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Key Books (Just In Time For Christmas) By: Robert Locke
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, December 14, 2001

ONE OF THE TRADITIONAL WEAKNESSES of the Right in America is a lack of intellectual depth, at least compared to our opponents.  At risk of sounding obvious, the best way to remedy this is for all of us to read more. Our intellectual disadvantage is probably diminishing, for two reasons. First, the Left has slipped from the high intellectual standards it maintained from the ‘20s to the ‘50s.  It has strayed into pseudo-intellectual mush like deconstructionism article) and has led the affirmative action driven assault on academic rigor at our universities.  It has become hostile to facts as such and prefers that its followers be uneducated.  Second, the Right is coming back to life intellectually.  This is the result of the confluence of a number of trends, some of them erudite like the widening influence of the late University of Chicago scholar of ancient political philosophy Leo Strauss. Other trends are mundane, like the desire of home-schoolers to write their own curricula in subjects like American History.  It is in aid of this second cause, the desire of conservatives to educate themselves and their own, that I present this list. 

This is not a list of the most important books or the most important conservative books. Not all are here because of their ideological soundness; some indeed are here because they represent our opponents’ errors well.  Most are a mix of the sound and the unsound, as one cannot develop depth of mind by reading only books that are ideologically congenial.  In fact, it is a serious skill to learn to extract the truth from books that are not. Some are out of print, but with the advent of Amazon.com, et cetera, it is no longer that difficult to obtain them. 

Allen, Henry. What it Felt Like. An educated conservative should cultivate not just a knowledge of history but a sense of history, i.e. the ability to think about former times as if they were as real as his own.  This elegantly written book describes, with perfect pitch, what it felt like to live through the various decades of the American Century.

Anonymous. Primary Colors. Rollicking entertainment as a novel, this book is valuable for its fictionalized depiction of Clinton's 1992 campaign, which was so accurate it threw Washington into a tizzy for months trying to figure out who the author was. (We now know it was Joe Klein, a reporter.) 

Anthology. New Classicism. Architecture is the one part of the culture war that conservatives are winning, and this is the best introduction to the favorable trend.

Anthology. The Bible. This I presume I don't have to tell any conservative to read, but I include it to forestall people asking me why I didn't. 

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. This is one of those truly great works of philosophy that anyone can read.  Happiness is a kind of activity and virtue is a mean between two vices.

Aristotle. Politics. The most readable of the great ancient philosophers and nothing to be afraid of tackling on your own, though you should be prepared to read small bites and chew on them for a long while.  The best kind of government is a mixture of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. Read it together with the Nicomachean Ethics.  Get the translation by Carnes Lord, who was Dan Quayle's domestic policy advisor.

Baylin, Bernard. Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. The thing that stands out the most in this book is that there was no turning point in the American Revolution when the colonists started to think of themselves as independent: their ancestors had thought of themselves as independent even before they left England.

Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind. This bestseller was the first real shell to crack the armor of political correctness back when it came out in 1986 and made an obscure philosophy professor a multimillionaire.  The American mind is being closed by relativism; reading the traditional great books of philosophy is the way out. Simultaneously, pugnaciously, readable and exquisitely erudite.

Borjas, George. Heaven's Door. An unsparing analysis of Third World immigration to the United States by a Cuban American scholar.

Bright, John. A History of Israel. This is the standard, and very readable, scholarly history of Ancient Israel.  Brings the Bible into real focus like nothing else. Nothing to scandalize Christians or Jews, but not sentimental myth, either.  Fascinating on the relations of the Israelites to other ancient societies.

Brimelow, Peter. Alien Nation. The dispositive book on why our current highimmigration policy is an ongoing disaster for America. Readable and comprehensive.

Brooks, David. Bobos in Paradise. This delightfully vicious little number, which I reviewed in another article, is a takedown of the culture of our current ruling class. Bobos are bourgeois bohemians: rich and powerful establishmentarians who style themselves as bohemians in order to be rich while pretending not to be.  This book makes sense of a lot of otherwisepuzzling cultural trends.

Buchanan, Patrick. A Republic, Not An Empire. The controversy over the legitimacy and desirability of America's currently extended role in the world is neither new nor the exclusive province of cranks.  Buchanan demonstrates here that it has a long history, wellgrounded in the respectable founding principles of our nation.  He's for the republic.

Buchanan, Patrick. The Great Betrayal. Buchanan's key point in this book is very simple: America's classic heritage is protectionist, not free trade, and our greatest years of economic growth took place under protectionism.  Even if you're not willing to go all the way with him, this is an essential antidote to globalist lies about our history.

Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. The world is much better at admitting that the communists were just as bad as the Nazis than it used to be; this is a key text for comparing the two.  Hitler still comes off as a much more interesting sick pup.

Burke, Edmund. Considerations Concerning the Sublime and Beautiful  Aesthetics is something that we should all be taking more seriously if we want to have a culture we actually like, and this is one of the classics on the subject by the impeccably conservative 18thcentury philosopher Edmund Burke.

Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. This is the founding document of modern conservatism.  An analysis of the nature of the radicalism set loose in the French Revolution and why conservative principles are the answer to it. Archaic style found splendid by some, a hurdle by others. 

Canadine, David. Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy. For an American, this book is really about the passing of the Old World that died in 1914 and was whisked to oblivion in 1939.   Understanding what this world was like is key to getting some depth in one's understanding of how societies work and not being constrained by the narrow walls of modernity.  Just what were people trying to conserve for so long?

Caro, Robert. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. One of the greatest books on American politics ever written, this is about the rise and fall of supertechnocrat Robert Moses of New York City.  Power corrupts, they say.

Cropsey, Joseph, History of Political Philosophy. If you are serious about mastering political philosophy, at some point or another you will have to match wits with each of the major thinkers covered in this book, which contains erudite but concise chapters, one per philosopher. 

Davies, Bob. Coming out of Homosexuality. You can argue the pros and cons of gay rights and the moral legitimacy of homosexuality all you want, but some people have actually undertaken to do something about righting this condition when it occurs.

Davis, Mike. City of Quartz. This is a work of nonfiction with the pathos and icy finesse of hardboiled detective fiction. Southern California comes off in this omnivorous history and analysis as a candycoated, cyberpunk nightmare projected out of the subconscious of American dreams of bourgeois tranquility. His eye for the telling detail is unsurpassed and this sets the new standard in urban studies.

DeBeauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. This one belongs to the opposition, but it is well worth reading to see what feminist ideology really believes.  She gives the essential ideology in a compact form and of course, as JeanPaul Sartre's lover, shows how feminism is an intellectual consequence of existentialism.

DeTocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. This is one of the all time great classics about American society.  Someone once described the discipline of sociology as the art of trying to prove something about American society that Tocqueville didn't know.  An abridged edition is fine.

Denton, Michael. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Evolution may not be dead, but it is certainly in trouble as a theory. I reviewed this book in another article

Douglas, Ann. Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the ‘20s. This wideranging and profound book is the sine qua non for any serious analysis of the cultural condition of modern America.  It convincingly argues that the demotic technocracy that is American culture first took shape in 1920s New York.  If Negroes did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them. 

Drucker, Peter F. The End of Economic Man. This is an analysis of what the Nazis were really about that was considered so good by Churchill that he made it required reading for all British officers.  In order to explain Hitler,  Drucker evolves a theory of society that shows why traditional conservatism is the only ultimately viable solution.

Drucker, Peter F. The Future of Industrial Man. A companion to The End of Economic Man, Drucker goes on to explain why the totalitarian crisis of the ‘30s proves that Burkean conservatism is the way out.

D'Souza, Dinesh. Illiberal Education. The single best introduction to the mess of the liberal universities.

D'Souza, Dinesh. The End of Racism. The best conservative discussion of the status of racism in American life. 

Duany, Andres et al.   Suburban Nation. Most of us have a vague intuition that suburbia is in some way inadequate, but this book gives a detailed analysis of what is wrong with it, physically speaking.  Governmentimposed planning surprise! turns out to be a big part of the problem.  And it is perfectly possible to do something about it.

Ehrenhalt, Alan. The Lost City: Rediscovering the Virtues of Community in the Chicago of the 1950s. Most conservatives remember the ‘50s as a kind of golden age of American society, but many of the key questions of how it all actually worked are left unanswered.  This book fills in the key blanks with a study of the Chicago of this era.  Vivid and anecdotal.

Ellis, Joseph.  Founding Brothers Understanding America means understanding what our country was really founded on, and one of the best ways to get at this question is through biographies of the founding fathers. Adams, Burr, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison and Washington. 

Fischer, David. Albion's Seed. When someone says America is an AngloSaxon nation and means something more than DAR snobbery, this is what they mean.  A detailed look at the complex ways in which our nation was formed from a British model, patterns which are vivid even today once one understands them.

Frank, Thomas. Commodify Your Dissent. This is truly one of those books that after you have read it, you will have a compulsive desire to make everyone you know read it, and will divide the world into people who have grasped its insights and those who have not.  Its central theme is the utter phoniness of hip America.   Satire so sharp you could shave with it.

Friedberg, Aaron. The Weary Titan. Any empiricallygrounded debate about the problems of America's vast global involvements must take seriously the collapse of the British Empire.  This is the single best and most readable book on that elegiac topic.

Friedman, Thomas. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times is one of the high priests of globalism, by which he means that globalization is inevitable.  Some of his insights are quite good, but he systematically glosses over the real problems.  Readable to the point of parody.

Frum, David. The ‘70s: How We Got Here. The ‘70s are the decade that brought the radical innovations in social mores incubated in the counterculture in the ‘60s into the lives of average Americans.  They are thus the true origin of the way we live now.

Fuchs, Ester. Mayors and Money. The best quantitative analysis of America's urban predicament.  Lots of charts.

Fussell, Paul. Class. A viciously funny and spoton dissection of the American class system.   Learn to think like a European and smirk at your pathetic statusseeking neighbors.

Garreau, Joel. The Nine Nations of North America. This book, which came out in 1979, is a bit dated now in its analysis of the key regions of North America and their differing characteristics, but it is still enormously worth reading because of his amazingly sharp eye for picking out the national character of different societies.  Learn to think regionally.

Garreau, Joel. Edge City. An edge city is a suburb that has acquired all the functions of a traditional downtown.  This book rigorously analyses the physical structure of the cutting edge of American growth.

Halbertstam, David. The Fifties. The fifties are a key decade of reference for conservatives because they are the last decade that our values seem to have predominated in American life. Of course, they also produced the sixties, so they can't be all that sound, can they?

Heffner, Richard, Documentary History of the United States. To know what the Constitution actually says, which is different from what most people think it says, you need a copy of this book.   It also has other key documents.

Heinlein, Robert. Starship Troopers. Under no circumstances see the stunningly bad movie made from this book.  The book itself is the greatest work of political science fiction ever written. It expresses a philosophy of civil society that is ruthlessly logical, highly civilized, and also far to the right of anything ever seriously proposed in the United States. The perfect way to jumpstart a scifi reader into serious political thinking.

Heller, Mikhail. Utopia in Power. The best politicallysound onevolume history of the USSR.

Henry, William. In Defense of Elitism. At some point, most thinking conservatives just give up trying to find polite ways to gloss over the fact and admit out loud that elitism is true. This book, written by a liberal disgusted with liberalism, is a squarelyreasoned analysis of why this is true.  Most people are born for the bleachers; only a few for the playing field or the stage, and everyone’s better off that way.

Hirschman, Albert. The Passions and the Interests. This book is about arguments for capitalism that were made before its triumph as an economic system.  Basically, it was well understood a long time ago that capitalism tended to make men soft and this was a lot better than having them fight each other all the time.

Hitchens, Peter. The Abolition of Britain.  Did Margaret Thatcher fail?  Will all her economic and social reforms come to naught in the face of the reduction of Britain to a province of the European Union saddled with nihilistic social decay? This is a toughminded look at how ‘80s conservatism failed to take on the key sources of national decline while it had the chance.  The obvious extrapolation to the US is a frightening possibility. This is by Peter Hitchens, conservative brother of the morefamous Christopher.

Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf Vicious and insane, to be sure, but there is value in understanding what Hitler actually thought as opposed to what people say he thought.

Horowitz, David: Radical Son. Who were the ‘60s radicals?  Where did they come from?  How did one become one?  And how did some figure out they were wrong and change sides?  All these questions are answered in the form of the autobiography of one man, none other than our editor David Horowitz. Written with a scorching emotional intensity rarely seen in political books. 

Horowitz, David. The Politics of Bad Faith. Our political enemies know they're lying.  Worse, they exploit the presumption of goodwill in American public life to work their mischief.

Horowitz, David. Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes The Left isn't really motivated by a love of freedom, justice, or even equality.  It is motivated by a series of hates: for America, for the middle class, for whites, et cetera.

Goldberg, J.J. Jewish Power There is enough rot said about the influence of Jews in this country that it is worth having a decent factual book on the subject.  It will be very interesting to see how this holds up after Sept. 11 and the ensuing demands to throw Israel to the Arab wolves to make them leave us alone.

Graglia, Carolyn. Domestic Tranquility. This is the best allout assault on feminism, written by a sharptongued intellectual grandmother.

Johnson, Paul. Modern Times. This is the single best introduction to 20thCentury world history.   Johnson is definitely one of us.  Extremely readable and not afraid to make moral judgements.

Johnson, Paul. A History of Christianity. The single best onevolume history of Christianity. Simply grasping that Christianity has a complex history, and that one's own denomination is the product of a long tree of development, is a big intellectual leap for a lot of people, but one worth making.  It is depressing to see how Christians ruin their religion in the same ways time and again throughout history.

Johnson, Paul. A History of the Jews. The best onevolume history of the Jews.  Philosemitic but unafraid to call Jewish Bolshevik scum what they were.

Johnson, Paul. Intellectuals. If you have ever suspected that intellectuals are not just not smarter about social questions than the rest of us, but downright dumber, this is the book that will confirm your suspicions.  Johnson looks at the messes that intellectuals have made of their private lives and then asks, how can we possibly listen to these people telling us how to run our lives or our country?

Johnson, Paul. Birth of the Modern: World Society 18151830. Here he traces the origins of many of the features of the modern world that we take for granted. 

Keegan, John. The Face of Battle. This is an ideal first book on war for those who don't normally read about it.  It is a series of accounts and analyses of what it has actually been like to be in battles.   It takes Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somne as its paradigm cases. Keegan is a superb thinker.

Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy. The single best book on the subject.  Great historical depth.

Koestler, Arthur. Darkness at Noon. This is the most readable of the great antiStalinist novels. It traces the insanity of Bolshevism through the trials of one man punished for a crime against the state he did not commit.

Kramer, Jane. Europeans. This book is valuable both for its descriptions of the national character of the various European nations and for Kramer's sheer skill as a writer.   Read this to learn to make sharpeyed observations. 

Lind, Michael. Up from Conservatism. You are a solid conservative when you can read the worst the opposition has to throw at us and still remain true to your beliefs.  This is by a former conservative who quit to form a political party of one, calling himself a liberal nationalist.  His criticisms aren't very biting, but it's important to know what can be said against us. 

Lowenstein, Roger. When Genius Failed. LongTerm Capital Management was a private investment firm run by Nobel laureates, but it went bust nonetheless in '98.  This is the perfect cautionary tale about how technocratic arrogance meets its match.

Maharidge, Dale. The Coming White Minority. This is the taboo topic that everybody knows about but won't discuss.  The book is very objective and addresses all the relevant issues. Certainly not extremist.

Manchester, William. The Last Lion. The introduction of this book, “Land of Hope and Glory” is probably the finest single piece of historical writing of the last 50 years.  The body is about the life and career of Winston Churchill, the aristocrat who saved world democracy.  Some criticize it for heroworship.

Massie, Douglas. Dreadnaught. The first modern technological arms race was between Great Britain and Germany before WWI and its object was to build the ultimate battleship. A good introduction to how these prewar governments and societies worked.

McNeil, William. Plagues and Peoples. You thought history was the history of our species? Wrong.  McNeil convincingly demonstrates that microbes and rats, by devastating or sparing human populations, have had a far larger impact on history than most people imagine.  Who knew?

McNeil, William. The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community. The best introductory history of world civilization.  Readable. 

Meisel, Lou. Richard Estes. This volume contains pictures by Richard Estes, the foremost photorealist painter in America today.  See what art can still do for us once the lazy dogma of avantgarde abstraction is shucked. This book will give you hope for the future of our culture.

Morris, Dick. Behind the Oval Office. Dick Morris is probably the single smartest purely political thinker in America.  This is the key book on how Clinton managed to win reelection in '96 despite the Republican upsurge of '94.

Morris, Dick. The New Prince. Morris argues, in between sharing his unsurpassed political insights, that American politics would be better off if politicians pursued their selfinterest (rightly understood) in getting elected.

Morris, Edmund. Dutch. Stylistically, this is a keen competitor for the worstwritten major book of the '90s, but it is still Reagan's biography and as such worth reading.

Morris, Jan. Pax Britannia. This account of the British Empire at its height makes clear what decency the world is capable without modern notions of democracy and equality.

Murray, Charles. Losing Ground. The book that caused welfare reform!  This is a good first book if you are interested in what conservative quantitative sociology is like.  Proves with rigorous statistical arguments that the old welfare system made things worse.

Murray, Charles. The Bell Curve. 90 percent of references to this book concern just one chapter of it, on IQ and race, which is too bad, because its systematic exploration of the social and political significance of IQ differences is fascinating.

Olavsky, Marvin. The Tragedy of American Compassion. Olavksy is a former leftist who is Bush's adviser on welfare reform.  This book documents how much better welfare was managed in the days before government took it over and removed its moral dimension.

Packard, Vance. The Hidden Persuaders. Nominally about advertising and how it works, but in fact a razorsharp analysis of human motivation and the science of persuasion.  A must for the cynic.

Paglia, Camille . Sex, Art and American Culture. This book, a populist companion volume to her Sexual Personae, is the book that brought academic feminism to its ahemknees.  Sexual differences are alive, well, and grounded in nature.  The impulse to sexual objectification is inseparable from the art impulse.  One of the most hated books of our time by the opposition.

Paglia, Camille. Sexual Personae. This is the more scholarly version of Paglia's basic ideas for all you former English majors out there.  An examination of great works of literature in support of her thesis.

Phillips, Kevin. The Emerging Republican Majority. This is one of the classics of modern American political science.  It describes, presciently and in great detail, the reasons for the Republican resurgence.   Too bad Phillips didn't foresee the mass immigration that is destroying Republicans' electoral chances with the same relentless demographic logic that he describes.

Phillips, Kevin. Arrogant Capital. The populist resentment this book explores has been muted by late90's prosperity, but it is surely about to return and this is the best guide to it. Elites that act in contempt of the people they govern risk their status.

Plato. The Republic. The single greatest book ever written about politics. Can be a tough read without a mountain guide to help you through it the first time, but if you can handle this on your own, you are a truly exceptional mind. Get the Allan Bloom translation.

Poe, Richard. The Seven Myths of Gun Control Gun controllers aren't just wrong on the moral issues: their facts aren't facts.  Get the right ones here.

Porter, Michael. The Competitive Advantage of Nations. Much is spoken (or was back before the 90's boom, when people actually worried about America's economic future and still feared Japan) about the need for our nation to compete economically with others, but most of this debate goes on in utter ignorance of the real economics of competition between nations. This work, by a professor at the Harvard Business School, is the state of the art on the topic. Very empirical.

Porter, Michael. Competitive Strategy. One of the most readable truly profound books on economics since Adam Smith, this volume explores the nature of competition between firms.   Even if you forget the details, it will greatly sharpen your understanding of how the economy works.

Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand's novels are considered unreadable by some for her sulfurous, hectoring prose style, but she is also a cult figure for many on the Right.  You may be one of those who hits it off with her.  Capitalism and individual rights are her real theme in this story of heroic railroad executives and slimy intellectuals.

Rand, Ayn. The Romantic Manifesto. Aesthetics is not normally taken very seriously in our culture, which is a pity since we produce and distribute so much culture that we might as well make sure it's good.  This is the great Objectivist (read libertarian with metaphysics) philosopher's contribution to the subject.  Basically, art should be propaganda for the good, rightly understood.

Reagan, Ronald et al. Reagan In His Own Hand. In these essays and other notes, Reagan shows that he was one of our most, not least, thinking presidents.

Richburg, Keith. Out of America. A black American goes to Africa and confronts the fact that, Bob Marley songs notwithstanding, he is not an African but an American.

Rieder, Jonathan. Canarsie: the Jews and Italians of Brooklyn Against Liberalism. A classic account of the revolt of the white lowermiddle class against racial liberalism, centered on one neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Rieff, David. Los Angeles: Capital of the Third World. A fascinating look at where our society is going through the lens of where our secondlargest city already is.

Riordon, William. Plunkitt of Tammany Hall. The classic introduction to political corruption for fun and profit, written by a practitioner from old New York.

Robertson, Wilmot. The Dispossessed Majority. This somewhat notorious but prescient analysis of American society explores the way in which the American ethnic majority has been deprived of control over the nation.  Ruthless but not extreme.

Rosenman, Joel. Young Men With Unlimited Capital. This is, unbelievably given its title, a book about the Woodstock music festival of 1968.  The key thing to learn from it is that the counterculture was staged for a profit.  Hippies never sold out; they were phonies from the start.

Rummel, R.J. Death By Government. One would do well, in thinking about politics, to begin by reminding oneself how brutally high the stakes are.  Rummel's message is simple: government in the 20th century has largely been about killing people: 165 million, to be exact. He lays out in cold detail who has killed whom.  We have all heard of the Nazi and Soviet atrocities, but who knew that Poland and Pakistan are each on the books of history for a million victims apiece?

Schama, Simon. Citizens. This history of the French Revolution is so damning that it has yet to be translated into French as it is too hot to handle.  Not only was the Revolution the bloody denouement of the ideologies of modernity, it was also a spectacularly futile jerking around, for want of a better phrase.

Shirer, William. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Everyone should know the sordid history of Nazi Germany, and this is one of the most readable, by an American foreign correspondent who lived through much of it.

Siegel, Fred. The Future Once Happened Here. A devastating analysis of the decline of urban America.

Sowell, Thomas. Race and Culture.  Mr. Sowell, a black economist at Stanford, faces the facts of differing racial levels of achievement with the unflinching gaze that only a black man would dare, but he does not go for the easy racial explanation. He seeks to demonstrate that race is really not the driving variable in the achievements of different cultures; culture is.

Sowell, Thomas. Conquests and Cultures.  Sowell does it again with the highlyinflammatory issue of what we are to make of the fact that most human societies are the products of historical acts of conquest.  Sweeping.

Sowell, Thomas. Knowledge and Decisions.   This is a book often cited by people as the key text that made them become conservative.   Why liberalism presupposes ways of making social decisions that are doomed to failure.

Sowell, Thomas. The Vision of the Anointed. Sick of knowitall liberal elitism?  This book is a systematic analysis of the structure of the liberal belief that they know better what people need than they know themselves. 

Stern, Robert A.M. New York 1900. To develop a cultured sense of what architecture, the most civic of the arts, should be, one must look to the past. This book gives a coherent picture of how Americans have aspired to great refinement in their built environment since long ago.   It treats both of individual buildings, the shaping of the city around them, and  the social forces that produce good buildings. Pick New York 1880 or New York 1930 instead if you like those periods better; pick New York 1960 to see it all fall apart.

Trevanian. Shibumi. This curious book, which has a cult following so intense that its readers divide the world into those who have read it and those who have not, does not, as we say, express sound views. It does, however, contain matchless insights into such topics as aristocracy, American culture, the relations between East and West and Ancient and Modern.  The hero is a sort of philosopherJames Bond. Highly entertaining and witty.  Elitist.

Tuchman, Barbara. The Guns of August. This book is frequently cited by people as the one book that turned them on to history in the first place.   An analysis of the causes and opening of WWI, which in case you didn't know was probably more historically consequential than WWII.

Tuchman, Barbara. The Proud Tower.  Real conservatives, Europe before 1914 is the point of reference for so many things.  This is a wideranging account of what that world was like. Did you know Marxism was on the defensive intellectually by the 1890s?

Van Alstyne, Richard. The Rising American Empire. This book makes one important point with brutal clarity: America is what it is today because the founding fathers deliberately undertook the conquest of the desirable parts of North America from their tiny East Coast base. We are an empire and should be proud of it.

Van Wolferen, Karel. The Enigma of Japanese Power. The nominal subject of this book is how strange the Japanese power elite is.  Its greater implications concern what a slippery thing a power structure is when you actually rigorously analyze it.

Von Hayek, Friedrich. The Road to Serfdom. The classic work on how economic planning leads to more economic planning leads to… you guessed it.

Warren, Robert Penn. All the King's Men. Widely regarded as the greatest American political novel, this is a fictionalization of the career of Huey Long, the great Southern demagogue of the 1930s.   It has a dark flicker of serious political philosophy on the nature of civic virtue and corruption, but I prize it above all for its vivid recreation of the lost world of the pre-WWII South.

Welles, James. The Story of Stupidity: A History of Western Idiocy from the Days of Greece to the Present. This entertaining volume is an analysis of the role of stupidity through history.  Although written in an amateurish style and not up to the highest scholarly standards, it is nonetheless a convincing argument that failure to adapt to the truth is a systematic feature of all social systems.

Wilson, James Q.   The Moral Sense. It has been a commonplace of intellectual discourse for ages that morality is obviously arbitrary because different cultures have different opinions on moral questions. But as Wilson masterfully shows, this is not empirically true: most cultures in all eras have agreed on the moral basics, and even where they disagree, they fall into a few basic patterns.  Therefore human beings do have an innate sense of right and wrong.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. This is definitely not a book for everyone; in fact, all but former philosophy majors are likely to come to grief with it.  But if you're up to reading it, it is the book of 20th century philosophy.   In his sly, gradual, but inexorable way, Wittgenstein lays out all the celebrated insights of modern irrationalism but without falling over the edge into the nonsense we so often encounter in these things.  Language is the bottleneck of our understanding and is not what we think it is.

Wolfe, Alan. One Nation After All.   Sociologist Wolfe argues that the moral consensus of our society is not fractured after all: most Americans agree on an ideology that has been described as private relativism and public nihilism.

Wolfe, Tom. Radical Chic and Maumauing the Flak Catchers. Tom Wolfe was one of the first to spot the sheer absurdity of cultural liberalism, and this book remains one of the most acid dissections of it.

Wolfe, Tom. From the Bauhaus to Our House. The best short introduction to what's wrong with ugly modern architecture and how it got that way.

Wolfe, Tom. The Painted Word. The best short introduction to what's wrong with modern art and how it got that way.

Woodward, Bob. The Agenda. A flyonthe wall look inside the early Clinton White House.

Yapp, Nicholas. Decades of the 20th Century: The Hulton Getty Collection. In cultivating the vivid sense of the past that a conservative should have, pictures are very useful, and this series of wellchosen images, one book per decade, is a good means to that end.

Yergin, Daniel. The Prize It is probably no secret to you that oil is a commodity important to modern affairs, but you are probably not aware of the actual history of the single greatest material prize in the history of the world.  This one substance is quite important enough to support its own history of the postwar era.  And did you know Hitler lost because he ran out of gas?

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