Sunday, June 22, 2008

Reviews of books that changed the reviewer's mind

A nonfiction book reviewer will generally review a book on two aspects:

1. How many interesting, new, useful, and accurate ideas are presented in the book?

2. Is the book's thesis accurate and righteous? In other words, does the book fit in well with the reviewer's pre-reading worldview?

My goal is generally not to replace my own prejudices and worldview with the prejudices and worldview of the reviewer, so I would like to seek out books that meet criterion #1. If i had a thousand concurrent additional lifetimes right now, I think Rolf #428 would write up a list of book reviews where the reviewer claimed that the book substantively changed his mind about a topic, to the extent that the reviewer reversed a previously-endorsed opinion. This would produce a list of books that are more likely to meet criterion #1: the books would be more likely to have been recommended by the reviewer because the content of the book was compelling, rather than because the book affirmed pre-existing beliefs.

One caveat would be that an intensification of a previously-held belief would not count. For example, a reviewer saying "I believed before that Bush was a mediocre president, but now i realize he's the worst man who ever lived!" would not count as a reversal. In addition, a shift from an unpopular belief to a popular belief would not weigh as heavily as a shift from a popular to an unpopular belief.

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