Friends over at the Claremont Institute's Claremont Review of Books, required reading for conservative intellectuals, have posted their suggestions for Christmas books. They surveyed various conservative thinkers for their recommendations of books. There were some great ideas, coming from well-known writers (among others) such as Hadley Arkes and James Q. Wilson.
Here were my suggestions.
Dance to the Music of Time, by Anthony Powell
Having made it through all of the Sharpe series, I decided to take on another British saga, but this time one at the opposite end of British life. Dance to the Music of Time is made up of 12 separate novels. They follow the lives of Britain's upper class from the 1920s to the 1970s, roughly tracing the profound effects of the fall of the British Empire on its upper crust. While pessimistic by the end, the series reminds me of how different Americans are from the British and how fashionable comparisons today between the decline of Britain and the position of the United States miss the mark completely.
Kagan's book is part of a growing trend that upends the grade-school version of American history—one put forward by John Kerry during his ill-fated try for the Presidency—that sees the U.S. as historically isolationist, all of its wars as ones of self-defense, and its expansion across the continent as a peaceful inevitability. Along with excellent works by John Lewis Gaddis and Walter McDougall, Kagan argues that the United States, the "Dangerous Nation," has launched wars of its own to achieve its foreign policy goals of expanding across the continent and removing any powerful competitors along the way. A second forthcoming volume takes the story of America's expansionist foreign policy into the 20th Century.
The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, by Edward N. Luttwak
Luttwak's Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire (1979) is a classic account of the way the Romans defended their empire from centuries of external threats. The Romans provide centuries of information that allow for the testing of various ideas about military strategy. Luttwak now turns to an equally important, but less well known, question: how did the Byzantines preserve their empire for so long? It's a fascinating read for those not just interested in military strategy, but those who want to learn more about the successor to the Roman Empire.