We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Of what crimes do the contents of your bookshelves convict you?

My mother was in her early teens in World War II. I once asked her what it was like not to know who would win. Alas, I cannot remember in detail how she answered, but among the things she said was that she did not speculate about it much because any such discussion would have been instantly quashed by her father, a former soldier, with some words along the lines of “There will be no defeatist talk in this family, young lady!”

Yet this atmosphere of stern patriotism did not stop her openly reading a translation of Hitler’s Mein Kampf on the principle of “Know thy enemy”.

“Owning a book isn’t a declaration of belief,” writes Janice Turner in the Times.

Journalists own a lot of odd books. Some are sent to us unsolicited, others we buy to illuminate a news story. That Michael Gove, a former Times columnist, has The War Path by Holocaust-denying historian David Irving nestling among Alastair Campbell diaries and Stalin biographies does not alarm me. But the online outrage at a photograph showing this book on Gove’s shelves does.

Because if I’d covered, say, the 1996 libel case brought by Irving I’d have bought his work, too. Why? Curiosity; the desire to quote from original sources; to hear Irving’s authorial voice; to understand how he magicked away mass murder. Later, my piece written, I’d have squeezed it in my unruly shelves with Mike Tyson’s Undisputed Truth and Naomi Wolf’s Vagina.

At this point I feel I ought to mention that the original Times article has that last word in italics.

Yet owning Irving’s book was to activist-journalist Owen Jones a window into Gove’s dark soul. On Twitter, people questioned why you’d read Irving rather than his many critics, as if they couldn’t trust their own minds not to be swayed. Gove was accused of “proudly displayed” antisemitism in his home. But books are not posters or cushions, mere expressions of personal taste.

What is the correct thing to do when you’ve read this book, in case some visiting fool concludes you’re a Nazi? Donating it to a charity shop risks further dissemination of evil. Well, you could burn it. That always goes well.

Here is Owen Jones’s tweet in all its glory.

Which of the books on your shelves would make you wish you had enabled the “blur background” function before turning on Zoom?

Apart from the obvious – a copy of Chavs by Owen Jones – I have three coffee-table books of reproductions of selected articles from the English language edition of Signal magazine, issued by the Wehrmachtpropaganda from 1940-1945. (It continued to publish an English language edition even after the US entered the war, ostensibly for the benefit of the Channel Islanders.)

How about you? Confess all and the tribunal will be merciful.

41 comments to Of what crimes do the contents of your bookshelves convict you?

  • Snorri Godhi

    Which of the books on your shelves would make you wish you had enabled the “blur background” function before turning on Zoom?

    Let’s leave aside the fact that i never turned on Zoom.

    The fact is that you Brits will learn too late which books you should not have displayed. No problem for me for the foreseeable future, but who knows about the unforeseeable future?

    From a cursory glance at my bookshelves, the most incriminating books might be:
    the Bible;
    Sun Tzu;
    a few by Machiavelli;
    Atlas Shrugged;
    Liberal Fascism, by Jonah Goldberg.

    I apologize for the drastic drop in intellectual level in the last item. (Though it should be eye-opening for people who bought into the standard narrative.)

    There are also a few books that libertarians would hate to see in my collection, but they are all in digital form. I read them, or plan to read them, according to Sun Tzu’s maxim, mentioned by Natalie:
    Know your enemy.

  • Hugh

    Ignorance is Strength;shun badthink.

  • Ferox

    3 “read your enemy” books I have that immediately come to mind:

    A Theory of Justice – John Rawls
    Woodstock Nation – Abbie Hoffman
    Steal This Book – Abbie Hoffman

    Hoffman in particular seemed kind of cool to me when I was a teenager but now reads like a whiny unproductive 20-something angry because his mom didn’t buy the right flavor of cheetos for him at the store.

  • Runcie Balspune

    No books, but I do have editions of the boardgames Escape From Colditz (Parker Bros Edition) and Dad’s Army, both banned from eBay.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    It’s the hypocrisy of Gove’s point-and-shriek critics that gets me. How many of those foaming virtue-signallers queueing up to denounce him for owning a book by Nazi apologist David Irving, themselves own one or more volumes of ideologically-slanted history by the unrepentant Soviet apologist Eric Hobsbawm?

  • Tim the Coder

    Biggles ?
    Enid Blyton?

    Using now empty bedroom as office, so…..

  • Mark

    Its appalling! Who would want the narcissistic ramblings of a jumped up, two bit, fly shit tabloid hack with a god delusion on any shelf outside the smallest room!?

  • Tim the Coder

    Or indeed, plant fake books to troll:

    “Competent Software Engineering for the Hopeless Academic” by Ivor Hardon, perhaps?
    “Great Hysterical Modelling Disasters” by Neil Fergusson, Volumes 1 to 12, complete set.

    “The wisdom of Jeremy Corbyn” (very thin)
    “Being concise” by Gordon Brown (4 inches thick)

  • bobby b

    Just based on what I’ve been told:

    – Lord of the Rings – I’m a racist.
    – Fountainhead – I’m a Nazi.
    – Just about every Travis McGee paperback (in a box somewhere) – I’m an unserious sexist male pig.
    – The Doonesbury Collection – Boomer hippie.
    – a bookmark on my computer to a libertarian site such as Samizdata.net – rich white stoner.

  • Stephen Houghton

    Capital by K Marx, is the book that ought to put me in the pillory, but not with Owen Jones, who is one of his pupils.

  • Clearly the library of a paleo-Nazi Cthulhu Cultist with Maoist tendencies 😎

  • John

    In a box, so not technically qualified to shame me, I have The Teachings of Don Juan as well as several other lesser known works by Carlos Castaneda.

  • Mr Ed

    The libretto and score of Mozart and da Ponte’s Il dissoluto punito o sia il Don Giovanni, who had rather more #metoo issues than Joe Biden. So many stereotypes, and impugning 1,003 Spanish women.

    Plus others too numerous to mention.

  • Hugh

    I’m obliged to you,PdH, I didn’t know Greville Wynne had written a book.

  • Mike Solent

    My possession of the Rappaport edition of On War might horrify some academic purists; my possession of the Howard Paret edition might perhaps mollify them, but it and the rest of the literature on the theory and conduct of war might upset some pacifists. My collection of works on firearms from Beaufoy via Greener, Winans and Elmer Keith to Cooper and beyond would horrify hoplophobes; the reloading manuals would probably give them apoplexy. I have a reasonably extensive theological library, there will be something in it to annoy most people.Perhaps the Moffat Bible as used by Martin Luther King and now out of favour? It belonged to my great aunt. The majority of the Hentys, Dornford Yates and the Biggles books are in store, but there are a good number of Sapper and John Buchan’s best on the shelves to horrify the faint of heart. In a box somewhere there is a book or two by Mao, I believe, on the shelves are politics from Aristotle to Hannan.

    So I am a gun owning Christian with unorthodox political beliefs. What’s not to like?

    When on formal videocalls I sit in front of a nice bureau constructed by my grandfather with a collection of hardback SF novels on the shelves; mostly Pratchett…

  • I grew up in a bedroom with a bookcase in which many old books had been dumped: two works by Stalin, books by the notorious R. Palme Dutt and other western communists, a future/S.F. book describing and celebrating the revolutionary replacement of capitalism by socialism in the US, and many another such. From my early teens, when I got bored enough, I read them.

    There was also a long book written in the late 1930s by a southern U.S. lady that imaginatively recreated her plantation family’s post-civil war experience. (I would guess she hoped for a repeat of Margaret Mitchell’s success with ‘Gone the Wind’.) The book’s implicit racial attitudes were – what you’d expect.

    I think Owen Jones’ idea that if you read the ‘wrong’ books then you will agree with them has a flaw.

  • Hugh

    Some people read books to be told what to think.
    Some people read books to think about what they are told.

  • Jim

    I’m sure my collection of Biggles books, much prized as a lad, would nowadays condemn me to the gulag as an unrepentantly nostalgic for the days when Britain was Top Nation, and Johnny Foreigner knew his place, being eternally thwarted in his evil machinations by upright and clean living Britons such as Biggles, Algy, Bertie and Ginger.

  • NickM

    John Buchan…

    “if you’re on the biggest kind of job and are bound to get to the real boss, ten to one you are brought up against a little white-faced Jew in a bath-chair with an eye like a rattlesnake.”

    -“The 39 Steps”

    – but that’s OK because anti-semitism isn’t racism is it? How can it be when Israel is a successful, liberal, democratic state and you can only be racist if it is against the down-trodden – real or imagined. I hear Tel Aviv has big gay pride events (like London, Manchester*, Brighton, San Fransisco…). Somewhat unlike, say, Tehran or Cairo. Therefore whilst all that is true it isn’t because it doesn’t fit the narrative. Therefore despite being true it isn’t.

    This doesn’t puzzle me (it did). I have read farticles from the lefty wackademics saying FGM is culturally “authentic” and oppossing it is “imperialism”. I’m currently in rant-mode so no links but you can find ’em – usually black women at US universities. The same sort who will rail like panthers with an acute kidney complaint about computer games being sexist. Or such utter Shi’ite. Anything against the glorious civilization we have built through blood and treasure beyond count. The civilization which lets me play Civilization. The civilization that means so much freedom that some feel scared by it enough to want to impose limits. OK, as long as they are cranks like the Amish. Not, if we take them seriously, and act on it. I don’t see a future – I don’t have a plan. I have no fucking idea what will happen. I don’t desire some cockamamie game plan (the antisocial sciences have serious physics-envy here) which will unfold according to the Words of the Saints. I revel in it just happening. And if we just let it rip… I might just be seeing you for umbrella drinks at a bar at some Langranian point whilst watching the rise of a different star.

    Well, if I can get my Alcubierre drive to work (I’ve currently got a ouple of Intel i5 decks on the skids but… gotta start somewhere) and that requires matter with negative mass… and.. A very long shot. But I’m betting on a future more Gene Roddenberry than Bonnie Greer. Both are unlikely but, given that, go with the one that is glorious rather than dismal (an hour on the holodeck of Marxist self-criticism with Gramski or cocktails with Seven – or Tuvok, come to that). Why not? Unless you’re one of those miserable sorts without the intellectual apparatus to even begin to understand the Universe but with the unrequitable desire to invent a “universe” they can understand. A “universe” they understand because they created it – even if they don’t know it is fiction. To create their Tlon. A “universe” that can never work because it isn’t true.

    And, yes, I have two translations of that on my bookshelves (alas, I don’t know more than very basic Spanish so I don’t have the original – I actually know more Sindarin). I’m sure the book-burners of the left would object – if they understood it. Although not understanding it coupled to the fact that Borges was a small “c” conservative, hated Peron (it was mutual) and a devout Catholic would boil enough piss to mean the shade of Jeremiah Corbyn (the Ghost of Marxism Past – rattle dem chains Jerry!) would get third degree urinal burns instead.

    Oh, I also have Viz’s “The Joy of Sexism”. A deep philosophical meditation. “It’s like all trees an’ like flowers and that… We must be in Gateshead!” (From Sidothy’s adventures “Somewhere Over The Tyne Bridge”). I’m from Gateshead and that cracked me up. Gateshead is not a bad place to be from.


    *I’ve been to Manchester Pride – because it’s local, fun, and also one time because the Grand Marshall was Gandalf! [insert “Wizard’s staff joke here].

  • NickM

    Owen Jones is just a trumped-up sixth-form debating society twat. He even looks it.

  • Snorri Godhi

    If Perry’s bookshelves are incriminating, then so is my Viking bookshelf, replete with Sagas (of Icelanders and of Times Past), the Prose Edda and other works on Viking mythology, historical works such as Jesse Byock’s, and loosely related items.

    Coming to think of it, the worst offender at 1st sight might be my collection of Xenophobe Guides. Although most of them are about White nations.

    Then there are a couple of books by Wilfred Thesiger: Orientalism!

    Then there are the autobiographical stories by Jim Corbett about saving Indian lives by killing man-eaters: the Great White Hunter!

  • Snorri Godhi

    PS: there is also The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes. Although i keep it in my bedroom, to relax before going to sleep.

    The Yellow Face shows Victorian gentlemen in a good light, rising above anti-Black prejudice. But that is just why SJWs would hate it: for pretending that racism did not exist in Victorian Britain!

    There is another story, however, where anti-Black prejudice is in full display, although somewhat mitigated before the end. I cannot identify it from a cursory reading of the table of contents.

  • Oh, our bookcase would have us Examined By The Police. I’ve written one murder mystery, and Mary has written thirty; and it’s hard to write that sort of thing if you don’t know how to do it. So we have books on crime, books on weapons, books on law, books on how to avoid being caught. And Pratchett. Lots of Pratchett, not to mention Donald Westlake. And we occasionally call the medical examiner for details; he’s warned us that if either of us dies suspiciously, he’s going to make sure there is a thorough investigation. But he said it with a smile.

  • NickM

    I am a bit of a Holmesian and no… neither can I but Dr Watson had of course served in the British Army in Afghanistan (how times change!). But of course Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle was taken in over the pixie photos which must in some way mean some sort of prejudice vis-a-vis the Fairie Folk. You think I’m having you on…

    Over time the term has evolved to include a ‘Q’ for Queer and a ‘+’ in LGBTQ+ in order to be more inclusive and acknowledge that there are varying identities. It’s also common to see LGBT2Q+, the ‘2’ representing Two-Spirit identity used by some Indigenous peoples.

    From here.

    It goes on…

    What do all the letters stand for?

    We know it can be confusing, particularly for those of us who are new to the queer community either as an ally or member of our wonderful community.

    Here’s a quick overview of the most common terms used in the expanded acronym – LGBT2QQIAAP (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, two-spirit, queer, questioning, intersex, asexual, agender, pansexual)

    First: If I got “LGBT2QQIAAP” on even just a double word-score then that is GAME OVER in Scrabble.

    Second: A lot of Native Americans think the “2” in there is somewhere between bison shit and offensive. Sorry, I can’t find a link right now (that’s asking for help, BTW) but… I’m not making it up.

    Third: Isn’t LGBT2QQIAAP what Elon Musk’s second kid’s gonna be called?

    Personally, I’d shiv an Uruk-Hai on sight. I’m that Orcist – I really am – and, back to the OP, I have deluxe editions of Tolkien – I wore my old, childhood, paperbacks out so tell that to Owen Jones of the Cunting Delving. Those books are my precious*. I (post Kindle) only buy books that are special and Tolkien brings me great comfort when the World gets so unreal that I find Middle Earth makes more sense. It’s not the “evil” or “wrong” – it’s the unreal that gets me.

    But then (and I have so wanted to have been in that Éored in my dreams…) I can’t really be Orcist can I? Because there are no more orcs to slay. There are still demons but that is another matter…

  • NickM

    You intrigue me…

    Is this post worth counting traffic lights for? We will shortly see..

  • NickM
    May 8, 2020 at 3:16 pm

    Third: Isn’t LGBT2QQIAAP what Elon Musk’s second kid’s gonna be called?

    I suspect he was planning on ‘Moon Unit’ until he realized Frank Zappa had already used it for a daughter. But Musk isn’t that interested in the Moon. Perhaps ‘Mars Unit’?

    If I intrigue you, click ‘Ellen’ up at the head of this message. It leads to my website.

  • Snorri Godhi

    OT public service announcement:
    a free online concert of Estonian music going on right now.

    Might or might not incriminate you.

  • NickM

    My use of the internet goes back to NCSA Mosaic and Pegasus Mail yet that simple measure didn’t occur. Me bad 🙁

    I remember before attachments and sending *.bmps by encoding them in ASCII. I remember the delight at getting my first 56K modem. God help me I had a 48K Spectrum and I’m in the market for a new phone and have set a baseline spec at (amongst other things) 3GB of RAM. The phones I’m looking at are all cheaper than that Speccy (and that ain’t adjusting for inflation!) and they all have more computing power than NASA did in 1969.

    Anyway, it would have been Mars Plural – but Grimes thought that silly. I did name my wife and I’s two cats but they’re called, George and Julia. I am such the square. I like “Murdoch Mysteries” so…

  • I don’t desire some cockamamie game plan (the antisocial sciences have serious physics-envy here) which will unfold according to the Words of the Saints. (NickM, May 8, 2020 at 12:53 pm)

    I think you mean ‘Camp of the Saints”, Nick – but either way, Owen Jones will not approve.

    As for books on poisons (“Just researching my next detective story, honest, officer!”), well, readers of ‘Strong Poison’ know that even in the old days that could get you in trouble – in the pages of another detective story at least. 🙂

    I wonder what Owen would make of a prominent copy of Fahrenheit 451 ?

  • Rich Rostrom


    Alice Walker came in for a good bit of stick when she displayed And the Truth Shall Set You Free by David Icke on her bedside table during a video interview. (And then endorsed it enthusiastically.)

    I have (or had) a David Irving book: his biography of Luftwaffe Marshal Erhard Milch. It was written before he went full denier, and contained a lot of inside detail about the Luftwaffe (Milch was head of aircraft production). I don’t recall seeing anything that was obviously concocted – but then I wouldn’t really know.

    As to the effects of reading the wrong books: propaganda works, at least some of the time. Especially when it is not blatant: systematic distortion of the factual record does influence thinking, especially if it is never answered. Thus the malign influence of for instance Howard Zinn.

    OTOH, ISTR several stories here of people whose minds were opened and enlightened by reading for instance Hayek.

  • Poisons? We know the Poison Lady. I have even sent her a few poisons she was missing from her collection.


  • I didn’t know Greville Wynne had written a book.

    I actually met him several times when I was young, interesting chap who had a lot of not-in-print stories to tell, some of them quite… ribald.

    The reason he signed a French edition of his book for me is a story too complex to recount.

  • NickM

    David Icke came to save the World (in a turquise shell-suit). Well he saved fuck all for Coventry City.

  • I have all of the ‘Gor’ series by John Norman. What do I win?

  • JuliaM (May 9, 2020 at 10:37 am), you win screams of rage from squigglypuff feminists – and a slightly strange look from me. 🙂

    Mind you, when I was at university, I knew a couple of thoroughly left-leaning postgrad SF fans who, when they married, found they had to discard duplicate copies of a couple of works of said author as part of slimming down their books to fit in a single abode.

    People are strange. 🙂

    Of course, discarding even mere duplicates says something about one’s attitude. Notorious orcist NickM (May 8, 2020 at 3:16 pm) admits to wearing out his ‘Lord of the Rings’ paperback copy – but does he still have it? The spine of mine has so disintegrated that a camera-prying Owen Jones could tell nothing of what it was, but I still have it – along with another paperback still in readable condition and a boxed three volume hardback set and other works by Tolkien.

  • NickM

    Of course I still have it though it is far over the Misty Mountains cold… Well, it’s in Gateshead and it’s the Pennines but you know…

    Anyway… I’m not just an “Orcist”. I despise all the perversions of Melkor equally. I am an Ologophobe as well!

  • Paul Marks

    The left used to say “we reject your economic laissez faire but we support Civil Liberties”.

    That is exposed as a massive LIE now.

    The left are openly AGAINST Civil Liberties – the “American Civil Liberties Union” has done nothing to oppose the “lockdowns”, it has not stood for the right to protest, or the right to practice a religion, or any part of the Bill of Rights.

    The ACLU, and the left generally, have been exposed as the utter scum they have always really been.

    This British leftist “you are not allowed to own a book we disagree with” line is just the icing on the cake. And, make no mistaken, the left in all other Western nations is also pro censorship.

    The evil of the left is now open for all to see – they are not people one can discuss things with, because their thugs use violence to shut down all discussion.

    Fair enough then – so be it. Let us see who wins on the battlefield.

  • neonsnake

    LOL. *adopts russian accent*

    You lot are like little baby to me.

    I have Frank Miller’s 300, nestling alongside !00 Bullets, alongside Kirby’s New Gods, alongside Sin City, alongside Neil Gaiman’s Ultimate Sandman, and Morrison;s Ultimate Superman, and Ellis’s Transmetropolitan, and V for Vendetta, Watchmen and Prometheus, as well as WE3, Joe The Barbarian and Shoot Your Boyfriend. I’ve the entire run of The Invisibles, plus the explanatory notes and Anarchy For The Masses, the disnfo guide to such, and a substantial run of Constantine. All 28 volumes of Lone Wolf and Cub, and the spin-offs.

    I’ve not even got into Helrunar, the Book Of Thoth or the Lieh-Tzu. Just my comic book collection is probably enough to convict me of…something…ROFL

  • Yes, neonsnake (May 9, 2020 at 7:26 pm), but would Owen Jones know enough to denounce you for any of them. He may know V for Vendetta since the left got interested in it, but since the left got interested in it he would probably not denounce you for it. He might know the Watchman film – but might not denounce that. Neil Gaiman’s ‘American Gods’ was inspired by Dianna Wynne Jones’ ‘Eight Days of Luke’ (Dianna was an author Neil admired greatly) and in the very unlikely event of Owen knowing that I suspect he would find some of Dianna’s work “troubling”. But between Owen’s ignorance and his incomprehension, I’m just not sure any of this will get you dragged off.

    Of course, that may be precisely your “like little baby to me” point. 🙂

  • jon eds

    Old edition Noddy (Gollywogs are edited out of modern editions) and Famous Five books. I was reading one of the latter for my daughter and one of the characters had a funny accent. As I hadn’t been following the story (being able to read a book out loud whilst thinking about something totally different is one of those skills you don’t develop until you have children) I asked my daughter: why is Sam talking funnily? To which the answer was: “because he’s a neggro”. I obviously found it as hilarious as my wife was fearful that my kids may repeat it at school.

    You lot are like little baby to me.

    I can’t say this out loud without sounding like Dracula.

  • neonsnake

    he would probably not denounce you for it.

    See, I think he’d admire me greatly for the Moore, the Morrison, the Ellis and the Gaiman, and then denounce me heavily for 100 Bullets, Lone Wolf, and most especially Miller’s 300 and Sin City. Oh, I also have Bill Willingham‘s Fables. I shudder to think what that would get me convicted of.

    On the other hand, the opposite number would admire me for Fables, 300, Lone Wolf, 100 Bullets etc, and denounce me for The Invisibles, V For Vendetta, Sandman and All-Star Superman.