What is to be read?

In his current Impromptus column at NRO, Jay Nordlinger picks up on one of the continuing provocations of Hugh Chávez:

Back to the subject of books: Hugo Chávez has promised to give Obama another one, next time he sees him — What Is To Be Done? by Lenin. I think another head of state — Klaus? — should slip him The Road to Serfdom. (Obama, I mean.)

Which got me to thinking. As conservatives regroup in an effort to apply first principles to contemporary issues, what should they be reading? Steve Hayward’s NRO column on “Reagan’s unfinished agenda” calls for a constitutional resistance to Obama’s governmental gigantism. Such resistance calls for a reacquaintce with the Federalist Papers. (The updated Signet Classics edition edited by Clinton Rossiter version carries Charles Kesler’s excellent introduction and notes, also available online here.)

Hayward cites Tocqueville as well as Madison. Hayward’s own forthcoming Age of Reagan: The Conservative Counterrevolution: 1980-1989 also takes its place on my list of must reading for conservatives today.

In her current column, Amity Shlaes pays tribute to Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. I don’t think much of Rand as a novelist or (as she conceived herself), philosopher, but (as Shlaes suggests) she understood how unlimited government worked in practice. Shlaes’s own The Forgotten Man, a revisionist history of the Great Depression, is itself must reading.

Republicans must reacquaint themselves with the thought of Abraham Lincoln. The Library of America’s two-volume set of his writings (volume 1 here, volume 2 here) is a useful compilaton.

Is there anybody out there who recalls that the Republican Party was founded in opposition to the “twin relics of barbarism,” or what they were? (Answer: “Polygamy, and Slavery,” in that order.) Or who can explain why? Suffice it to say that the answers remain timely, and that Harry Jaffa is the most faitful expositor of Lincoln’s thought in Crisis of the House Divided and A New Birth of Freedom.

If I could put a book in Obama’s hands, I think I would choose between Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism or Andrew McCarthy’s Willful Blindness. But they are also must reading for conservatives seeking to understand our present discontents.


Books to read from Power Line