Tuesday, 1 November 2016

My 45 favourite conservative books - as shared with the users of Pinterest

I've been spending a lot of time recently on Pinterest. If you have no idea what that is, you can find out by moseying on over to my newly-created board, Classic Conservative Books, which I describe in the following terms:
Not a comprehensive list - just the books that have had the greatest influence on my right-of-centre political views. Several of the writers can't be described as politically conservative (Orwell, Popper and Haidt, for instance), but the central message of their books - at least the ones featured here - can. I realise one or two works on the list aren't (yet) considered classics - but they are in my house!
In case you're not in the mood for moseying, here's the list:

1. Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Eighties, Paul Johnson 1983 - I still remember the shock of reading that the New Deal might actually have worsened The Great Depression. Exhilarating stuff from a formerly left-wing historian.

2. The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale, Joseph Conrad (1907). The psychology of anarchist, nihilist terrorists forensically examined in one of the greatest of 20th Century novels.

3. What's Left?: How the Left Lost Its Way, Nick Cohen, 2007. Yes, I know Nick Cohen isn't a conservative, but this is an absolutely brilliant analysis of how so many of his virtue-signalling fellow-leftists have wound up supporting vicious fascist regimes and ideologies around the globe - the very thing the Left routinely accuse right-wingers of doing.

4. Christianity and Culture, T.S. Eliot. Odd to think that the most influential poet of the 20th Century was also a great conservative thinker and a Christian. Now that an atheistic, left-wing establishment controls the arts, publishing and academia, such a thing simply wouldn't be allowed.

5. The Portable Conservative Reader, ed. Russell Kirk. Superb compilation. A trusty companion for three decades.

6. The First Circle, Alexander Solzhenitsyn - set in a relatively cushy Gulag prison for intellectuals, this is Solzhenitsyn's finest novel. The scenes featuring Stalin are particularly rivetting. Stupendous achievement.

7. God and Man at Yale, William F. Buckley - one of the founding texts of modern American conservatism, it describes the takeover of academia by left-liberals. The process is evidently now complete on both sides of the Atlantic.

8. Darkness ay Noon, Arthur Koestler 1940. A former government bigwig is arrested and put on trial for treason. The country is un-named, but the purges and show trials of Stalin's Russia (Number One here) provide the background. Ranks alongside 1984 as a great anti-totalitarian novel.

9. Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton - the unrelenting deployment of paradox can be wearying, but, despite essentially being a work of Christian apologetics, it's a surprisingly sprightly book.

10. The Revolt of the Elites and the Betrayal of Democracy, Christopher Lasch 1995. It's taken 20 years, but it seems the electorate has begun to understand just what their lords and masters have been up to - and it's not happy!

11. The Age of Reagan, Steven F. Hayward - a magnificent two-volume political biography of one of conservatism's true heroes.

12. Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke (1790). The founding work of conservative philosophy. Respect! Predicted the waves of violence that would follow the overthrow of the French monarchy.

13. A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, Thomas Sowell  (1987). Why right-wingers and left-wingers disagree about everything.

14. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt (2012). At last - a brilliant analysis of why conservatives and left-wingers see the world so differently.

15. The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy, Thomas Sowell (1996). An examination of what has become known as virtue-signalling - i.e. adopting political attitudes because they make you feel really good about yourself.

16. Warning to the West, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (1978) - like an Old Testament prophet on top form.

17. The Open Society and its Enemies, Karl Popper (1945). A magnificent two-volume defence of democracy: dictatorships fail precisely because they suppress criticism.

18. Spoilt Rotten: The Toxic Cult of Sentimentality, Theodore Dalrymple (2010). Splendidly unsentimental former prison psychiatrist tells crybaby leftists to man up.

19. The Great Terror, Robert Conquest (1968). Jaw-dropping account of Stalin's grotesque crimes against humanity.

20. How to be Right: the Essential Guide to Making Left-Liberals History, James Delingpole (2007). A comic classic - if you're a right-wing Brit, the one-word description of Ted Heath will have you crying with laughter.

21. Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography, Volume Two: Everything She Wants, Charles Moore. A truly great autobiography of a truly great politician.

22. Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the Left from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning, Jonah Goldberg (2008) - convincingly argues that Communism, Fascism and Nazism are the same ideology: they just want to kill different people.

23. Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western Liberalism, Larry Siedentop (2014) - Christianity isn't the enemy of personal freedom and liberal democracy - it pretty much invented them!

24. Beauty, Roger Scruton 2009 (now reissued as Beauty: A Very Short Introduction) - Artists used to aim for beauty in their work, but no longer do so. Our greatest living conservative philosopher explains why beauty in art matters.

25. Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left, Roger Scruton (2015) - the Left's great intellectual "nonsense machine" exposed, and ridiculed.

26. The Devils (The Possessed, Demons), Fyodor Dostoevsky - an early trumpet-blast against anarchists, revolutionaries, nihilists, terrorists, socialists, radicals, left-liberals etc. Stunningly prescient.

27. The Uses of Pessimism and the Danger of False Hope, Roger Scruton - when you see a smiling, virtuous, compassionate Utopian approaching, just run away: they're incredibly dangerous.

28. The Gulag Archipelago, Alexander Solzhenitsyn - the full horror of the USSR's prison and labour camps exposed by one of the millions who suffered in them (and who just happened to be one of the greatest writers of the 20th Century).

29. How We Invented Freedom & Why It Matters, Daniel Hannan (2013) - arch-Brexiteer Tory MEP explains why freedom is an Anglosphere thing.

30. Human Action: A Treatise on Economics, Ludwig von Mises (1949) - the case for laissez-faire capitalism.

31. Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, Charles Murray (1984). How all those liberal Great Society policies made things much, much worse for the people they were supposed to help (but made left-liberals feel really good about themselves).

32. 1984, George Orwell - "If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face - forever."

33. Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays, Michael Oakeshott (1962) - hard to believe this conservative philosopher and political theorist was Professor of Political Science at the LSE for over 20 years. Wouldn't happen now!

34. Animal Farm, George Orwell (1945) - if only he'd understood economics, Orwell might have made a wonderful conservative!

35. The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot, Russell Kirk (1953) - massively influential in reviving American conservatism.

36. Witness, Whittaker Chambers (1952) - the testament of the former communist spy who blew the whistle on State Department traitor Alger Hiss. Powerful, tragic, unforgettable.

37. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements, Eric Hoffer (1951) - an autodidactic San Francisco longshoreman explains ISIS six decades before it formed. Truly essential reading. 

38. The Closing of the American Mind, Allan Bloom (1987) - a philosopher explains how relativism destroys university students' ability to think critically. Or at all, really.

39. The Discovery of Freedom: Man's Struggle Against Authority, Rose Wilder Lane - one of the three libertarian classics published in 1943 and written by women (the others were The Fountainhead and The God of the Machine).

40. Ideas Have Consequences, Richard M. Weaver (1948) - Southern Agrarian philosopher argues that Western civilisation has been in decline since the adoption of Nominalism and the rejection of absolute truth.

41. The God of the Machine, Isabel Paterson (1943) - one of the founding texts of modern libertarianism ("individualism" as it was then known). She kept her social security card in an envelope with "Social Security Swindle" written on it.

42. Conscience of a Conservative, Barry M. Goldwater (ghostwritten by  L. Brent Bozell Jr.) 1960. In your guts you know he's nuts? Sounds pretty damned sensible to me.

43. The Constitution of Liberty, F.A. Hayek (1960) - at a Conservative Party policy meeting soon after becoming leader, Mrs. Thatcher reportedly produced it from her handbag, banged it on the table and declared: "This is what we believe!"

44. The Road to Serfdom, F. A. Hayek (1943) - arguably the book that furnished the theories underpinning the Thatcher and Reagan economic booms. The Anti-Keynes.

45. The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ, Andrew Klavan (2016) - and deserted socialism for conservatism. America's wisest - and funniest - conservative commentator (he writes bestselling thrillers too).

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