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The Conservative Book Club periodically publishes lists of the best books for conservatives provided by prominent conservatives. Recently, the club published Ben Shapiro’s top 5 conservative books.
- The Federalist Papers
- The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis
- The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell
- Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlett
- The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
All are excellent choices. I must admit that I’ve not read Haidt’s book, but know enough about it (including owning a copy) to acknowledge that it’s a worthy addition to the conservative canon. There’s nothing more foundational to American conservatives than the Federalist Papers. Anything by Thomas Sowell could make the list (I doubt he’s ever written a sentence that is unworthy of our careful review). Hazlett’s short book on economics is brilliant. And there’s no greater defense of object truth than the Abolition of Man.
Following are my nominees:
The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis (1943). I can’t leave this book, which I re-read every couple of years, off my list. It’s an inoculation against the infection of relativism and other viruses of progressive thought. Lewis is a great Christian apologist, but this book (which can be read in less than two hours) is one of the truly essential books on politics.
Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke (1790). The older I get the more Burke resonates with me. This long essay on the perils of revolution and collectivism was written before the Terror—but it predicted it perfectly. Burke had the talent to describe fundamental truths of politics. If only our movement could rediscover some of its Burkean roots.
Ideas Have Consequences by Richard Weaver (1948). Written by a professor at the University of Chicago, this short book ignores the political issues of the day, and focuses on the bigger issues, not least Weaver’s dismantling of the kind of mindless egalitarianism of the post-WW II world.
Our Culture, Or What’s Left of It by Theodore Dalrymple (2005). Dalrymple (real name: Anthony Daniels) is an English doctor who knows more about the perils of the welfare state (including socialize medicine) than any one person should be required to know. This book is a series of essays on political and cultural issues. Dalrymple’s writing is accessible and entertaining, and no contemporary writer lays more wood on the pompous idiocy of progressive thought than Dalrymple.
The Vision of the Anointed by Thomas Sowell (1995). This, more than any other book, taught me how to recognize the fundamental differences between conservative (“constrained”) and progressive (“unconstrained”) thought.
What books do you believe to be essential reading for thoughtful conservatives (or for those who wish to become more thoughtful about their political beliefs). Why?
P.S. Conservatives are blessed with a wealth of great books because conservatism is based on principles. Liberalism doesn’t seem to have basic texts. Am I right?