Well, I don’t know about you all, but I’m full of pie. And just food. Do you know what’s better than turkey and mashed potatoes topped with my own cranberry chutney and mopped up with my pumpkin challah bread? Fucking nothing except the very same thing topped with Debbie G’s Oreo pudding fluff crack and banana cream pie. That’s the state of my stomach tonight, kids. I’m full.
I noticed that a lot of people – all liberals, truthfully – seemed extremely concerned about civility at Thanksgiving. I mean it sincerely when I say it was coming from the left. I saw exactly zero conservatives who were at all worried about it.
Most of my family is libertarian, although we do have one plain vanilla Republican and a couple of liberals. And you know, we all get along. Those of us who share opinions talk amongst ourselves, and if the topic spills over into larger conversation, we discuss and then move on. Nobody gets ticked off and overturns the table. After all, we wouldn’t want to lose that Oreo pudding crack.
One of the questions a dinner guest posed to me today was this: “What are the 25 books that you would want your daughters to read? I mean, what are the books that you think they should read to prepare them for life?”
We talked about this for quite a while, as the asker and I are both avid readers. Although I didn’t have the full answer in the moment, I have decided that it would be a great little blog post. I love making lists, and I think this is a good question to ponder. It will also make a good little not-gift for him for Chrismukkah. He loves to read so much that he is likely to go out and find any books on the list that he hasn’t already read.
So without any further ado and in no particular order, I give you my list of the 25 books that your children should read by age 25, according to Margaret Howe.
1. The Law by Frederic Bastiat
2. How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big by Scott Adams
3. The Satanizing of the Jews by Joel Carmichael
4. Human Action by Ludwig von Mises or Socialism (preferably in the original German, but we can’t all be Margaret Howe)
5. The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Soltzhenitsyn
6. The True Believer by Eric Hoffer
7. The Black Book of Communism
8. For a New Liberty by Murray Rothbard
9. War Is a Racket by Gen. Smedley Butler
10. 12 Rules for Life by Jordan Peterson
11. A Renegade History of the United States by Thaddeus Russell
12. The Torah
13. The New Testament
14. Sexual Personae by Camille Paglia
15. The Party: A Guide to Adventurous Entertaining by Sally Quinn
16. Democracy: The God That Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe
17. The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli
18. The Art of War by Sun-Tzu
19. The Twilight of the Idols/The Antichrist by Friedrich Nietzsche (Kaufmann translation preferred)
20. The Book of Tea by Kakuzo Okakura
21. Tragedy and Hope by Carroll Quigley
22. Zanoni by Edward Bulwer Lytton
23. The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, followed by Goethe’s Faust
24. Trading in the Zone by Mark Douglas
25. Phaedron or The Republic by Plato (preferably both)
And now my defense of my choices.
1. The Law is, to me, one of the most intellectually and physically accessible introductions to the economics of the classical liberal world. Bastiat was able to express critically important, complex ideas about markets and economics in such a way that the average person can easily take away the meaning. That speaks volumes about Bastiat’s own intelligence, as the brightest among us have the fascinating ability to take complex ideas, distill the essential parts, and provide the rest of us with something more palatable.
You can download a copy of The Law for free online from the Mises Institute here. It is a mere 74 pages, so even an average reader can probably finish it in one sitting.
2. I’ll admit something: I don’t always find Scott Adams especially palatable. He says things that make me uncomfortable, which is one of the major reasons that I listen to him. He doesn’t make me uncomfortable because I think he’s wrong, but because I can typically sense when someone is right and there is some sort of cognitive dissonance happening. That happens a lot when I listen to this guy.
This is a wonderful book about creating a system for yourself that helps you do better in life. There are no perfect, one-size-fits-all answers for winning, but I can pretty much guarantee that unless you are already a millionaire with a hot significant other, five foreign cars, three houses, and a private jet, you’ll be able to take something away from this book about how to improve your thinking and processes. And even if you are that person, you’ll probably still benefit.
3. The Satanizing of the Jews was a Camille Paglia by way of Michael Malice recommendation. I was listening to one of his YouTube livestreams, and he mentioned the book for some reason. He mentioned that Camille Paglia had recommended it somewhere, and I jotted it down immediately because any book that comes with high marks from both Malice and Paglia is a book worth reading, as far as I’m concerned.
I was pleased by my purchase, and in fact, this is probably going to be my “Book of the Year” when I do my 2018 wrap-up post. If you have ever wondered about the origin and nature of anti-Semitism, this book is the best synopsis of that topic I have yet encountered, and I am at the point of having encountered many. Without meaning to denigrate Dennis Prager’s book, Why the Jews?, it is better than that book. Yes, I believe I will talk more about this book in another post…
4. Human Action is considered to be Ludwig von Mises’ magnum opus, which is incredible given that he could barely speak any English a mere six years prior to its publication. One of my in-laws read it not that long ago, and he said he kept a dictionary next to him the entire time.
Human Action will make clear to you the dismal science of economics and why it is less about charts and math and more about the study of human behavior. Mises took a highly individualized view of economics, which was terribly unpopular in its in own time in Europe. For any libertarian and especially for any student of Austrian economics, this is a seminal work.
And in case you were curious, no, I haven’t finished Sozialismus in the original German. But I have read parts of it.
5. The Gulag Archipelago has lately become fashionable thanks to Jordan Peterson and his constant push to his audiences to read the book. I must admit that I knew of the book long before Dr. Peterson gave it a popularity boost, but I only began reading it recently.
In truth, I have not yet finished the book. It is frightening, and I have had to put it down to think about it several times. The descriptions of life in communist Russia are almost unimaginable to the Western mind, and I think it is essential that we have some understanding of the totalitarian world. To overcome one’s enemy, you have to understand him, and I am afraid that there are relatively few people on the ground now who are familiar with the face of tyranny. This book will really hammer home the fact that freedom, however unsafe and difficult it can be, will ever be the superior alternative.
6. The True Believer is another that won’t take you long to read, but it is worthwhile if you have even the slightest interest in understanding the nature of movements. If you have ever wondered why groups behave in certain ways, whether it is along political, religious, tribal, or otherwise, this book does a great job of explaining groupthink. It is also a short read and shouldn’t take a motivated reader more than an evening or two.
7. The Black Book of Communism. I believe the number is 42. No, not the answer to life, the universe, and everything, but the number of governments from the 20th century onward that have called themselves communist. If you want to understand why and how communism is so dangerous, this is it. This is the granddaddy of all books about communism. It’s also a doorstop, clocking at about 850 pages. Good luck, comrade.
8. For a New Liberty is the book that turned me into a cappie. It was like having my brains blown out over and over again. I had to put it down several times and go for a walk just to sort my thinking out. This is the book that made me a true libertarian for life. I read it in 2011 while Ron Paul was still out there, gathering the youth to him, telling us to go read giant books about economics.
I still consider myself a philosophical anarchist. I resent all governments, I believe that taxation is inherently theft, and I refuse to bow to any man. But anarchy is for the truly wise, and few of us are. Anarchy is the realm of the true individual, and most of us are not.
I am not a true individual. In my own life, I realize that I have need of some sort of structure, which I why I returned to religion, although my mind fights it. Every day. My rational mind despises the very idea of it, deep down. But I am happier with it. Rothbard, for better or for worse, awakened my rational mind, and it has been with great sadness that I have realized that my hardware is woefully ill equipped to run such powerful software.
9. War Is a Racket is an old book that won’t take much more than an hour to read, probably. General Smedley Butler, after a long, honorable (depending on your perspective, I suppose) career as a military man, but at the end of that career, he decided to step up and expose what he saw as a great evil and injustice against mankind. He wrote War As a Racket, and it has remained an anti-war standard these many long years.
10. I’m on probably rule #4 or something. Jordan Peterson is a phenomenon. If you’re reading this blog, I’d be shocked if you hadn’t watched 132 of his videos. I think some have gotten a little bit tired of him, but I am one of those people who can definitively say that Jordan Peterson helped sort me out.
As I have discussed before, the last five years or so have been long ones for me. I have lost my folks, had three kids, and gotten divorced. I was in a deep, dark hole for a long time, and Jordan Peterson put a mirror up in front of my face. For that, I will be forever grateful, and I will say to anyone that feels rudderless and can’t figure themselves out, his work is indispensible.
11. Y’all, Thaddeus Russell follows me on Twitter. I feel like that means I’m either semi-intelligent or some manner of avant-garde weirdo. Or neither. It could be neither. I’m going to pretend that I’m cool by vague association and leave it there.
Anyway, A Renegade History is a great book and really about what you would expect from Thad. He likes the harlots, drug smugglers, pornographers, pirates, and other societal ne’er-do-wells. I actually think this tack is on point and goes hand-in-hand with the points that Michael Malice and Camille Paglia have made about culture coming from the left, which is where the weirdoes and revolutionaries generally hang out. Historically, this has been true, although I think we are in an epoch now where the truth of libertarianism’s “liberal” roots are being revealed, since “the left” no longer produces much in the way of interesting culture, as far as I can tell.
At any rate, this book will disabuse you of the notion that the nation moved and shook because of great heroes and moral giants. Lest anyone forget, we are a nation of tax evaders, pirates, religious zealots, indecent women, cowboys, smugglers, and government assholes. It’s essential reading for anyone that ever bought into or questioned an historical narrative. (That’s everyone.)
12. & 13. “The Bible.” I know a lot of people who have shunned reading the Bible for a host of reasons. Several of my friends avoid it because they associate it with bad times at Catholic school or because they are devout atheists and consider themselves above such fanciful fairy tales about a bunch of hapless Jews wandering around in a desert waiting for G-d to thunder down at them from a mountain or reading a snuff story about some nice but probably delusional Jewish guy who got himself nailed up on a cross by the Romans.
There is far more to the Bible than just strange stories coming from an odd, desert realm. Judeo-Christian values do not comprise the entire foundation of Western civilization, but they make up enough of it that if you do not have some command of Biblical morality, you will not have even a basic understanding of your own society. Sadly, that is the point many of us have reached.
Reading the Bible doesn’t mean that you believe in it. It is, however, foolish to discard the entire thing because you think it’s a lie that G-d talked to Moses through a burning bush. There are many, many lessons about man’s essential nature tucked away in the Bible. There are many wise things that are good to know written in that book. I think, if the world ended tomorrow and there were a handful of people left, if a copy of the Bible remained to them, they would have a solid foundation upon which to rebuild society.
When I was in junior high, we had to do an interview project about World War II. I was fortunate enough to live with a war vet who saw action in the most talked-about parts of the European theater. One of the questions we were supposed to ask was, “If you were taken prisoner and had to go to a POW or concentration camp, what would you take with you?” I don’t really remember the other things that Grandpa said he would take, but the last thing he said was, “…and a copy of the Bible,” I was stunned.
My grandfather believed in G-d, but he was not religious. He never went to church, and he was contemptuous of the clergy, especially the Catholic clergy. I asked him why he would take a Bible, and he told me that all of the answers were already there. I didn’t understand at the time. I do now.
14. You just, I mean, if you haven’t read Camille, okay, you probably don’t have a, you know, a really adequate, contextualized understanding of Western values, mmmkay? In order to understand art, okay, you have to have studied the classics, mmmkay, and what our universities are lacking now is a liberal arts education, okay? I see students in my class now, and I was talking about, about Moses, and I realized, to my absolute horror, that none of them knew about who Moses was!
Okay, but in all seriousness, I don’t know of anyone who has a better grasp on culture, art, gender roles, feminism, and Western history than Camille Paglia. Sexual Personae was her dissertation, and it is probably her best-known work, although she’s had a couple of new books out recently. Actually, Michael Malice mentioned in his Saturday evening YouTube ketchup review that his favorite Paglia book is her latest release, Provocations, which makes sense given that it’s Malice.
I can’t get enough of Camille. I think she is a national treasure - brilliant, abrasive, and she completely lacks any sense of humility. I think it might be the lack of humility I admire the most.
15. Wait, what is a book about parties doing in here with a bunch of anti-communism doorstops and a book about what’s up with the Jews? I’ll tell you what’s up, late millennial who is glued to your phone and can’t function in polite company: You need to learn how to fucking entertain people.
There is an art to being a good host or hostess. Some people just seem to have a knack for it, but preparedness helps a lot, too. I love to entertain, although I don’t get to do it as much as I’d like. I do think I have a bit of a reputation among my friends for being a gracious, welcoming hostess who always has plenty of food and drink at the ready.
Both of my parents were this way. My father was a wonderful cook, and my mother was no slouch. My dad was a politician and businessman, so they did a lot of entertaining, but they were both sociable people. My grandparents socialized a lot too, and I learned how to do at an early age. I learned by observation how to greet people and introduce them to each other.
My grandmother was one of those people who could make anyone feel welcome in her home. She always had food and drinks handy, and she’d have people come right in and make themselves comfortable, and she’d start asking them questions about themselves. This is a genuinely valuable skill, to be able to put people at ease and make them feel important and welcomed.
I love this book because it teaches you how to entertain with polish. I like polish. Also, it’s incredibly dishy, and I like to spill the tea, I admit it. Everyone likes a good little story on someone they knew. Sally Quinn, in case you didn’t know, was married to former Washington Post editor-in-chief Ben Bradlee. They were one of those Washington power couples that belong to a bygone era, and she was (and I think still is) a renowned D.C. hostess. It’s a worthwhile read if you do any entertaining at all, and everyone should know how to throw a good party.
16. Democracy: The God That Failed is, I feel, a bit of a notorious book, at this point. Hans-Hermann Hoppe is something of a controversial figure, even among libertarians. People seem either to revere him or loathe him.
Hoppe is a brilliant man, and many consider him to be superior even to Rothbard, albeit not as productive. Rothbard’s productivity is the stuff of myth. In any event, Hoppe posits that a libertarian anarchist “state” cannot come into being without borders. The term “bordertarian” originated with Hoppe’s fans, I do believe.
Hoppe enters the world of controversy because many people see no way around fascism on the way to a truly libertarian state. In fact, I generally share this view. Much in the way that communism requires physically removal of unbelievers, a purely libertarian state would require the same.
This is something I consider an essential truth, not just about libertarianism, but about groups in general. I gave up political anarchy in practice because I see no way around this at the present time. I am more than willing to organize my own life according to my desires, likes, and dislikes, and this is becoming easier and easier with technological advancements. Besides that, I have determined that I like diversity, at least diversity of opinion and view. Of course, it’s nice to be among like-minded people sometimes, which is something most libertarians don’t often get to enjoy. It’s not like being a Republican or Democrat. But at the end of it all, I rejected Hoppe because I crave different ideas, and having lived in a country where the ideas were all largely the same, I know that I don’t care for that level of homogeneity.
17. & 18. The Prince was required reading for my high school world history class. I read The Art of War on my own at the same time. I need to re-read them. They are indispensable reading for life.
18. & 19. I read the Walter Kaufmann translation of Twilight of the Idols/The Antichrist for the first time when I was either 14 or 15. Nietzsche made me an atheist inside of… I’m gonna guess two or three days. He was the Rothbard of my early years. He completely changed the way I viewed the world.
I must confess that my early readings of Nietzsche were somewhat pedestrian, now that I have returned to them 15 years later. But the love is still there. I had forgotten how deeply meaningful I found Nietzsche’s words, and after so many years, it felt a bit like reclaiming some bit of lost innocence, or perhaps a bit more like looking back through time at my younger self and feeling some bit of fondness for the embittered fat girl who was happier with books than people most of the time.
Nietzsche is essential reading for all intellectually developed persons. Twilight of the Idols was far and away my favorite of all of Nietzsche’s writings.
I do have a random little rant to get off my chest while I’m here, though. So Sprach Zarathustra is the German title of the Zarathustra novel. The correct translation should read, Thus Spake Zarathustra. “Spake” is one of my favorite words in the English language, and any opportunity you pass on to work it into conversation is truly an opportunity missed to make yourself sound pedantic, intellectually superior, and vaguely asshole-ish – basically my favorite things.
20. The Book of Tea is the pleasantest book on this entire list. It wins my Tim Ferriss award for “Book I Gift Most Often.” It’s a delightful, short read that will appeal to anyone regardless of sex, political view, or religion. There is something in there for everyone.
The prose is fantastic, and I was astounded to learn that Okakura wrote it in English. It deals quite a lot with Japanese aesthetic and philosophy, but there is much within that Western readers will find appealing. He speaks of simple things, of the Japanese tea ceremony, and how we may appreciate and think about life. It is a calming book, and it filled me with a curious sense of optimism and peace.
21. Tragedy and Hope is a book that will be familiar to people like me who love a good conspiracy theory and will likely be lost on anyone who doesn’t fall into that camp. Written by the late Professor Carroll Quigley, who was a mentor to Bill Clinton, it deals with the cycles of governments and the history of the 20th century.
The reason it gained so much traction in the conspiracy world is because it ostensibly contains the plans for a one-world government. I’m not sure this sounds as controversial today as it did 20 years ago. I think it’s fairly common knowledge that there are roundtable groups that meet and discuss civil unrest, world finance, disease control, etc.
I think this book is beneficial for a variety of reasons, but the most important is, in my mind, that it exposes the way governments work and the way the people that run them think. I also find it, to some degree, outdated. I’m not sure that it actually is, but I don’t think the future is with federalization or further centralization of government.
Perhaps I’m too optimistic, but I tend to think that technology will force a large degree of decentralization. Government, by its nature, is slow to adapt and is always a lagging indicator of the public trends. This is especially true of democracies, which are basically rule by popular opinion. A government as big as the US government is a lot like any other large corporation – hard to maneuver and slow to respond.
This is, nevertheless, a good echo to the 20th century. I think the 21st century is going to have an entirely different tone, and this will be a good recall to posterity.
22. This book is one that affected me on a deeply personal level. I read it when I was researching a long article I was writing about “Twin Peaks” and the search for Laura Palmer that I have yet to finish, let alone publish. Actually, reading this book brought that endeavor to a halt. I decided, at least for the time being, that Laura Palmer might be better left unfound.
David Lynch read this book before going to work on the original “Twin Peaks” series, which I’m sure isn’t a widely known fact. It is not exactly an occult book, but it might as well be, and its author was a practioner. Now, I’ll admit something that will probably turn some people off from me, and may get me in trouble when I run for president (ha), but I was an occult practioner of sorts for a while. I am by no means an expert, but I know enough about to know that I’m done with it. I don’t mind reading about it occasionally, but I don’t practice at all. I mean, obviously. The only thing I practice these days is Judaism, and I’m completely satisfied with that. And fuck. Shabbat just started, and I forgot to light the candles because I was sitting here writing this. Just kidding, folks! Apparently, I don’t practice anything because I can’t get my shit together.
Anyway, I sat down to the read this book, and I will say up front that it’s not really good. The writing is pretty wooden, and the storyline itself isn’t great, but there is something about it… It draws you in, nevertheless.
There is a section of the book that deals with the Dweller on the Threshold of “Twin Peaks” infamy. It scared the living daylights out of me when I read it because, well, honestly, I’ve seen it. I know other people who have seen it. I told a good friend of mine the whole story, which I won’t relay here, and when I started to deliver the coup de grace of the story, she finished the sentence for me and then said, “I know. I’ve seen it, too.”
In general, I recommend staying away from the occult because, well, I just do. Whether it’s all in our heads or really real, it’s the kind of thing that drives people insane, if they can’t handle it, which most can’t.
The Dweller no longer frightens me, but it took a long time, and sometimes I still catch a hint of the fear creeping in. No, I’m not going to tell you the secret to conquering it. That would take all the fun out of it. And no, you can’t ever get rid of it, and that’s not quite the disaster scenario you probably think it is. Have fun…
23. I read Marlowe’s and Goethe’s versions of Faust for a class that I took when I was over in Germany. Marlowe’s Doctor Faust has quite a different outcome than Goethe’s rendition of the same man. There is a longstanding literary debate about which version is better, although everyone I have known personally tends to come down on the side of Goethe, citing his superior talents.
I actually love both versions and think they both have their particular merits. They are fine examples of the philosophy and literature of their times by two great writers of the time. Marlowe may be regarded among the British playwrights as second only to Shakespeare. Goethe, in my experience, is considered far and away the best writer on offer from Germany. I think they are a great study in the differences between late medieval and Enlightenment-era thought. Whichever side you come down on, they are two great works by two great writers.
24. This book is another that may seem out of place compared to the rest, but I taught myself about Forex trading a couple of years ago. I still dabble in it once in a while, although I admit that I’m skittish enough that I’ve never made any money in it.
People who have never done any actual trading – not investing, but scalping, swing trading, or holding longer (two week plus) positions – have zero concept of what trading entails, in my personal experience. They think that traders are just a bunch of cutthroats with no scruples and an overabundance of greed. To be sure, there are plenty of those folks to go around. One of the first things that you learn about trading is that you can’t really trust anybody in trading, although admittedly that it sometimes down to incompetence more than malicious intent. There are probably more incompetent traders than malicious ones even, although the two traits aren’t mutually exclusive.
At any rate, it is well worth your time to read this book because it deals with the psychology of trading more than the strategic how-to. Mastering mindset is critical to anyone that wants to learn trading. To achieve hero status, you have to be willing to lose everything and then some. Trading is motivated by fear and greed, and the changes in the markets reflect the feelings of individuals.
I’ve found that I can relate just about anything back to this mindset with fear being the greater controlling force in life. However, once you can master fear, you can do anything you set your mind to do. Most people are controlled by their fears, though. That is one of many reasons that most people are not cut out for trading, and it is probably the biggest one. That’s probably the biggest lesson I took away from reading this. Brains do play a factor in success, and having a quality system that you implement over and over is necessary, but you have to be willing to fail over and over again. Being fearless is no guarantee of success, but if you allow fear to rule your trading or your life, it is a sure thing that you will never win big in the long run.
25. The Judeo-Christian school of thought is one part of the foundation of Western civilization. Greco-Roman philosophy is the other side of this coin. There are a lot of great works that you could read to get you acquainted with Greek philosophy, but it might as well be Plato. Most people go for The Republic. I recommend reading all of Plato, but these are my two main recommendations because I prefer them, and that’s all I’ve got for Plato.
Well, that’s it. That’s my list. I publish it with the asterisk here at the end that the list is subject to change at my whim. All in all, I’d say it’s a good one, if not a little bit heavy on things that are currently en vogue.
For any readers, I would be quite interested to know which books are on your own lists and perhaps why. I’m especially keen on hearing the books that are less common and less obvious in their value. In other words, I’m always on the lookout for my next good, weird read.
I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving weekend, got yourself some deals on Black Friday without getting any concurrent black eyes, and enjoyed some well-reasoned, enlightening political debate!
See you in December!