I wish that I had said some of what Tom says, especially this:
One could reasonably argue that books by Nietzsche, Kinsey, Dewey, etc. are harmful because they seduce people into thinking thoughts that harm their souls. But Sullivan the libertarian doesn’t seem to recognize this. For him, harm is reduced to bodily harm. This strikes me as overly crude.
Moreover, judging whether or not a book is harmful says nothing of whether one should read it. There’s good reason to read a book that might harm your soul, if you have the maturity to understand what’s going on.
Further, a book that’s good for your soul might prove to be harmful. Didn’t Athens execute Socrates because his philosophizing threatened its political rule? Sullivan needs to be more sensitive to the fundamental challenge that philosophy itself makes on politics.
Game, set, match to Cerber, over Sullivan, who can only jump to the conclusion, unworthy of someone as intelligent as he is, that regarding a book as harmful is tantamount to wishing to ban it.
This, by the way, is an example of a move I often encounter in people who object to the mere possibility of "moral absolutes." If I believe that something is "absolutely wrong," I’m told, I must want to suppress it and ban it legislatively. Freedom, it seems to these folks, demands that we be non-judgmental and indeed relativistic. But I can regard something as morally wrong without thinking that it is the role of government to prevent or prohibit it. Consider, in this connection, this passage from that noted latitudinarian St. Thomas Aquinas:
Now human law is framed for a number of human beings, the majority of whom are not perfect in virtue. Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.
Update: Win Myers has more provocative thoughts on book lists and Andrew Sullivan, who, he says, comes closer to describing the Left than the Right in his comments. For still more commentary, go here and here.