The Essential Conservative Reader for Adolescents


animal-farm-book-cover1As my children (currently first and third graders) get older, I’m increasingly concerned about how to inoculate them against the incessant liberalism they will be exposed to on a daily basis through school and media. I already have to deal with cartoon dogs lecturing them about global warming and teachers not letting them eat snacks because — heaven forfend! — the yogurt contains Oreo crumbles.

Dealing with that stuff is pretty easy now; I just tell them the problems with what they’re hearing on TV or in the classroom, or I ignore the issue because the attempts at liberal indoctrination have failed. But at some point, sooner than I would like, they are going to need more. So I started thinking about a reading list for when that time comes to help my kids realize that a lot of liberal pablum is misguided at best and overtly destructive at worst. I want them to think critically about these issues.

The reading material needs to be accessible to a seventh grader (or thereabouts), so the Road to Serfdom, Capitalism and Freedom, and Liberal Fascism are probably out. I also don’t want the material to seem hectoring or overly preachy about the virtues of conservatism.

Here’s what I have come up with so far:

  • “The Gods of the Copybook Headings,” Rudyard Kipling
  • Animal Farm, George Orwell
  • 1984, George Orwell
  • Politics and the English Language, George Orwell
  • Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury
  • Harrison Bergeron, Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Use of Knowledge in Society, Friedrich Hayek
  • The Pretense of Knowledge, Friedrich Hayek (These last two might be a little too advanced for a seventh grader, but it can’t hurt to try. Plus, you can never have enough Hayek.)

What am I missing? What other short and/or accessible works should be included in The Essential Conservative Reader for Adolescents/Young Adults?

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  1. Son of Spengler Contributor
    Son of Spengler

    Free to Choose by Milton & Rose Friedman. Just the early chapters; the later ones are more specific to when the book was written. The companion TV series can be found on YouTube, too.

    • #1
  2. EThompson Inactive

    I clearly remember The Fountainhead as quite inspirational in middle school.

    • #2
  3. The Cynthonian Member
    The Cynthonian

    I think Peter Robinson’s book, “How Ronald Reagan Changed My Life,” is very accessible for high-school ages.   Especially good for boys, IMHO.   Peter does a really nice job of explaining why Reagan’s principles and the way he lived his life made such an impact on him.

    And it’s a quick read.   I’ve recommended it to my nephews as they reached adolescence.  (Mental note:   must buy them copies, and my 15-yr-old niece too!  Right, Peter?)

    • #3
  4. Mike Hubbard Inactive
    Mike Hubbard

    Try Whittaker Chambers’s Witness: you get a spy novel and Richard Nixon as a hero.

    • #4
  5. Eric Blankenstein Inactive
    Eric Blankenstein

    Mike Hubbard:Try Whittaker Chambers’s Witness: you get a spy novel and Richard Nixon as a hero.

    I thought about that (and it has the benefit of already being in my library), but I think it’s a little too long and dense for a middle-schooler.

    • #5
  6. Fake John Galt Coolidge
    Fake John Galt

    Look toward science fiction and fantasy .  Robert Heinlein, Orson Scott Card, David Weber etc have some good stuff going from young adult and upward.  They know how to entertain while still delivering a message.  It is what I cut my conservative teeth on.

    • #6
  7. Misthiocracy Member

    How An Economy Grows And Why It Crashes by Peter Schiff

    It’s a picture book.

    • #7
  8. Misthiocracy Member

    The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy is essentially a polemic against bureaucracy, technocracy, and demagoguery.

    Later books in the series are less conservative, but the first one should be considered a conservative staple.

    • #8
  9. Podkayne of Israel Inactive
    Podkayne of Israel

    Starship Trooper by Robert Heinlein

    The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

    The Giver by Lois Lowry

    Lord of the Flies by William Golding

    But to really start them off right, there’s my mother’s favorite, The Little Red Hen

    • #9
  10. Misthiocracy Member

    V For Vendetta. The movie was little more than a polemic against social conservativism, but in the original graphic novel the whole reason the dystopia happens is because Margaret Thatcher was never elected, which allowed the Soviet Union to advance on Western Europe.

    Maus. An allegorical graphic novel about the holocaust.

    Persepolis. A graphic novel about a girl growing up during the islamic revolution in Iran.

    We The Living. Ayn Rand’s novella about coming of age in Lenin’s Russia.

    • #10
  11. Misthiocracy Member

    Podkayne of Israel:Starship Trooper by Robert Heinlein

    Personally, I prefer The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress.

    • #11
  12. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter

    The True Believer

    Eric Hoffer

    • #12
  13. RightAngles Member

    Good for you. I did the same, and my college junior is a Conservative today. She ridicules her feminist vegan friends. It’s music to my ears.

    • #13
  14. Jon Gabriel, Ed. Admin
    Jon Gabriel, Ed.

    I highly recommend The Law by Frédéric Bastiat. It’s a short and very quick read, but dramatically changed the way I’ve thought about government and economics ever since.

    • #14
  15. PTomanovich Member

    I read Animal Farm to my 8th grader last year, and she enjoyed it.  I would also recommend Heinlein.  We read A Wrinkle In Time, which was also a hit.

    But you don’t need to go back too far.  The Hunger Games trilogy is anti-statist through and through.

    • #15
  16. Misthiocracy Member

    Laches by Plato

    It’s a short and straight-forward dialogue about the nature of “courage”. I think it’s one of the best introductions to the Socratic method and skepticism in general.

    It has the added benefit of being a free download.

    • #16
  17. Hank Rearden Inactive
    Hank Rearden

    Late adolescence, 17, Atlas Shrugged.

    Probably not what you are looking for, but I was captivated by Kenneth Roberts:

    Northwest Passage


    Rabble in Arms

    Arundel and Rabble in Arms are a pair and are in that sequence, i.e., Arundel first. They use the same characters.

    • #17
  18. Topher Inactive

    Lord of the Flys. Best explication of fundamental human nature there is.

    • #18
  19. billy Inactive

    I was something of a history buff as a teenager, so someone gave me a copy of Paul Johnson’s Modern Times when  was about 17. Completely changed what I thought I knew about the 20th century.

    • #19
  20. Matt Blankenship Inactive
    Matt Blankenship

    My boy read animal Farm last year at age 9. I did give him a little context to make sure that he understood that it was about the Russian revolution and communism. (Claire Berlinski mentioned somewhere that she read it at age 5…)

    I spend a lot of time talking to my kids about history– especially ancient Greece and Rome and American history. They don’t get out of the early grades without knowing the years and parties involved of all of America’s major wars.

    While I think that the use of kids for political purposes is disgusting, I absolutely believe in the importance of political and philosophical indoctrination from an early age. But it should be done in a gentle way so as not to rob the children of their very childhood. Stories are important. See Michael Walsh’s new book on the importance of story and heroic myth.

    • #20
  21. Topher Inactive

    It’s not a book, but immensely entertaining:

    • #21
  22. Brian Wyneken Member
    Brian Wyneken

    Oh, I wouldn’t worry about it. They’ll get extra credit for reading Howard Zinn in high school. According to Matt Damon that’s pretty much all you need.

    On a sincere note, reading good biographies about our founders brings personal stories which for some is more accessible than theory in developing an admiration for this country. I always liked Stephen Oates’ very readable (and short) biography on Lincoln “With Malice Towards None,” and James Flexner’s “Washington:  the Indispensable Man” was a balanced and easy read. I’ll also endorse Hank Rearden’s recommendations – really great historical yarns about the early struggles.

    • #22
  23. Seawriter Contributor

    Space Viking and The Cosmic Computer, by H. Beam Piper.


    • #23
  24. Matt Blankenship Inactive
    Matt Blankenship

    Is there a consensus on the best Robert Heinlein juvenile? I have not read any of them. I missed them in childhood.

    Have spacesuit will travel?

    • #24
  25. Percival Thatcher

    Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolution Through the Eye of Those Who Fought and Lived Itby Sheer and Rankin.  Related utilizing the letters and diaries of participants, witnesses, and bystanders.  Of the last, there is the diary entry of one Nicholas Cresswell, a loyal subject of His Majesty:

    Sunday, July 13th, 1777. News that our Army has surprised Washington and taken him prisoner. Afraid it is too good to be authentic. [It was.] His great caution will always prevent him being made a prisoner to our inactive General. Washington is certainly a most surprising man, one of Nature’s geniuses, a Heaven-born General, if there is any of that sort. That a Negro-driver should, with a ragged Banditti of undisciplined people, the scum and refuse of all nations on earth, so long keep a British General at bay, nay, even, oblige him, with as fine an army of Veteran Soldiers as ever England had on the American Continent, to retreat–it is astonishing. It is too much. By Heavens, there must be double-dealing somewhere. General Howe, a man brought up to War from his youth, to be puzzled and plagued for two years together, with a Virginia Tobacco planter. O! Britain, how thy Laurels tarnish in the hands of such a Lubber! The life of General Washington will be a most copious subject for some able Biographer to exercise his pen upon. Nature did not make me one of the Biographic order. However, I will make some remarks concerning this great and wonderful man.

    I don’t know if it will make a boy a conservative.  It ought to make him an American, though.

    • #25
  26. Brandon Phelps Member
    Brandon Phelps

    You could always try the Great Books. They aren’t universally conservative, and you can make the case that they have helped lead us to where we all are today, but they are a far cry from the milktoast kids get today. My friend teaches Great Books to his students starting at age 13 so I think this is right in line with what you’re looking for. In fact, your kids can take his classes, live over the Internet.

    This is part of year one:

    1. Iliad, Books 1-2, pp. 77-128    Alphabet Video
    2. Iliad, Books 3-5, pp.128-195  
    3. Iliad, Books 6-9, pp.195-276  
    4. Iliad, Books 10-13, pp. 276-369  
    5. Iliad, Books 15-18, pp. 387-488  
    6. Iliad, Books 19-24, pp. 488-617  
    7. Odyssey, Books 1-8, pp. 1-143 *Paper 1 due*  
    8. Odyssey, Books 9-15, pp. 143-287  
    9. Odyssey,Books 16-24, pp. 287-463  

    • #26
  27. Brandon Phelps Member
    Brandon Phelps

    And here is the rest of year one. There are five years total:

    10. The Three Theban Plays, Oedipus the King(Oedipus Rex), pp. 159-198  Performance
    11. The Three Theban Plays, Oedipus the King(Oedipus Rex), pp. 198-251 *Paper 2 due*
    12. The Three Theban Plays, Oedipus at Colonnus  
    13. The Three Theban Plays, Antigone, pp. 59-96  
    14. The Three Theban Plays, Antigone, pp. 96-128  
    15. The Oresteia, Agamemnon, pp. 99-139 *Paper 3 due*  
    16. The Oresteia, Agamemnon, pp. 139-173  *First semester questions due*
    17. The Oresteia, The Libation Bearers, pp. 173-227  
    18. The Oresteia,The Eumenides, pp. 227-279  
    19. Aristotle, The Poetics  
    20. Plato, Gorgias; 447 – 482  
    21. Plato, Gorgias- 482 – 504  
    22. Plato, Gorgias- 504 – 527  
    23. Plutarch’s Lives; Theseus, Solon, Themistocles;  *Paper 4 due*  
    24. Plutarch’s Lives; Aristides, Cimon,Pericles;  
    25. Plutarch’s Lives; Nicias, Alcibiades, Lysander;  
    26. The Histories; Read Book I;Book II, chps 50-53, 112-120, 141; Book III, chps 37, 38, 66-87  
    27. The Histories; Read Book V, chps. 91-93, 105; Book VI, chps 42-48, 56-72, 94-120;Book VII
    28. The Histories; Read Book VIII; Book IX   *Paper 5 due*  
    29. Plato, Euthyphro  
    30. Plato, Apology  
    31. Plato, Phaedo- beginning to 73  
    32. Plato, Phaedo- 73 to 90a  
    33. Plato, Phaedo- 90a to end *Paper 6 Due*  
    34. Exhortation to the Greeks; Chpts. I-IV *Second semester questions due*  
    35. Exhortation to the Greeks Chpts. V-XII  

    • #27
  28. Brandon Phelps Member
    Brandon Phelps

    I guess I should post a link to his site. It makes the case for why kids should study the Great Books pretty well.

    • #28
  29. david foster Member
    david foster

    Topher:Lord of the Flys. Best explication of fundamental human nature there is.

    This book can usefully be read in conjunction with Heinlein’s “Tunnel in the Sky,” which also concerns adolescents marooned on their own but offers a much more optimistic view of the possibility of establishing a viable society.

    • #29
  30. david foster Member
    david foster

    Some of Ayn Rand’s books have been mentioned.  I think “We the Living” is by far the best from a literary/character-development standpoint, and it gives a real sense of what it must be like to live in a totalitarian society….not just the fear, but the dreariness.

    It’s a movie not a book, but I highly recommend the 1980s German movie “The White Rose” about the college kids of the anti-Nazi resistance group.  There is a later movie, “Sophie Scholl: The Last Days” about this group, also very good, but I think the earlier movie is better, especially for high-school age students.

    Walter Miller’s “A Canticle for Leibowitz” is classified as SF, but is really a philosophical/theological novel of ideas…a deep book, very thought-provoking.

    • #30
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