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Summer Reading Suggestions By: Thomas Sowell
Townhall.com | Friday, July 11, 2003


From time to time, parents write to ask how they can counter all the steady diet of slanted political correctness their children are getting in the schools and colleges. The summer vacation is probably as good a time as any to get them something to read to let them know that there is another side of the story, other than the one that classroom propagandists keep forcing down their throats.

There is probably no subject on which the facts are so twisted by the schools, the media and academia as racial issues. If you want to find something rational that you or your youngster can read on this subject, one of the best and most lively books is The Myths that Divide Us by John Perazzo.

Its sub-title is "How Lies Have Poisoned American Race Relations." This book demolishes a whole spectrum of cant. Anyone who reads it will definitely be educated on the subject of racial issues in America.

They may also be saddened, if not outraged, at how political rhetoric and media spin have distorted reality beyond recognition -- and in the process created huge and unnecessary racial polarization and strife. But -- most important -- any reader of this book will be a lot less susceptible to rhetoric and spin in the future.

If you want to find out about the history of the United States, without getting politically correct rhetoric about "dead white males" and the like, then A History of the American People by British historian Paul Johnson is the book to read. His rounded treatment of American history is in sharp contrast with those historians who seem to think that the only thing interesting about American history are the things that went wrong and those who protested.

A writer both popular and profound, Paul Johnson has also written a very readable and insightful book on world history in the 20th century called Modern Times. Our schools and colleges do such a poor job of letting young people know what happened in the world before they were born that Modern Times should be must reading.

Economics is another important subject on which there is widespread ignorance and misinformation, despite many brilliant books by economists -- books which even graduate students often have trouble reading. Writing a readable book about economics is not easy -- as I discovered when I wrote Basic Economics, an introduction to the subject without graphs, equations, tables, or jargon.

Obviously, I am not the most objective judge of how good or how readable Basic Economics is. However, it has sold well and has been translated into Japanese and Polish, so apparently some people like it.

For a more philosophical -- but also very readable -- discussion of free market capitalism, you cannot do better than Free to Choose by Rose and Milton Friedman. Reading this book can undo years of collectivist indoctrination in the schools and colleges.

The desire for a collectivist world in which government controls more of our lives has survived many disastrous attempts to create such a world. Heaven on Earth by Joshua Muravchik is a lively and dramatic history of these disasters -- and of the good intentions that led to them.

One book that every American ought to read is The Federalist, also known as "The Federalist Papers," since it is a collection of popular 18th century essays written to explain to the general public why the government of the United States was being created the way it was in the Constitution. It is a gem.

One of the most important things for young people to understand, early on, is how much hostility there is to this country and its values by the intelligentsia in the media and in educational institutions. Useful Idiots by Mona Charen spells it out in plain English with unmistakable examples.

A landmark experience is reading Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple, about the effect of the welfare state on poor people and the social degeneracy to which it has led in Britain. A Brief History of Crime by Peter Hitchens tells the same story as regards crime in Britain, where leftish fads have gone even further than in the United States, with even more disastrous results.


Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.


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