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.