Novels of the Right

by John J. Miller on November 20, 2009 · 272 comments

in Blog Posts

  • Sumo

I plan to compile a short list of great conservative novels for a future issue of National Review. Want to make a recommendation? Please post it in the comments section–just click the “comment” line above.

UPDATE: The full article is available in the February 8, 2010 issue of NR; a summary of the list is here.


  • Brian

    I’ve always had a feeling that Dean Koontz books lean right and I thoroughly enjoy them. Everyone seems to qualify them as corporate, pop novels and not serious fare, but I take them pretty seriously. The Frankenstein novels were especially conservative, dealing with the group think of socialism, etc… One of my favorite is called The Good Guy, which is


    about a military hero continuing to be a hero even after he comes home.

  • Mark Dennett

    I have always considered Michael Crichton’s novels to be very conservative. While they are deeply suspicious of Big Business, they are also deeplty suspciaous of Big Government, and the heros are almost alwys uniformly individualist “outcasts” who are acting based on their conscience.

    Suggestions would be The Andromeda Strain, about a secret Govt project to find alien life, and Disclosure, about how our sexual harassment laws can be perverted.

  • Zach

    Dune. It has some very healthy doses of conservative rhetoric. Understandable, since Frank Herbert was apparently a Republican speechwriter.

  • Raymond Boudreau

    The Lord of the Rings, written as one novel rather than a trilogy, is an excellent candidate for your list. J.R.R. Tolkien, a devout Catholic and veteran of World War I, was an old school European conservative. He believed in the simple values of tradition and community and distrusted the lure of easy modern solutions that carry with them unintended horrors arising from arrogance and lust for power. The Lord of the Rings is suffused with these themes, making it a (if not “the” classic conservative fantasy.

  • Michael Horning

    Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers envisioned a future where government was small, taxes were low, and woolly-headed liberal nonsense was scorned. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress is bsed on the idea that “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch (TANSTAAFL).” On the other hand, Stranger In A Strange Land was embraced by the 1960’s counterculture. An interesting guy.

  • The Secret Speech – Tom Rob Smith (although I read this on the basis of your Between The Covers podcast so you should be all over this one)
    The Cruel Sea
    Bonfire of the Vanities
    I think True Grit – Portis has a strong message of rectitude and self reliance
    STATE OF FEAR – Chrichton. That book could change a lot of minds.
    Waiting – Ha Jin, a look into the insanity of the cultural revolution.

  • Paul Spudis

    All of the wonderful Harry Flashman novels (I think there are about a dozen) by George MacDonald Fraser. Flashman is one of the great comic creations of 20th century and his 19th century attitudes amuse and inform.

  • Michael Horning

    Evelyn Waugh’s Sword of Honor trilogy evokes the devastating effects of modernism on traditional society, and exposes the way socialists and communists exploited wartime crisis to further their ends.

  • MFS

    Don’t read much fiction (Wanna be my friend?)  But there are two Sci-Fi novels that I recommend to anyone who will listen.

    First, Orson Scott Card’s "Ender’s Game."  Card is himself right-of-center and the book is just a joy.  The wonders of traditionalism, adherence to faith and family, the sacrifice required of the military.  It’s all there and told through the eyes of a six-year old boy.  One can only ascribe the fact that it’s not required reading in schools to a concerted leftist plot.

    Second, is the incomparable Neal Stephenson’s "The Diamond Age: Or a Young Ladies Illustrated Primer."  I know it’s still in print because I give out copies every Christmas.  Stephenson is likely more on an anarcho-libertarian, which makes Diamond Age so surprising a read.  A century hence, civilization has collapsed and been reborn in the mold of the last, stable social order – Neo-Victorianism.  Sensible prudishness! Science for moral ends! Healthy avariciousness! Walking sticks! Children being seen and not heard!  It all makes me smile just to think about it.  The author can be maddeningly opaque with his future dialog and his endings are always a bit of a head-scratcher.  But, oh, what a beautiful ride!

  • Chuck Loncon

    Mr. Miller: First of all, Hey! Now to the topic. I had always hoped to have the time to write a book on how the Harry Potter series is a conservative masterpiece. Somewhere I have sheets of notes I compiled for the Magnum Opus I hoped to tile “Albus Dumbledore – Neocon.” The sheer all out conflict of good and evil. The terror inflicted on the world by Voldemort and crew. The “We are fighting for our freedom and way of life” speeches and attitudes. The fight to protect the Muggles from Voldemort because they cannot protect themselves. I do not know whether Ms. Rowling would ascribe to it in this way, as she takes a shot at GWB in the opening of one of the books, not naming him, but allowing the Prime Minister to refer to the American president as a horrid man. But she did tap into the visceral and existential fight for freedom against an unrelenting terror bent on destroying liberty. And most importantly it was a fight, there was no negotiating with that evil, and every man, woman and child had a part in that fight. Wow. Plus the special effects in the movies were cool. Good Luck.

  • Mr. Miller,

    I highly recommend, “Vampires in the Age of Hope and Change,” available at

    A fictional city populated by ordinary, run-of-the-mill vampires is taken over by a charasmatic leader promising “free blood for all,” via his Universal Blood Program. Liberal policies are implemented, power is consolidated, and the ancient vampiric capital city goes into a tailspin.

    Meanwhile, a young vampire girl discovers the power of conservative ideas, and embarks on a mission to save her city from the clutch’s of facism.

    Think: “Harry Potter” meets “Wizard of Oz”… but with a wickedly-humorous conservative slant.

  • David H

    The WHOLE Sword of Truth Series, a 9 book series fighting totalitarianism, pushing personal responsiblity and FREEDOM!

  • Anything by Mark Helprin. I’m especially fond of his last short story collection, The Pacific and Other Stories but you asked for novels, didn’t you? Well, some of his short stories read like novels.

  • Andrew Klavan’s mysteries are among my favorites–they’re pretty gritty in places, though.

    Say, I hope it’s okay to do a little BSP (blatant self promotion) here. I’m a novelist. I’m center-right (have written a few things for the Weekly Standard over the years and have been involved in school choice battles – did a paper for Cato on that).

    I’ve had four young adult mysteries published (the first was an Edgar nominee) and two humorous women’s fiction (as Libby Malin). I wish more conservative publications would pay attention to young adult literature, by the way.

    While my worldview certainly influences my writing, conservatives might be most interested in my historical young adult mystery, THE CASE AGAINST MY BROTHER. It’s set against the backdrop of the anti-Catholic 1920s campaign for the Oregon School Question and contains many themes and ideas relevant to today’s constitutional battles over school choice (but not handled in a sledgehammer way — the story dominates!)

    Libby Sternberg

  • As others have mentioned, Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear” is outstanding, and a wonderful take-down of the radical environmental movement.

    I’d second the other suggestion for “Ender’s Game,” and add Orson Scott Card’s “Empire.” In it, a George Soros villian outfits a private army and begins a blue state – red state civil war, which the hero (and his homeschooling wife, a mother of five) must fight. It’s a terrific page-turner of a thriller, permeated with themes of duty and family.

  • Janna Blanter

    I would like to suggest “We the living” by Ayn Rand. This is relatively short (by Rand standards) and very readable. I believe the collectivism which is being attempted to be foisted on us by current administration would make this book’s topic very timely.

  • The novels of Herman Wouk all deal with conservative themes, not surprising as their author is a practicing Orthodox Jew. In “The Caine Mutiny” and “The Winds of War” it is that the national interest is more important that petty personal concerns, in “The City Boy” that the ends do not justify the means and that intelligence and hard work can sometimes trump good looks and personal popularity and in “Marjorie Morningstar” that becoming a wife and mother is not necessarily a tragedy for an attractive and intelligent young woman and may in fact be the profession she is best suited for.

  • Evan Wagner

    Novels of the Right:

    “Rainbow Six” by Tom Clancy is an excellent novel of the right. If you haven’t read it, the rest will be a spoiler –

    The “bad guys” in the novel are a group of environmentalist, population control wackos who think people are destroying the earth. They plot to kill most of mankind, while preserving an eco-paradise for themselves. To me, they represent so many liberals who think that “other people” are the problem, and they are the only people who have solutions.

  • T. Iacobuzio

    Do you know anybody who’s not middlebrow? Just kidding.

    Actually, Waugh is a good choice, but just as good is “A Dance to the Music of Time” by Anthony Powell. It’s more Tory than Conservative, but some of the musings at the end of the WWII sequence, and the ultimate fate of Widmerpool certainly bear pondering by the right thinking.

  • Colin Fraizer

    Mr. Chambers’s views notwithstanding, I think Atlas Shrugged deserves a place on the list. Ms. Rand may have loathed WFB’s fusionism, but her understanding of individualism and its expression in, say, the “Money is the Root of All Good” speech make Atlas Shrugged a (flawed) star of right-leaning literature.

  • Dan

    “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy. An affirmation of basic human morality, even in the bleakest of circumstances, while simultaneously acknowledging the true existence of evil and the need to stand against it.

  • J Rozansky

    The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky – A faith-based critique of socialism, the Russian intelligentsia, and their abstract “love” of mankind. Contrasts two ways of saving the world: being a modest example to your neighbors and hatching universal schemes.

    Mr. Sammler’s Planet – Saul Bellow – Here Bellow takes on the nihilism of the post-Sixties world through the eyes of a Holoaust survivor.

  • Some Guy

    “The History Man,” by Malcolm Bradbury–portrait of a Marxist academic that ends up being a parable about totalitarianism.

    “A Man in Full” and “Bonfire of the Vanities.”

    “American Pastoral,” by Philip Roth, so much so that he wrote an entire novel with the ideological purpose of taking it all back

    “A Wrinkle in Time,” by Madeleine L’Engle, which turns 10 year olds into anti-Communists

    “Death in the Andes,” by Mario Vargas Llosa,” the great novel about the torment of Peru by Marxist terrorists

  • James Manley

    G. K. Chesterton’s _The Man Who was Thursday_ (ordinary fellow gets pulled into a truly cosmic battle against Red Anarchy) and Chesterton’s _Notting Hill_ (a fictional fiefdom becomes a place of patriotic love).

    I also second the nomination of Dean Koontz above, preferably _Dark Rivers of the Heart_ (ordinary guy gets pulled into a battle against Big Brother Government)

  • To follow up on Brian’s suggestion that Dean Koontz books lean to the right. Many years ago when I was ready one of his novels a quote from the book jumped out at me and I wrote it down. I forget which book exactly, but the quote was:

    “So many people don’t acknowledge the existence of unalloyed evil. They hope to wish it away through positive thinking. To council it into remorse. Or to domesticate it with compassion. But when have these things ever worked?”

    This is something that the Right clearly understands. And so, it seems, does Dean Koontz.

  • Brian

    James Manley

    Dark Rivers of the Heart is the first book of Dean Koontz I read and I still have the hardcover in my book collection. I think he even wrote an epilogue about Waco, TX and how it correlated with his story. In retrospect, I should have seen his leanings so much earlier, but I was young then, unsure of my own leanings. That probably remains one of my all time favorite books.

  • Edward T. Oakes

    Besides the obvioous ones mentioned above, I nominate the Kristanlavransdatter trilogy by Singred Undset and The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham. The former is too long to summarize here, but I can give a brief wrap-up on the basic set-up of the latter: it’s about an English bacteriologist in 1925 who’s working for the Colonial administration in Hong Kong. He catches his wife in the act of adultery and decides to kill her off by volunteering to work in a cholera-plagued village. There the two get to know some French nuns who run the hospital and orphanage. The mother superior eventually sees what’s behind the doctor’s supposed altruism … Well, it goes on from there. Quite moving, and very Augustinian in its outlook on sex and infidelity.

  • Suzanne Gallagher

    A couple of sci-fi novels I would like to suggest:

    “Firestar” by Michael Flynn, a novel about a businesswoman trying to build a private space program while opposed by a boss of an ACORN-like coalition.

    “Windhaven” by George RR Martin and Lisa Tuttle. While Martin at least is anything but a conservative, the book itself is one of the most conservative I’ve ever read. It’s about the importance of tradition, the law of intended consequences, and how you can’t just get rid of a tradition you find inconvenient without risking a lot of instability.

  • Chris

    May I suggest either “Love in the Ruins” or “The Thanatos Syndrome” by Walker Percy (or both)? I’m not sure what his politics were…but there are no better right-to-life and pro human exceptionalism books out there.

  • Randy Bork

    I heartily endorse “Dark Rivers of the Heart” noted by others.

    A perhaps surprising suggestion is Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.”

    I re-read this in the early nineties when I was still a liberal, and I think it began the process that lead me to change [by ’94 a full fledged Contract With America voter!].

    It’s very subtle [else my liberal anti-bodies would have detected the subversion occuring] but it was a great read in its own right. The debate in the town with minimum wage laws is by turns frustrating and hilarious, due to the familiarty with which we see it play out again and again before our eyes.

  • Zach

    As a follow up for Dune. If only Herbert had livd to write Dune 7. It seems like he was headed for a finale that left mankind with ulitimate freewill and freedom from control by government. The Golden Path and the Scattering saved humanity from his Vision but also put them beyond the reach of rules and boundaries. Here are three great pieces from the series that illuminate his feelings about Liberals and government power.

    From Heretics of Dune (1984):

    Taraza cleared her thrat. “No need. Lucilla is one of our finest imprinters. Each of you, of course, received the identical liberal conditioning to prepare you for this.”

    There was something almost insulting in Taraza’s casual tone and only the habits of long association put down Odrade’s immediate resentment. It was partly that word “liberal”, she realized. Atreides ancestors rose up in rebellion at the word. It was as though her accumulated female memories lashed out at the unconscious assumptions and unexamined predjudices behind the concept.

    “Only liberals really think. Only liberals are intellectuals. Only liberals understand the needs of their fellows.”

    How much visciousness lay concealed in that word! How much secret ego demanding to feel superior.

    From God Emperor of Dune (1981):

    Safaris through ancestral memories teach me many things. The patterns, ahhh, the patterns. Liberal bigots are the ones who trouble me most. I distrust the extremes. Scratch a conservative and you find someone who prefers the past over any future. Scratch a liberal and find a closet aristocrat. It’s true! Liberal governments always develop into aristocracies. The bureaucracies betray the true intent of people who form such governments. Right from the first the little people who formed the governments which promised to equalize the social burdens found themselves suddenly in the hands of bureaucratic aristocracies. Of course, all bureaucracies follow this pattern, but what a hypocrisy to find this even under a communized banner. Ahhh, well, if patterns teach me anything it’s that patterns are repeated. My oppressions, by and large, are no worse than any of the others and, at least, I teach a new lesson.

    From Dune Messiah:

    “The convoluted wording of legalisms grew up around the necessity to hide from ourselves the violence we intend toward each other. Between depriving a man of one hour from his life and depriving him of his life there exists only a difference of degree. You have done violence to him, consumed his energy.”

    And some extra feebies from the series that fit the theme:

    “The people I distrust most are those who want to improve our lives but have only one course of action.” (Hello environuts)

    All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted. (Hello Congress)

    Bureaucracy destroys initiative. There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept. Who enjoys appearing inept? (just think government run healthcare)

    In my estimation, more misery has been created by reformers than by any other force in human history.

    And one for the Obamanator just for the heck of it:

    No more terrible disaster could befall your people than for them to fall into the hands of a Hero.

  • More libertarian than strictly right, but F. Paul Wilson’s LaNague series (and particularly “Enemy of the State”) are strongly anti-statist.

  • 1. The Mysterious Island, Jules Verne. I’m only half-way through it, so I can’t speak for the end. But so far, this book is all about not being the victim (one of the first things the men do is vote not to call themselves “castaways”, but rather “colonists”). Not to mention the unbridled patriotism of the colonists. And a REALLY good story to boot.

    2. I second The Lord of the Rings.

    3. How can no one have mentioned Florence of Arabia?!

  • karch

    robert ferrignos assasin trilogy

  • Michael Frachioni

    Dear Mr. Miller,
    Thank you for the opportunity to pasrticipate in this fun, thoughtful exercise. After some thought, I would respectfully suggest the following:
    Lord of the Rings (counts as 3);
    “Winters Tale” and “A Soldier of the Great War,” by Mark Helprin;
    “The Power and the Glory”;
    “Gilead” and “Home,” by Marilynne Robinson;
    “Brave New World”; and
    “Brothers Karamazov”

  • Jaclyn

    Watership Down. great allegory of freedom from tyranny, fascism and communism.

    Also, the Chronicles of Narnia.

  • Carl Sommer

    I would nominate the brilliant novles of Kenneth Roberts, particularly Northwest passage and Rabble in Arms, for their penetrating understanding of human nature, as well as their unabashed patriotism. roberts understood that the founding of America was fraught with the usual human follies, but considered it a great and noble enterprise nonetheless. His strident defense of Benedict Arnold strikes jsut the right contrarian note. Thanks for the forum.

  • Jason Ontko

    Nobody would ever confuse Ken Kesey with the conservative movement, but I think that Sometimes a Great Notion, besides being one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, also happens to be fairly conservative in outlook.

    It extols the values of independence, family (if a bit mixed), work, and socking-it to unions. Not to mention it has one of my favorite endings.

  • Alex

    I second Dune and the Lord of the Rings. Someone mentioned The Chronicles of Narnia, but CS Lewis’s Space Trilogy is really his greatest ‘conservative’ work.

    Also All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren is the greatest novel about American politics, and shows the hypocrisy of someone who claims to be giving power to the poor while really just amassing power himself.

    I disagree with the commenter who mentioned Terry Goodkind’s the Sword of Truth. Yes, they’re objectivist and have some conservative messages, but so much of his material is lifted from other fantasy writers and very little is original. The fact that he sold his material to be a syndicated TV show similar to Xena Warrior Princess shows how low quality it is.

  • Francis Banecker

    I would like to second both the “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, “The Thanatos Syndrome,” and “Bonfire of the Vanities.” I would like to add Andrew Klavin’s “Empire of Lies.” And, in it’s own subtle yet powerful way, I think Donna Tartt’s “The Secret History” might also be considered conservative.

  • J Lott

    Another vote here for anything by Mark Helprin, but especially his first novel, Refiner’s Fire. And Winter’s Tale. And A Soldier of the Great War. Additional votes here for The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Watership Down.

  • Steve White

    A shout out for Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s novels:
    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
    First Circle
    Cancer Ward
    August 1914
    November 1916

    While Gulag Archipelago will always be his most famous work, the novels add to the picture of the terrors of Communism. For me, it was August 1914 that really made me a conservative, when a character (an old man conversing with two young men about to join the Russian army) observed that there may be an ideal order of society, and our task was to devine what it was. Ever since then I’ve been suspicious of the liberal belief that the good society can be easily designed, we just need political will to get there.

  • Donald

    The Lord of the Rings is one of my favorite books ever. I am not at all “conservative” in the American political sense. (I.e., I support a strict separation of church and state, a welfare state that’s somewhat more robust than what we currently have, gay rights, gun ownership rights, and the legalization of marijuana). I daresay I appreciate Tolkien’s ethos and worldview deeply, and as much as any conservative Christian or anti-government free-marketeer.

    The point is, a list like this is foolish. Great books are not conservative (or not), they are great (or not). Art should be made and appreciated for its own sake (i.e. for its beauty and truth) — not because of a preconceived adherence to some political philosophy. Things like this list are basically the stuff of propaganda. The Soviets knew how to subjugate art to politics. The result was crap.

  • I second Michael Flynn’s Firestar. It’s actually a whole series: 1. Firestar. 2. Rogue Star. 3. Lodestar. 4. Falling Star.

  • Harold

    Wallace Breem’s Eagle in the Snow was a fine book, elegantly written, and which seemed to me to qualify as conservative.

    Flashman’s books are epic, clever, with wonderful writing, and also qualify as conservative.

  • Rick

    Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.

  • Douglas

    How about Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited? This is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, and for its affirmation of faith and tradition it should top such a list.

  • Rachel

    I agree with #40. Any book that can be classified according to a political ideology is not a good novel, or it’s being misread. Reducing The Brothers Karamazov, for example, (a book complex enough to be a favorite of both the gay liberal playwright Tony Kushner and Laura Bush) to one theme and calling it “conservative” is just willfully dumbing down great literature. And praising trashy thrillers because of their politics is equally dumb.

  • Tom

    Okay, two obvious ones i don’t see mentioned: George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. And one of my top five favorites of all time: Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter!

  • Patrick Sullivan

    I think most people are aware of the obvious choices (Austen, Dickens, Rowling, Tolkien; even Agatha Christie is conservative). Some more endorsements, leaning toward the recent:

    Patrick O’Brian!
    Robert Clark (In the Deep Midwinter)
    Kazuo Ishiguro (Never Let Me Go; etc.)
    H.W. Crocker (The Old Limey)

    Conservative sf (and maybe other genre fiction) deserve their own post(s) and I believe Miller compiled a short list of sf a few years back.

    FWIW I second Fr. Oakes’s nomination of Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter trilogy.

  • I second Alex’s suggestion of All the King’s Men. Whether Robert Penn Warren intended it or not, no other book has better expressed the hollowness of placing all one’s hope for human improvement in a man — no matter how honorable that man might be. It corrupts the man, it will inevitably disappoint the hopeful, and it proves disastrous for the society. Warren paints the picture of a frightened and depressed public alternately worshipping or attacking a demagogue building monuments to himself and calling it “progress” for the “people.” Can any story be more timely than that?

    Great idea, John – I look forward to reading the article.

  • Dave

    That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis

    Crime and Punishment, by Fyodor Dostoevesky

  • Stan

    You have probably already thought of him, but Andrew Klavan is a conservative who writes excellent novels; I can see conservative themes all through “Empire of Lies”.

    I second the “Space Trilogy” by C. S. Lewis. Volume 3 of that series, “That Hideous Strength”, is almost eerily descriptive of the way some seem to think today.

  • Bill

    For the person who says that “art should be appreciated for itself” and not subjected to politics is missing the point: the vast majority of art, whether TV, Movies, or novels, is already in the grip of liberal, socialist ideals. For people who enjoy a good read, but don’t want to cringe when a book (or other media for that matter) preaches socialism, this list provides information on that we can use to find “refreshing” entertainment.

    For the list, I will mention “Fallen Angels” by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. While not up to the usual standards of typical Niven/Pournelle fare, it still creates an interesting future where environmentalism has gone rampant and shows the results of radical “do-gooders”.

  • T. Iacobuzio

    I didn’t know we could submit multiple suggestions. If that’s the case:

    “The Devils” by Fyodor Dostoevsky (surely)
    “The Secret Agent” by Joseph Conrad
    “Under Western Eyes” by Joseph Conrad (the “old” Left could claim this, and the previous, which in my view enhances their greatness)
    “Girl, 20” by Kingsley Amis
    “Stanley and the Women” by Kingsley Amis

    Does “novel” mean we have to leave out Kipling? Any of his collections post “The Day’s Work” could be on the list, but I would single out the wonderful post-Great War stories in “Debits and Credits” and “Limits and Renewals”.

  • Fred Cole

    I second the nomination of the works of Robert Heinlein.

    The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is the greatest libertarian novel of all time. Heinlein’s works represented pre-fusion Goldwater conservatism and express it in a way accessable to all.

    You will not find better conservative/libertarian science fiction than Robert Heinlein. Every book has the themes of traditional life, scepticism of government and scepticism of fundementalism. He believes in a strong defense, the virtues of people living on the land, limited government, and Thomas Jefferson. Indeed, Heinlein is very Jeffersonian.

    Fair warning: His later works (1970 and later), while still excellent, are somewhat filthier. The novel Friday, for example, opens with a gang rape. Other late Heinlein works are full of sex, including incest.

  • Paul Lake

    I hope it’s not too tacky to suggest my own relatively recently published novel: Cry Wolf: A Political Fable, an Animal Farm for the new millennium that deals with political correctness, multiculturalism, and a host of other conservative issues. But don’t take my work for it. Here are some comments on the book:

    “Cry Wolf is a modern classic deserving wide recognition.”
    -–New English Review

    “In the great tradition of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. I can only hope that it will be as widely read and will be as powerful an influence as was Orwell’s masterpiece in awakening civilization to its present deadly peril.” —American Spectator Online

    “Read this book yourself, and, as an antidote to multiculturalist diets in nearly all schools, get copies for students you know. —Chronicles magazine

    “What seems, at first, a gentle fable about farm animals who enjoy a kind of ordered liberty, turns quickly into a grim allegory about man’s dark impulse toward the collective.” —Laurie Morrow, political columnist, The Montpelier Bridge

    “A charming and chilling fable that underscores the fragility of a world achieved with great difficulty and so easily undone by good intentions gone awry.” —The Reverend Richard John Neuhaus, editor in chief, First Things

    “Lake writes vividly and characterizes shrewdly, producing an anti-immigration fable more polished than Orwell’s anti-Communist satire.” —Booklist

  • Steve Hayward

    A very controversial nominee: Jean Raspail’s Camp of the Saints. Holds up even better today in light of the Islamization of Europe I think.

    Has anyone named John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces yet?

    And still on the Islam vein, how about Richard Grenier’s The Marrakech One-Two. If Richard had been more famous, he’d have gotten the fatwah instead of Rushdie.

  • Wiley Christopher

    Three of my favorites:

    All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. Forget the two crappy movies. Both missed the point. This is a novel about sin and redemption in a political setting.

    I, Claudius by Robert Penn Warren about the collapse of the imperfect Roman Republic to be replaced by the even less perfect monarchy of the Roman Empire.

    The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. Men taking responsibility and making sacrifices at the Battle of Gettysburg to make this a more perfect union.

  • Dave

    I’m uneasy about compiling a list of “conservative” novels. Are we talking books simply by authors who are known to be conservative or conservative-leaning? Or do we mean books that, whatever their authors’ politics, embody some aspect of the conservative worldview?

    If the first, you’re going to get a good bit of Tom Clancy, Orson Scott Card, et al. — authors whose books are good for cheap thrills or relatively mindless entertainment (whatever their pretensions at making more serious points) but won’t endure or can’t compare to what we regard as “great” books. I’d be embarrassed by a list of conservative novels that included such writers.

    If the second, then you risk shoehorning a book into being conservative, even though the author did not intend it and would find such a notion appalling and even though, in order to describe a book as conservative, you so dilute the meaning of the word as to render it worthless. Someone mentioned AMERICAN PASTORAL. In that novel, Roth certainly expresses a profound skepticism of activism/radicalism and details its consequences, but to call the book conservative is quite a stretch.

    But if you’re going to make such a list, I’d start with books by Joseph Conrad (more of a conservative in temperament, maybe), later Cormac McCarthy (more of a libertarian individualist, probably), Fyodor Dostoevsky (if reactionaries count), and Tom Wolfe.

  • Jeff

    Much like the Verne novel recommended by Denise, I would recommend a couple books by Vladimir Nabokov. Lolita, if you can get past the allegorical child molestation, is a book about controlling your own circumstances even when it feels like something much larger is looming over you. Is it applicable today? Only if you think Humbert Humbert is the government.

    Similarly, Invitation to a Beheading, by Nabokov, is a novel about not allowing circumstances to control you. I enjoy its self-reliant, overcoming-obstacles message.

  • Patrick Sullivan

    Other genre fiction:

    Most westerns are conservative (not all; McMurtry isn’t) but there’s a lot of bad writing there. Louis L’Amour at his best wrote some good ones. I like Flint; Tucker; Bendigo Shafter; and Last of the Breed (not a western, a Cold War novel).

    Similarly military and action thrillers are often conservative, but not everyone is up to Vince Flynn’s standards. I’ve never cared for Clancy’s writing, for instance, though his conservatism is a given. I do like Brad Thor, with reservations. I think David Poyer is a good novelist, if not a textbook conservative. I think he’s more R than L anyway. James W. Huston is a very good writer indeed.

    Koontz is basically a conservative Catholic apologist these days. I read him as a guilty pleasure; he has many flaws. He does have a sense of humor at least. I did like “The Good Guy;” I thought it was a more serious look at the evil of amorality than Koontz’s Odd Thomas books or golden retriever homages. Pure horror as such isn’t very conservative and the genre has been dominated by Lovecraftian nihilists.

  • Bill Wenrich

    I want to second Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress. There is a part at the very end decrying the new post revolution government as too meddlesome.
    I’d also recommend any of Lois McMaster Bujold’s books as being essentially conservative. (Why has no one heard of her? She’s won as many Hugos for novels as RAH!)

  • izengabe

    Shocked there was no Orwell mentioned!

    Animal Farm and 1984 belong on this list!

    Also would like to throw in Ayn Rand’s Anthem.

  • Gary

    Joel C Rosenberg. I just finished the last last night

    The Last Jihad
    The Last Days
    The Ezekiel Option
    Copper Scroll
    Dead Heat

    All very good. Stumbled upon one of his books are a $.99 ook store then ended up reading the whole series!

  • From what I’ve seen liberals don’t tend to produce conservative media. Instead, on occasion they — whether unintentionally or not — produce media that really enrages liberals, but is not particularly conservative. Conservatives are used to taking what crumbs they get from the media establishment, but I’d urge you not to confuse these works with anything that is actually conservative. I often think of Forest Gump (which I loved) in this category. That movie drove liberals over the moon, but wasn’t particularly conservative. I’d put it this way: I can mock the Red Sox for 90 minutes and win the good will of Yankees fans for doing so, but my mockery of the Red Sox does not make me a Yankees Fan.

    Someone mentioned Ishiguro. I haven’t read the book mentioned, but I’ve read a lot of his other stuff, and if you can find anything by him that’s even vaguely conservative, I’d suggest considering it seriously, as that guy can just flat out write.

  • Stephen Schumacher

    Excellent discussion. It is an interesting list. Novels such as Tolkien’s Ring Trilogy and Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited certainly deserve recognition. I would suggest that the list be expanded to include Dickens’ Great Expectations and Scott’s Ivanhoe. To appreciate the modern novel, older novels have to be read by conservatives. And then there are the novels that have entertained the imaginations of past generations such as Ben-Hur.

  • Nicholas Dujmovic

    The 21 volumes of Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series that begins with “Master and Commander” reflect a conservative approach to national security and human relationships.

    As I write in a recent issue of Studies in Intelligence, Stephen Maturin is also “the ideal intelligence officer for our times,” much better than James Bond.

  • Dennis

    Another vote here for Mark Helprin. “A Soldier of the Great War” is one of my all-time favorite books.

    “Memoir from Antproof Case” also.

  • Bill Manuel

    The sci-fi novel Wyst: Alastor 1716 by Jack Vance is a light and great look at a decadent egalitarian society. Many other Vance novels have conservative observations.

  • Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” Van Helsing’s reverent use of the consecrated Host to stop evil seems very conservative these days.

  • Glen Griffin

    Kipling’s “The Light That Failed.” Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe series, especially “The Long Goodbye.” Stephen Hunter’s Swagger novels, both Earl and Bob Lee. Steven Pressfield’s “Gates of Fire” about Thermopylae-they should have made that one into a movie instead the ‘The 300’.

  • C

    Charles McCarry’s novels should probably be on the list. The earlier Paul Christopher novels are set in a time and place where conservatism and liberalism are of less extreme form and it’s somewhat less explicit (at least to my Gen X eyes), but the later ones make up for it. Shelley’s Heart is set in an almost dystopian future where liberalism at its most grievance-driven has run amok (and terrorists have taken full advantage).

    Eric Ambler’s The Levanter comes to mind, although perhaps more for calling a spade a spade than anything else.

    The factory that produces WEB Griffin’s endless stream of novels is right of bent. Especially the current-day-set novels, with our heroes decrying the weak-willed, left-wing bureaucrats in our national intelligence and diplomatic services.

  • Patrick Sullivan

    SF 1 – Heinlein:

    As usual, the sf fans are the most passionate. Not that I disapprove.

    Still I think Heinlein has to be approached with extreme skepticism. And I don’t just mean avoid the later dreck: I Will Fear No Evil, anything starring Lazarus Long or his mother/lover, and yes, Stranger in a Strange Land. For all their popularity, Starship Troopers and especially The Moon is a Harsh Mistress show unhealthy authoritarian streaks (one shared by the Puppet Masters and Tunnel in the Sky). Think of the rule in ST that only vets can vote, for instance. And then there’s just plenty of nonsense that’s specifically non-conservative nonsense. Females makes more skilled pilots than males?

    But Moon is especially grating. First of all it’s a revolutionary novel, and revolution is not generally considered to be conservative, even when the story is a retelling of the American revolution. And there are some aspects to this revolution that aren’t nearly as aboveboard as the actions of the men who publicly pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to the new nation in 1776. The moon’s revolutionaries, with their secret membership and cell structure, are more reminiscent of a cabal ashamed of what they’re doing than a group proud of their commitment to a just cause.

    Then there’s the deus ex machina that makes the whole thing possible: Mike. Some might say that Mike is just the McGuffin that makes the story possible, not the story itself, but I think not. I think his essentially “magical” powers are an absolute requirement of the novel, which to me makes it unconservative as well as unrealistic.

    And don’t forget the whole group (line) marriage aspect of the story, and the narrator’s bizarre anger at one point that a 14 year-old girl wasn’t yet married. When Heinlein starts to ride his incest and Lolita hobbyhorses, he’s unbearable. And whatever the merits of libertarianism vs. cultural conservatism, my point is that Heinlein, especially in Moon, is as judgmental and as much a “prude” about his particular sexual mores and attitudes toward nudity NOT being universally observed as he thinks cultural conservatives are regarding theirs.

    Now the Heinlein short stories, mostly from the 1940s, are the conservative Heinlein. Although he was 100% wrong about the moon program, his private enterprise approach to the problem is at least the free market one – though his story collections don’t fit the novel category.

    And of course his juvenile novels from the 1950s are conservative and at their best they represent some of his most enduring work. Citizen of the Galaxy is especially strong. Also: Between Planets; The Rolling Stones, Red Planet.

    But I think his best work is the short novel Double Star, and it certainly fits this genre.

  • I’m not the first on this thread… but Mark Helprin’s novels & shorts are screaming conservative principles. Helprin’s prose and exposition of beautiful values are extremely moving. Examples are: A Soldier of the Great War, Winter’s Tale, & Refiner’s Fire. If only he could right more prodigiously!

    Mark Helprin has to be prominent on this list.

  • j gallo

    all of charles mccarry …paul christopher novels!!

  • William R Millan

    Cash McCall by Cameron Hawley

  • Eamon

    Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin novels: Jack Aubrey is a dyed-in-the-wool Tory; Stephen Maturin an early 19th century “neocon” — a former revolutionary turned British intelligence agent.

    Several people already suggested All the King’s Men; I wholeheartedly agree.

    Turning to popular fiction, I suggest the espionage novels of Alan Furst, set in the Europe of the 1930s and ’40s. His heroes struggle to defend the old order against communists, fascists, and amoral bureaucrats on “our” side alike; these are spy stories for Hayekeans.

    I might also mention the Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva. Although not exactly conservative, these spy novels are clear eyed about the existential threat facing Israel and the West.

  • Jim

    John Dos Passos’ USA Trilogy combines then-avant garde writing technique with a conservative social critique of industrialization, socialism and some of capitalism’s pathologies, from the view of a then-novel creature, a neo-conservative.

  • fred

    Elmer Kelton’s ‘The Time It Never Rained’ is a novel focused on Charlie Flagg, a rancher in West Texas who, in spite of the trends to the contrary, never gives in to pressure to take government handouts and bailouts.

    With the past year’s massive government take over and intervention in US industry, Kelton’s 1973 novel of a bygone era is quite prescient.

  • How about a conservative novel penned by a sitting Dem senator? _Fields of Fire_ by Webb. Probably the best novel to come out of Vietnam, and much better than _Full Metal Jacket_, _Born on the Fourth of July_, and among many others of a similar slant.

  • Tom Wootton

    No Country for Old Men, by Cormac McCarthy.

  • Ted Smith

    John: Two recommendations:

    Life and Fate by Vasily Grossman. Almost suppressed by the Soviets, this may be the greatest novel of the last half of the 20th Century. Like his progenitor Solzhenitsyn, Grossman was a conventional participant in WWII (Grossman was a journalist), then got in trouble with the post-War Soviet leadership when he began turning his experiences into novels. He captures the reality of the Holocaust better than in any novel I’ve read: there is a set piece featuring the destruction of some Ukrainian Jews in a gas chamber that is the single most moving scene I’ve ever read. Second, he rips the cover from communism, showing yet again the mindless destructiveness of the collectivist/totalitarian mind set. A truly great work (and conservative).

    Second is Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I have no clue if Robinson is a political conservative, but the book (told in words of an elderly pastor in a small town in Iowa) emphasizes the reality of religious/moral principles and the great power of tradition and the past. When was the last time you read a beautiful, literary novel in which the hero was a genuine, clear-thinking, but truly good Christian? They’re pretty rare, but this is one. Robinson evokes the greatest writing of Willa Cather (as in My Antonia and Death Comes for the Archbishop).

  • The danger of a list like this is similar to that of John Miller’s “50 Conservative Rock Songs” from National Review, where songs were listed based on a single lyric. I think that to ascribe notions of heroism, honor, loyalty, courage, faith, and so on to “conservatism” is incorrect. Plenty of liberals admire and display those same characteristics. I think in order for a book to be on this list it needs to be explicitly conservative, wearing its political beliefs on its sleeve. Dean Koontz novels certainly qualify…there’s no doubt that Koontz is writing from the right side of the aisle, and that the heroes and heroines of his novels attend church regularly and vote Republican. Somebody like Tolkien, who was a conservative, is more problematic as Donald pointed out in his comment, because he speaks of timeless ideals that can (and should) be celebrated by all. Evelyn Waugh is a safe bet, as well. I found an enormous amount of conservative themes in Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove, but I’m all but certain that McMurtry himself would disavow any such notion. I could make a compelling case for To Kill A Mockingbird as representing conservative notions, but an equally compelling case could be made for it being a very liberal novel. We put some of ourselves into each novel we read and see things that may or may not be intended, which is why only explicitly conservative books should appear on this list.

  • I would nominate two novels by Jeff Shaara: Rise to Rebellion and The Glorious Cause. I don’t know whether Mr. Shaara is a conservative. However, both books (particularly Rise to Rebellion) remind us of the reasons behind the American Revolution and why it was necessary. I also believe that if we read both carefully we find ourselves thinking and feeling much of what the early colonists felt during the Revolution.

  • anderson

    William F. Buckley’s Blackford Oakes spy novels. Buckley wanted to write geopolitical thrillers that avoided the moral ambiguity of Graham Greene and John le Carré. Blackford and his CIA pals were clearly the “good guys”, fighting the KGB, and saving the world from the evil empire of communism.

  • T. Iacobuzio

    To l’art pur crowd: it’s not that simple. Some of the greatest works of English literature alone are written with an explicit political purpose, or motive, or both: think of Dryden. Or Pound. Look further afield. Dante is full of politics, and so is Virgil, in his way. The first thing is to decide whether or not they’re literature. Then it seems to me perfectly legitimate to decide whether or not they’re conservative (or right wing).

    As to the Rand (and others), it’s the holy roman empire. They’re neither novels, nor great, nor conservative. Nor readable, for the matter of that.

  • N. D. Rogers

    Cash McCall. Great book. Great movie.

  • I am intrigued by the category being considered at all. Why do we read novels? To experience beauty? To learn more about the human condition? For entertainment and to pass the time? I think that it tends to be a mixture of all of these. If I am reading mainly for entertainment, sure, I don’t want a bunch of leftie foolishness invading my free time. But some of those lefties write very well and can be entertaining, e. g., Norman Mailer can deliver on occasion and Ken Kesey can be good. And I am secure enough in my world view that I think Sholokhov is not going to turn me into a commie.
    If I am reading to experience beauty I don’t think conservative values are in jeopardy. Since truth is an element of beauty conservatism will tend to win out. Or the mind automatically makes adjustments to neutralize the lies. My favorite example would be James Joyce. He was an atheist and a socialist but still a great artist who wrote beautiful and entertaining books. His characters are interesting and and frighteningly real. And he does us the favor of not pushing his politics on us (though I think that there tends to be a bleakness, emptiness and depression near the core of his works that has been brought on by his atheism). And Joyce’s work reinforces conservative values because it is so self-aware of its place in the Western tradition that the reading of his works forces the reader to think about and investigate further so many ideas and books that most nonconservatives ignore or attempt to sabotage.
    But if we are looking for overtly conservative novels I think The Devils by Dostoevsky has to be near the top of the list. It is an all out attack on socialism and progressivism. It shows that these ideologies are all merely fronts for atheism and displays where they inevitably lead.
    I’m surprised no one mentioned The Screwtape letters or Orwell’s 1984.
    Waugh is always worth reading. The works of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn are beautiful and an entertaining journey into another world.
    Heinlein’s Starship Troopers and The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress bring up issues that conservatives will always think and write about. But if you look at Heinlein’s whole body of work the over all judgement would have to fall in the area of weidorama.
    I don’t imagine that Faulkner was self-consciously a conservative. But many of his novels delve deeply into the issue of race in America that we have not begun to see the end of. And he looks at the questions from many perspectives and never falls into the useless left wing class consciousness formulas.

  • Theophilos

    Such a list should avoid propaganda, jingoism, and anti-clericalism, but rather lean toward a R. Kirk or T.S. Eliot view of “permanent things.” Criticisms of political or economic systems can have a place, but without a positive vision they reduce to cynicism.



    Solzhenitsyn (with caveats)
    Conrad (with major caveats)

    P.G. Wodehouse (special category)

  • Glad to see All the King’s Men in here. (And equally glad to see the movies panned, bad and scary bad.) For those with lots of time on their hands, both his first novel, Night Rider, and the one after AKM, World Enough and Time, are wonderful books chock full of sin, redemption, and hope.

    Any book that deals with real evil that isn’t cartoony or extravagantly over the top (e.g., Silence of the Lambs) is probably going to make the cut. The biggest lie of contemporary lefty thinking is that there is no evil, just disease. A lovely expose of this is at, called Cruel Logic. Check it out….very nicely done.

    And #84, my sentiments exactly.

  • Daniel

    G. K. Chesterton: The Ball and the Cross and The Napoleon of Notting Hill. Oh the classics!

  • Eric Huseby

    I second Philip Roth’s American Pastoral. It’s filled with sharp takedowns of empty-headed platitudes from the Vietnam era.

    Also add I am Charlotte Simmons to the Tom Wolfe collection. It shines a light on all sorts of institutional and cultural madness in our universities.

    Lastly, a confession: I read more than 700 pages of Atlas Shrugged before going to the Cliffs Notes for the conclusion. Rand’s point is well taken, but ugh what an awful piece of writing.

  • mossdale

    Pale Fire by Nabakov. The narrator, the deposed prince of a fictional eastern european country taken over by communists, is a buffoon, but has some particularly barbed observations concerning leftist revolutionaries.

  • bobbymike

    I read the comments as fast as possible so I might have missed these very important “writers of the right fiction”.

    Brad Thor (Scott Harvath)
    Vince Flynn (Mitch Rapp)
    Lee Child (arguable but his character Jack Reacher is awesome)
    Stephen Hunter (Bob Lee Swagger and his dad Earl Swagger)
    Andy McNab
    Chris Ryan
    Daniel Silva (Gabriel Alon)
    Jon Land (Ben Kamal and Daneille Barnea) and his earlier work with Blaine Macracken and Johnny Wareagle is good.

    Many more – now this list takes some liberties with what is “conservative”. These are mostly national security type thrillers with a very tough on terrorism theme and to me that’s conservative!

  • Kiernan

    The entire Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. I never read these as a child, and only saw a handful of episodes of the television show, so I had always thought of Little House as classic children’s literature. Having just read the entire series aloud to my children, my opinion is entirely different. I think the appeal of Little House to children over the decades, and the success – well deserved – of the television show, have overshadowed what is, in my opinion, a literary masterpiece and a powerhouse of conservatism. Very few writers have so successfully captured the uniquely American perspective on individual liberty and responsibility. The entire series is an affirmation of conservative values: hard-work, perseverance, joyfulness, faith, patriotism, industriousness.

  • Mark

    Another vote for Helprin here. “Winter’s Tale” is simply a fantastic novel.

  • Das

    I want to recommend you abandon this project of searching out so-called conservative novels. It turns us into weaker smaller more defensive versions of the crazed left.

    Keep in mind that pretty much any novel that isn’t marred by leftist politics can be considered a conservative novel. You forget how totally politicized the left is in all the arts. Think of how their leftist politics wreck the sometimes good writing of say, Gabriel Marquez or our own Robert Stone. If a novel just plays out and lets life unfold I believe conservatives can claim it as a conservative novel. Why? Conservatives invest themselves in life not politics. In what sense is Don Quijote not a conservative novel? Or War & Peace or Anna Karenin? Conservatives don’t grind axes in art, they just let life play out. I really think this list compiling is to put conservatives on the defensive. We celebrate life we don’t sit around making defensive little lists. In reality our motto, political and otherwise should be, “We really enjoy life!” God knows the left doesn’t. The environment is out to get them, including the weather, kids are a chore, foreigners are valued only as numbers, pretty much everything humans touch becomes degraded – that is the leftist view of life on earth. We can’t and shouldn’t compete with leftist propaganda in the arts. We should stake our claim to the bigger and fuller vision: the celebration of life…

  • “The Winter of our Discontent” by Steinbeck and the critique of relatistic morality is grat.

    Anything by the Man In White, Mr. Wolfe

  • Doc

    There are some great novels that are also great CONSERVATIVE novels. Among these are:

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
    Brave New World
    Great Expectations
    Animal Farm
    Uncle Tom’s Cabin
    The Great Gatsby
    Robinson Crusoe

  • Ernst Blofeld

    Austen is a difficult choice, in that she was pretty resolutely apolitical in the novels. (“…and from politics it was a short step to silence.”) But you can make a pretty good argument for her on the basis of showing rather than telling.

  • For Dave: The notion that Ender’s Game is for cheap thrills or is mindless entertainment is simply ridiculous. It is one of the most important books in science fiction and any bias against “genre” fiction tells more about the pretensions of the person who disdains the genre than it does about the genre itself.

    One author not listed in the first 60+ comments = Vince Flynn. None of his novels is “great” in anything other than a popcorn fiction reading, but they’re well done and sharp.

    I think To Kill a Mockingbird fits as well as any book on this list — honor, truth, equality of all, family, tradition and the struggle to cope with societal change all fit within conservative social themes.

  • Richard L.A. Schaefer

    Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer (1962) is more relevant than ever, with the alienating effects of Internet and similar addiction even worse than the condition the novel highlights regarding movies. Love in the Ruins (1971) is one instance of how the antenna of the novelist often grasps the future before it occurs, including social alienation in the form of riots (similarly, Thomas Merton was mocked for predicting riots; Martin Marty later apologized for being wrong about Merton’s predictions). The novel Lancelot (1980) highlights the search for an answer to human alienation from God and the universe because of the mystery of evil. The book basically came true during the making of the movie Hurricane.

  • Doc

    One more: R. Louis Stevenson’s Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

  • Abbe

    I’d like to add Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. In the battle to rebuild civilization after a comet wipes out most of it, what is worth fighting and dying for? A nuclear power plant!

  • Tony L

    “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter Miller Jr. Mankind perseveres through any adversity, including nuclear war.

  • MJSamuelson

    To Chuck Loncon (and of course, John Miller): In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, when JK Rowling is referring to the “horrid man” who is U.S. president, the actual timeline of the novels suggests she is referring to Bill Clinton. Harry was born in 1981, and would have been sixteen and experiencing his sixth year at Hogwarts in 1997.

    Now that I’ve exposed myself as a huge nerd, let me recommend for consideration L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series. Anne is a self-described Canadian Conservative, and while she might be a bit of a “green” person, it’s more in the tradition of Gingrich than Gore. She’s also big on faith and family.

  • Rick

    I srtongly agree w/ previous mentions of Watership Down, Sigrid Undset and Dostoyevski. And Tolkein.

    Disagree, as much as I like them, that Waugh (except Brideshead), Greene, Conrad, Percy, McCarthy are “conservative.”

    Won’t mention the ones I think are just crummy writers. (Hrlprin, for starters).

    Previously unmentioned obvious choices include The Chosen and Asher Lev by Chaim Potok, Dead Souls, by Gogol, The Master and Margerita, and Heart of a Dog by Bulgakov, Diary of a Country Priest by Bernanos, Viper’s Tangle, by Mauriac, Moby Dick, The Ox Bow Incident , Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury, everything by Flannery O’Connor, and Bridge Over San Luis Rey by Thorton Wilder.

    Unobvious choices (accidentally conservative books by totally not conservative writers) : Amsterdam, by McEwan, Intruder in the Dust, Faulkner, The Old Man and the Sea, The Puttermesser Papers by Cynthia Ozick.

  • Brian F

    Anything by Anthony Burgess, but especially “Earthly Powers,” the theme of which is summed up in the novel’s line, “For God’s sake leave us alone.”

  • Chris.

    Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer. The essential novel that captures the military ethic of selfless service to an idea.

  • Danielle

    1. Shane, by Jack Shaefer. Classic, and conservative to the core.

    2. I also agree with those who recommend Daniel Silva’s Gabriel Allon series. They’re not out-and-out conservative, but they present a clear-eyed view of Islamic extremism and the dangerous naivete of those who try to reason or negotiate with terrorists.

  • Unintentionally conservative? That’s easy: George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice. He’s a left-wing nut, but that series certainly is not. Kind of like David Simon’s The Wire . . .

  • The Old Man and the Sea, E. Hemingway

  • David W

    I was beaten to the punch with mentions of The Flashman and Blackford Oakes series so let me add W.E.B. Griffin’s several series.

  • aez

    I second the vote for The Man Who Was Thursday. Heavy on faith and wit, and jihadi terrorists could easily be substituted for the anarchist terrorists in the novel.

    I will also add a vote for the novels of Patrick O’Brian. My favorites are “Treason’s Harbour” and “H.M.S. Surprise”. I think of conservatism (or classical liberalism, as it probably ought to be called) as, among other things, the last redoubt of personal honor, and there’s honor all over these novels. And wit, and action, and passion, and a high value set on family life…

  • Allen Drury’s Pulitzer-winning Advise and Consent was the first of a series of political novels that take the same conservative themes from the 1960s through the 1980s. I’m astonished that Drury has not been mentioned, and can only attribute that to his books being out of fashion (and in some cases, out of print). Hie thee hence and read him; you will thank me for it.

    Of course, Gulag Archipelago is out of print, too (not that it’s fiction). Solzhenitsyn was great but he was far from alone. During the 1970s and especially 1980s, there was a powerful literature of freedom among Eastern European exiles. One little known work that deserved better was Second Breath by the late Jan Benes. A Canadian publisher, Sixty-Eight (you do the math) Publishing, brought many Czech and Slovak writers to public note in that period.

    The US provided a second home for many of those literary exiles, either here (Benes became a teacher at the military’s language school), or in Europe (hordes of them worked for RFE/RL).

    Someone has previously mentioned the works of Bill Butterworth, aka W.E.B. Griffin. His military series are an excellent exposition of military life and military motivations, particularly the army-officers series which begins with The Lieutenants, and the Marine series The Corps. I can’t comment on the accuracy of his police novels (they made for fun reading) and find his current series to be shallow and poorly researched. I understand the newer novels are mostly written by his son, whom I do not believe to be a veteran (I could be wrong about that).

    But if I had to make a top-ten list, I should put Drury’s Advise and Consent high upon it… I am looking forward to reading some of the books other commenters have recommended.

  • David W

    Oops. Turns out someone beat me to Griffin as well, so I’d like to add James Michener’s many novels.

  • I disagree firmly with those who have suggested Steven Hunter’s Bob Lee Swagger novels. Hunter is, as you would expect from a film reviewer for major dailies, a reflexive liberal, and those ideas permeate his writing and frequently issue from the mouths of his characters. For example, while his lead character guns his way through the novels (with the exception of one that hinged on swordplay), he seems to make the point that “regular” people who don’t have the training of a Marine sniper oughtn’t try to defend themselves, that only the “right” people should have guns — an archetypical liberal argument.

    The most recent book features a truly innovative character (not) — a bad guy who’s a hypocritical preacher. Geez, we’ve never seen a leap of imagination like that before. Hunter likes to throw a twist at the reader, but his foreshadowing’s so clumsy you’d have to be David Paterson not to see it coming: “hey, this character is only pretending to be a good guy, he’s really a bad guy and Bob Lee will have to fight a climactic battle with him in the last fifteen pages.”

    Not to mention that his understanding of firearms is that of the target-range shooter and the armchair expert, not that of a soldier, and his understanding of combat tactics is that of … an avid moviegoer. Yet, among the armchair experts he has earned a reputation for expertise.

    The books are fast-moving and entertaining, but that’s because they’re written with a view to Hollywood. They’re hardly conservative.

  • Jack Jolis

    I am taking the liberty of putting forward 2 of my own novels because a/ notwithstanding the astonishingly good reviews they received from The New York Times (below), they’re indubitably conservative, and 2/ they’re currently out of print (though available on the internet), so there is no risk of my benefiting financially from any of this.

    Under my pseudonym of “P.N. Gwynne”:

    FIRMLY BY THE TAIL, P.N. Gwynne (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1976) A satire of modern Africa. “A strange and unconventionally book. Deliriously funny. There is a great deal of truth in his account, and Gwynne has a fine feeling for the absurdity of things.” — The New York Times

    PUSHKIN SHOVE, P.N. Gwynne (E.P. Dutton, 1984) A comic cold war espionage caper. “The tale is rollicking, a sort of ‘Animal House’ of the espionage genre. The author’s sensibility, however disturbing, is always expressed with wit. Mr. Gwynne can write.” — The New York Times

  • Bob Harper

    The Cypresses Believe in God by Jose Maria Gironella.
    Kristin Lavransdatter and The Master of Hestviken, both by Sigrid Undset.
    In addition to Waush’s ‘Sword of Honour’ trilogy, his Brideshead Revisited.

  • Lee

    Will second the commenter who mentioned that the novel should be more about the permanent things. Some suggestions.

    The Great Gatsby: A study of the importance of personal character, and the lack of it from many supporting characters.

    A Tale of Two Cities: Dickens’ rebuke to the violent radicalism that the French Revolution became.

    The Screwtape Letters: If you pay attention, CS Lewis also takes some conservative shots at modern culture and politics, while engaging mostly in theology.

    The Grapes of Wrath: Really, if you look at how Steinbeck… just kidding folks. Just kidding. It’s pretty damn liberal.

  • Can I vote again? I saw some references to Mark Helprin. Yes, yes, he must be on the list. But I have to confess to not getting into WINTER’S TALE. I adored MEMOIR FROM ANTPROOF CASE. Read that and Marilyn Robinson’s GILEAD for a great compare and contrast discussion — both deal with elderly men recounting their life stories for their sons.


  • David W

    Are you a conservative that has a low opinion of the MSM and thinks they could fall for just about anyone with no history of accomplishments and loft them into political stardom? Read “Being There” by Jerzy Kosinski.

  • David Williams

    One of the truly great “conservative’ novels of all time is Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The Possessed (also known as The Devils).
    A story of a group of Russian pre-revolutionary radicals where F.D. deftly shows how godlessness and pure rationality leads to evil and disaster.

  • Frank Gibbons

    I recommend the following list:

    1 – The Cypresses Believe in God by Jose Maria Gironella. A beautiful portrayal of faith during the Spanish Civil War.

    2 – Island of the World by Michael D. O’Brien. Here is an epic of faith that chronicles a life in the Balkans from WWII to the present. A devestating critique of life under communism.

    3 – A Postcard from the Volcano by Lucy Beckett. An old man’s attempt to make sense of his youth in Germany between the wars.

    4 – I am Charoltte Simmons by Tom Wolfe. Chilling look at how our university educational system fails in nurturing individualism.

    5 – An Instance of the Fingerpost by Iain Pears. Relgious intrigue in post-reformation England will keep you mesmerized.

    6 – Appointment in Sammara – John O’Hara. I don’t know if it qualifies as conservative, but this fine novel details the crack-up on mainline Protestantism in America and prophesied the rise of (Kennedy) Catholics.

    7 – Big Sur by Jack Kerouac. A horrific tale of alchoholism. By this time, he knew he had gone down the wrong road.

  • Neil M

    Elmer Kelton, The Time It Never Rained. The list needs more Westerns.

  • Ralph Eastwick

    A number of posts have nominated the novels of Mark Helprin. In a just world, Helprin would receive the Nobel Prize (wouldn`t you pay to see that acceptance address!). “A Soldier of the Great War” is magnificent, perhaps the best novel ever written in the English language. I have always been struck by his discussion of love, and that we can only understand life through love. I made sure my two sons had copies of Helprin`s novels and short stories in the hope that it would help them become better men.

  • John

    One could argue for conservative themes in most great novels, even if a specific novel is not overtly conservative (and most good novels tend not to follow any overt political position or ideological stance).

    The novel, as scores of left and liberal critics remind us, achieved its height in the midst of great political and social change. It presents the problem of adjusting to this change, and of attempting to conserve what is worthy of being conserved–whether successful or not. Sure, there are novels that present the case for radical change (like Sinclair’s The Jungle) or sink into pure nihilism (like Celine’s Journey To the End of the Night).

    Nonetheless, novels can show the complexity of life, the problem of evil, the fallibility of human reason, etc. In so doing, they are open to conservative interpretation–regardless of the author’s actual politics. The following authors make a small sample as I peruse my bookcase.

    Fyodor Dostoevsky, Yevgeny Zamiatyn, Georges Bernanos, Willa Cather, Henry Adams, William Faulkner, James Fenimore Cooper, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Evelyn Waugh, Herman Melville, Robert Penn Warren, Walker Percy, George Orwell, David Lodge, Shusaku Endo, Marilyn Robinson, Richard Dooling, Tom Wolfe, Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Saul Bellow, Graham Green, William Golding, Franz Kafka…

  • charles e daniels

    “Vandenberg” by Oliver Lange. Read it years ago. Still gives me the shivers. Straight, out-and-out anti communist novel about fighting reds in New Mexico. Jacket notes observe that “everything in Vandenberg is fiction. Everything in Vandenberg is absolutely true.” Also, a droll British book called The Yellow Room by George Shipway, in which book some old officers come out of retirement. Endorse Camp of the Saints, though not at all PC.

  • Michael

    They’re occasionally a bit heavy-handed, though not so much as his other novels, but Michael D. O’Brien’s “Father Elijah” and “The Plague Journal” certainly qualify. Both touch upon the dangers of over-reaching, secular, utopian governmental authority. Both are at times terrifying in their predictions of conditions which seem these days to be just below the surface of our society. I harken back to both from time to time, especially when I see the Obama “icon” worn by another of his worshippers. “The Plague Journal” is an easier, shorter read, but disquieting and eerily prescient: I wonder how Mark Steyn would feel about O’Brien’s decade-old predictions regarding Canadian intellectual facism.

  • Chris D

    I’m a conservative and my favorite novel of all time is Lolita – so there must be something conservative about it, right? Maybe Nabokov’s contempt for and parody of the banality of modern “culture” is one of the novel’s aspects that attracts me. At the same time, Humbert Humbert uses his powerful intellect with deranged values to justify his atrocities – much like many of the “enlightened” do so often for atrocities on a much grander scale. Ironically, what passes for education, enlightenment and intellect nowadays makes Lo’s consumption of movie star magazines and pop records seem positively scholarly today.

    Plus, any list that does not include multiple Waugh and Conrad titles is either incomplete or has wasted too much space on lesser works.

  • I am compelled by passion to second the nomination of Ken Kesey’s masterpiece Sometimes A Great Notion as a great conservative novel. On the surface it is the story of independent loggers battling against a striking union in the Coast Range of Oregon. But the real story is about so much more. The book is not nearly as well known as Kesey’s One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest but superior to that good book in character development and complexity. The writing is memorable, the descriptions of the moody Pacific Northwest definitive and the dialog a pleasure to read. Little wonder its often described as one of the few great American novels by those who have read it. How does this novel qualify as conservative? The story is a celebration of hard work, independence, and stubborn refusal to take the path of least resistance when one’s freedom is at stake. Read it once and you may find yourself reading it again and again to mine its many treasures.

  • Rod Montgomery

    David Weber’s “Honor Harrington” stories.

  • Julie P.

    My favorite novel without question is Jane Austen’s “Persuasion.” For those who think she wrote nothing but chick lit, think again.

    “Persuasion” is the story of a young woman (daughter of a baronet) who is “persuaded” to break off her engagement to a young naval officer who has no money and no connections. But this young man works hard, becomes successful and proves himself to be a better man than the spendthrift, vain baronet.

    Austen praises merit and hard work and tells us in no uncertain terms that rank and privilege aren’t necessarily admirable. The Baronet and his family are the butt of the jokes and the self-made men are ones whom we admire. Sounds pretty conservative to me.

  • Debbie D.

    If you like Ender’s Game, you need to look at Ender’s Shadow, too. It is the same story but told from the perspective of one of the other children and it is a great book. It doesn’t feel repetitive at all because of the different approach.

  • Andrew

    Demons by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

  • I’d agree with the Starship Troopers recommendation. Whole-heartedly! I’d also suggest an Historical Novel of the American Revolution, called, “Benning’s War” since I wrote that one myself. 🙂

    LOTR is an excellent example of seeing, from without, the insidious, beastly nature of Statism.

  • Mr. Wonderful

    Okay, seriously:

    Atlas Shrugged (Rand)–The ur-text of libertarianism, an unmatchable example of self-parody, and the only book in history in which the principle characters take a thousand pages to decry collectivization and then retreat to the El Dorado of their dreams…which is a collective. (And which requires the invention of science fiction energy sources and a “lens” in order to survive.)

    Oh, and it’s also a prime example of how a zealously ideological examination of the trees (such as the one being undertaken on this very site) can blind you to the forest:

    Rand supposes she has written a critique of society, but provides no baseline reality against which we can judge her points. In Orwell’s 1984, the society is stylized but human nature is realistic. In Brave New World, the same. Even in the now-unreadable Stranger in a Strange Land, the same balance exists, but reversed–society is rendered realistically but Smith is a stylized fictional creation. One or the other has to be identifiable or the polemical point gets entirely lost.

    In Atlas, though, Rand shows both a stylized, exaggerated depiction of society (The People’s Republic of France, Germany, England, etc.) and sends against it her ludicrously speechifying, nostril-flaring protagonists. Cartoon heroes battling an entire world of straw men–and this is what conservatives revere. Perfect.

    Just leave poor Jane Austin out of it.

  • Robert R. Owen

    With his recent endorsement of RINO Dede Scozzofava, Newt Gingrich is dead to me politically. Nonetheless, I choose not to let the Speaker’s electoral treachery blind me to the greatness of his novels 1945, Gettysburg and Grant Comes East. Co-written with William Fortschen, these alt-history tales do not pander to the P.C. crowd. Gingrich even toys with an alternative ending to the War Between the States. As works of speculative fiction, these books are much more realistic to the cartoonish works of Harry Turtledove, who I believe is a Democrat.

    In the alt-history category also recommend the Yiddish Policemen’s Union, by Michael Chabon. Though Chabon is an Obama supporter and a radical leftist, the ending of Union suggests a possible future which is quite wonderful.

  • Hubert Humberside

    Anyone who thinks that Lolita is not a conservative masterpiece should read John Derbyshire’s review of that “surpassingly beautiful work of art.”

    Say what you will, but John knows what he likes.

  • Jonathan P.

    I’m surprised nobody has mentioned A Clockwork Orange yet. I cannot think a better portrayal of the moral breakdown of a government-controlled society as well as the futility of the government’s attempts to enforce morality by “scientific” methods. I believe that an earlier posting mentioned The Painted Veil – a fantastic book. I don’t know if I would agree that it is a conservative novel, per se. Certainly the virtues that the book promotes are those that most conservatives would wish to espouse; however I would argue that most liberals would insist that they believe in those same virtues. Let me join may of the other respondents in mentioning Evelyn Waugh. A Handful of Dust and Brideshead Revisited are both great novels; however for a truly vicious and biting critique of the self-indulgence of the wealthy Left, you cannot beat Vile Bodies.

  • Susan of Texas

    Jane Austen’s Emma is a wonderfully conservative book. When poor, illegitimate Miss Smith thinks she can marry above her station, she slowly learns that everyone has their place in society, and it’s foolish and futile to try to marry one of her betters, which is totally against centuries of tradition and social norms.

    Standing athwart social change yelling stop! Go Jane!

  • Lee

    I just remembered “Death Comes for the Archbishop” by Willa Cather. Written during the interwar years when post WWI skepticism was huge (think Hemmingway or Gertrude Stein)”Archbishop” is the story of two priest sent by the Vatican to refound a mission in 1830s New Mexico.

    The priests are basically good people, there is no hand wringing of “cultural imperialism” or other such all too common nonsense when talking about the American West, and the love of God that the priests have is serious and positively portrayed.

    My highest recommendation for this list.

  • Jason

    I also recommend Alan Furst, especially “Night Soldiers”. The story gives a good picture of the terror of working for the Soviet NKVD. The main character also realizes that “Fascists” and “Communists” are pretty much the same.

    Also recommend “The Radetzky March” by Joseph Roth.

  • John

    In light of my above statements regarding social change, if not upheaval, I neglected to mention the conservative claim that the tradition one has inherited has on the present. The best novels and the best interpretations of novels from a conservative position tend to wrestle with the question of what has been bequeathed and the gratitude incumbent upon the heirs.

    In order to be effective, the novel must look at some degree of change–but the question becomes how does one deal with that change. As I mentioned, you can call for overall revolution (Cherneshevsky) or move to the truth of the acte gratuite (Gide).

    So in this light, writers of the American southern renascence and their epigones still have much to present. Allen Tate’s The Fathers in a more “old school motif” and Walker Percy’s Moviegoer.

    In a vein I know only from what I have read, Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago is also a novel about what one owes to one’s fathers.

  • anthony

    I can’t recommend the Danish novelist Sven Hassell’s books such as “The Bloody Road to Death” highly enough.
    Not only do his characters fight the Red Army and Communist partisans in Yugoslavia, the novels give empathy to what it’s like to fight as a soldier in the German army.
    As Reagan said, “they were victims, just as surely as the victims in the concentration camps.”

  • Lawrence

    It has now been mentioned a few times, but once more won’t hurt. Demons (sometimes titled The Possessed) by Dostoevsky has to lead the list of great conservative novels. Run, don’t walk, and buy the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation. It has great end notes which especially come in handy in this book. A number of characters are vaguely veiled representations of contemporaries of Dostoevsky, so the end notes help clue you into the jokes as FD tears his old comrades apart.

  • Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.” for its surprisingly religious world view…

    C.S. Lewis’s “The Screwtape Letters” for reasons too numerous and obvious to need noting… but especially for driving home the truth that it’s more important to be good than to be intellectual.

    Claire Massud’s “The Emperor’s Children” for skewering the myth of the Liberal Lion…

    Evelyn Waugh’s “Brideshead Revisited” for its beautiful, devastating explication of Catholicism, its rejection of modernism, and its celebration of traditionalism.

  • David

    It would no doubt pain John Irving to make such a list, but The World According to Garp was a tragicomic counterpoint between the collapse of middle-class family values and the rise of random violence in our society.

  • Mark_0454

    “Once an Eagle”

    One of only two novels required at West Point.

    Best part. Every time I read it I am amazed at how historically accurate Myrer was in his little comments. Right down to George Marshall’s posting in China.

    I read it every few years and it never gets old.

  • Leo__the_bleachman

    In Science Fiction you can’t get more conservative then the books of Tom Kratman.

    A State of Disobedience in which Texas seccedes from the Union which is controlled by a Hillary type facsimile. A Desert Called Peace and its sequel Carnifex which take place in a universe where the sole other inhabitable planet was discovered by accident and settled by the disaffected of Earth. Become familiar with the trademark line, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” In this world the main character’s family is destroyed by a terrorist attack and this is the story of his revenge. Just about every modern evil entity is represented here including the United Nations. Be aware that Kratman is no prude so take that into account.

    He just recently published a stand alone novel called Caliphate which is a projection of what could happen considering current events and the Islamification of Europe.

    Finally he has also coauthored a couple of books with John Ringo in Ringo’s series about the invasion of Earth by the always hungry Posleen (these would really need to be read after an intro with a couple of Ringo’s books like A Hymn Before Battle, Gust Front,Hell’s Faire, and When the Devil Dances). The book Yellow Eyes which details the events of the invasion as it transpires in Panama. This is worth reading just to read the names of the characters. I’ll never be able to hear a news story again about Nicaragua without thinking of it’s president, ‘Daniel Ormiga’. And his newest book to hit print, The Tuloriad which occurs after the invasion is repulsed and is an interesting look at how religion itself can be a powerful force.

    All of his books are worth reading for the Afterwords.

  • HalifaxCB

    “Call of the Wild”, by Jack London. The perfect antidote to an MSM fascinated by Bo and his master.

  • A lot of great suggestions here. I’m particularly pleased to see Roth’s “American Pastoral.” Easily his best, for all the reasons folks cited above. Didn’t see Anton Myrer’s “Once An Eagle” in my admittedly brief scroll through the comments, so let me offer it. A bit Dreiser-ian stylistiaclly (“and then…and then..and then…”), but its consideration of character and leadership is excellent. Also, let me submit Eric Rolfe Greenberg’s “The Celebrant”. Ostensibly a baseball novel featuring the great Christy Matthewson, it’s really an all-American immigrant assimilation tale. Walker Percy’s novels may have been mentioned above too. If so they rate a re-mention, esp “Lancelot” and “The Last Gentleman”. “The Moviegoer” made his reputation, but these two from Percy’s middle period demonstrate just how difficult it has become for a thoughtful, principled morally serious American to retain his sanity. From the other side of the pond, Brian Moore’s “Lies Of Silence”, “The Colour Of Blood”, and very especially “Catholics” fit the description “conservative” nicely. As does Allen Massie’s post-war trilogy: “A Question Of Loyalties”, “Shadows Of Empire”, and “The Sins Of the Father”. Add his “The Death of Men” and you could call it a quartet. Great discussion here. Look forward to reading Mr Miller’s novel.

  • Scott Dysart

    Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur: A tale of the Christ is as “big on faith” as you get, to borrow an oft repeated phrase.

    Loyalty to family, ones country, and God against overwhelming obstacles. As awesome as the movie is, the book is better.

    Lew Wallace was a Northern Civil War General who also served as our ambassador to the Ottoman Empire during the Chester Arthur administration.

  • @146

    re empathy for the average WWII German infantryman, and fine writing about combat generally, nobody beats Russ Schneider, “Seige” especially.

  • Jessica O’Connor

    I’m just going to second (or third) a few nominees.

    A Confederacy of Dunces must be included in any such list.

    The Gabriel Allon books I would say are very conservative due to their unrepentant defense of both Israel and Western Civ. in general. They are also sophisticated and exciting and very, very clean, they are pretty nearly perfect to me. One quibble, the author as a few too many instances of extreme Right-wing Catholics being bad guys.

    The Last Jihad is one of the most exciting books I’ve ever read, I literally could not put it down.

  • @140

    Agree w/ you, and Derbyshire, completely about “Lolita”. The best evidence for “Lolita” as a pitch perfect conservative novel is Gore Vidal’s sneer that it’s little more than a mildly pleasant travelogue of pre-interstate system America.

    Along the same lines, Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country For Old Men” fits the “conservative” description too. In fact, “No Country For Old Men” seems to me a very conscious homage to “Lolita”. But that’s a discussion for another day.

  • craig forrest

    I second the vote for ‘Advise and Consent’. If you are interested in how things get done in the Senate, I think you will enjoy Allen Drury’s writing.

  • E.E. Knight

    I’ll add to the chorus for “Watership Down” even though that novel has been adopted by the greenies because of the destruction of the Sandleford Warren by developers and a few asides about road noise and man spoiling the earth and such. More than balancing that out are the horrors of totalitarianism in the Efrafa warren on the one hand and Cowslip’s warren on the other, where the rabbits have traded in their “rabbithood,” if you will, for a well-fed, secure life on a farmer’s land. The farmer feeds and protects the rabbits but sets snares, ultimately taking their lives.

    There are a lot of great westerns out there that are essentially conservative. Anything by Louis L’Amour and individual titles like “True Grit” are probably at the forefront.

    I’d put Kipling on the list as well. I don’ t know that any of his books are overtly political, they’re great stories first and foremost. His poetry is a little moreso — “The Gods of the Copybook Headings” and so on. Though I know we’re supposed to be talking prose here, I have to link to “The Mary Gloster,” a wonderful hymn to capitalism:

    E.E. Knight
    “Way of the Wolf,” “Dragon Champion” etc.

  • First of all, to those who dismiss popular fiction as “cheap thrills or relatively mindless entertainment” allow me to dissent with the support of none other than T.S. Eliot, who wrote in his essay “Religion and Literature,”

    “I incline to the shocking conclusion that it is just the literature that we read for amusement, or purely for pleasure, that may have the greatest and least suspected influence upon us. It is literature we read with the least effort that can have the easiest and most insidious influence upon us. Hence it is that the influence of popular novelists, and of popular playwrights of contemporary life, requires to be scrutinized most closely.”

    Far from dismissing popular works, Eliot is telling us that these are precisely the works to which we should pay the most attention, for the simple fact that they are what the vast majority consumes.

    I’ll second Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein series, which, as the dedication pages in each book make clear, was inspired by C.S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man.

    I would also like to offer up two authors I’ve not seen mentioned by others:

    James P. Blaylock & Tim Powers.

    I’d especially recommend Blaylock’s Langdon St. Ives “steampunk” novels. Blaylock also co-wrote short stories with three of his Orange County High School of the Arts Creative Fiction students – you can get a glimpse of one of them – “Stone Eggs” here. Blaylock also wrote a great short story, titled “The Devil’s in the Details” and collected in the book of the same name, about how political correctness allows a university chapel to become a gateway for demons.

    Of course, John is already familiar with Russell Kirk’s ghost stories (many of which are collected in Ancestral Shadows) and novels (The Old House of Fear, Lord of the Hollow Dark, Creature of the Twilight) but others passing by this post may not be.

    I think that some of the best fiction that can be described as conservative, noted by the names pointed out above, is to be found in genre work – Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror and Thrillers.

    John C. Wright definitely deserves a mention – his Golden Age series, The War of the Dreaming series and his Chronicles of Chaos are fine examples of excellent work informed by a conservative sensibility.

    Gene Wolfe is another whose work is informed by his orthodox Catholic outlook. There is Orson Scott Card’s Empire, a sequel to which is forthcoming.

    I could go on and on. There is a lot more work out there that appeals to conservative readers than many people would think. I hope this list and the post put together by Mr. Miller inspires folks to broaden their horizons and get their noses out the latest polemic written by politicians or pundits.

  • Last comment for now, I promise, but let me add Bellow’s “The Adventures Of Augie March” and “Humboldt’s Gift”. There’s so much going on in both of them that political/ideological labels are woefully insufficient but, as others have mentioned above, absence of/impatience with leftist cant is itself a hallmark of “conservative” novels.

  • Ken Willis

    Joseph Conrad has been mentioned often here, rightly so. I might have missed it but I did not see any reference to his short novel The Shadow Line. It is about a young sea captain whose sea journey is a journey from boyhood to manhood, and the finding of wisdom, maturity and responsibility.

    It seems to me to be the quintessential story of conservatism since many conservatives come to their convictions by a personal journey from childish thinking to mature reflection.

  • Steve

    “I am David” The story follows David from his life in a eastern European concentration camp to freedom in Denmark. Along the way David learns self reliance, finds faith in the God of “the still waters and green pastures,” discovers love, compasion and friendship. Through the book, David transforms from a victim to a human.

  • Mrs. Toad

    Michael D. O’Brien – Island of the World – amazing book – and Fr. Elijah – a bit clunky in places but riveting, also his prescient novels set in Canada
    Patrick O’Brian – hooray for Jack Aubrey
    David Weber – Honor Harrington rocks!
    Paul Theroux – both O-Zone and The Mosquito Coast are surprisingly conservative tho’ I don’t think he’d call himself conservative at all
    Louis de Wohl – great, accesible, surprisingly modern novels of saints like Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, Catherine of Sienna, etc.
    Solzheinitsyn – The Gulag Archipelago, The First Circle
    Graham Greene – The Heart of the Matter, The Power and the Glory, etc.
    Willa Cather – Death Comes for the Archibishop
    L.M. Montgomery – Anne of Green Gables etc.
    Ursula K. LeGuin – yes, really — The Dispossed, a novel set in an anarchic utopian society, is deeply conservative in its depiction of personal responsibility and freedom of thought

  • R. Porro

    The Rand and Helprin suggestions above should definitely be on the list; without a doubt, Helprin is to the modern conservative novel what Sarah Palin is to modern conservative populism. Some of the other suggestions seem a bit off-target but I’m going to suggest one that is truly far-fetched: Last Exit to Brooklyn. I know, the vulgar language is appalling and the subject matter is, too, But that’s just it: no political correctness, no sugar-coating, just raw reality that confirms every belief that conservatives have about “poor” urban populations, and the horrors that a lack of conservative values will always precipitate. The novel’s unblinking depiction of the utter immorality of the dismal underclass and their abhorrent appetites, the corruption and fascist brutality of unions, the criminal consequences of soft-on-crime liberal policies and the welfare state (the book makes it emininently clear that gated communities and “homophobia” don’t arise in a vacuum), all of it, makes it an echt conservative novel, in my opinion.

  • Roger Donway

    A lot of good suggestions, but “Mansfield Park” is Jane Austen’s most conservative novel, by far, and cannot be omitted from any list of conservative novels. Please don’t forget Sir Walter Scott, perhaps “The Antiquary”? And Anthony Trollope’s “The Warden”: pure conservatism.

  • Please add Nevil Shute’s 1938 novel “Kindling” to the list. It’s the story of a British investment banker who struggles to restart a dormant shipyard in the midst of England’s depression — and it ought to be required reading today because it shows just how entrepreneurs, rather than governments. create jobs.

    Here’s one quote, and it neatly illustrates the difference between what an investment banker ought to be and what so many of today’s investment bankers have become:

    “There’s only one thing really work working for…to create work. I believe that’s the thing most worth doing in this modern world…to create jobs that men can work at, and be proud of, and make money by their work. There’s no dignity, no decency or health today for men that haven’t got a job. All other things depend on work today; without work men are utterly undone.”

    Shute himself was a successful business executive before he became a novelist. So far as I can tell, he’s the only human being who ever made money in the British aerospace industry. One of his most famous novels is “A Town Like Alice” which — in addition to being a beautiful love story — also shows how jobs get created and how a town’s economy can be revived by a talented and hard-working entrepreneur.

    Copies of “Kindling” are hard to find, but worth the effort.

    Herb Meyer

  • Edmond D. Smith

    Some here have noted the dearth of Westerns that have been named so I’ll toss out two; Lonseome Dove and The Searchers by Alan LeMay. Dove has already been mentioned but deserves a second vote. It captures a vital part of the American Experience, the push into new frontiers and shows it, not just as euphoric adventure but more as bitter struggle. And it shows the value of love, loyalty and the human need to always see what is over the next mountaintop.

    The Searchers does much the same thing. Although liberals usually disdain it as racist, this shows liberal narrowness and therefor makes them blind to its real meaning. The book accepts the changing situation in the frontier as it was and highlights the the destructive power of obsession. It takes the world as it really is. Of course liberals hate it.

  • Chris

    Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler.

    The party’s definition of an individual: a million divisible by a million.

    Great stuff in that book.

  • Charles A. Fuller

    “‘Ludes: A Ballad of the Drug and the Dream” by Ben Stein (yes, that Ben Stein) is unapologetic conservative novel about early ’80s drug culture, specifically people into Quaalude, a sedative that was eventually banned because of widespread abuse. It clearly shows the devastating effects of drug use and the folly of liberal ‘let it all hang out’ lifestyles.

  • Will

    Dear God, what is wrong with you people?

    Why do you want to reduce literature to ideological categories? Can’t you just experience them as great works of art that civilize and enrich us, make us more human?

    It’s quite stunning that you include novels by the likes of Bulgakov, a man who was–among many others–a victim of an extreme form of this narrow view of literature.

    And yes, academics on the far left do it too. Why copy their errors and vulgarizations?

  • David Collins

    “Sea of Grass” by Conrad Richter.
    Rancher Col. Jim Brewton’s land taken and way of life destroyed for the common good. Sound familiar?

  • Tony R

    Jon Hassler.
    Don Robertson.
    Joseph Epstein’s short fiction.

    Some of John D. MacDonald’s work also.

    SF — Been a while, but as I recall David Drake, Gordon Dickson, and Poul Anderson would have a place on the list too.

    Bests to all.

  • “True Grit” is not a Louis L’Amour book. “Bendigo Shafter” probably is his biggest statement about community, pioneering and the American Way.

    “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” is the Great American Novel and should be required reading for every student at least every few years.

    “The Invisible Man” by Ralph Ellison is THE novel on race in America of the 20th Century.

    Ellison and Twain are the masters of the American literary form, and by current standards, Conservative, though not conservative for their time.

    Kenneth Roberts invented the American historical novel, and his view of the Revolution would certainly be considered conservative today.

    Modern popular authors:
    Jonathan Kellerman
    Dean Koontz
    Joseph Wambaugh (genuine literature)
    Gus Lee
    Andrew Klavan
    Vince Flynn
    Jeff Shaara
    Louis L’Amour
    Allan Eckert
    James W. Huston
    Robert Ferrigno
    Wilbur Smith

    Completely non-political authors whose heroes are antithetical to modern liberalism:
    Robert Crais
    Stephen Hunter

    Conservative novelists more well known for nonfiction:
    Bing and Owen West
    Thomas Fleming

  • Robert Heinlein was consistently libertarian in his vision, but his books got very loopy around 1965.

    Should have mentioned Alan Furst, whose books remind us the Soviets were bad guys before and during WWII, also.

  • @171

    I don’t see much “categorization” going on here. Your point about great literature enriching us all is banal unto uselessness. The academic left has for decades now been assaulting the western literary tradition with “progressive” ideology. The occassional reminder that the resistance is strong indeed hurts not one bit.

  • LarryK

    Great discussion and lots of interesting choices…but I’d like to take exception to a couple of them before recommending some others.

    First, sorry Jim (#79) – the USA Trilogy by John Dos Passos is extremely inventive (I’m not aware of anyone who tried to mimic the style that dos Passos developed in those books, it remains unique) but it’s hard to say it’s conservative. Like many literary types that went to WWI, he came back traumatized and angry at Western Civilization, and the USA Trilogy reflects that.

    However, in a stunning turnabout, in the 1940s dos Passos completely disavowed his socialism of the 20s and 30s, and eventually wrote a book called “Midcentury,” which is EXTREMELY conservative – the portraits of Eleanor Roosevelt and communist labor leaders are devastating. This book is also criminally overlooked and should be read, if you can find a copy.

    Second, I don’t think “Sometimes a Great Notion” can really be considered conservative. I can see why people would say that, because it does show people working hard and trying to tame an unforgiving environment – but the hero of the book is the sensitive young kid who comes home from college, not Hank his hard-headed macho brother or his father Henry, the patriarch of the logging family. All of their hard work and ideals are ultimately shown to be empty – this is a novel where the defeated Hank (I won’t explain why) ultimately concludes “there ain’t no real strength, just different degrees of weakness.” That sounds like a message that Oprah and many others in our therapeutic age would agree with. “Sometimes a Great Notion” is an incredible novel – one of my favorites – but it’s not conservative.

    I also disagree with some who claim that thrillers are necessarily trashy and not worthy of recommending here – and one “thriller”/historical fiction writer who I definitely think qualifies as conservative is Leon Uris. “Exodus” and “Mila 18” are conservative classics, based closely on real life events. “Exodus” is also a great primer on the real source of the Arab-Israeli conflict that continues to rage, and “Mila 18” shows Jews in the Warsaw ghetto fighting for life and battling the Nazis far better than many Western nations did – very inspiring.

    Finally, I think Das (#98) makes a very interesting point – novels that deal with the messy concrete details of life are inherently more conservative than those where the action and characters etc are all designed to fit into and advance some political agenda. That’s one reason I’ve stayed away from reading any of Ayn Rand’s novels – even thought I’m sympathetic to much (but not all) of her worldview, I don’t want to read a novel where the politics drives “life” rather than vice versa. Leftists are notorious for trying to impose some pattern that exists in their mind on reality, and creating disasters in the process. In contrast, conservatives are the party of life and more likely to deal with reality as it is rather than how they wish it would be.

  • Matthew Bloom

    I can’t believe no one has mentioned the Left Behind series of novels, by Reverend Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. The books are exciting and beautifully written, and you can’t be a true conservative without being a Christian.

  • twwren

    I nominate “The Name of the Rose” by Umberto Eco. How can a book that is an indictment of the Catholic church in the 14th century and written by an atheist be conservative. Well, it is, perhaps unintentionally, but in the end it exposes its author as beliving in the power of faith despite the weaknesses of man.

  • Will


    So literature is an area for political cockfights? The good team vs. the bad team, etc.

    And “hurts not one bit?” Really? You really believe that reducing literature to political categories and using it as a tool with which to bash the Other Side is totally free of negative consequences? This all just smacks of “we can do no wrong, who cares they do it” special pleading.

    Your point about “uselessness” is revealing. You seem to think that literature should above all be “useful,” hopefully for your specific political ideology. To you, literature isn’t about reveling in great art and learning to live more intensely and (hopefully) wisely, it’s about striking blows for Your Side. To you, satirical or “political” poems and plays and novels aren’t the product of an individual author’s unique vision of society; instead, they have to be the ideological weapons of players on Your Team.

    How exactly is this different from cultural Sovietism?

  • Will

    Also, 173-

    You don’t see any categorization going on here? REALLY? You’re posting comments on a thread about “conservative books.” This whole thread is a quest to determine cultural (indeed political) correctness.

  • I wish I could read minds like friend Will here, but I can only read books. His concern about “cultural sovietism” from a discussion about books which share very little in common except a thoroughgoing contempt for the mindset capable of producing sentences like

    “To you, literature isn’t about reveling in great art and learning to live more intensely and (hopefully) wisely, it’s about striking blows for Your Side. To you, satirical or “political” poems and plays and novels aren’t the product of an individual author’s unique vision of society; instead, they have to be the ideological weapons of players on Your Team.”

    is noted. The “uselessness” I mentioned above is not a political critique, but an aesthetic one. No surprise that one so thoroughly marinated in political as Will missed the point entireely.

  • Last sentence above should read:

    “No surprise that one so thoroughly marinated in political paranoia Will missed the point entirely.”

  • Actually, it should read:

    “No surprise that one so thoroughly marinated in political paranoia as Will missed the point entirely.”

    Will’s mediocre graduate school screed must have really addled me. My apologies.

  • Will

    Even with his genteel style, Seamus can’t construct a coherent coup de grace. Sad. What “mindset,” exactly, are you talking about?

  • One never does get points for honesty will folks like Will. Thank goodness virtue is its own reward. As for his “mindset”, it’s revealed as much in kicking an opponent when he’s down as it is in his plodding restatement– literature enriches us all, and makes us live more (please stifle your laughter) “intensely”– of ideas better expressed by Claude Levi Strauss and Oprah Winfrey.

  • paleotectonics

    Someone recommended the Killer Angles by Jeff Shaara. That is NOT!!!! conservative, being about the success of a bloodtyhirsty big government army over real people, who had left their homes to fight for their rights against those who would not let them have them. The north then destroyed us and any hope for america. How about Gone With The Wind instead? Someone mentioned Gilead. I haven’t read it but it reminded me of the Handmade Tale, about the Republic of Gilead. I know it is supposed to be criticizing us, but isn’t it a beautiful prediction of the future? I pray for it every day…

  • Jim

    Larry Niven’s short story, “Convergent Series,” is shows how a liberal grad student get one chance, at the limit, to redeem himself from through applied faith and mathematics.

    Another candidate is “The Spectre General” (can’t find an author reference quickly) that I read in several SF analogies. It’s a scathing downtake of the monarchial-bureacratic complex.

    I’m surprised that no one mentioned “To Serve Man” yet – beware those who only claim to “help” you, like far too many of a leftist bent.

    “Who Goes There?” by Jon W. Campbell, Jr. was the basis for both film versions of “The Thing.” An excellent allegory of single vs collective thought, it’s also a great caution about who gets entrusted to be the watcher.

  • Bryan Ens

    Mr. Miller,

    Like some of the others, I think labeling certain novels Conservative is problematic. The qualities that make a novel great can make a novel conservative or liberal.

    But, just to play along (most of my choices have been mentioned)…

    – Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
    – The End Of the Affair by Graham Greene- This is his best catholic novel in my opinion.
    – On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan- a beautiful little book about love and the sexual revolution
    – The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope- Not a very libertarian theme, but it extolls traditional values while remaining quite relevant to modern times.
    – The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    – The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
    – The Bostonians by Henry James

  • I was glad to see Neville Shute finally mentioned. I am working my way through all of his novels. On the Beach scared the hell out of me as a college student when it came out. I have been unable to read it again.

    “Alice” is a very “conservative” story as the heroine is a businesswoman. My daughters have read it.

    Another one that is a bit odd but has a very conservative theme is “in the Wet,” which is his prediction of what England will be like in the 1980s, written in the 50s. Among other suggestions is his proposal of proportional voting according to the accomplishments of the voter. It’s an interesting idea although impractical.

    “Trustee From the Toolroom” is also about businessmen as heroes.

    I agree with “Lord of the Rings” and “Watership Down.” I read them to my children when they were small and was able to show them the real Watership Down when I took them to England as teenagers.

    The WEB Griffin novels are excellent but are suffering from success right now. I like the two Argentina series, “Honor Bound,” set in 1943, and “Presidential Agent,” set in 2005.

    Tom Clancy novels are thrillers but he does have an uncanny way of coming up with ideas that turn out to be prescient. He has a character crash a 747 into Congress at the end of Debt of Honor and Rainbow Six, although not as well written as many, does have some interesting themes about the environmentalists.

    Steven Pressfield is another excellent suggestion. “Gates of Fire” is terrific and the whole Alexander series is good. “KIlling Rommel” is an amazing story, all the more amazing as so much of it is true.

    If you like the Allan Drury novel, his nonfiction “Senate Journal” is worth looking for. It is the obvious source for the fictional “Advice and Consent.”

    AJ Cronin novels are a good picture of medicine in Britain in the 30s. Very much oriented to achievement.

    I Like John P Marquand novels, although no one has heard of them now. He is gently critical of the businessmen he describes but shows the life. My favorite, which no one has heard of in many years, is “Sincerely Willis Wayde” and has a picture of the 1920s and the crash. It’s the story of a young man who grows up idolizing a businessman who heads a family owned company in the 1920s. After the Crash and the Depression begins, he has to make his own way in the world and make the compromises that he has to make. I reread it every once in a while.

    Except for the science fiction, which I have trouble with, I’ve read about all the other books on the list so far and agree they are good reading. One exception is “Atlas Shrugged” which I stare at but haven’t gotten beyond that stage.

  • Will

    Levi Strauss was interesting and infuriating, depending on which book you’re talking about. Oprah is a very successful TV lady that likes and promotes books, some of them good and many of them mediocre or bad.

    My view of literature was picked up from 60s po-mo Marxists like John Keats, William Hazlitt, Stendhal, Gautier, John Ruskin, Walter Pater, and Oscar Wilde.

    Reviewing some of your comments from earlier in the thread, before I showed up (don’t worry, this is my last post), you seem concerned with authors like Walker Percy, writers of what you call “moral seriousness.” Good for you; I mean that sincerely. I’m a great fan of plenty of moralists myself (including Percy). But surely they can’t be retro-fitted to become heralds of 21st century rightism. At any rate, I’m gone, so hooray!

  • David Porta

    “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” by Robert A. Heinlein. TANSTAAFL
    Other good right-wing or conservative stuff by Heinlein: “Double Star,” “The Door Into Summer,” “The Puppet Masters,” “Starship Troopers,” “Farnham’s Freehold.”

    Erle Stanley Gardner
    Perry Mason. The D.A. series. Etc. Gardner’s good guys are exemplars of conservative values.

    “The Good Soldier Švejk: and His Fortunes in the World War” (1923) (or Svejk, or Schweik or Schwejk) by Jaroslav Hasek. Schweik is an unlikely protagonist in a hilarious satire The Kaiser wants citizens to be cannon fodder for the greater glory etc. Schweik says that is this a great idea, and promptly find his way to the rear. Schweik pays humble lip service to all the pieties of aristocratic Europe while exhibiting an innocent genius for virtuous good-natured self-preservation. He is a cheerful survivor in the guise of an obedient idiot nobody.

    “Dead Souls”(1842) by Nikolai Gogol. Another hilarious satire. You like ponzi schemes. Come listen to the story of a man named Chichikov, a self-deprecating gentleman of middling social class and position. He travels from one country estate to another, from squire to squire, buying up the title to serfs who have died but whose names are still on the census. The idea is to amass enough of these dead souls, then take out a huge loan using them as collateral, and retire to a nice country estate of his own. Y’all come back, now. Hyeah?

    “That Hideous Strength: A Modern Fairy-Tale for Grown-Ups” (1945) by C.S. Lewis.
    Bureaucracy is essentially satanic.

    Dostoevsky – the Russian soul

    C.S. Forester – The Horatio Hornblower novels.

    Edgar Rice Burroughs.
    Robert E. Howard.

    The entire Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

    Animal Farm
    Brave New World

    Walker Percy
    His novels. Any of them. All of them.

    Louis L’Amour – The novels of the 1950s and early 1960s. Later novels extol paganism. But, at the end, his Soviet Union novel, Last of the Breed, restores his reputation.

    Catriona (1893), aka David Balfour, a sequel to Kidnapped, telling of Balfour’s further adventures. DB is a conservative Christian.

    E. P. Roe — American Novelist.
    He outsold Mark Twain. A pious Christian. contains links to etexts of 16 Roe novels.

    “War with the Newts” (1936) satirical science fiction novel by Czech author Karel apek.

    “Smoky the Cow Horse” (1927) by Will James aka “Smoky: The Story of a Horse”

    “The Virginian: a horseman of the plains”(1902) by Owen Wister

    “Vanity Fair: A Novel Without a Hero” by William Makepeace Thackeray. It is a satire.

    “For Love of Mother Not” and “Flinx in Flux” – The latter has eco-idiot terrorists as villains. Excellent swipes at eugenics, too! The government wants to take custody of Flinx for no good reason and to put him under the knife. The established church (establishment of religion) has put an entire world “off limits.” This is fun stuff for a conservative.

    Graham Greene – The Heart of the Matter, The Power and the Glory, The End of the Affair, The Comedians, Our Man in Havana

    Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler.

    The “Dune” Science Fiction series by Frank Herbert. Yes, he was a GOP speech writer. But a jinx. His son tells the story “First of all he started writing for Guy Cordon who was a senator from Oregon in the early 1950s and dad got on his staff in 1952 or ’53. And dad was actually in Washington, DC. We were living in Portland, Oregon at the time. But dad went to Washington, DC to work on the campaign and speeches and things. Guy Cordon was a Republican senator. Unfortunately, every campaign that dad was involved in was lost. So when Guy Cordon ran for re-election he lost. And there was Phil Hitchcock who was a senatorial candidate for Oregon. He lost. And there was Phil Roth who lost. And on the fourth campaign that dad got involved in — it was in Washington state — and this candidate, Big Bill Bantz, was unfortunate enough to run against Henry ‘Scoop’ Jackson in 1959 or 58. It must have been the 1960 election. So all four of them lost.”

  • Except for Wilde, not a bad list.

    As for whether Percy, et al can be retro-fitted for certain political purposes, I’m not sure. Humans beings are ingenuous. The good news is very little of that is going on here, notwithstanding your very revealing insistence to the contrary

  • Travis

    Thank You For Smoking

  • murphy

    The Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson.

  • Dick Sherman

    John, what a wonderful idea. Thank you for starting this. All the books I would enter are already here with brilliant comments. Great job.

  • I would call my new novel, The Mustard Seed: A Story of Life and Faith, a conservative novel because it shows how our ideas shape our destiny in a way that vindicates conservatives ideas.

    In the case of my book, 3 friends just out of college begin with very different ideas about life, love, and morality, and through the next year together, those ideas take them in entirely different directions.

    Their respective destinations is a vindication of conservative principles, and an indictment of liberal values.

  • John F. MacMichael

    I saw many interesting suggestion above. My thanks to those who posted them.

    Though the titles I would recommend have been mentioned above, I will add my endorsement:

    “The Marrakesh One-Two” by Richard Grenier, 1983. Burt Nelson is a simple Hollywood screenwriter/CIA agent hoping to achieve financial independence with his latest project: an epic film biography of the Prophet Mohammed. A razor-edged comedy attacking Islamic fanaticism, Hollywood decadence and PC craveness in a style that rings as true today as it did when first published.

    “A Canticle for Leibowtz” by Walter M. Miller, Jr., 1959. A science fiction classic that is conservative in a rather literal way: it depicts the struggles of the monks of the Abbey of St. Leibowtz to preserve the remanents of a culture (our own) lost to nuclear war.

    “A Creature of the Twilight” 1966 and “Lord of the Hollow Dark” 1979 by Russell Kirk. Certain adventures of that suave and sinister gentleman, Manfred Arcane “…in an era when…evil things creep out of their old prison.”

    My thanks again for the recommendations posted above.

  • First, I’d like to recommend the works of H. Beam Piper. His novel Space Viking certainly applies to the situation today. His strength, I think, was in his understanding of human nature. And he was definitely in the conservative/libertarian camp. His other novels, novelettes, and short stories are also worthy of attention.

    Another author who is interesting is Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. He has two science fiction novels, each written with different writing partners: The Two-Space War and The Guns of Two-Space. Col. Grossman’s day job is as a writer, lecturer, etc. on the subject of warrior science. Unfortunately, he gets a bit preachy and repetitive on his insertions of warrior science into the novels. So, they aren’t terribly well-written, but they are interesting. Besides the warrior science, another concept he is using for the framework of the books is that of the warrior-poet. There is also no doubt of many of his characters’ contempt for liberalism and liberal ideas. If you had the fortitude to enable you to get through even a fourth of Atlas Shrugged, you should make it through these books easily. And if you’re a fan of Old Tollers, you might get an extra kick out of them, although on a baser level.

    Getting to the question of art and politics, art is a method of communication. Good art should have a purpose and message. The message that I get from most forms of contemporary art is that the artist has great contempt for everything I hold dear. So, to restate Mr. Miller’s question, “What novels celebrate that which conservatives hold dear?” That is not asking if the author is conservative. That is not trying to separate novels and novelists into ideological camps. It is asking for recommendations that will make us feel good and be supportive. Use such a list as you will. Will you turn to these novels for comfort after a difficult day or week? Will you share these novels with friends who may not have thought that much about their politics? That is up to the reader.

    People read for different reasons and in different ways. I’m an idea man. I want to meet new ideas. I can forgive an author for not being able to write if he has some ideas to share. That’s why I can recommend Col. Grossman’s strained efforts at science fiction. He has ideas. I prefer writers who can write, of course. What attracted me to science fiction when I was young was that it combined four things that I was interested in: philosophy, history, technology, and strategy (mostly military). Three of the four also deal with human nature, of course.

    I’m sure that someone like Will has very different reasons for reading than I do. I’m sure he has emotional attachments and base-level beliefs about art and literature that are different from mine and from Seamus’, for example. Perhaps questioning the reasoning of those who think it is wrong to create this list is in order. Just because something is bound to be used in ways we do not approve of by some, should the thing not be done? Because quotes of some Shakespeare characters can be taken out of context and misused, should Shakespeare have never have written his plays? (“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”)

    Surely, it will be argued that a list of conservative novels is something different than a history play or even an atom bomb. But I think the same principle applies. Should we not create because the creation will be misused? This list can be used both well and poorly. It can be a caterpillar munching leaves destructively, or it can be the butterfly that takes wing and brings us beauty. It can inspire people to read works they otherwise never would have read.

    Sorry for the thread drift, JJ. How can we help but get philosophical in a discussion of art?

  • I don’t get all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over compiling a list such as this. Literature is worth reading, ultimately, because it imparts truth. It may do so through drama, humor, horror or what have you. It may do so with unequaled beauty, or with a pedestrian mediocrity. It may offer challengin and veiled themes, or with blatantly obvious, frying-pan-to-the-face presentation. In short, good, bad, and somewhere in the middle literature is only worth your time if it is presenting something that is worthwhile to know and experience. If one is a conservative, then one believes that conservative values are largely true. In that case, one would be particularly drawn to those sorts of values as depicted in literature. To compile a list of works that best exemplify some of those values does not strike me as being a rape by the philistines.

    In any case, I didn’t see anyone mention Les Miserables. Hugo was kind of a nut, but the novel, among many other things, depicts a person redeemed, not through state action (quite the contrary) but through the love and forgiveness of a fellow human being, a bishop no less. Valjean uses his native talents and business acumen to become an overwhelming success, while not becoming ruled by worldly conserns. He risks losing everything in defense of the truth; he eschews the endless utopian quest of the revolutionary; he puts his child’s happiness above his own. It is a powerful admixture of specifically conservative and universal moral principles.

  • Apologies for the misspellings.

  • ljdramone

    @160: Tim Powers? You’ve got to be kidding. Whether it’s defending effete European intellectuals in “The Stress of Her Regard” or his protagonist destroying an entire religion in “Dinner at Deviant’s Palace”, Tim Powers’ body of work clearly betrays liberal sympathies.

    I find it hard to believe nobody’s suggested Sinclair Lewis’ supremely conservative 1935 novel “It Can’t Happen Here.” In it, duly elected President of the United States Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip is forced to defend the principle of the Unitary Executive from the seditious attacks of liberal journalist Doremus Jessup.

    Whether it’s bravely fighting off his enemies in the Mainstream Media, mobilizing bands of patriots (“Minutemen” in the novel) to oppose liberal treachery, or declaring war on Mexico to demonstrate America’s resolve, Buzz Windrip is the consummate conservative hero. Highly recommended!

  • Sherman Logan

    The entire sub-genre of miltary science fiction is more or less by definition conservative.

    Authors presently practicing this genre or variants on it include David Drake, John Ringo, Tom Kratman, David Weber, SM Stirling, Eric Flint and others, some of whom have been mentioned above.

    One of Ringo’s more recent books, The Last Centurion, is perhaps the most aggressively conservative novel I’ve ever read. About 12 years in the future two catastrophes strike simultaneously: a new (not Little) Ice Age and a mutated strain of bird flu that causes 60% mortality in most of the world, but only 30% in USA for a number of interesting reasons.

    The Hilary type who is President of course uses government power to make the situation worse in a host of ways. The world is saved largely by the actions of the protagonist, a US Army infantry captain.

    The book is written in the form of a blog that gets out of hand. Minimal editing, lots of typos, major digressions from plotline into rants, etc. A little difficult to get used to, but I found the format added an element of immediacy and freshness.

    Not for everybody, but I enjoyed it. And VERY conservative.

  • Sherman Logan

    Per 202’s criticism of “Dinner at Deviant’s Palace” as not conservative.

    I would contend that destroying a fraudulent, criminal, murderous religion based on mind control is a highly conservative thing to do.

  • I can’t recommend the writing, but thematically, Stephenie Meyer’s Breaking Dawn (the final tome in the Twilight series) is very conservative. 1) The characters commence marital relations-when married. 2) Bella Cullen refuses an abortion. And 3) The crowning conservative theme: it’s pro-missile defense! Bella’s “shield”–which ends the climatic conflict with enemy vamps before it can commence, is really a metaphysical equivalent to the Strategic Defense Initiative.

  • “A Canticle for Leibowitz” by Walter Miller, Jr. is the other half of my journey to conservatism (alongside “Witness,” not a novel); i’m delighted to see so many commendations of Kenneth Roberts’ work, and Patrick O’Brian’s, and Richard Adams, who not only wrote “Watership Down,” but “Shardik” has a closing that is both conservative in a Kirkean sense, but will bring tears to your eyes, and the uncategorizable “The Girl In a Swing,” where Adams said in an interview that he “wanted to do something with the sex novel,” which i’m glad i didn’t read before picking up the book! The role of the cleric, a relatively minor role, is one that i’ve thought of often as a pastor myself.

    But i logged in mainly to note Esther Forbes’ masterpiece, “Johnny Tremain,” which is unfairly called a “young adult” novel and so categorized as only worth reading for an assignment in school. This is a wonderfully written novel, and stands up with us and for us to proclaim liberty’s value in the crucible of pre-Revolutionary Boston. It is wonderful, certainly conservative, and i think a small gem of English literature. It was, to be fair, her attempt to give to younger readers the contents of “Paul Revere and His World,” a popular history that is also well worth reading, if only to get acquainted with both Paul and his nemesis Thomas Hutchinson.

  • WFB must be smiling indulgently. 200 comments and not a word for Blackford Oakes.

  • David Porta

    Seamus, go back and look at 86 and 114.

  • David

    Sackett by Louis L’Amour. L’Amour, through his hero, discourses on the nature of government, the right of self defense, common law, property rights and more, all in a fast paced western.

  • I’d have to argue this one a bit, but I’d vote for The Count of Monte Christo by Alexandre Dumas as a novel well-suited for today’s conservative movement.

    In terms of popular fiction, I’m going to add an additional vote for Klavan. I don’t consider his books “conservative,” but his narrative voice is often conservative and I know conservatives enjoy his books.

    Ideology and fiction — outside of Ayn Rand, where ideology actually made her fiction more interesting — doesn’t seem to mix too well… to often it bores or introduces reductionism that isn’t believable.

  • Michael D. Harmon

    To dive back into military-themed scifi, David Weber has been mentioned in connection with his Honor Harrington series, but he has many other works well worth reading, especially the five-part series that includes “The General” and “The Chosen.” David Drake is also a Vietnam vet who writes hard-nosed yet highly enjoyable series about the good guys beating totalitarian states and empires by courage and initiative, most notably in his series on Lt. Leary and the Republic of Cinnabar (Space) Navy. And then there’s S.M. Stirling, from the Draka series to Islands in the Sea of Time and its sequels (The Coast Guard Cutter Eagle and the island of Natucket are transported back 3,000 years, and proceed to use American strengths and ideals to transform a world just rising from barbarianism) and then there’s his “Dies the Fire” series, now in its sixth book, about a world when gunpower no longer explodes and men and women of courage fight the despotic survivors of a worldwide collapse of civilization. Good stuff, and highly readable, too.

  • Peter

    Donald E. Westlake.

  • Second (or third, or fourth, or) the recommendations on The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, The Diamond Age, Lucifer’s Hammer, Lord of the Hollow Dark, Tim Powers (especially Declare, which I reviewed in NRODT), and Gene Wolfe.

    Also worthy of consideration:

    Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep and A Deepness in the Sky.

    Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle’s Inferno is a great deal of fun.

    I’m not sure if I would label Barry Hughart’s Bridge or Birds or John Gardner’s Grendel as conservative novels. But they’re certainly novels that can be enjoyed by conservatives.

    Lawrence Person


    Virtually any novel on WWII(I’m sure anything covering WWI thru our current conflicts equally applies) will give you a wonderful background on the character of the men who won “The Big One”. As you read these novels(Also, anything by Cornelius Ryan) you will learn that the top fighter aces, snipers, waist gunners, etc., were merely the sons of rural folks who new how to handle a gun. They were the quail, waterfowl, and squirell hunters of the family who put meat on the table at young age. They had real chores, and real freedom, that helped them develope self reliance and true grit. These men are portrayed in great detail in “The First Heroes” by Craig Nelson. This is the story of Doolitle’s Raiders. It is quite simply a biography of every crewman. You will find that in today’s liberalized society they would not have had the oppurtunity to become real men at such an early age. The sense of self reliance and determintaion to succeed that these men possesed along with all of “The Greatest Generation’s” is not allowed to thrive in the world of liberalism. “The First Heroes” is without question one of the finest works on WWII available.

  • Yehudit

    Michael, I am also working my way through Neville Schute! He is one of the few novelists who understands business and writes heroes who are entrepreneurs and even bankers. What’s more, their actions as businesspeople are part of the plot and character development, and he often dwells lovingly on the details (making some passages read like case studies for Inc Magazine, but they dont detract from the story).

    I am now reading Round the Bend, in which the protagonist starts and builds up his own charter air service in the Persian Gulf (several other novels have charter airline startups in the plot; Schute himself was an entrepreneur in the heady beginnings of commercial aviation). Ruined City is about a banker who saves a bankrupt town by restoring its industry. The heroine of Town Like Alice is a serial entrepreneur, building up an outback village almost single-handedly. A lumber magnate is a respected character in Trustee From the Toolroom. The Checkerboard is about a traveling salesman.

    Schute’s characters are ordinary people – often old, or plain, or seriously nerdy – who rise to the occasion. Most of his novels have happy endings, although he doesnt shirk from dark scenes and struggle. They are often romantic in a restrained British way, but always grounded in quotidian detail.

    He is also old-fashioned in that although most of his novels contain a touching love story between a young man and woman (usually with a bit of necking), they dont have sex until they are married. He HATED the film version of On the Beach because they changed the plot so that the American officer slept with the party girl instead of remaining true to the memory of his dead wife.

    Anyone who wants to start on Schute I would recommend No Highway, Trustee From the Toolroom, The Checkerboard, Pied Piper, Requiem for a Wren (which is uncharacteristically dark all the way through), and A Town Like Alice.

  • Yehudit

    Herb, I just saw your comment about Schute; it makes part of mine redundant. Kindling was also published in the US under the title Ruined City. I have found almost all of Schute’s novels on Amazon used paperbacks.

    One of the many interwoven plots in Cryptonomicon is a running satire of leftist academia – it’s hilarious.

    Jeff, thanks for the shoutout for “Johnny Tremain.” I read that 4-5 times as a tween. Which makes me think of Robert Lawson’s children’s books, which should come back into print if there is any justice. Homespun Americana, often funny, with his own wonderful pen & ink illustrations.

    I think anything by Kipling is conservative in the sense that he appreciates traditional values. I would consider Kim a conservative novel.

  • Charles Williams

    The “Discworld” series by Terry Pratchett are fairly libertarian. The successful ruler is the one who rules the least, who adopts a free-trade and pro-immigration policy to build wealth, and organizes criminals into a single guild (union) in order to cut down on the amount of crime produced.

  • Roger Donway

    I would like to put in a good word for Mary Renault’s “The Last of the Wine.” It offers a celebration of classical Athenian ideals: self-understanding, moderation, fair play, manly friendship, familial piety, and self-rule.

  • Check out _Loss of Carrier_, a new mystery. It’s Christian, and shows a positive view of gun owners. How much more conservative can you get?? 🙂


  • What about the Giver, by Lois Lowry? Seemingly utopian world without any pain is revealed to be a shallow, purposeless place. It’s short and considered a children’s novel, but it’s also a great condemnation of communism and statism.

  • Philster

    Lots of my favorites are on this list, but here’s a couple I didn’t see.

    Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell

    It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.

  • Meh

    Fight Club

  • Rick

    Would like to respond to/ disagree with comments saying, “art’s art, and it suffers when you make it ideological.” I say that most “modern” literature, at least in the “literary” genre, already is ideological. Two recurring and pervasive ideological themes come to mind. The first recurring theme is the absurdity and futility of life. Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury,” which turns MacBeth inside out, comes to mind, and Hemmingway’s “A Farewell to Arms,” where the protaganist throws a log on a fire at the end and watches ants run out and burn with some kind of allegorical satisfaction. The other recurring theme I see is the making of every behavior, the stranger and more bestial the better, into something of moral equality with every other behavior. To pick a book not previously nominated, think of “Beloved” by Toni Morrison. An escaped slave woman kills her daughter to prevent her becoming a slave and the next 300 or whatever pages beg your sympathy. To me conservative literature wouldn’t be like that, but would instead be affirming of life and of enduring moral values. I would love to signal young writers that such writing has an audience. As regards the sanctity of “art” blah blah blah blah, no one’s saying the best conservative novels shouldn’t be good novels. They obviously shouldn’t be screeds. They should have great centrality and, to quote Mark Helprin, “kick like a mule” at the end. There’s a ton of literature (albeit a minority) that does that. Here’s to Mr. Miller for shining a light!

  • I would love to see “My Grandfather’s Son” make this list. It’s a memoir by Justice Clarence Thomas and a really fascinating read. I also enjoyed “Power to the People” by Laura Ingraham and “First Among Equals” by Kenneth Starr.

  • Richard L.A. Schaefer

    Because artists like Walker Percy are sometimes the antennae of the future, they often give us a portrait of the future before it occurs, and thus, contrary to a poster here, could write in the 20th century in ways that foresee both what will happen in the near future (cf. above) and what will happen further along into the 21st century. His life-long friend, Shelby Foote, an atheist, noted that Percy took the different path that included Catholic faith. (Their life-long correspondence is available.) One can argue that belief in God in our time is a conservative position (not refuted by the fact that Graham Graham was the rare self-professed Christian atheist). Insofar as modernism and the modern age tended to be atheist, Percy’s alienation from modernism can be considered conservative. Insofar as the South tends to be less modernist, Percy’s Southern sensibility can be considered conservative; indeed, many novelists of a Southern sensibility can be considered conservative. Lawrence S. Cunningham noted regarding Art in Catholic Experience that it tended to separate itself from religion; and also lost something is the process. In that sense, a religious author is conservative or restorationist. Pope Benedict XVI just called for a further reunion between art and religion, rooted in the quest for beauty, for the sake of helping both art and religion. Cunningham also observed that the religious humanism that came with the Renaissance tended to drop the religion (cf. ethical humanism, etc.), and that Pope John Paul II criticized the evil that came therefrom as he proposed his own corrective humanism–a religious humanism found in Percy–symbolized by the pope’s always thrusting forth a modern crucifix at the top of his crosier. Time magazine’s essay a long time ago on the avant garde noted that the idea that one is artistic by producing something completely new turns out to be an impossibility, since the observer would have no terms of reference or context for understanding the work. Closer to the truth was T.S. Eliot’s idea that each poet is trying to re-write the same poem. Eliot’s view is, of course, conservative in its giving proper weight to tradition. I do want to recall two points from Percy’s non-fiction The Message in the Bottle: How Queer Man Is, How Queer Language Is, and What One Has to Do with the Other. 1) Percy asks why it is that Carl Sagan is so certain about how the universe is to understood, but can’t seem to manage his own personal life? Actually Sagan did eventually admit he was wrong about the universe also. He had relied upon the too optimistic estimate a scientist had made about the probability that there is life in the universe. It is often observed that atheist seem to be obsessed with finding life on other planets. It’s as if they think this will solve human alienation. First, one could say with Sebastian Moore that life on other planets would simply mean that we and they would still be lonely or alienated or unsaved together. And Percy is noting that Sagan couldn’t even find an answer to his personal alienation (a topic Percy makes central in his existential novels). Arthur C. Clarke also once said in Life magazine that if human could occupy other planets, humans would be immortal; another cheap and unsatisfying salvation goal. 2) Percy, both a medical doctor and a philosopher with some focus on linguistics, provided in the Message book his own theory about how babies are taught to speak–with parents “translating” and restating what the babies are saying, and thus mediating the world of culture (as Bernard J.F. Longergan would put it) to the baby. Well, new experiments and observations have just uncovered the fact that very early babies imitate the tone and cadence of the language of their parents. For example, French babies end their whimpers by an up-tone in their whimpers–like Valley Girl talk–the way the French language functions. German babies end their whimpers by a down-tone in their whimpers–the way the German language functions. The scientists have also concluded that the passing along of these speech patterns begins already in the womb. Percy’s analysis supports an essentially conservative position, in that it gives proper weight to tradition (cf. Eliot). It was Michael Garvey or his brother who said that education should especially consist of receiving from society the tradition that the student must respect. Of course, variations of modernist education theory such as that of John Dewey carried to extremes amount to the mistaken avant garde overemphasis on the new. There was a commune in Germany that decided not to have as a rule or commonly accepted practice anything that they had not discovered themselves to be true; the commune was a total disaster, as were many hippie projects of the 70s. There was a Catholic community that decided to completely re-do the Mass; it ended up pretty much like what we have. Incidentally, when Commonweal did an anniversary issue on the Catholic reforms of the Mass, a common theme from contributors like Monica Hellwig was that the reforms had resulted in a loss of the sense of Mystery (cf. humanism dropping religion; cf. art dropping religion). A reason some theologians who helped bring about the general (not just liturgical) changes of Vatican II become neo-conservatives (e.g., Congar, van Balthasar, de Lubac, and Ratzinger–Pope Benedict XVI) is that post-council direction seemed to be towards throwing out God with the bathwater.

  • Richard L.A. Schaefer

    All the way back in the Roaring Twenties, there were rationalizations and practices of free sex and “free love.” At the time, Walter Lippmann argued that just because the explicit arguments for a traditional practice were not completely convincing does not mean that the tradition is wrong. He argued that some moral standards have been arrived at through testing on the crucible of long experience and so should not be lightly discarded. Recall that around the same time, the Soviet Union wanted the bourgeosis practice of monogamous marriage basically discontinued or at least not held as normative. The disaster was so great, as Lippman had cautioned, that the Soviet Union became highly “Puritanical” (Arthur Schlesinger showed that the Puritans weren’t that Puritanical; perhaps a third of their brides were pregnant and their clothing was not as dull as portrayed. What the Puritans did was invent Romantic love between a husband and a wife, not between a married man and an unmarried woman or vice versa, as was the common thought in the Middle Ages as in DeRougemont’s thesis.) People today can similarly recall the failure of so-called “Open Marriage” from the 70s. One would at that time often see on a poster the Gibran saying about “You go your way, I’ll go mine, and if we happen to meet, that’s OK” or “True love lets the other person go.” Of course, Gibran’s own life was reflected in that false gospel of uncommitment.

  • Jonathan Leaf

    Two very fine Conservative novels that have been ignored because of their overt anticommunism are Wyndham Lewis’s Revenge For Love and Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Shadows on The Hudson. The latter I would rank not much below the best of Tolstoy.

  • James Manley

    Already suggested: “A Canticle for Leibowtz” by Walter M. Miller, Jr., 1959.

    Yes. Very much yes.

  • Yehudit

    Couple more things about Neville Schute. Several of his novels contrast a grey, meat-rationed, over-regulated post-war England with a sunny bountiful wide-open Australia. He himself moved to Australia in the late 40s. He viscerally hated Statism.

    Schute is one of the least bigoted novelists I’ve ever read. Most of his novels feature independent smart energetic female characters. He also drew independent smart self-confident Chinese, American Negro, Indian, Burmese, and other characters who work as equals with the Anglo protagonists, sometimes disabuse them of patronizing preconceptions, sometimes marry them. He doesnt denigrate Western values, but he also lets his non-Anglo characters have their own flavor. In this humanism he reminds me very much of Kipling.

    You can tell I love this guy. I’ve got 5 of his books to go and then I’ll have read all of them, and I will be so sad.

  • Yehudit

    I can’t make a case for Muriel Spark as a conservative writer per se, but she frequently ridicules bohemian pretensions. I think any conservative would enjoy A Far Cry From Kensington.

    I would recommend Saki in the same way. One of his stories satirizes an earnest couple who wont let their children have toy guns. This is at the turn of the last century!

    Also Fernanda Eberstadt’s novel Isaac and His Devils and its sequel, When the Sons of heaven Meet the Daughters of the Earth. A smart-alecky young man grows up in a small town in Vermont, influenced by his high-school teacher who challenges his callow intellectualism. He proceeds to the hothouse NYC Soho art world of the late 1980s to become a painter. He refuses to be impressed by faddish art and gets into political arguments and defends Reagan and American values.

  • Donald

    I was also comment #43, discussing the possible virtue of an endeavor like this list. I’ve tried to read through and notice the subsequent comments addressing the topic. Hard to notice them all, among the slews of Blackford Oakes and Patrick O’Brian recommendations. (For the record, I loved the Master and Commander movie, and hope to read some O’Brian one day, and have not read any of Buckley’s spy series.)

    I think I should rephrase my objection in case anyone’s still paying attention. I think that it’s very hard to identify a bunch of “great conservative novels” without expanding, to the point of invalidity, either the term “great” or the term “conservative.”

    Few would dispute that Middlemarch or The Brothers Karamazov or The Great Gatsby (to choose uncontroversial examples) are great novels. To try and pin them down as “conservative,” when the term bears any relation to our everyday understanding of conservative politics, is really a doomed attempt to reduce the work of art to less than it is (the result is rather a reduction of the reader to a less appreciative position than they ought to hold with respect to those books).

    On the flip side, once you find a book that is properly identified as containing an acceptable message — “preaching” something good and “conservative,” rather than socialism, to use Bill #54’s terminology — well, at that point you’ve found a book that’s probably not all that “great.” Tom Clancy, frankly, leaps to mind. (And I enjoyed the heck out of some of those Jack Ryan books when I was 15 or so. But looking back at them, gah. They now remind me of the CS Lewis dictum that “any book not worth rereading is not worth reading the first time.”)

    Another commenter asserted that liberals don’t produce “conservative media.” If “media,” i.e. entertainment, is all this list is concerned with – well, fine. But I understand “great novels” to be works of literary art, and I profoundly disagree with an attempt to yoke lasting pieces of art to any present-day set of ideological commitments (anti-communism, anti-taxation, Randian capitalism, whatever).

  • Are you looking for ‘subliminal’? My “Not In My Wildest Dreams” is totally unknown, genre romantic fiction set in 40’s and 50’s in south; characters are gently conservative and non-confronting in the most charming and humorous way. I noted in writing it that what was true in 1948 is so maddeningly still true in 2009. This is a sequel to “What A Christmas!” A great stocking stuffer,also 1944 humorous genre sure to make you smile and cry.

  • W.An.R

    Lord of the Flies, while telling of a post-apocalyptic world, is also about how there really is no such thing as Rousseau’s “Noble Savage.” Hellen Macinnes’ post Second World War spy novels are both conservative and anti communist. Ravelstein by Saul Bellow, a fictionalized biography of Leo Strauss, is a great read. Shane, about standing up for what is right can be seen as(although the author certainly was not )conservative. I would certainly agree with those who mention the works of Allen Drury especially of course, Advise and Consent, perhaps one of the greatest of the overlooked novels of the twentieth century and not to mention a tale of a liberal university lecture from Chicago, who is a media darling with a very shady past. One could perhaps suggest Leslie Charteris’s latter novels, which feature a world weary cynical hero, who still care about what is right. I would also agree about The Power and the Glory, a very Catholic novel whose themes of regret and salvation, should resonate with members of all faiths. The short stores of Jorge Luis Borge should perhaps also be mentioned, if only because he was, and is ignored, due to his conservative views, while his (second rate) imitators such as Rushdie are celebrated. I.B Singer was mentioned. His novel, The Baal Teshuva, about a escaping a life without meaning is an out of print gem. Besides of course, Redhunter, Getting it Right and some of the Oates novels.

  • Yehudit

    Dorothy Sayers’ detective novels about Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. They defend traditional politeness and decorum, are sympathetic to people with inherited “old” wealth and royalty if they work and demonstrate leadership to deserve what they have not earned, and frivolous use of wealth is disapproved of. Wimsey’s work is conservative in preserving law and order by catching criminals. Vane is a commoner with no money thrown on her own resources as a young woman and has become well-known by working very hard as a novelist, and is a more admirable person than most of Wimsey’s relatives. In Strong Poison, she is accused of murdering her ex-lover who believed in “free love” and treated her badly, and bohemian culture of the “Roaring 20s” is ridiculed. The novels are deeply feminist in believing that women are the intellectual equals of men and can have meaningful work outside the home but criticize excesses of cultural feminism, a theme most explicitly dealt with in Gaudy Night.

  • Yehudit

    Jonathan Franzen’s novel The Corrections. The main characters are siblings who escape what they see as the stultifying middle-brow suburban lives of their parents, living out the ultra-liberal excesses of the 1990s and treating their parents badly. One of the siblings is in academia and political correctness is skewered. In the end their behaviors cost them dearly, and they mature and come home to take care of their aging parents and accept middle-class values. The parents’ marriage isnt that great but both partners are portrayed sympathetically.

  • Jill

    The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Murial Spark

  • Suzanne

    Should Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson be considered a great conservative novel? Sadly, no. Had it been a short story, with the extraneous, tedious and preachy race narrative left out, perhaps yes. The sophomoric pontifications about violence and the Theology 101 level discussions are also a distraction. There are passages of real beauty here. But the plot of the novel as a whole is a shambles, and the prose veers off into writing workshop preciousness and sentimentality with some frequency. She has an unusual gift for spare, lyrical prose and a gift for finding new life in well-worn narrative conventions. Her seriousness about questions concerning birth, death, and sacrifice is refreshing. What there is of value here is real and quite striking, but the novel as a whole is an overrated disappointment.

  • Tom Melvin

    “The Middle of the Journey” by Lionel Trilling. A fictionalization of the relationship that Trilling and with both Chambers and Hiss. A fantastic read as well as a brilliant insight into the mindset of all of the characters involved.

  • Patrick Sullivan

    Re John Miller’s follow-up question. I’ve only read Gilead and McCarry. Short answers: Gilead, yes, it’s at heart conservative. McCarry’s Christopher novels are not. reading them I was reminded of the great BigLizards blog post on the two branches of the permanent government, state and defense, and how espionage is a function of state. Not that state is inherently nonconservative, but the upshot is that McCarry is both an elitist and a nontraditionalist, a bad combo.

    To Lawrence Person: I don’t think Hughart’s Bridge of Birds is especially conservative though it is enjoyable. In fact there are progressive ideas foisted on the medieval Chinese characters. But Hughart’s inspiration for his stories, the Kai Lung books of Ernest Bramah, are indeed conservative as well as being very good.

  • Gary

    Oliver North wrote 3 very good and conservative novels:

    Mission Compromised
    The Jericho Sanction
    The Assassins

    Also, Patrick Robinson has a number of great conservative noels too!

  • Quin Hillyer

    In an odd way, Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins.
    And of course readers are right: Anything by C.S. Lewis.
    And if anybody will publish it, my own novel: Mad Jones, Heretic.

  • I’m not sure these would fit your categories, but I would recommend and second the novels of Ayn Rand and Tom Wolfe. For the kids, “Johnny Tremain” and “Little Women.” I also would offer the very well-done “Sparrowhawk” series by Edward Cline, a chronicle of characters, events, and ideas set in England and Virginia in the years leading up to the American Revolution. Cline actually manages to make the machinations of Parliament in passing the Stamp Act fascinating.

  • All the books of Ernst Junger: Storm of Steel, On the Marble Cliffs, Eumesweil etc.. and of course Joseph de Maistre all of his works: when respect for the executioner declines civilization disappears and I would also include E.M. Cioran again all of his works: The SHort History of Decay, The Temptation to Exist, DRawn and Quartered etc

  • John

    I’m surprised no one has suggested Voltaire’s Candide. I can think of
    no more conservative thought than, above all, we must cultivate our

  • Lucy N

    I nominate the Catherine Marshall novels CHRISTY and JULIE. Each has as its central character a strong young woman full of ideals and zeal for social change and justice, each of whom has to deal with the reality of personal limitations. They each have a wise mentor who leads by personal example more than by talking (Miss Alice and Dean Fleming, respectively) and learn that the structure of good intentions and compassion is reason, thought, and reality, not emotionalism and snap-judgments.

  • george milonas

    I have published a very conservative horror novel called The Warrior of God. Kirkus Reviews gave it a good review. The novel centers on the eternal battle between good and evil utilizing Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical weapons against man in the most horrific manner possible. I have laid out the most plausible manner for the destruction of the planet within the pages of this book. Let me know if you like it. George Milonas

  • Michael Horning

    I’m going to weigh in again to praise Lolita. When Humbert married Charlotte Haze, he implicitly assumed the role of father, with all the responsibility that entails. He betrayed that trust. His killing of Quilty was not an act of jealousy, but a way of vicariously punishing himself by killing someone who symbolized his own crime. An ultramodern, cosmopolitan European intellectual discovers traditional roles and mores are more powerful than he could have imagined.

  • Mark Mittleman

    No one has yet mentioned Milan Kundera, who seems in recent years to have disappeared into a black hole. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, are among the greatest anti-communist novels

  • Sally Wilson

    The Gabriel Allon series by Daniel Silva is very good on the war on terror.

  • Rob Hobart

    Thank you! Someone finally mentioned S.M. Stirling and David Weber, two of the most literate and compelling writers in science-fiction today, and both writing stories with very strong conservative themes. Weber’s “Honor Harrington” series, for example, is a space opera pitting a traditionalist constitutional monarchy against a leftist welfare-state that turned totalitarian when it went bankrupt.

    Ralph Peters is best known to NR readers for his syndicated columns and non-fiction writing, but he has also written several very powerful thrillers with strong conservative themes, such as “Red Army,” “The War in 2020,” and the just-published “War After Armageddon” in which the US does battle with the Islamic world after a nuclear terrorist attack.

    I’d like to speak a few words in defense of alternate history writer Harry Turtledove, who was unfairly maligned in an earlier post. Turtledove has long written clearly and honestly about the behavior of totalitarian regimes, not just Nazis but also Communists, and his depictions of Stalin and the gulag in his writing are spot-on accurate. Many of these stories and novels were published back in the 80’s when every Democrat in the country seemed to be trying to hide from the reality of the USSR and what it had done to its own people.

    I would also like to mention the fantasy series called the “Night Angel Trilogy” which is quite dark and violent, but has very strong conservative themes of morality and redemption.

  • Jeff Sherman

    I think McCarry’s novels are conservative. The characters who get the roughest treatment are, inter alia, Christoper’s second wife who is a contemporary Feminist, Bernie Wolkowicz who is the anti-elitist cum Communist whose betrayal is so very painful, and Christopher’s wife, who abandons her marital vows. McCarry offers no hint of moral equivalence. The Nazis, Soviet, Chinese, and Vietnamese Communists, and Islamic terrorists are bad. The responsible WASPs who create and operate the outfit are generally never considered bad for being WASPs.

  • Mark

    Stephen King’s opus “The Stand” always struck me as very conservative in its pre-post-modern treatment of good and evil. Not exactly a “great” novel, but certainly a great author at the top of his game.

    Heinlen’s “Starship Troopers” usually tops these types of lists, appropriately, given its strong pro-military, classically liberal voice.

  • GhaleonQ

    I’d strongly recommend Orhan Pamuk’s new “The Museum Of Innocence.” Pamuk’s a moderate liberal, to be sure, but the whole novel reinforces Kierkegaard’s notion of repetition, romance’s and marriage’s places in a transitioning society, how sexual thoughtlessness is masked by sexual politics, and how dangerous memory and nostalgia are if used incorrectly. Even the New York Review Of Books noted that the message came off as conservative. Oh, it’s also phenomenal, a real landmark work of psychological fiction.

  • Ted Smith

    John: I’m one of those who suggested Gilead in an earlier posting; as such, I disagree with Suzanne’s argument that it is not a conservative novel. I also disagree with her criticisms of Robinson’s writing style. I found it to be a beautiful novel, filled with superb writing.

    Is Gilead overtly conservative? No. Yes, there is a race narrative in the book, but it’s a relatively minor subplot that examines the consequences of an interracial love affair in a time when they were largely condemned. Writing about race hardly turns a novel into a “liberal” book.

    There are two elements that, in my view, make Gilead fundamentally conservaive in outlook. First, the lead character–the narrator–is a committed, believing Christian with a clear view that, as a result, there are moral absolutes in the world (in other words, he rejects the relativism of modern liberal thought). Second, the novel is a fond look back at the past–the narrator never suggests that he has nothing to learn from the past and from the tradition of the ages. Quite the opposite. The very structure of the book–a long letter from a dying, aged father to his young son–is based on the central conservative belief that our ancestors actually have something to say to the contemporary world that is worth listening to and following.

    For all I know, Robinson may be a Christian liberal, but her book is, to me, an affirmation of central conservative principles.

  • Don Fairchild

    I agree with Ted about Gilead. It’s a beautiful book with a lot of interesting insights about faith. I have recommended it to several people and have even given it as a gift to a couple of Christian friends. I have never heard anything back from them one way or another about it, which leads me to believe they never read it. However, I hold out hope that someday they may pick it up and enjoy it as much as I did – even if they can’t remember by that time where it came from.

    Any book that has family as a central theme as much as Gilead can’t be considered anything but conservative. If you need proof, let me quote the last few lines of the book. A prayer of John Ames for his son:

    “I’ll pray that you grow up a brave man in a brave country. I will pray that you find a way to be useful. I’ll pray, and then I’ll sleep.”

  • Ted Smith

    Don: It would have been impossible for me to have said it better than the line you quoted from Gilead. Here are three more, all of which are fundamentally conservative.

    On the perfectability of man (in this life at least): “Material things are so vulnerable to the humiliations of decay.”

    On modernism’s rejection of the past: “It is hard to make people care about old things.”

    On personal responsibility: “To say a thief is a brother man and beloved of God is true. To say therefore a thief is not a thief is an error.”

  • Ellen

    Lord of the World by R.H. Benson. Julian Felsenburg a charismatic, formerly unknown American politician captivates a secular Europe. He is proclaimed the President of World State. Only the Catholic Church holds out against the worship of Felsenburgh.

    Reading this book sent cold chills up my spine. The leaders of the world in this novel reminded me so much of the current administration’s Czars.

  • Roger

    May I praise and agree with Patrick Sullivan’s November 20 evaluation of Heinlein’s entire oeuvre? And to follow that, a suggestion for a great conservative sf novel: Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny, winner of both Hugo and Nebula.

  • There is a new novel about nuclear power that provides a conservative view.

    “An entertaining, inventive mystery.” Kirkus Discoveries

    It provides a lot of detail about nuclear power and the power supply business in the US in a compelling murder mystery format.

    Murder in Containment by me, Penny Leinwander.

  • I dragged my aching eyes through 128 comments and, as I expected, I did not find the names of two truly great conservative American novelists who continue to be either ignored or forgotten:
    James Gould Cozzens
    Wallace Stegner

  • Paul Janos

    I’m late to this discussion, but a book that belongs on a list of conservative titles is And Ladies Of The Club by Helen Hooven Santmyer. I read it several years ago but the book has stayed in my mind. The story takes place in a small Ohio town in the years after the Civil War and follows the lives of a circle of friends.
    The main values of these people are loyalty, faith, custom, and hard work. And there are some pretty interesting observations about national politics. T.R. is seen as a dangerous radical and Woodrow Wilson is beyond the pale. A long but rewarding read.

  • Jerry

    M.P.Shiel-The Purple Cloud. One of the most entertaining last man on earth novels. Also, his “Lord of the Sea”. Talk about free enterprise!

    Wyndham Lewis–The Apes of God (His non-fiction is interesting. In “Men Without Art” he has a chapter entitled “William Faulkner:Moralist With A Corncob”)

    Sarban-Ringstones. A compelling work of fiction.

    George S. Schuyler-Black No More (a card carrying conservative)

    Stella Gibbon-Cold Comfort Farm (self-possessed heroine)

    Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam–Axel (Casting a cold eye…)

    Heinrich von Kleist-Michael Kohlhaas John Wayne ain’t got
    nothing on him

    Donatien Alphonse Francois De Sode-Philosophy In The Boardroom

    Lion Feuchtwanger-Power (English title of the novel which
    became a Right Wing film classic)

    Thomas Dixon-The Leopard’s Spots (one of this author’s other novels became a highly praised movie. Birth of the Republic)

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  • Mark Shoup

    Mr. Miller,
    Sorry I got in on this thread way too late. I saw the list and went through all that I hadn’t read. (Helprin is the most brilliant writer of our time, IMHO. Please ask him to write another novel!) Now that I’ve found this site, however, I have even more good recommendations from which to stock my library.

    I’ve little else to add except that I look forward to the next installment of this topic in NR.

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  • James Walter

    David Lehner’s “Unwelcome Light: a novel” published in 2010. One of the few conservative novelists I know of still active today.

  • Gordie

    Across a Harvested field by Robert Goble has quite a few conservative themes weaved through the story, including the importance of family, individualism, and the failure of the Hollywood culture. It’s a great book. 

  • I wrote a political suspense thriller called The Usurper, which basically parallels what’s going on now, but I take it even further, and eventually, the remaining Conservatives in the country rally to bring down the left-wing President. I wrote a lot of it before the election, but didn’t finish it and put it on Amazon & B&N until mid-2010. Reviews have said it’s The Manchurian Candidate meets Tom Clancy.

  • Wwallygatorr

    “America’s Galactic Foreign Legion” is a 15 book conservative science fiction series that pokes fun at liberals.

  • Barry

    A new entry, if you ever decide to do a similar article in the future, is Michael Isenberg’s Full Asylum ( It’s a dark comedy that takes place a few years in the future when the Nanny State is out of control and government CREEPS are standing by to kick in your door.

  • AJ Reissig

    I recently published a novel for conservatives; the title is Escape to Freedom, and is available at Amazon ( and Barnes and Noble ( in both ebook and paperback format. It takes place in a United States of the future that has gone far to the left and is a virtual totalitarian state.


    Valuable commentary – Coincidentally , if anyone is searching for a ND
    SFN 841 , my husband used a sample form here

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