Letters to a Young Contrarian by Christopher Hitchens: Book Review

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In Letters to a Young Contrarian, bestselling author and world-class provocateur Christopher Hitchens inspires the radicals, gadflies, mavericks, rebels, and angry young (wo)men of tomorrow. Exploring the entire range of “contrary positions”–from noble dissident to gratuitous nag–Hitchens introduces the next generation to the minds and the misfits who influenced him, invoking such mentors as Emile Zola, Rosa Parks, and George Orwell. As is his trademark, Hitchens pointedly pitches himself in contrast to stagnant attitudes across the ideological spectrum. No other writer has matched Hitchens’s understanding of the importance of disagreement–to personal integrity, to informed discussion, to true progress, to democracy itself. -Goodreads

My Review

My Rating: 4/5

“…there is something idiotic about those who believe that consensus (to give the hydra-headed beast just one of its names) is the highest good.”

For a great many people, this may not be the book they were expected. It certainly was not for me. The epistolary style is wonderful as it inspires and links to the reader’s own desire for individual thought. Hitchens creates an environment in which all might free themselves from whatever chains that have held them back from coming to their own conclusions after careful examination of the evidence.

This book not only inspires the radical in a general sense, but Hitchens also delves into the issues which he himself had a lot of experience in being that “radical” voice. Topics such as religion, communism, racism, identity politics, and politicians from both ends of the spectrum are all covered from his own perspective. These case studies, as I interpreted them to being, provide valuable evidence for the need of people who might turn from the popular “consensus” in an effort to discern the truth, or at least uncover the untruth they deem to be polluting a particular narrative. But, Hitchens also warns that “in order to be a “radical” one must be open to the possibility that one’s own core assumptions are misconceived.”

Anyone who wishes to be or believes themselves to be a “freethinker” needs only to read this book in order to understand that there is a lot more to dissent than disagreement.

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