thought of the idea for it prior to reading the book. I was this close to founding an entire intellectual movement. *Blushes* I thought this was "one book you wish you had written." Whoops. And I have no idea how to answer this question. If I knew, I'd write the book myself, no?

7. One book you wish had never been written?
Would it be too cliche to say Mein Kampf? I'm just going to go out on a limb and say anything by Ann Coulter.

8. One book you are currently reading?
Technically, I'm still in the middle of these three books. Of the three, I'm furthest along in Peter Beinart's The Good Fight (a very solid, if not spectacular, book).

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
Just one? I guess Collapse has been sitting on my desk for a long time. And We Are Not Saved is also a strong candidate, since its sitting right next to me and my roommate was kind enough to get it autographed for me when Professor Bell was at Carleton (I, alas, was in Nebraska that weekend).

10. Now tag five people
Oy gevolt. I guess I'll tag Belle Lettre, The Disenchanted Idealist, PG, Feddie at Southern Appeal (got to add some ideological diversity), and Phoebe Maltz. I can't guarantee any of them will respond, though.

Well, thanks for playing. Incidentally, it seems just wrong to have a post that talks about me, books, and recent history without mentioning Kenji Yoshino's Covering. It was the only book I could think of in competition with CRT: An Introduction for the "change your life" category, and it is spectacular. If you haven't read it, you need to. No joke.

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