IN PROGRESS: PART 4 COMING SOON
(This is largely unchanged from the series of posts I made earlier this year entitled “A Brief Book Guide”. There have been minor adjustments made for ease of reading and to to update older information.)
As traditionalism, conservatism, the alt-right, libertarianism, and “classical liberalism” have been gaining footing around internet communities and college-aged kids these days, disenfranchised young right-wingers may find themselves awash in a culture of lies and contradictions without any stable footing. What is the right wing, and is it for me? How do I escape this leftist nonsense? How can I even identify the things that are wrong when the whole system seems wrong? If these questions sound familiar, then you’ve come to the right place. If they don’t sound familiar, that’s fine; you’re in the right place anyway.
I have written the beginnings of a recommended reading list already; however, that list will forever be in progress and lacks any easily-navigable structure for complete newcomers to this whole “reading” thing. If you’re a college student, I’m assuming that you probably haven’t actually read a book in your life, having been bright enough to simply assume the contents of your assigned reading by the conversations about it in class. That’s fine. This book guide is designed with you in mind. It’s oriented toward navigating the vast library of political, social, and philosophical thought that is the birthright of Western Civilization. This is not, however, intended to be an exegesis on the Western canon; these guides will serve to help you learn the failings of modern liberal and leftist thought while being able to defend the traditionalist foundations from which the West sprang into being. Consider these books apologia of Western culture.
Part one of this reading list is intended to cover some basic, entry-level works easily accessible in both reading level, language, and the general ideas that they bring to the table. Most of these books will have been published in the last ten years or so, and for the most part, be on the topic of pointing out modern liberalism’s abject moral poverty and philosophical bankruptcy.
Part two will move on toward offering alternative worldviews to the liberal agenda. Libertarianism and conservatism will be represented in greater force as positive goods, Christianity will be brought into the conversation, and more sophisticated texts on political, economic, and social theory will be introduced. These books are likely to have a higher reading level than the books of part one, and they maybe longer. They should not present too much of a challenge, however.
Part three will include works that begin to critique liberalism at its foundations, attacking not only modern liberalism and it’s socialist background, but even classical liberalism and the general foundations of libertarianism. Conservatism may even be caught in the crossfire. The struggle between the right and the left will be made clearer than the somewhat vague definitions that pervade the modern argument. Classical texts and thinkers will be greater represented here, as the reader should be ready to dive into their work, and some basic intros to neo-Scholastic thought will be covered.
Part four will, for now, be the last stop on this train. Critiques on the concept of freedom and liberty, deconstructions of enlightenment thought, strong defenses of the Christian worldview, Christian apologetics, and more sophisticated defenses of the traditionalist ethos will be presented. Some of these texts may seem pretty boring to read, being academic works written for dusty old professors living out of the nursing homes called Philosophy departments, but that’s fine. This is, after all, a recommended reading guide. Nobody’s going to test you on this stuff until you end up in a debate.
Sprinkled throughout each part of this guide will be various books written by staunch leftists, such as Alinsky, Jameson, Derrida, Marx, etc. There are two reasons for this: 1) it is important to know your enemy, and 2) every once in a while, in spite of themselves, they periodically have some good points and are worth being reminded of.
Try to keep an open mind. If you find yourself getting bored with one book, don’t get discouraged. Set it aside and move onto the next one, maybe come back to it in a month or two, or six. If a book seems insurmountably long, just set yourself some basic goals and read, say, a chapter a night before you go to bed. Reading this stuff is easier than you probably think it is.
Part 1: Killing Your Liberalism
Liberalism, in its current form, has become an increasingly alienating set of ideals. Under the banner of progressivism, sometimes referred to as the “regressive left” by conservative pundits, and broadly defined as ‘leftism’, modern liberals are finding themselves either disenchanted with their fellow progressives’ behaviors, or—as is becoming more the case—unable to defend their platforms from internet trolls, alt-righters, and young conservatives.
And true, there are indeed many forms of liberalism, though they all spring from the same or similar presuppositions about human nature. That being said, there is enough of an ideological difference between the New York limousine liberal and the Midwestern libertarian to warrant some pause. Many of the books listed in this section will be attacks on the former: modern liberalism as we know it today, with its distinctly socialist, anti-liberal themes and its links to communism.
I realize that most people, especially disenchanted college kids, probably don’t read many books anymore. For that reason, this book guide will have a bit of a learning curve; part one’s recommendations are all pretty easy to read and, for the most part, pretty short. In other words, if you want to get into right-wing, this is a decent place to start, and you have no excuse.
So, first up:
Vox Day – SJWs Always Lie
Written not long after Gamergate, when the SJW phenomenon really broke into the mainstream of popular culture, Vox Day’s breakdown of the ‘movement’ functions as a general guide on how to deal with the morally bankrupt useful idiots known as social justice warriors. It’s easy to read and written by one of the internet’s more noteworthy provocateurs. Definitely a good place to start if you’ve just felt the sting of the left’s young hornets. Check out my review for more information.
Jonah Goldberg – Liberal Fascism
A common name around the more elitist conservative circles, Goldberg’s work at National Review is worthy of some attention, even in spite of some of his present stances on certain political figures. This book in particular serves as a quick crash course on the modern liberal ideology and its roots in political fascism, tracing fascism proper through the regimes of Mussolini, Stalin, Wilson and FDR, up through contemporary political figures like Hillary Clinton. Sounds provocative but it hardly reads like it.
Friedrich Hayek – The Road to Serfdom
The only ‘classic’ work I’ve decided to include for Part One is Hayek’s prophetic opus, which remains even more relevant today than it was when it was published some seventy years ago. Drawing direct parallels between the communism of Soviet Russia and the modern liberal agenda (what was, at the time he wrote it, the more radical leftism embodied by FDR’s campaigns), Hayek’s work remains one of the best in its field, without being encumbered by difficult prose or a demanding reading level.
Ilana Mercer – Into the Cannibal’s Pot
Mercer, a libertarian by affiliation, offers up her own contribution to the deconstruction of liberal narcissism with a book on her country of origin: South Africa. She details how the Soviet and Marxist influence upon the revolutionaries in both South Africa and its neighbor, Zimbabwe, led to suffering even worse and more widespread than the Apartheid regime ever had. Check my review for more info.
Ben Shapiro – Bullies
Another crash course on how the contemporary left enjoys sabotaging their opponents, focusing this time on the mainstream journalism and political spheres than online and at the grassroots level. Largely an indictment of the Obama-era liberal media more than anything else.
Mark Steyn – After America
If Steyn’s reputation as an alarmist was cemented with his 2006 book, America Alone, then his 2011 follow-up After America encased that reputation in granite. Chilling and apocalyptic, this work brings together the numbers and articles of Western Civilization’s decline. Following somewhat in the footsteps of Pat Buchanan (you’ll have to read him at some point, too), Steyn articulates his premises and themes with such wit and alacrity that his doomsday predictions end up coming across somewhat entertainingly.
These books are mostly reiterations of the above, but with slightly different takes or alternative information thrown in. While certainly not essential reading material, they’re good for expounding upon elements of liberalism that may be unclear.
Ben Shapiro – Primetime Propaganda
Hardly imperative but certainly informative, Shapiro’s book on the gradual takeover of the evening airwaves by the leftist narrative is one of the best catalogues on the subject to date.
Sir Roger Scruton – Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands
It’s at a higher reading level than the ones listed before it, but for any student of philosophy or liberal arts who was condemned to study, say, Habermas, Marcuse, Sartre, Gramsci, et al, this book is a goldmine as far as polemics go. Sir Scruton’s analysis of these thinkers remains one of the best succinct rundowns on the philosophical foundations of leftist thought to date.
Part 2: Defining the Right
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.
Part 3: Metaphysics, Christianity, and Politics
Part three begins where part two left off: here, the Christian worldview is on full display, distinctions between so-called liberalism (“classical liberalism”) and conservatism are better defined, and the nature of Modernity is revealed in its full excessive, brutal detail.
This guide is a bit less substantial in content than the previous two, but it has almost twice as many texts, with several links to reviews of books I did on this very site. For those of you who interested in the thought of the Right that still remain unconvinced of the Christian metaphysic—atheists, agnostics, etc.—worry not! Christianity is not the easiest pill to swallow by those of us left out in the rain of Modern thought. It is particularly with this in mind that prompted me to formulate this list. The journey toward Truth is greater than what can be done through a simple reading list, certainly, but sometimes that door is stepped through by intellectual means rather than by means of the heart.
Philippe Bénéton – Equality by Default
Recently reprinted, this prophetic text tracks the disintegration of values as the churning industrial metaphysics of Modernity has marched ever onward. See my review here for more information.
Alexander Boot – How the West Was Lost
Boot is one of the best writers actively blogging today, and perhaps the most astute political commentator in the Western sphere. This book highlights the depth of his knowledge of history and music, contextualizing the difference between the Western Capitalist and Eastern Communist modes of modern thought and how both are rotten to their core fundamental values.
Pat Buchanan – The Death of the West
Time for some paleo-conservative scaremongering at its best! Riddled chock-full of well-sourced citations and harrowing facts about immigration, Buchanan’s most well-known best-seller remains one of the best warnings and prophecies of the West’s future under what was then-present immigration rates and anti-life (abortion, euthanasia, and contraception) policies. Published in 2000, Buchanan’s projections have so far turned out to be completely correct: the birthrates have continued to decline across Europe and the US, immigration has not only continued but even increased, and the future looks grimmer than ever.
J. Budzsezewski – What We Can’t Not Know
One of the more popular scholars in the field of Natural Law philosophy, J. Budzsezewski’s work is both accessible to the non-scholarly audience while maintaining intellectual chops. This book is a specific defense and explanation of the Natural Law, relying on both common sense and philosophical sources to make his defense rather than strictly Biblical citations, as some authors do. A good rundown and introduction for students looking for an alternative to the hollowed-out moral relativism of today.
Daniel Lane Craig – Reasonable Faith
Among the best contemporary introductions to Christian apologetics, Reasonable Faith outlines the most common defenses for God as outlined from a generally mainline Protestant point of view. It offers detailed explanations as to specific arguments, and in particular, Craig’s favorite—the Kalam Cosmological Argument. For those of you still with shorter attention spans, Craig’s book On Guard: Defending Your Faith with Reason and Precision is a general summary of Reasonable Faith lacking in the more detailed and precise explanations and argumentations.
Edward Feser – The Last Superstition
Written as a reaction to the rise of New Atheism during the ‘00s and early ‘10s, Feser’s book not only offers thorough rebuttal to the absurd claims made by Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion, but also functions as an erudite but succinct rundown on the classical metaphysics of Scholasticism and Aristotelian thought. While certainly not comprehensive, Feser’s explanations of the four causes and his defenses of the philosophical arguments for God’s existence remain some of the best introductory material around.
Hans Herman-Hoppe – Democracy: The God that Failed
This is probably Hoppe’s most well-known and significant work to date, and a good introduction to his general thought. Although one of the leading anarcho-capitalists, Hoppe’s thought—best on display in this work—resembles the traditionalist work of thinkers like Kuenhelt-Leddihn and, to some degree, even de Maistre.
John Lawrence Hill – After the Natural Law
This is a slightly more philosophical exploration into the field of Natural Law than the Budzsezewski book listed above. Worth the read. See my full review for more information.
Fredrick Jameson – Postmodernism, or, The Culture Logic of Late Capitalism
Although hardly a conservative thinker, Jameson’s Marxist critiques of late-capitalist society remain relevant today, despite attributing the problem to the wrong horse. Whatever capitalism’s faults, classifying it as an ideology in itself is more a fault of Marxism than of capitalists, but certain Leftist misidentifications and misdiagnoses are to be expected from the writings of a Marxist professor. But this fundamental critique of Modern man—his adolescent phase dubbed numbly as “postmodern”—remains insightful even for right-wingers.
Bertrand de Jouvanel – On Power
Easily among one of the best Twentieth Century Continental Philosophers That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of, Jouvanel’s works remain criminally under-read by a majority of the West. This work chronicles theories of power and the way in which it has been wielded in the last two centuries.
Peter Kreeft & Ronald Tacelli – Handbook of Catholic Apologetics
A massive compendium of defenses for the Christian faith and worldview, this tome is absolutely invaluable to both newcomers to the faith and those with long-standing beliefs looking to streamline their argumentative prowess. This covers far more than just standard philosophical proofs, getting into moral, theological, and eschatological questions common to both atheistic arguments and those lost from the faith in the sea of agnosticism.
Erik Ritter von Kuehnelt-Leddihn – Liberty Or Equality
Perhaps his most well-known volume, this work serves as a great introduction to one of the foremost defenders of the ancient regime in the twentieth century, Kuehnelt-Leddihn. The book expounds on exactly what the title proclaims: that a system of political and social liberty is antithetical to a system of political and social equality, and he does so while providing a defense of the monarchist principles that make freedom of thought a cornerstone of Western civilization. It just got a paperback reprint last year that should still be available.
Ryszard Legutko – The Demon in Democracy
In similar vein to Boot’s book listed above, Legutko analyzes the similarities between the Soviet regime’s culture and the liberal democracies of the West—and in particular, the post-Cold War European Union. My review here explains in more detail.
John P. Safranek – The Myth of Liberalism
One of the single most succinct demolitions of liberal thought, Safranek’s text takes aim at the very foundations of the classical liberal worldview and connects it to the modern liberal-Leftist agenda. He explains how the classical liberalism of Bentham and Mill not only opened the doors for the degeneration of Leftism to sweep in, but how it actively promoted the metaphysical confusion, moral vacuum, and individual alienation that Leftism is founded on.
Sir Roger Scruton – The Meaning of Conservatism
This volume can sometimes be hard to find these days, but it’s worth grabbing if you can get it. Scruton sets out to argue fundamental premises of conservatism, cutting through the noise of the contemporary pedagogical pundits. Although Scruton’s basis is that of English conservatism, the distinctly traditionalist flavor of his premises—that free market economics are not innate or necessary to conservative philosophy, that libertarianism is an alien to conservatism, etc.—are refreshing to read and worth the attention of newcomers to the Right on both sides of the Atlantic.
Allan Bloom – The Closing of the American Mind
A staple of the genre, Bloom’s book covers most of the bases that, at this point, you’ve probably already covered. Notable in the sense that it was published in 1987, Bloom’s arguments—that the West has turned away from its traditions, that America in particular harbors little interest in the roots of its own culture and order, and that the increasing secularization of culture has done irreparable damage to the social fabric—are even more relevant now than they were in the eighties.
Alvin Plantinga – God and Other Minds
Written by something of a crash course on philosophical proofs of God’s existence, Plantinga’s thought is worth being familiar with if you want to dive deeper into the background of Christian metaphysics. This particular book of his adds little to what you’ll have already gotten out of Craig, Kreeft, and Feser above, other than being able to read Plantinga’s own thoughts on the best defenses for the existence of God. His best-known work, the three-volume series of tomes known as the Warrant trilogy, and in particular Warranted Christian Belief, are written for a more scholarly audience and focus on the connection between epistemology, ontology, and metaphysics. I can’t exactly recommend that unless you’re already inclined to read that sort of thing.
Michael Walsh – The Devil’s Pleasure Palace
A cultural critique of the Frankfurt School, Walsh’s book covers similar ground that Scruton’s Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands covers, except with distinct focus on the spiritual, artist, and cultural strains of conspiratorial decay that ravages the West. See my review for that here.
Part 4: Old Texts and Long Books for Snobs [COMING SOON]