Longtime BreakPoint listeners know that every summer, I offer a list of great books for beach reading. Now, I hear some of you groaning: "What, another heavy load of Russian novels I need a forklift to transport to the beach?"
Lighten up, folks! I have some other books to recommend this time. Actually, I'm borrowing someone else's list.
Benjamin Wiker is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute. He's just written a book titled 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read Plus Four Not to Miss and One Imposter.
Why should we read these books? Because our culture is saturated by liberalism, and the other side needs to be heard from. Now, before I go any further, when I talk about conservatism, I’m not talking about a political ideology or agenda. I’m talking about a way of understanding life -- a way that acknowledges that there is an enduring moral order, that respects millennia of human tradition, and values the dignity of human life.
Obviously, then, true Christians are in that respect conservatives, because we believe that the moral order is revealed in Scripture, we revere the teachings and traditions of our spiritual forbears, that “great cloud of witnesses,” and we believe that every human is made in the image of God.
So, back to Wiker and the books he believes every conservative should read. He starts with Aristotle's Politics, because he says it teaches us that “society is not a contract or agreement, but arises naturally,” Wiker notes; “It rests not on atomistic individuals but on the basic building block of the family.” A good reminder at a time when marriage and family and under severe attack.
Next, we should read G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy -- a book I’ve read and re-read.Writing this book, Wiker says, “led Chesterton to a profound conservatism based on tradition, common sense, and as he would call it, sanity.” Chesterton set himself “against innumerable modern errors that amounted to a kind of civilizational insanity,” like materialism.
Wiker recommends one of my own favorites, The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis., a warning against where the scientific planners will take us if we let them. And if you're in the mood for drama, go for the best: Shakespeare's The Tempest, which backs up what I've learned through decades of prison work: “Contrary to what liberals would have us believe,” Wiker says, “circumstances don't in and of themselves make men evil. Evil is the result of...corruptions of human nature (or sin.)”
Or how about J.R.R. Tolkien's trilogy, The Lord of the Rings?
This fantasy masterpiece about elves and wizards and hobbits, offers a vision of the right way to respond to the powers of evil.
Wiker also recommends great works by Tocqueville, Edmund Burke, Hilaire Belloc, Friedrich Hayek, Jane Austen, and more. I suggest that you start with Wiker's own book to sort of put your toe in the water, learning why these books are great. And then, plunge right into the ocean of great conservative thinking.
So when you're at the beach this summer, tuck into your beach bag a copy of 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read -- even if you don't view yourself as conservative -- you’ll enjoy the robust arguments, and I promise you won't break your toe if you drop the book...