The decision of the League of Nations to issue annually a list of the six hundred best books published in all countries during the preceding year is one of great interest. Whether it will accomplish the avowed purpose of "closer intellectual contact" however, must be left for time to tell. Although the plan will stimulate the translation of foreign books and their greater diffusion, its most commendable feature is that of letting each country do its own selecting. If the choices were made by a commission of the League, they would be open to criticism from every country, with the result that no one would be satisfied. When nations publishing ten thousand books or more a year must choose no more than forty, excluding novels, as the best books, the process of taking stock is likely to result in increased interest in literature.
Governments are prone to look on books as if they were so much paper and ink, and not as expressions of real civilization. No matter how much the choices of each government may be criticised, then, an interest will be aroused which did not exist before, which may result in a closer examination of governmental censorship and taxation. If the interest in foreign literature grows, it is even possible that Congress may be forced to repeal the infamous "tax on knowledge", which makes foreign books so inordinately expensive in America.
As an historical record the project is also invaluable. For the literature of previous times, publisher's sales show the popularity of a book, but there is only sporadic information as to the manner in which whole peoples reacted to it. The League of Nations book list will give the crystallized opinion of each nation on its contemparary literature.