Part one of our book guide covered some entry-level works largely written in the last couple of years. With part two, we’ll get into some older works dating mostly to the mid-20th Century, a few defenses of Christianity, and general assertions of a traditionalist world view.
Traditionalism cannot be grown purely by reading. It must be lived and practiced, every day, as traditionalism is in part the embodiment of the Christian faith in the West. Part of this may involve undoing some preconceptions about the religion, and Christianity in general, that you might have gotten from the culture. As such, I’ve included various books on apologetics here, in addition to some staples of American conservative reading, like the Federalist Papers. Also included a couple works by postmodern and leftist writers, purely for the sake of knowing the enemy.
The Federalist Papers
Among the cornerstones of American political thought, the Federalist Papers were the first and foremost defense of the American Constitution at the time that it was written. Madison, Hamilton, and Jay contributed toward the Constitution’s defense by explaining the failings of the confederate system that the US had operated under until that point, while explicating the sort of freedoms enumerated under the Bill of Rights and how the new government was to operate. Non-US citizens may feel obliged to simply skip this entry, but it should be mandatory reading in the now-nonexistent civics classes in high school for all Americans.
Saul Alinsky – Rules for Radicals
Written as a guidebook for revolutionaries, this is, quite literally, the guidebook of the modern left. How to win an encounter when you’ve lost the debate, how to tear down your enemies, how to organize large groups of people, how to shift the narrative, everything comes out of this. Every conservative should read this if only to level the playing field a bit.
St. Augustine –The Confessions
Probably the single greatest introduction to Christian thought that has ever been written. Despite its age, St. Augustine’s Confessions remains accessible and readable to contemporary Christians, dwelling on the timeless themes that led to his conversion from paganism to Manicheanism and finally to Christianity. The issues he strikes at and details have not lost their relevancy despite seventeen hundred years of difference, and, while not intended to be a book of proselytization, it does serve well as a soft introduction to the worldview that Christianity offers.
Marcus Aurelius – The Meditations
One of the classic texts on Stoicism, offering clear, practical advice on general matters of living. While an ultimately incomplete philosophy, Stoicism nonetheless can be a helpful tool to navigate the absolutely maddening and insane world of the left that you’re probably only now discovering the magnitude of. It’s also short and easy to read.
William F. Buckley, Jr. – God and Man at Yale
Another foundational text of the modern conservative movement, Buckley’s first book details the disappearance of Christianity at his Ivy League alma mater. Written almost two decades before the late-60s counterculture revolution supplanted students and teachers with hard-Marxist ideologies across the country, this book reveals the gradual and steady decline of religiosity among the learned elite independent of the active Marxist subversion of American culture that would come to the forefront after 1968.
G. K. Chesterton – The Everlasting Man
If you only read one Chesterton, it should be this one, i.e. the one everyone who’s read Chesterton has read. Something of a crash course on accessible Christian thought and written by one of the best writers and authorities on the subject from the turn of the last century, it’s among the best works that falls into the category of “books for people who aren’t sure they can buy into Christian thought, yet.”
Angelo Codevilla – The Character of Nations
One of the darker texts included on this list, Codevilla’s work examines the relationship that regimes have with the cultures they preside over. Using various countries as examples, he examines Russia and the United States, before looking at how the loss of a common Christian underpinning in America has led to the breakdown of popular consensus.
Friedrich Hayek – The Constitution of Liberty
Considered a landmark work when it was published in 1960, Hayek lays out a more developed thesis on the importance of liberty in order to maintain productive, wealthy, free societies. Arguing largely from economic premises, this work is worthwhile in understanding the conservative ethos during the 80s and 90s, in particular the impact it had on Thatcher’s and Reagan’s administrations, and the lasting impact that it had on the development of American conservatism, it’s embrace of the free market, and the general alliance the movement has maintained with libertarianism.
Russel Kirk – The Conservative Mind
A cornerstone of the modern conservative movement in America, this book was pivotal in securing the intellectual bedrock of the Republican party after years of capitulation to New Deal politics and the embrace of “big government” spending. Beginning with Edmund Burke and John Adams, Kirk traces what he believed to be conservative ideology through two centuries of intellectuals, politicians, and writers, all within the Anglo-American tradition. Kirk’s writing is clear and cadenced, but the book is fairly lengthy.
C. S. Lewis – The Abolition of Man
Short and sweet, this work of Lewis’ advocates for the rediscovery of the universal values that bind the order of Western civilization together. He identifies the crippling relativism of modernity and accurately predicts the impact it has on the soul.
Wilhelm Ropke – A Humane Economy
Written by the Austrian economist, this book emphasizes the importance of a solid moral framework within which a free market can flourish. Ropke understood how the free market correlated to the imposition of the human will upon economics, and in particular, how the actions of individuals and the bonds between them were synthesized into transactions of wealth. In order to prevent a sort of postmodern malaise from turning a civil flourishing of cultural prosperity into a living death of ambivalent and impulsive consumerism, Ropke heavily argues for the maintenance of the West’s Christian moral foundations.
Alexander Boot – How the Future Worked
One of the singularly best books on growing up in Soviet Russia that I have ever read, Boot’s quasi-memoirs details his childhood and early adult life in Moscow during the mid-20th century, and with wit that can only be described as Boot-ian, contrasts that against the stated goals of socialism parroted by the useful idiots in the West.
G. K. Chesteron – Orthodoxy & Heretics
Although two distinct works, they’re often packaged together and one serves as a sort of sequel to the other. Serialized in periodicals at the time they were written, these books are precursors to the work Chesterton would write in The Everlasting Man. Short, concise, lucid, witty, and interesting, they’re definitely the next stop for the Chesterton train once you’re hooked.
C. S. Lewis – Mere Christianity
Written by a C. S. Lewis, another convert to Christianity, this book is an even more accessible and readable defense of the faith than even St. Augustine’s Confessions. Worthy for those interested in traditionalism and right wing politics in how it services general concerns of those unfamiliar or confused as to place Christianity holds for individuals and communities. As this becomes better understood, the need for a coherent, consistent metaphysical framework, which various sects of the Christian faith provide, will be made clearer.
Look forward to Part Three!