by John J. Miller on August 4, 2010

in Blog Posts

  • Sumo

This morning, I’m speaking at the national student conference of the Young America’s Foundation on what books college students should read. I asked readers to submit their own suggestions–go here and see the comments section.

Here’s an extract from my remarks, on one of the books that I’m forever recommending to the uninitiated.

When I was your age, I had the opportunity to meet Russell Kirk. He was the author of The Conservative Mind, one of the foundational texts of the conservative movement. Kirk died in 1994. As a college student at the University of Michigan, I had the opportunity to travel to his home in the rural village of Mecosta, just a few hours’ drive away. It was for a weekend seminar on Edmund Burke. A couple of scholars and a handful of college student participated. We talked about Burke, walked through the woods, and listened to Kirk tell ghost stories by candlelight.

The most valuable experience took place on the first day, when we gathered in Kirk’s library. Kirk looked at us students and said that if we really wanted to understand modern conservative thought, there was a book we simply had to read. He held up The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America, by George Nash, who was one of the guests.

I had not heard of the book or its author. Back then, the book was actually out of print. I returned to Ann Arbor, checked it out of the university library, and devoured it in a couple of days. It was like a Rosetta stone that deciphered the conservative movement for me. Nash explained the differences between traditional conservatives, neoconservatives, and libertarians–all the factions and sub-factions that comprised the Right. I finally knew a full story that previously I had known only in bits and pieces.

Fortunately, the book is back in print–you can get a copy easily. Here I am, holding it up, just as Kirk did for me two decades ago. Now go read it.

George Nash is now a friend of mine. Last year, we podcasted.

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