I Know, 11 Must-Reads. Why Not 10, right?
I wrestled with labeling this list as “conservative”. Anyone who reads it will learn something. This is especially true in the case of the Goldwater book. I came down on the side of truth-in-labeling. Conservative writers did write these books. I consider these books to be arguable must-reads.
As I point out in Street Politics…, the terms Conservative and Liberal mean little in today’s discussion. There are few more stodgy and pig-headed than the modern American “liberal”. And people who would be slapped with the label “conservative” are often more willing than the Center and Left to try new ideas and cut loose the creative juices of their fellow citizens. Please bear this in mind as you browse the following books.
Also this is not presented in the rank order the books sold in. But most have spent time on the Amazon and NY Times best-sellers lists.
Just click on the book to go straight to it.
From Good to Best:
1. Are You Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused? (An Uncle Eric Book) 2nd Edition
I started with this book because it addresses directly the observation I made above. It properly diminishes the political labels that have been popular since FDR and challenges popular myth. Not every observation in this book aligns with my own, but at least we have a cogent argument about labels and why we must see past them if we are to have a hope in hell of ever getting this country back on a sustainable, successful course.
2. STREET POLITICS: It Ain’t Your Daddy’s GOP Anymore!
Aw, c’mon! You didn’t think I was going to publish a list of conservative writers and not put my own masterpiece on here did you? Besides, I didn’t let hubris overwhelm me, placing SP ahead of everyone. I think I could have moved it much higher on the list, but I’ll be coy and keep it here.
This is your chance to deal with the new reality in Washington. Whether we like Donald Trump or not, we need to understand how got elected in the first place. Only then can we build on his unorthodox success.
As of this post, we are failing to do so. We are watching Republicans ensure the permanence of government-controlled health insurance while we miss entirely, the danger of a President who tweets WHAT HE IS THINKING, everyday, unedited, without an ounce of forethought or maturity.
Please remember: 50% of ALL AUTHOR PROCEEDS will go to support Lt. Jeff Kerr, super cop from Virginia, in his fight against Multiple Sclerosis; his fight and helping others as well. Due to the way book sales are reported, we don’t have much time before the Bike MS event in late spring. I hope you’ll help and share this book on your favorite social media.
3. Big Agenda: President Trump’s Plan to Save America
Here’s an in-your-face book that I hesitated to include. But Horowitz is no blushing virgin on the political scene. His book takes square aim at all who disagree with the new President, including to some extent your host. I have yet to be enamored with Trump’s antics and don’t yet see how his big agenda is going to be much different from Paul Ryan’s.
I’ll give this example: If the Republicans repeal Obamacare and then “replace” it with something, they will have permanently crippled our health care system with a government insurance program. The only valid disposition of Obamacare is to dump it by a date certain, allowing insurance companies time to come up with real policies people can afford.
But there is cadre of folks on the right who think I’m wrong. Horowitz is their siren.
4. The Conservative’s Handbook: Defining the Right Position on Issues from A to Z 2nd Edition
Westwood One radio personality, Phil Valentine does a fair job of defining conservatism in this easy-to-read work. His opening premise is most important to understanding the books general direction; America is Good. He correctly points out that despite our rocky beginnings we are not only a great power, but a force for good.
This will only remain so if we can, as a nation, back away from the self-destructive behaviors of political apathy and ignorance of economics.
Valentine has some other interesting things to say in The God Players and his DVD An Inconsistent Truth.
5. Cop Under Fire: Moving Beyond Hashtags of Race, Crime and Politics for a Better America
Sheriff Clarke puts his common sense views on paper. It is more than passing strange that his views would be considered controversial. I suspect that in most cases, they actually aren’t. But his detractors need a position to attack from. Still there are many who think David Clarke is wide-eyed, right-wing doctrinaire. That doesn’t speak well of our education system.
6. Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto
There are two Mark Levins. One is a radio host who seems to spend 90% of his airtime playing to the lowest common denominator in his audience. For a constitutional lawyer, one may opine, he sure spends a lot of time mired in emotionalism. And he insults his callers. It is often clear, due to a lack of active listening, Levin has completely missed a caller’s point. It makes him look even worse when he barks at a caller who agrees with him and is in the midst of making a very instructive point, and then hangs up on the caller. This is often followed by insults (dummy, jerk) when the caller was expounding on LEVIN’S point! So who is the jerk in this equation?
I try to wade through the BS showmanship and listen for cogent points. There are many. But too often he wrecks his own argument by behaving like a non-thinking progressive.
Fortunately, there is the other Mark Levin. His writing is far more palatable and enjoyable than his radio show. His intent is clearer and his legal education and experience come through on the page. He is an enjoyable read. If you love his radio show, then you have two reasons to love his work. I only have the one.
In Liberty and Tyranny Levin pulls no punches in his assessment of America under the boot of progressivism since FDR. And his assertions are correct. His argument is sound. Liberty and Tyranny is a fast moving read. You can always count on Levin for spirited argument. His other works include Men in Black: How the Supreme Court Is Destroying America and Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America. Also recommended reading.
7. Atlas Shrugged
This is the third rail of “conservative” literature. There are two reasons. First: Rand is [gasp] an atheist! As a result many will never read the clear-minded, conservative thinking which supports a free-market worldview as well as Rand does. Many of this cadre have an equal and opposite view of their religion-infused politics as their liberal counterparts. On the left there are those who believe Christ was a Marxist rebel and welfare maven. The religious on the right, who reject writers like Rand, believe if Christ were alive today he’d be a Republican hedge fund manager (with a heart of gold).
No matter the god you to which you might ascribe, it is folly to include him in our political squabbles. No all-powerful omnipotent would ever sully itself by wading into our petty politics and economics. That is a strictly human concern. If divine providence were ever a part of the American political experience we’d have neither Obamacare nor a President Trump.
The second reason is the dated, simplistic style of Rand’s novels. While her essays and arguments are concise and edgy, her novels incorporate those elements in a 1950’s romantic package. Her novels also belie her pure “objectivism” and demonstrate her passion and lust for life.
However, to understand Rand is to understand pure, free-market thinking and the rejection of needless government intrusion into our lives. One does not need to come away from her books as a committed Objectivist to benefit from the experience. Surely, many who think they are to the right of center, when confronted with the unvarnished portrait of that position, might actually question their position.
I find Rand’s work to be a reaffirmation of my own worldview with a bit of an edge added.
Read also: Fountainhead, We the Living and Anthem. If you would like to explore Ayn Rand through the eyes of a writer who is neither acolyte nor enemy, consider Goddess of the Market by Jennifer Burns.
8. A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America
Here’s an interesting one. I would take the author to task on a few of his conclusions (baby Boomers caused global warming or too little taxation led to the impoverishment of government) as a bit too simplistic and not quite accurate. Also, the writer is not what we’d call the modern “conservative”. But his observations deserve attention. His hopeful goal is to lay naked the party Boomers have had, and continue to have, at the expense of their grandchildren.
Gibney’s warnings are very much in line with those responsible fiscal conservatives have been putting forward since before Bill Clinton.
If you are a hard right doctrinaire, you will have the wrong argument with this book. But if you are open to a discussion which may not originate inside you political wheelhouse, then this is a must-read.
9. Right Reason
I’ve said that Bill Buckley could say in a paragraph what some writers need a book to say.
I chose to include this book because it offers a look inside the mind of a true conservative. There are other interesting aspects as well.
Written in 1985, this book lets you revisit the period ’79 to ’85, and hear it discussed by a man with few equals in the world of clear expression. It was Buckley’s robust and unrivaled use of language that first inspired me to consider writing about politics as a living. If you enjoy reading George Will or Christopher Hitchins, you’ll prize this book. From Buckley’s treatment of Hitchins’ election commentary on 1980 to his eulogy for his mother, we see glimpses of Buckley and the way his mind worked.
It should be noted that he and Hitchens were at opposite ends of the political and religious spectrum, but were good friends. Hitchens stood as best man for William Buckley’s son, Chris.
I am fairly certain Buckley would chafe at appearing on this list with Ayn Rand. There were times when Buckley showed real intolerance, while angered by intolerance toward Catholicism. Gore Vidal and Ayn Rand were among his favorite targets. This is odd in the case of Rand. Other than Rand’s atheism and more robust hedonism, there was little light between the two philosophically.
10. How To Be Right: The Art of Being Persuasively Correct
This was intended to be a list of ten books and I wanted to include all the others. But I had to put Gutfeld in here. Not only does his work match or surpass any of the others, it does so in entertaining fashion. His books read even better if you know his voice and can hear his impish tone as you read.
Gutfeld’s approach to being right is not about shouting down the opposition. It is about reasoned argument, properly understood and delivered for the right reasons.
GG has a way of poking you in the eye and leaving you laughing about it. If we could all learn his timing and delivery, while arguing serious facts over Lefty fairy tales, there would only be about five self-loathing liberal left on the planet.
So, okay, I exaggerate. But the world would be a better, funnier place.
I’ll call this a tie with number 11 if only for the fun of reading it and your chance to actually learn something.
See also, The Joy of Hate, by Gutfeld
11. Conscience of a Conservative
Here, I go straight to the source. One on the most senselessly maligned and least understood people in modern politics is Barry Goldwater. He is also the father of the conservatism we know today.
In this book you will find principle that history has validated again and again. Over the centuries, people could be forgiven for not understanding the lessons of each passing era.
But since FDR, we have had an immediate audio and video record of the of big government, left wing failings and vindication of right thinking repeated over and over again. It seems society is either willfully ignoring the obvious answers or is breathtakingly apathetic about how their liberties and their hard-won treasure are being taken from them. And EVERY time this is done on a grand scale, the utopian programs the theft supports fails miserably.
Know Goldwater and you will know what we must do to right the country.