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A Conservative Reading List

July 01, 2001

What would a conservative library look like? We asked over 50 conservative thinkers, writers, and leaders which books they would recommend for our summer reading list. Each of them was invited to name two books that most shaped their own conservative outlook. The result was a list of 30 books, with surprisingly little overlap. Below we have compiled a “top five” list from those recommendations, with some of the comments we received about them. After that, in alphabetical order, we have listed the remaining 25 nominees.

This list is by no means exhaustive. In fact, we would like to add to it. If you have a favorite conservative classic which you think should be added to the list, email us at Insider@heritage.org. We will post nominations, along with those already listed here, on the Heritage Foundation web site at http://www.heritage.org/forcoalitions. Happy reading!

1. The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot by Russell Kirk

“With the publication of The Conservative Mind in 1953, the post-World War II revival in conservative thought became self-conscious and overt. This is the founding book of our movement, wherein Russell Kirk demonstrates how modern conservatism was shaped by a procession of towering intellects from Edmund Burke to T. S. Eliot.” – T. Kenneth Cribb, Jr., Intercollegiate Studies Institute

2. The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich A. Hayek

“One of the first books a new member of Young Americans for Freedom was urged to read in the late 1960s was this classic by Nobel laureate and Austrian economist F. A. Hayek. For me, it clarified the danger of being seduced by socialism’s velvet glove and explained in vivid terms why that glove invariably conceals an iron fist.” – Lawrence W. Reed, Mackinac Center for Public Policy

3. Witness by Whittaker Chambers

“The American political left spent the Cold War telling us there was no Cold War, that socialism and freedom were somehow morally equivalent. In Witness, Whittaker Chambers shatters that mythology with a first-hand account of life as a Communist spy. The lessons in this book are timeless. It is essential reading for any young conservative, particularly at a time when the revisionists are mad at work attempting to rewrite recent history, still denying the very real threat that Soviet communism, in all its wretchedness, posed to the world.” – Brent L. Bozell, III, Media Research Center

4. Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

“I discovered this important little book in college. While it was not part of my economics curriculum, nor did its views correspond with those of my professors, it gave credence to my own views which on campus were seen as unpopular and even radical. It has served as a guiding light not only throughout college but throughout my career.” – Sally C. Pipes, Pacific Research Institute

5. Ideas Have Consequences by Richard M. Weaver

Ideas Have Consequences, like Weaver’s other books, is small but deep. It brilliantly diagnoses what ails modern man, tracing the illness to its root, the flight from faith.” – Morton Blackwell, The Leadership Institute

Other Recommendations

  • Wealth and Poverty by George Gilder

  • The Abolition of Man by C. S. Lewis

  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

  • Basic Economics: A Citizen’s Guide to the Economy by Thomas Sowell

  • The Bible

  • Burke’s Politics: Selected Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke on Reform, Revolution, and War edited by J. S. Hoffman and Paul Levack

  • Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman

  • The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater

  • Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

  • The Federalist Papers by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay

  • Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman

  • God and Man at Yale by William F. Buckley

  • Government: Whose Obedient Servant? A Primer in Public Choice, IEA Readings 51, by Gordon Tullock, Arthur Seldon and Gordon Brady

  • The Intellectuals and Socialism by Friedrich A. Hayek

  • Knowledge and Decisions by Thomas Sowell

  • The Law by Frederic Bastiat

  • Leftism Revisited: From de Sade and Mark to Hitler and Pol Pot by Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn

  • Monetary Policy, a Market Price Approach by Manuel H. Johnson and Robert E. Keleher

  • The Moral Basis of a Backward Society by Edward C. Banfield

  • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitzyn

  • The Politics by Aristotle

  • Reagan, In His Own Hand: The Writings of Ronald Reagan That Reveal His Revolutionary Vision for America by Ronald Reagan, Martin Anderson, Annelise Anderson, and Kiron Skiner

  • The Right Moment: Ronald Reagan’s First Victory and the Decisive Turning Point in American Politics by Matthew Dallek

  • The Roots of American Order by Russell Kirk

  • The Unmaking of a Mayor by William F. Buckley


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