EP43: The Dumbest Books of 2021 (ft. Luke Savage, Matt McManus, Lyta Gold, Daniel Bessner & David Moscrop)

As we prepare for a series of 2021 retrospectives looking at the highs and lows of the year, the bests and the worsts, Darts and Letters is embracing the chaos, looking to the printed word, and scouring the stacks to find the dumbest books that found their way to print. We did not have to look far. In fact, the hard part was choosing from a bursting cornucopia of awful. In the spirit of the new year, this week we feature a roundtable with three guests and two call-in friends, each of whom makes the case as to why their book is the dumbest of 2021.

  • First, (@4:09) the two Michaels and Meng affair gripped Canada and the world for the better part of three years. Could a single book capture the intricacies, context, and implications of that behemoth geopolitical moment? Washington Post columnist, podcaster and Darts and Letters show-notes writer/guy writing this sentence David Moscrop argues…maybe. But it’s certainly not The Two Michaels: Innocent Canadian Captives and High Stakes Espionage in the US-China Cyber War by Mike Blanchfield and Fen Osler Hampson.
  • Then, (@17:39) some argue trust is the glue that holds society together. But what if a book mangled the concept and mobilized it with a series of vapid phrases designed to superficially inspire centrists as only such a book–and maybe an episode of the West Wing–could? And what if that same book was written by one of the least trustworthy people in politics? Jacobin staff writer and co-host of the podcast Michael and Us Luke Savage makes the case for Pete Buttigieg’s Trust: America’s Best Chance.
  • Finally, (@29:01) the left needs to understand and contend with serious, right-wing books that seek to chart the course for the future of the ideology. Scholar, PillPod podcaster, and writer Matt McManus has found two offerings that are…not that. But they need to be reckoned with in their own way anyway. He takes down Ben Shapiro’s The Authoritarian Moment: How the Left Weaponized America’s Institutions Against Dissent and Mark Levin’s American Marxism.


Listen to Matt McManus’ podcast PillPod and have a look at his book The Rise of Post-Modern Conservatism: Neoliberalism, Post-Modern Culture, and Reactionary Politics. Plus, see more of his work at Jacobin.


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Darts and Letters is hosted and edited by Gordon Katic. Our lead producer is Jay Cockburn. Our managing producer is Marc Apollonio. David Moscrop is our research assistant and wrote the show notes.

Our theme song and music was created by Mike Barber, our graphic design was created by Dakota Koop, and our marketing was done by Ian Sowden.

Darts and Letters is produced in Toronto, which is on the traditional land of Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat Peoples.

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