Several readers have requested that I compile a recommended reading compendium similar to Billy Beck’s. I think Beck’s list is masterful and I wanted to bifurcate the list and add my own annotated comments to any I have read and additional selections I would recommend. When I read Beck’s list, I wondered at how our libraries and antelibraries could be so similar. Before I sold my house, I had a library annex attached to it from which I could browse and remove volumes to peruse at my leisure. Since moving, most are now in storage so I have to rely on my addled memory.
The first part is here.
Here is the second accompaniment to Beck’s list: Liberty and the State and I only included those volumes he and I have both read. My annotated comments are in italics below his, along with any additional books I think are pertinent to the one just reviewed.
The Black Book of Communism, 1999, Stephane Courtois, et. al. — Comprehensive catalogue of the consequences of a manifestly evil philosophy. Unprecedented in its global scope. All the rats in one bag. There is no doubt this is a standard tome that should be on every collectivist observer’s bookshelf. There is an apocryphal story that the usual suspects in academia and the media were bleating indignantly over the release of the book and its heavily footnoted and documented indictment of their beloved creed. Some went so far as to say that the Communists may have murdered millions but they did it out of love and not hate like the National Socialists.
The Great Terror — A Reassessment, 1990, Robert Conquest — The landmark study of the most virulent madness that the world ever saw. I had the opportunity to intern under Conquest and thought that not only was he one of the brilliant researchers of the Communist Terror State but he was a voice in the wilderness during a time when fellating the state was the watchword of all hip Kremlinologists.
Reflections On A Ravaged Century, 2000, Robert Conquest — Worthwhile thoughts on why the 20th century went the way it went. Again, Conquest has not written anything on Soviet Communism not worth reading.
The Gulag Archipelago — An Experiment in Literary Investigation, 1918-1956 (three volumes), 1973, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn — An enormous look at hell rendered with the original 20th century aptitude for the work of the thing. Even after many years of familiarity with the worst Nazi crimes, this was shocking to me. It matches its 1900-odd page heft with psychic impact. Huge, in every dimension. One is constantly amazed at the lengths modern collectivists will go to in defending the state and diminishing the importance of Solzhenitsyn. I recommend two additional books in his canon:
The first is a textbook primer on how cheap life is when the government is in charge of everything while the second treats the personal aspects of Solzhenitsyn’s courage and moral fortitude to stand alone and disarmed to the might of the USSR and claim the high ground against the leviathan.
I also recommend Applebaum’s history of the gulag. Much like the police and government apologists of today who rush to the defense and rationalization of the most barbaric behavior, Applebaum attempts to remedy this as thoroughly as the editors of the Black Book of Communism.
The Secret World of American Communism, 1995, Klehr, Haynes, and Firsov — A history of the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA) documented from Soviet archives, illustrating its subversion and espionage. The state of the data, today.
The Soviet World of American Communism, 1998, Klehr, Haynes, and Anderson — Essentially an extension of the preceding volume, detailing the CPUSA’s intimate subordination to Moscow. Again: documented from Soviet archives. These two books present immutable facts against which there can be absolutely no rational argument. When you see the Venona transcripts you grok just how thoroughly compromised the American state is with the Communist virus and the extent to which it has taken the monstrous agenda as its own. I simply ask the reader to research two of FDR’s most trusted advisors: Harry Dexter White and Harry Hopkins. Enough said.
Radical Son — A Generational Odyssey, 1997, David Horowitz — An important confessional. If you don’t believe me, then track down your own copy of…[Horowitz’ work from the 1960s]. I was blown away by the Second Thoughts Foundation in the 1980s broadcasts on C-SPAN where former Communists turned on their theology BUT leaped on the neoconservative bandwagon jumping from a Leninist horse to a Trotskyist steed. They had simply shifted their framework of collectivism to a kinder (but not gentler as evidenced today) police state variant.
Further evidence of the rot that is neoconservatism is found in this book about one of its most influential high priests:
Strauss was a venal and superfluous thinker who also greatly influenced the Lincoln cultists who would use their admiration of that tyranny to bolster the strengthening of the American national security state.
The Closing Of The American Mind, 1987, Allan Bloom — A fairly feeble flail at an extremely important subject. Not stellar, but a keeper. Better one go to the works of Fadiman and Adler than this poseur.
Socialism And War — Essays, Documents, Reviews, 1997, F.A. Hayek (edited by Bruce Caldwell) — A terrifically dense collection of articles illustrating Hayek’s evolution from economist to philosopher through contemplation of events and issues of the 1930’s and 1940’s. I am lukewarm on Hayek because his critiques were robust and sound but never took the next logical step to condemning the state for the monster it is. Mises went all the way but Hayek insisted on fawning for respectability.
From Dawn To Decadence — 1500 To The Present, 2000, Jaques Barzun — If you want to get from Martin Luther to Martin Luther King, you have to go through Jean Jaques Rousseau and John Dewey. Barzun would pave the way for the new critique that would emerge to raze the limited government arguments.
The Papers Of Martin Luther King, Jr. — Volume I, 1992, edited by Clayborne Carson — The intellectual birth of a genuinely tragic American character. King was a philanderer, plagiarist and communist. Carson is a fawning hack and sycophant of the King mythos that has been the primary enterprise of academia for over 50 years. He certainly deserves high praise for rhetorical flair but the tremendous speeches by Hitler and Churchill do not instantly mean they are defenders of liberty and freedom and neither was King. He was an aspirant for a spoils systems that would soon lay an entire people low under the crushing indignities of government dependence (when not in a cage).
I suggest Pappas’ book as a curative for any fantasies about the bona fides of Mr. King:
The Fatal Conceit — The Errors Of Socialism, 1988, F.A. Hayek — This is the book that Hayek should not have written. I happen to think Hayek wrote this from guilt after seeking official academia’s approval for so long and failing, worth a perusal.
The Prize: The Epic Quest For Oil, Money, And Power, 1991, Daniel Yergin — Indispensable history of the oil industry. A splendid introduction to the lifeblood of Western economies.
Darkness At Noon, 1941, Arthur Koestler — One of the very few novels you’re going to see here. It’s about a man whose beliefs led him to the bitter end, in Stalin’s murder cellars. I took the name of my blog from this book. Koestler became a Communist unbeliever during the Stalin Ages and this is the book that may have been the shot over the bow for my anti-communist sentiments in my youth.
Animal Farm, 1946, George Orwell — A fable, of timeless pertinence. Stands on its own.
A World Lit Only By Fire — The Medieval Mind And The Renaissance, 1992, William Manchester — There is a reason for Manchester’s success: he’s a splendid writer. Here, he takes up a subject fairly remote to the life of, say, a person who’s crashed Harley-Davidsons, flies airplanes, and plays loud electric guitars, and I thank him for it. I agree and think his memoirs from the War to Save Josef Stalin during his tenure in the Pacific campaigns are among the best ever penned. But the Dark Ages were not as dark as they make them out to be because the mandarins in academia were blinkered by their natural disdain for the destruction of large imperial behemoths lording over people in a collectivist fashion. The splintering of the Middle Ages after the dissolution of Rome and other great empires did not lead to a dark age but a decentralized age until the Enlightenment presaged the Endarkenment we live under today. I recommend these remedies:
The Fundamentals Of Liberty, 1988, Robert LeFevre — A theoretical and historical exposition by a disgracefully neglected modern American libertarian. Agreed and maligned by the usual suspects.
The Count Of Monte Cristo, 1844, Alexander Dumas — One of the finest adventure stories of all time, this book makes possible a belief in the existence of “indomitable human spirit”. No doubt one of the best ever written and I highly recommend the blood and virtue novels of G.A. Henty and Raphael Sabatini.
The New Individualist Review, 1981, various — This is a complete collection of The New Individualist Review, published at the University of Chicago, from April 1961 through Winter 1968. A deeply rich look at individualist academics living and writing the 60’s. Very, very good. Terrific writing in the embryonic stages of the libertarian movement and a witness to the new voices emerging trying to escape the Objectivist straight-jacket. Another great book that examines the emergent DNA in detail is:
Economics In One Lesson, 1946, Henry Hazlitt — This book has never been surpassed for its efficacy at putting economic principles before the average person for easy understanding of actual facts. H.L. Mencken noted Hazlitt as “one of the few economists in all of history who could really write,” and it’s true. He also knows his subject inside-out. NO. BETTER. INTRODUCTION. PERIOD.
Acid Dreams — The Complete Social History Of LSD: The CIA, The Sixties, And Beyond, 1985, Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain — Everything you know about acid is wrong, and I’ve got proof. Everything you know about drugs from the mainstream media is wrong especially about hemp.
The Wealth Of Nations, 1776, Adam Smith — This is the beginning of “the dismal science” (economics). Sort of like Clausewitz, required but a painful and tedious read for modern readers.
The Theory of Money And Credit, (English edition) 1953, Ludwig von Mises — Murray Rothbard called this book “The culmination and fulfillment of the Austrian School of economics”. I don’t quite agree, but it is that important. Very technical. Put your thinking caps on. Technical but more logical than any of the mathematics-laden monstrosities some of us suffered through in college.
Human Action, 1949, Ludwig von Mises — This is the “culmination and fulfillment of the Austrian School of economics”. It is the philosophical counterweight to Marx’s “Das Kapital”. And, for almost all of you out there, I’m the first person who ever told you that. You bloody well didn’t hear it in high school or college, you poor mistreated bastards. Required reading. Man, Economy and State by Rothbard (especially with Robert Murphy’s study guide at your side) is far more accessible to non-economists. The logical and subjectivist methodologies employed do make this far better than any university text in current use.
Socialism, 1922, Ludwig von Mises — A stake to drive through the heart of the rampant delusion that should have been buried in the Enlightenment, but keeps rising to walk the earth, undead, right down to the present day. The stake simply did not take but a powerful curative to the continuing madness of crowds.
Frederic Bastiat — A Man Alone, 1971, George Charles Roche III — Biography of the single most lucid Frenchman (I know: a miracle), ever. The French do have significant moments of clarity and lucidity and Bastiat is one of the greats. I recommend the complete works available here:
The Anti-Federalist — Writings By The Opponents Of The Constitution, 1981, edited by Herbert J. Storing — If you have Hamilton, Adams, and Jay, then you’re lopsided if you don’t have this, too. Read all of them and you will discover that the Constitution is the worst thing a nation could ever shackle itself to. Required reading to cure yourself of parchment idolatry:
Both books are terrific and Boston does a tremendous job and the second book is a great eye-opener to the Constitution starting its tyranny a mere six years after being brought into being. A heartbreaking and outrageous story of the government’s inability to tolerate truth; the Founding Lawyers are not who you think they were.
Conflicts Of Law And Morality, 1987, Kent Greenawalt — Incompetence rising to its natural level in a field riven with incompetence, while addressing a subject of enormous import with professional (academic) impunity. This one goes in the Horror section. The horror show continues unabated. The post 9/11 America simply proves out an awful thesis.
Anarchy, State, And Utopia, 1974, Robert Nozick — If anything remotely libertarian has had any influence among the Eloi in the past thirty years, this is probably it. Some of them will know the title, anyway. It’s worth quite a bit more than that. Slipshod, amateurish and difficult to follow, this work is muddled and best left to its literary grave.
The Politics, 350 BC, Aristotle — This is the first systematic analysis of social organization in Western history. That’s remarkable enough by itself, but it only gets better on realizing how pertinent it remains after all that time. He did provide something of a corrective the Platonic totalitarianism that emerged before him. This may be where it began.
The Killing Of History — How Literary Critics And Social Theorists Are Murdering Our Past, 1996, Keith Windschuttle — A whole monstrous swath of academic fraud laid open, if you have the nerve to look. This academic fraud is enormous and the recent case of Michael Bellesiles getting busted for academic fraud in pursuit of the disarmament agenda in his infamous book, Arming America, shows the danger. If a concentrated effort were made to run to ground all the footnotes and bellicose proclamations of the high priests of mediocrity in American universities, not much would be left worth reading but then again most is not.
Man Versus The State, 1892, Herbert Spencer — Yet another seminal libertarian of whom you probably never heard, unless a professor was cursing him to everlasting hell or yawning in your face. I highly recommend that all the readers visit the Liberty Fund site and look at the vast treasures of liberty and freedom literature available there. I also recommend the following books to get an idea that individualist anarchism is not a new-fangled idea:
And, of course, anything you can get your hands on by Lysander Spooner.
Parting The Waters — America In The King Years, 1954-1963, 1988, Taylor Branch — A fine history of the best part of the Civil Rights Movement. The honorable pursuit of individual rights and liberty.
Pillar Of Fire — America In The King Years, 1963-1965, 1998, Taylor Branch — A fine history of the worst part of the Civil Rights Movement. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre movie set of collectivism and accredited victim groups.
Individuals And Their Rights, 1989, Tibor Machan — An intensely focused presentation of the case for rights from metaphysics up through politics. Comprehensive, compact, and hard-hitting. A brilliant compendium that is a splendid accompaniment to Frank Chodorov:
The Gonzo Letters, Volume II — Fear And Loathing In America, 2000, Hunter S. Thompson — Thompson’s correspondance, outlandish and audacious as you’d expect, but also probably more thoughtful than you might expect. This is Thompson laying the meat of the bat on the ball: the years when he had serious things to say and the voice with which to say them. Beginning in 1968, this collection surpasses Volume I with its maturity of the man’s journalism. A great writer but a cipher in his pursuit and sycophantic relationship with a party, the Democrats, who in the twentieth century were the greatest champions of the total state to be joined by the Republicans after WWII. I would suggest that Edward Abbey was a far more polished and accomplished writer than Thompson ever pretended to be.
The Best And The Brightest, 1972, David Halberstam — A history of incompetence fulfilling its destiny. Halberstam’s name-dropping and presumption coupled with his illiterate fan-boy ardor for communism make this a turgid and difficult read; a competent writer but a man blinded by the glittery attraction of political fame for its own sake.
The Vampire Economy — Doing Business Under Fascism, 1939, Guenter Reiman — Your average American these days is very likely to agree with the proposition that Nazi Germany represented some sort of “capitalism”. That’s because your average American these days is a walking, talking rutabaga, with no remotely discernible grasp of the simplest facts more than about thirty days aft of his own ass. Here is a book — researched on the scene, at the moment — which could probably not shake loose the ethical deformities taken root in a rutabaga’s so-called “mind”, but, at least, it would bore them to pieces with the actual data. The difference between the present economy in the USSA and wartime Germany is hard to discern.
The Keynesian Episode — A Reassessment, 1979, Wm. H. Hutt — A fine economic analysis of the subject, which does not neglect its political implications. Hutt makes a robust case for the Keystone Keynesians and their eternal fascination with bigger government and the omnipotent state. I happen to have a doorstop-sized edition of Riesman’s magnum opus, which does a devastating critique:
I also recommend the collected works of Arthur Seldon, one of the few I recommend outside the Austrian milieu.
Selected Works (three volumes), 1897-1923, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin — Again: “Know your enemy.” A depraved and filthy communist who achieved a global domination on political discourse that emerges even in American politics.
Das Kapital, 1867, Karl Marx –Still: the predominant rationale for the worst evil in the modern world. The worst and most incompetent observer of human affairs whose legacy is oceans of blood and an enthusiastic following planet-wide that has no peer in the political classes East and West. The single best corrective to this nonsense is Thomas Sowell’s two books, Knowledge and Decisions and Marxism: Philosophy and Economics, both are lucid and illuminate like no other outside the Austrian lens.
That concludes my personal annotations and assessments of Billy Beck’s terrific shelves of books to make us smarter about changing the world and seeing it for what it really is.