What Are Your Top Five Books Every Conservative Should Read?

 

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?

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  1. DrewInWisconsin Member
    DrewInWisconsin
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Saw headline.

    Thought “If The Abolition of Man isn’t on that list, it’s bogus.”

    Clicked.

    WELL DONE, YOU!

    • #1
  2. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens
    @BryanGStephens

    The Bible should be in there. Foundation of Morals for the West.

    • #2
  3. Robert McReynolds Inactive
    Robert McReynolds
    @RobertMcReynolds

    This list has changed for me over the years.

    1.  A Brief Enquiry into the Nature and Character of our Federal Government: by Abel Upshur
    2. Man, Economy, and State by Murray Rothbard
    3. Human Action by Ludwig von Mises
    4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
    5. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolfe

    It will probably change again tomorrow.

    • #3
  4. Seawriter Contributor
    Seawriter
    @Seawriter

    tabula rasa: Liberalism doesn’t seem to have basic texts.

    Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinski. Of course, there is nothing to keep conservatives from stealing it . . .

    Speaking of stealing:

    Steal This Book, by Abbie Hoffman. My kid brother has an autographed copy of the paperback – Hoffman rarely did this, but my brother got a friend who was interviewing Hoffman sign it prior to the interview.

    There are others. Das Kapital, The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf,  and a few others, but they tend to be turgid reads.

    Seawriter

    • #4
  5. Hoyacon Member
    Hoyacon
    @Hoyacon

    Five is pretty limiting, but I can’t imagine a list without Allan Bloom’s “The Closing of the American Mind.”

    • #5
  6. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    tabula rasa: Liberalism doesn’t seem to have basic texts.

    Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinski. Of course, there is nothing to keep conservatives from stealing it . . .

    Speaking of stealing:

    Steal This Book, by Abbie Hoffman. My kid brother has an autographed copy of the paperback – Hoffman rarely did this, but my brother got a friend who was interviewing Hoffman sign it prior to the interview.

    There are others. Das Kapital, The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, and a few others, but they tend to be turgid reads.

    Seawriter

    Good thoughts.  It seems to me that Alinsky’s book isn’t so much an affirmative case for progressive thought as a battle plan to defeat conservatives.

    I think these works are turgid because progressive thought is naturally turgid.

    • #6
  7. HalapenyoHarry Inactive
    HalapenyoHarry
    @HalapenyoHarry

    Witness, Whitaker Chamber’s autobiography needs to be on the list.

    A review here.

    • #7
  8. tabula rasa Inactive
    tabula rasa
    @tabularasa

    HalapenyoHarry (View Comment):
    Witness, Whitaker Chamber’s autobiography needs to be on the list.

    A review here.

    Can’t argue with that.  Maybe a top 10 would be better.

    • #8
  9. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    It’s only a short story, but “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut is one of my go-to works to help show the evils of pushing for equal outcomes instead of equal opportunities.

    • #9
  10. Boss Mongo Member
    Boss Mongo
    @BossMongo

    Aw sheez, here we go…

    • #10
  11. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg; A Conflict of Visions, by Thomas Sowell; The Conservative Heart, by Arthur C. Brooks

    • #11
  12. Lily Bart Inactive
    Lily Bart
    @LilyBart

    The Law by Federic Bastiat

    “Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”

    “The state is that great fiction by which everyone tries to live at the expense of everyone else”

    “The mission of law is not to oppress persons and plunder them of their property, even thought the law may be acting in a philanthropic spirit. Its mission is to protect property.”

    “Sometimes the law defends plunder and participates in it. Thus the beneficiaries are spared the shame and danger that their acts would otherwise involve… But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them and gives it to the other persons to whom it doesn’t belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime. Then abolish that law without delay – No legal plunder; this is the principle of justice, peace, order, stability, harmony and logic.”

     

    • #12
  13. Lily Bart Inactive
    Lily Bart
    @LilyBart

    tabula rasa: The Vision of the Anointed by Thomas Sowell (1995)

    I’ve read this and highly recommend it.  (actually, anything by Sowell is good reading)

    • #13
  14. Lily Bart Inactive
    Lily Bart
    @LilyBart

    tabula rasa (View Comment):
    It seems to me that Alinsky’s book isn’t so much an affirmative case for progressive thought as a battle plan to defeat conservatives.

    “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”  –Sun Tzu.

    • #14
  15. Publius Inactive
    Publius
    @Publius

    Parliament of Whores is pretty much mandatory.

    • #15
  16. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Starship Troopers and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, both by Robert Heinlein.

    • #16
  17. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    I’ll go a bit untraditional

     

    The Way the World Works -Jude Wanniski

    How Capitalism Saved America -Thomas DiLirenzo

    Starship Troopers -Robert Heinlein

    The Camp of the Saints -Jean Raspail

    In the First Circle – Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

     

    • #17
  18. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    tabula rasa: Liberalism doesn’t seem to have basic texts.

    Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinski. Of course, there is nothing to keep conservatives from stealing it . . .

    Speaking of stealing:

    Steal This Book, by Abbie Hoffman. My kid brother has an autographed copy of the paperback – Hoffman rarely did this, but my brother got a friend who was interviewing Hoffman sign it prior to the interview.

    There are others. Das Kapital, The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, and a few others, but they tend to be turgid reads.

    Seawriter

    I recommend Marx’s Value Price and Profit.     It is a slender volume and details Marx’s theory of where prices come from … The Labor Theory of Value.    LTV is the bedrock on which all of Marx stands or falls.   And LTV is just junk as a quick read will demonstrate.  Without LTV all of Marx is speculative fiction.    Read it under the heading of ‘ know thine enemy’ .

    • #18
  19. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    The conservative mind by Russell Kirk and of course Burke, “Reflections.. must be at the top of the list.  And no Hayek?  His Nobel speech at least.  When you start thinking about it, there’s a lot out there.  What are the books we would give to our liberal friends, the few who read books.  I’d put Sowell’s “Conflict of Visions”  it doesn’t use words like conservative or liberal so it can slip the stiletto of clear thought in before they have a chance to close their minds.  Of course remove the authors name.

    • #19
  20. Damocles Inactive
    Damocles
    @Damocles

    tabula rasa (View Comment):

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    tabula rasa: Liberalism doesn’t seem to have basic texts.

    Rules for Radicals, by Saul Alinski. Of course, there is nothing to keep conservatives from stealing it . . .

    Speaking of stealing:

    Steal This Book, by Abbie Hoffman. My kid brother has an autographed copy of the paperback – Hoffman rarely did this, but my brother got a friend who was interviewing Hoffman sign it prior to the interview.

    There are others. Das Kapital, The Communist Manifesto, Mein Kampf, and a few others, but they tend to be turgid reads.

    Seawriter

    Good thoughts. It seems to me that Alinsky’s book isn’t so much an affirmative case for progressive thought as a battle plan to defeat conservatives.

    I think these works are turgid because progressive thought is naturally turgid.

    I think Rules for Radicals should be read by all conservatives.  In addition to being able to recognize the tactics used against us, some of the advice is very valuable in a positive sense.

    For example, keeping it fun.  People will continue to do what they enjoy.  The typical eat-your-vegetables conservative doesn’t like this, but if you actually want to engage the culture and win, there’s valuable advice in there.

    • #20
  21. Ekosj Member
    Ekosj
    @Ekosj

    I Walton (View Comment):
    it can slip the stiletto of clear thought in before they have a chance to close their minds.

    Fair warning … I’m stealing that line.  No footnote or anything.   A thing of beauty.

    • #21
  22. Glenn Inactive
    Glenn
    @Glenn

    I would add

    “Free to Choose” – Milton Friedman

    “Basic Economics” – Thomas Sowell

     

     

    • #22
  23. T-Fiks Member
    T-Fiks
    @TFiks

    I’ve got to throw Hayek’s Road to Serfdom into the mix.

     

    • #23
  24. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    I Walton (View Comment):
    I’d put Sowell’s “Conflict of Visions” it doesn’t use words like conservative or liberal so it can slip the stiletto of clear thought in before they have a chance to close their minds. Of course remove the authors name.

    I was deeply impressed by how non-partisan the book was. It is a great example of how a partisan can write in a non-partisan way. For my money it’s his best book but what Thomas Sowell clearly communicates is that different cultures create different results so we better pay attention to our culture.

    • #24
  25. Nanda Panjandrum Member
    Nanda Panjandrum
    @

    TR, lists are fine, and bonny; but they rest on a beloved Conservative fiction that ideas can stand alone and speak for themselves powerfully enough to convince.  Sadly, we can’t rely on the shared foundation of classical liberalism that formed a foundation on which to build – even for those who disagreed with its premises.  We need to model this as a way of being, not merely discuss it as a way of thinking…(I do have my favorites, but I won’t burden the comments with retreads…).

    • #25
  26. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    TR, lists are fine, and bonny; but they rest on a beloved Conservative fiction that ideas can stand alone and speak for themselves powerfully enough to convince. Sadly, we can’t rely on the shared foundation of classical liberalism that formed a foundation on which to build – even for those who disagreed with its premises. We need to model this as a way of being, not merely discuss it as a way of thinking…(I do have my favorites, but I won’t burden the comments with retreads…).

    That’s why I listed fiction.

     

    • #26
  27. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    TR, lists are fine, and bonny; but they rest on a beloved Conservative fiction that ideas can stand alone and speak for themselves powerfully enough to convince. Sadly, we can’t rely on the shared foundation of classical liberalism that formed a foundation on which to build – even for those who disagreed with its premises. We need to model this as a way of being, not merely discuss it as a way of thinking…(I do have my favorites, but I won’t burden the comments with retreads…).

    Granted, Nanda, but this is where good fiction can come into play. “Harrison Bergeron” and Starship Troopers make their arguments without dry recitations of facts and philosophy; instead, they rely on showing Progressive premises for the evils they are and conservative values for the virtues they are.

    I’d also like to put in a vote for the “Graphic Guide to Conservatism,” though I don’t have a link handy.

    • #27
  28. Ontheleftcoast Inactive
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Ekosj (View Comment):
    In the First Circle – Alexandr Solzhenitsyn

    I agree with Solzhenitsyn but think it should be The Gulag Archipelago. 

    • #28
  29. Amy Schley Moderator
    Amy Schley
    @AmySchley

    I’d also suggest that everyone should read this short column:

    Crunchiness

    It explains not only why the free market is superior to any managed system, but also why big companies are just as terrible at making good decisions as big governments.

    • #29
  30. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):
    Miffed White Male

    Nanda Panjandrum (View Comment):
    TR, lists are fine, and bonny; but they rest on a beloved Conservative fiction that ideas can stand alone and speak for themselves powerfully enough to convince. Sadly, we can’t rely on the shared foundation of classical liberalism that formed a foundation on which to build – even for those who disagreed with its premises. We need to model this as a way of being, not merely discuss it as a way of thinking…(I do have my favorites, but I won’t burden the comments with retreads…).

    That’s why I listed fiction.

    Here is how SSM happened. Writers wrote stories where guys were lovable and sympathetic. That changed peoples’ minds. It was never a rational argument going back to Aristotle.

    • #30
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