One of the books that’s turned countless folks of my generation onto the “right” — or at least, steered them away from the “left” — is Paul Johnson’s 1989 book Intellectuals, which features the hair raisingly unflattering biographies of leftwing heroes from Rousseau to Sartre.
(Paul Johnson’s turned out to be pretty dubious too, but that didn’t prevent him from getting an audience with the Pope (if memory serves) and guesting on “conservative” cruises. And really: the Portuguese are hardly “wogs.” Remember: Trust no one. Everything is bullshit…)
The Karl Marx depicted in Jonathan Sperber’s absorbing, meticulously researched biography will be unnervingly familiar to anyone who has had even the most fleeting acquaintance with radical politics. Here is a man never more passionate than when attacking his own side, saddled with perennial money problems and still reliant on his parents for cash, constantly plotting new, world-changing ventures yet having trouble with both deadlines and personal hygiene, living in rooms that some might call bohemian, others plain “slummy,” and who can be maddeningly inconsistent when not lapsing into elaborate flights of theory and unintelligible abstraction.