Read About It

by John J. Miller on September 1, 2010 · 118 comments

in Blog Posts

  • SumoMe

Over on The Corner, I’ve posted a plea for help from a parent whose high-school daughter faces political indoctrination at the hands of a history teacher. He doesn’t care for the three books on a required-reading list (On the Road by Kerouac, The Feminine Mystique by Friedan, and Silent Spring by Carson) and would like to propose three alternatives. I suggested Witness by Whittaker Chambers, The Road to Serfdom by Hayek, and a book on the American founding.

What would you recommend?

  • David

    I would have her read “The Silent Spring” and have her report do a quick summary of the book (DDT is bad, mmkay) and focus the rest of the report on the disastrous consequences.

  • http://www.facebook.com/walt.gilbert Walt Gilbert

    First off, my suggestion would be for the gentleman’s daughter to simply do the book report on one of the three given books, and do an extra meticulous job of eviscerating her particular selection. As to counterbalancing the choices given:

    “All the Trouble in the World” — P.J. O’Rourke
    “Who Stole Feminism” — Christina Hoff-Sommers
    “The Dream and the Nightmare” — Myron Magnet

  • http://www.libertyforallusa.org Jason

    A good foundation of conservative literature can be found in Morton Blackwell’s “Read to Lead” book list.
    http://www.leadershipinstitute.org/Resources/ReadtoLead.cfm

    Of these, I think one of the best for high-school and college students who already have a conservative bent is “Dedication and Leadership”. It was written by a member of the communist party of England, after he found religion and left the party. He talks about the strategies the communists use to grow the party, and compares/contrasts those tacticts to modern day evangelicalism, and how the christian faith is failing in our duty to the great commission. Very powerful, read, with an emphasis on organization building and outreach.

  • Katy

    Great counter to Rachel Carson is a recently released book refuting everything she ever wrote about DDT and how her book started the green insanity that has killed millions of children from malaria and other insect-borne diseases over the past few decades. It is called “The Excellent Powder: DDT’s Political and Scientific History,” by Dr. Don Roberts (long-time DDT researcher for the Army) and Richard Tren (South African anti-malaria researcher and activist who runs non-profit Africa Fighting Malaria). You can buy at Amazon here: http://www.amazon.com/Excellent-Powder-Political-Scientific-History/dp/1608443760

    Good luck to you and your daughter!

  • CWR

    The Age of Reform – Hofstadter

    One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich – Solzhenitsyn

    R.E. Lee – Douglas S. Freeman

  • http://www.whittakerchambers.org/ David Chambers

    _Witness_ is heavy reading for high school. Unless someone had a connection with it (I did–and started reading it when I was 12) or had a related interest, I think most young readers would find it too dense.

    Along that vein, however, I would recommend:
    – Ursula K. Le Guin, _The Dispossessed_ (1974)
    – Yevgeny Zamyatin, _We_ (1921)
    – Jack London, _The Iron Heel_ (1908)

    All three of these books deal with utopia/dystopia that explores socio-politico-economic theory in practice, using science fiction as a sandbox to play in.

    They’re also much more easily read books.

  • Steve Haywood

    Slide Rule by Nevil Shute, an interesting comparison of airships, one built privately, the other by government. Available used.
    The Invasion of Canada by Pierre Berton. This is on the first year of the War of 1812, a war we ignore in history.
    Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg.

  • Michael Podeszwa

    I would recommend Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. It’s from the same period as the others, but from a decidedly different bent.

  • Martin Hutchinson

    I second the “Starship Troopers” recommendation, but would oppose anything written by Chambers, who spent a decade as a Soviet spy. Part of the problem of our society is the expectation that young people are allowed to do anything, however evil and stupid, provided they repent and find God in middle age.

    My recommendation would be the book that Chambers hated: Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged.” That will put her on the right path!

  • Lowell Koppel

    Any of these by Frederick Lewis Allen: “Only Yesterday”, “Since Yesterday”, “The Big Change.” Reasonably centrist views of 20th century US social history, in engaging prose.

  • Tim Fitz

    John,

    I’d recommend “The True Believer” (Eric Hoffer) but their is zero chance that this book would be taught in a public school.

    Try “Profiles in Courage” (Kennedy)–that might sneak by the censors.

    Cheers,

    Tim

  • Tim Fitz

    Still early for me–I apologize to all for the spelling error in my first post.

    Tim

  • John Marlin

    Of the list she’s been given I’d definitely recommend the Kerouac.

    I don’t know what the scope of the course is (beyond American history), but depending on the reach, I’d consider “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” and perhaps some bits by Mencken (there are several good anthologies; my favorite is “Mencken’s America”).

    I think the Hayek is far too difficult for high school, even for AP — it presupposes a lot of knowledge on the part its readers about events in the social science and political worlds of the 1930s and so on. Unless you have a teacher willing to supply a lot of background and context, I think it would be lost on the youngsters.

    Excellent book, though.

  • Fred Cole

    “Starship Troopers” is excellent, especially for highschool kids because the narrator begins as a highschool kid. However, it has a reputation for being slightly fascist.

    I’d reccomend “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.”
    It is considered the greatest libertarian science fiction novel of all time. It’s also an excellent fun read and teaches the important lesson (TANSTAAFL).

    Or you could have a kid read Atlas if they can handle it. (Its much easier as an audio book.)

  • Rachel Davin

    How about Frederic Bastiat’s “The Law”?

    And I would second Hoff-Summer’s “Who Stole Feminism”

    But I would do that…I would read one book on the given list and then compare/contrast that with another book that bends more to the right. Contrary to popular myth, Liberals love conflict.

  • Jerry McCarthy

    I would recommend ( in no particular order):

    Free to Choose – Milton Friedman

    Economics in One Lesson – Henry Hazlitt

    Vision of the Annointed – Thomas Sowell

    Architects of Ruin – Peter Schweizer

    The Seven Fat Years – Robert L. Bartley

  • Susan Petrarca

    My siblings have been battling the same indoctrination attempts for years, ever since one of their sons came home with the “insight” that Columbus was a slave trader.
    I recommend “John Adams,” by David McCullough; anything by Thomas Sowell; “Rifles for Watie,” by Harold Keith; “The Way the World Works,” by Jude Wanniski; “The Prince of Darkness,” by Robert Novak; Richard Evans’ books on Hitler but particularly “The Coming of the Third Reich;” and “Triumph Forsaken,” by Mark Moyar. Those books should nicely balance the Left’s skewed opinions on economics, their penchant for cherry-picking facts, and the relentlessly wrong rewrites of the histories of the Civil War, WWII, and Vietnam. For an illuminating and prescient (not to mention thoroughly entertaining) book on Afghanistan that was ultimately more fact than fiction, try James A. Michener’s “Caravans.”

  • Douglas Johnson

    1) Witness by Chambers not just because it balances out, but because it rivals the Education of Henry Adams as great literature.

    2) Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. It would be fun to read Waugh’s novel next to On the Road and see what students think. On the Road is a free-spirited romp tied to nothing in particular, whereas Brideshead presents all the tensions at stake with tradition and the cross.

  • M. Andrucki

    Since the three readings (Kerouac, Carson, Friedan) seem to concentrate on the late 50s and early to mid-60s, I’d suggest Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic as an alternative view of that period. A great takedown of the cultural pretensions and follies of the era.

  • Kent

    If I may stray from the indoctrination path:
    “The Spike” (de Borchgrave, Moss) somewhat breathless 80s-style thriller, excellent caricatures of familiar treasonous Democrats.
    Heinlein’s “Time Enough for Love” – Filled with conservative/rugged individualist wisdom; e.g.,
    “Keep your clothes and weapons where you can find them in the dark.”
    Herman Wouk’s “Winds of War” & “War and Remembrance”. American exceptionalism, elegantly presented by an author who was there.

  • Jeff S.

    1) Radical Son (David Horowitz)
    2) Give War a Chance (P.J. O’Rourke)
    3) Liberal Fascism (Jonah Goldberg)

    “Radical Son” is an indispensable antidote to the toxic radioactivity of the established 60s mythology. O’Rourke’s book, while a little dated, is still memorable for the scene in which he documents his joy and relief when passing from the anarchy of Lebanon into the civilization of Israel. Jonah’s book, among many other accomplishments, establishes the background and conditions that allowed Horowitz’ experience to become possible.

  • John Muraro

    Ender’s Game, by Orson Scott Card.

    As per SF Reviews: “Enders Game examines the ethics of power and the role sheer manipulation can play in forming the cultural and political landscape people live in.”

  • Deanna

    How about Thomas Sowell’s Vision of the Annointed?

  • B. Dean

    Having her read On the Road may be a blessing in disguise. From my experiences with the book, girls in general hate it. While young men read a romantic tale of free spirits wandering the country, sucking the marrow from the bones of life, women tend to read the story of two shiftless womanizing drifters aimlessly wandering around and accomplishing little. Reading such might just innoculate the young lady to the academic culture she’ll find in college where such lives are glorified.

  • Jack

    I agree with your suggestion of Hayeck, this would be my first choice as well (The Road to Serfdom is a MUST read and should be mandatory for everyone.). My other two suggestions; Democracy in America -Alexis de Tocqueville and Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell (the wisest man in America right now).
    I also agree with your suggesting, On the Road, the other two are good only for demonstrating how historically foolish American politicians are. I seriously doubt that is the “teacher’s” intention.

  • skip

    I would reccommend “Founding Brothers” by Joseph Ellis. I focuses on the relationships between the men who lead the revolution.

  • Kent

    I would also recommend any of Richard Nixon’s books. I remember being astonished by the clarity and essential ‘rightness’ of “No More Vietnams”.

  • Lee

    Wait a second, it is what, late August, and the teacher is already focusing on the 50/60s in an AP US History class?

    On the readings, I think the guy who said Kennedy’s Profiles in Courage was a great idea. How can a liberal really protest a book written by a Kennedy?

    If the focus is going to be on the counter culture itself (which, let’s admit, is a part of American history) to be totally subversive and counter-intuitive, I’d say go with Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

    The druggie exploits are what made the book a favorite of stoned college freshmen, but once you get past those, it’s Thompson’s lament of the emptiness he felt once realizing most of the promises of the sixties were false.

    Read from a conservative viewpoint, it’s actually a damning critique.

  • Brad

    I would recommend “Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939” by Wolfgang Schivelbusch. It offers incontrovertible contemporary evidence of the mutual admiration between those three leaders. The student will be instructing the teacher who no doubt has been taught FDR opposed Hitler and Mussolini rather than aped them.

  • Andrew

    I would suggest a real point/counterpoint such as reading “The Other America” by Michael Harrington and then “Losing Ground” by Charles Murray.

  • Will Antonin

    Let me propose an alternative approach.

    Rather than merely shaking our heads at Leftist indoctrination and then (somewhat weakly) trying to counter it with books read on one’s own, why not try to REFORM higher education?

    Here are a few organizations worth checking out, sharing with fellow conservatives, and even supporting if possible:

    http://campusreform.org/

    http://www.mindingthecampus.com/

    http://www.thefire.org/

    http://www.thecfn.org/

    http://www.alliancedefensefund.org/main/default.aspx

    http://www.speakupmovement.org/Home/University

    Anyone have other suggestions?

    And so I’m not “thread hijacking”, let me add a suggestion for good reading:

    The Claremont Review of Books.

  • Jay S

    Good luck in getting the teacher to agree to whatever books you suggest. Most of the course material is not determined by the teacher, but the school administration, who are usually even more left than your average teacher. I’ve been fighting this battle for years with no success, except that I’ve gotten a reputation as a thorn in the side. I am curious to what will the response from the teacher will be.

  • Chris

    First off–get the poor child out of Maryland public schools!

    Failing that, I recommend a Hobbes /Locke Reader, the State Against Blacks by Walter Williams, and anything by Tom Wolfe.

  • http://www.cultureandmediainstitute.org/ Matt Philbin

    “A History of the American People” by Paul Johnson is a great 0ne-volume history of the US (and a great inoculation should the kids ever have Zinn’s “People’s History” infliced on her in the future). And just about any book of Johnson’s on any topic is worth picking up.

  • Eric Huseby

    I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe is a great choice to get high schoolers ready for what really awaits them at college.

    Basis Economics by Thomas Sowell or Free to Choose by Milton Friedman will go a long way toward understanding markets.

    American Pastoral, by Philip Roth. A masterful look at the darkest challenges of parenting. It eviscerates so much of the pop psychobabble of the late 60s and early 70s.

    And, a short form bonus selection: The poem If by Rudyard Kipling.

  • Jonathan

    Staying with more recent US history, and given the books assigned by the teacher I would recommend any of the following five:
    Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg: a tremendous look at the Left;
    Radical Son by David Horowitz: a great look at the New Left in America;
    Who Stole Feminism by Christina Hoff Sommers;
    The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg; and
    the best book ever on how the US government functions (or doesn’t): P.J. O’Rourke’s Parliament of Whores

  • Greg

    I would recommend The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (really!). I was your average high school budding socialist type (default setting circa 1970) growing up in the Chicago area when I was assigned The Jungle. I devoured it one rainy weekend. I was entranced! But rather then converting me into an Uncle Government Loves You social democrat, as the teacher no doubt hoped, I came out of that experience with a sneaking suspicion that Mr. Sinclair may have laid it on a bit too thick (the descriptions of the weather conditions, for instance, were way over the top). The descendants of the Lithuanians (and Poles, Irish, Jews etc.) that I went to school and hung around with were living pretty good lives and I just put two and two together: the Free Market works and socialism is for dyspeptic novelists.

  • chris

    Book for book:

    1) for “On the Road” (which isn’t that bad) I’d match with either “Witness” or “Radical Son” (by David Horowitz).

    2) for “The Feminine Mystique” I’d recommend Patai and Koertge’s “Professing Feminism.”

    3) for “Silent Spring” you have to go with “the Excellent Powder.”

  • Lori

    “Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written By Himself”–
    a great American story.
    And “John Adams” by David McCullough, as has been already mentioned.

  • Vicki

    I loved the suggestion of Witness but that book is a monster at over 800 pages. Bill Bennett’s America the Last Best Hope is another long one that would be great. I love Eric’s suggestion of Thomas Sowell. Anything by Thomas Sowell would be great.

  • Michael

    “On The Road” is a good book that should be read by conservatives and liberals alike. I don’t see its place in an AP History course, however.

    I think that Volume 1, “The Gathering Storm” of Churchill’s “The Second World War” is a towering piece of historical literature. It speaks to the qualities of committed leadership and principled conviction. From the conservative point of view, Churchill has a hard-earned jaundiced eye on human nature. The lessons of political shortsightedness, cowardice and appeasement in the face of evil are lessons that every generation needs to learn.

    While we’re at it, Churchill’s speech in the House of Commons eulogizing FDR is a masterpiece and really highlights for the modern reader the differences in love of country and freedom that we see between FDR and Obama. For all the economic agita stemming from FDR, there was no fiercer champion of freedom. He certainly wasn’t afraid to be proud of America. It seems a valuable lesson for children to learn that Democrats once truly believed America was a force for good in this world, and they had the courage to act on it.

    By the way, I saw “The Road to Serfdom” on a table at a local Barnes & Noble hawking the local high school’s reading list. All is not lost!

  • Edmund Burke

    Reflections on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke

  • RHD

    Since it is supposed to be a course on US history, it might make sense to read books on that subject.

    1. McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom should be on any list. If it’s too long for high school, and they need a Maryland connection, his book on Antietam would do.
    2. For a literary work, rather than Kerouac, I would suggest Walt Whitman — Leaves of Grass, or any anthology of his poetry — since his theme was the celebration of America. It makes much better sense that Kerouac in a US history course.
    3. For cultural critique, rather than Friedan, Tocqueville is the only logical text. If Democracy in America is too long or difficult, Thoreau’s Walden Pond would be the next best choice.

  • bman

    1. Be here Now by Richard Alpert
    2. Another roadside Attraction by Robbins
    3. Been down so long it looks like Up to Me
    4. Electric Kool aid Acid Test

  • Dee Lafferty

    “True Believer” by Eric Hoffer — required reading before my freshman year of college — shaped my political views and insight more than any other book or influence.

    And … “Gathering Storm” by Churchill

  • josh

    I am surprised to see noone suggested Allan Drury.

    I just happened to pick up “Come Nineveh, Come Tyre” at an Army library in Honduras. Born and bread a lefty, this book changed my worldly viewpoint.

    It was written during the Soviet expansion in the Carter years, and is absolutely frightening, even today when we know what happened with the Soviet “experiement”.

    When you read the book you will cringe at what may have happened if Carter were reelected. And then you begin to get optimistic because you know America survives only because of Divine Intervention.

    It’s a very easy read too, for adults and teenagers alike.

  • Jerry Hartman

    Democracy in America by Alexis deTocqueville. Not necessarily a conservative book but a great analysis of the American character.

  • Francis

    I believe John Updike wrote Rabbit Run specifically as a counter-cultural piece to On the Road. Therefore, if you’re going to choose On the Road for her assignment, and are looking for something to offset its message (but not necessarily as an alternative assignment piece), Rabbit Run may be worth considering.

  • Andre Berman

    May I recommend one that you mentioned but dismissed?

  • Petipace

    Given the level of the teacher’s list, I’m not sure that books such as “The Road to Serfdom” are appropriate substitutes. Also, the list is more culture than history.

    I’d suggest:

    1. “The Unmaking of a Mayor” by WFB.
    2. ” I Am Charlotte Simmons” by Tom Wolfe.
    3. “A Natural History of North American Trees” by Donald Peattie.

  • Andrew Berman

    May I recommend one that you mentioned, but dismissed?

    God and Man at Yale is a short, devastating, masterpiece that is still extremely relevant and directly addresses the issue that you are concerned about– liberal/progressive indoctrination in the schools and culture by authority figures. I read it for the first time just a few years. It helped me greatly in the re-examination of my school years that was such an important part of my philosophical growth (I am an ex-liberal, by the way, who was immersed in progressive culture for the first few decades of my life).

  • Jaffanese American

    Dawn Eden’s Thrill of the Chaste

  • Phil Rexroth

    I wholeheartedly agree with “Road to Serfdom”, and would add the following:

    Free to Choose – Milton Friedman
    Science, Politics and Gnosticism – Eric Voegelin

    If the latter is too difficult for high school, how about a critical look at Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” (since it has drawn significant publicity lately) and how it has informed the modern Left project?

  • Jack Jolis

    Although other P.J. O’Rourke titles have been suggested, above, I think that A PARLIAMENT OF WHORES is the one the young lady most needs.

    It’s still the best primer on contemporary American government around.

  • http://freealabamastan.blogspot.com Paul A’Barge

    The New Testament of the Holy Bible.

    To the folks who felt compelled to suggest that the high school student read one of the three books and eviscerate it in her review, you’ve hopelessly missed the point.

    The point is not to hit back at one of the sacred books of Liberalism. The point is to fight the tendency of Liberals to exclude anything but their sacred books in educating our children.

    I don’t want to argue with Liberals about what they believe. I want Liberals who are in the Education industry to offer balanced options to our children. Once we get Liberals to agree to that, our children will take over the battle with Liberalism; and decimate it.

  • Cam Edwards

    My mother actually recommended I read “On the Road” when I was 12. I’m not sure if she was trying to turn me into a beatnik or what.

    Since this is a U.S. History course, I’d recommend the original “road story”… the memoir of Joseph Plumb Martin, a private who joined the Continental Army at the age of 16.

    Battle Cry of Freedom is a great read, but it’s also fairly lengthy. For an interesting look at how the Civil War impacted regular folks, I’d recommend “The State of Jones” by Sally Jenkins and John Stauffer. It raises the excellent question of what happens to those who rebel against institutionalized rebellion.

    You can’t go wrong with “Liberal Fascism”, but if the teacher’s going to give the student a hard time, “A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America” by Michael McGerr is a good substitute.

  • Bob Kaper

    The best anti-Carson primer going:
    Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic, by Dennis Avery, who I think is with the Hudson Institute

  • TommyC

    Add me to those who recommend Free to Choose by Milton Friedman.

    Not only was it the book that turned me from a leftist to a conservative / libertarian, but it is simply very straight-forward and well-written. And you can cheat if you’re willing to shell out for the companion 10 part PBS series on DVD.

  • Elizabeth

    A book that really started me down the road of questioning the “experts” was “The Vision of the Anointed” by Thomas Sowell. I think it is a good read with simple steps that can explain how the “leftist” mind works. Certainly accessible to an AP student.

  • Marica

    My recommendation is a bit different from what’s been suggested. I’m a big fan of “old” history books– especially US history. Sure, there’s a heaping helping of RAH RAH RAH USA in them, but why shouldn’t there be? Thus, I recommend the book from which this quote comes:

    “Years marked by wars, religious controversies and persecutions, political disputes, and royal despotism lay behind the decision to leave Europe and migrate to the English colonies. But there was something in the spirit of those who made the break– a force of character not simply determined by economic, political or religious conditions– that made them different from their neighbors who remained in the turmoil and poverty of the Old World.”

    Cool, huh?

    A Basic History of the United States. Charles A., and Mary R. Beard. Garden City Books, Garden City, NY 1944

  • CMC

    Full disclosure: I am a liberal. I am also a history professor. So I may be coming at this question from a different perspective than many of you.

    That said, I found this a very interesting question, and one that I’m having some trouble answering. While many of the books mentioned here would make very interesting class assignments, very few of them really fit with what I would guess the teacher was trying to accomplish in this exercise. The Kerouac, Freidan, and Carson books are, of course, all primary sources that offer different ways of thinking about how and why the liberalism of the 1960s grew out of the political, social, and economic structures of the 1950s.

    I’ve also found that it’s really important to assign primary sources in context. A previous commenter suggested, for example, assigning Michael Harrington’s _The Other America_ and Charles Murray’s _Losing Ground_ side by side. I have often assigned both books in courses that I teach, but I use Harrington when we study the ’60s and Murray when we study the ’80s. Doing so enables students to see the context in which each book was written and to understand broad shifts in American politics.

    So in order to fit the parameters of the assignment, I think that any books suggested to the teacher would need to be important works of conservative thought published between roughly 1957 and 1963. Goldwater’s _Conscience of a Conservative_ would certainly fit with the assignment and would be useful in opening up a discussion of conservative organizing in the 1960s. However, I’m having a hard time coming up with two more books that would work for the assignment.

    I’ll look forward to seeing what other commenters suggest!

  • TommyC

    My wife says that Booker T. Washington’s Up From Slavery is an absolute must.

  • E Johnson

    The Silent Spring/Excellent Powder juxtaposition sounds like the most bulletproof suggestion. If the student is reporting facts gathered since publication of the former book, the teacher has less ground to object upon than if the subject were something like “the heart and mind of Man”.

    Why, the student could even end the paper thanking the teacher profusely for assigning Silent Spring and thus underscoring how we should not let horrors of the past, such as were spawned by that slim little book, be repeated in the present.

    On a separate note however, I have to concur with the suggestion of The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein in general terms. It’s a fantastic read in and of itself, a slant-wise retelling of the American Revolution, and very accessible for a teenager; I read it first in grade school. It’s not the most relevant to the task at hand I don’t think, but it’s worth owning in and of itself.

  • MTalcott

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Allan Bloom’s “The closing of the American Mind.” Talk about inoculation against designer academics! Add to that Goldberg’s “Liberal Fascism” and Friedman’s “Free to Choose,” and I think you should be good. One other possibility to show just what we’re up against: “Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia” by Jean Sasson. May be a great book for a young lady.

  • JD

    Race and Economics by Thomas Sowell

  • RClark

    “The Skeptical Environmentalist” by Bjorn Lomberg

  • Steve

    The Gulag Archipelago.

  • Jonathan H. Adler

    CMC’s comments are important in terms of seeing what the assignment is doing. With his thoughts in mind, I think Conscience of a Conservative fits, as does Witness. I also think that Frank Meyer’s In Defense of Freedom could work too, as would Friedman’s Free to Choose. Id have to think more about some others.

    JHA

  • Spencer Kelly

    I would choose two more modern books that have to do with covering some of the timeframe and issues the three books cover: Captialism and Freedon or Free to Choose, both by Milton Friedman… both, i think, would be relatively unclomplicated or the highschool level… I was always of a conservative bent, but when i discovered Friedman as a college freshman I nolonger felt like a misfit in the Econ Dept…. Freidman follower Thomas Sowell is a prolific auther who surely would also provide some good options …

  • Christopher Uhl

    With the liberal professor above, I’m having a problem thinking of something, other than Sen. Goldwater’s book, that fits the following parameters:

    American author from the period.
    A book considered as a primary source.
    Elements of a personal odyssey.

    (I hope that Mr. Miller’s correspondent will inform him (us) about the tenor and outcome of the meeting with the teacher.)

  • PPilger

    -1984 by George Orwell
    -To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee
    -Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

    My reasons:
    1) They correspond to the grade and course level
    2) A high school student has the tools to provide an effective interpretation of them
    3) There is a high probability that the teacher will acquiesce to these selections as alternatives

    Best of luck!

    Paul

  • Jerry McCarthy

    Oh my god, how could leave off the following:

    The Forgotten Man – Amity Shlaes

  • mcdonough

    Am I the only one who recalls reading Geo Orwell as such an eye-opening event? Both Brave New World and especially Animal Farm are short, readable and terrifying.

  • King George

    My first thought was the same as the folks who already posted here — read one of those lefty books, and then shred the assumptions in it with additional research. Taking down “Silent Spring” would probably be more fun & educational than the fruitless task of trying to defend Hayek to a liberal high school teacher.

  • mcdonough

    Correction-Nineteen Eighty-Four. Sorry

  • Erik Axelson

    Amity Shlaes’s narrative of the Great Depression “The Forgotten Man” is eminently readable and offers a well documented counterpoint to the conventional wisdom about policies that deepened the Depression.

    Wallace Stegner’s “Beyond the Hundredth Meridian” about John Wesley Powell’s exploration of the West reads like a novel (and Stegner was a great American novelist).

    “American Pastoral” by Philip Roth is a wonderful antidote to the anti-American creed.

  • John

    P. J. O’ Rourke’s “Eat the Rich”. Not only does it present a great comparison of different economic systems in different parts of the world, it also contains one of the best (and easily the funniest) explanations of comparative advantage I’ve ever read, using John Grisham and Courtney Love as examples.

  • http://www.skepticaldoctor.com Clint

    John, if the young lady chooses to review On the Road, she absolutely must read Theodore Dalrymple’s review of it in the New Criterion, here:

    http://www.newcriterion.com/articles.cfm/Another-side-of-Paradise-3589?

    A login is necessary. but her father could purchase the one article for…I think $5. I’d love to give him or her my own login, but don’t want to deny such a worthwhile publication any additional revenue.

    Clint
    The Skeptical Doctor
    (a website dedicated to Theodore Dalrymple)

  • Denise

    1. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
    I actually read this one in high school as a counter to one of the books I was supposed to read for AP English my junior year, Beloved by Toni Morrison. It was, in my opinion if not that of my teacher, totally inappropriate to ask high schoolers to read a book so saturated with foulness that I couldn’t get past the first 10 pages or so (multiple f-words, including one in conjunction with a person and a cow, if I remember correctly). My teacher threw me out of the class (mid-semester). Long story short, the vice principal told her to take me back and give me another book or else. So I read Narrative of the Life. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s rare to see such a forceful, compelling treatise on the importance of critical thought, education, and true freedom. I loved every minute of that book, and I guarantee it’s made more of a difference than Beloved would have.

    2. My Grandfather’s Son, by Clarence Thomas
    One of the best refutations of victimhood culture I have read. It also gave me a clearer understanding of the civil rights era (I’m only 29), and made me understand why some feelings would still be pretty raw. It really wasn’t that long ago, which never really sank in for me until I read this.

  • Matthew

    I teach AP U.S. History, and I would recommend along with a few of the others who have commented that the student should go ahead and write the report on the assigned books. All three of the books the teacher assigned have been tested in the past on the AP exam, while the titles being recommended here generally have not been. This may be “indoctrination,” but it comes with the territory of “teaching to the test.”

  • Bob

    Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

  • ScurvyOaks

    On the Road is clearly the best of the three, in part for the libertarianism of Old Bull Lee (the William S. Burroughs character), who reminisces about the good old days when America was wild and brawling and free.

    I second the recommendation of Frank Meyers’ In Defense of Freedom, which is wonderful stuff and too seldom read these days.

  • Jim S.

    I would suggest two books that are slightly off the beaten path:
    1. Grant by Jean Edward Smith. Grant paints a thoughtful portrait of one of our greatest leaders that challenges what is considered common knowledge. This is a fascinating read and a truly American story.
    2. Forgotten Founder, Drunken Prophet: The Life of Luther Martin (Lives of the Founders) by Bill Kauffman. The evils of centralized government control are eloquently debated by the book’s protagonist. Well written, fun and definitely timely.

  • Daniel

    Gee, since it’s a History class and not English Lit – how about The Federalist Papers?

    But somehow I suspect they’ll be reading “Audacity..” or “Dreams..” before the semster is over from the sounds of it.

  • Mark

    I recommend ‘Scratch Beginnings’ by Adam Shepard.

    In 2006 Shepard picked a city at random and went there with one 8′ x 10′ tarp, a sleeping bag, an empty gym bag, $25, and the clothes on his back. He told no one that he had a college degree and received no help from anyone who knew him. Starting out living in a homeless shelter, he gave himself one year to become self sufficient; his goal was to possess a car, live in decent housing, have $2500 in the bank and be in a position to further improve his circumstances. Shepard was successful and the book is a powerful rebuttal to ‘Nickeled and Dimed’.

  • Tony

    Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
    Citizen Soldiers by Stephen Ambrose
    The Right Stuff by Tom Wolf

  • BruceB

    Democracy In America
    Killer Angels
    Any biography of Ronald Reagan

  • BruceB

    Almost forgot:

    The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant

  • petty boozswha

    Trying to think of contemporaneous books from a conservative perspective, how about:

    The Uncertain Trumpet – Maxwell Taylor
    Hell’s Angels, the Strange and Terrible Saga… – Hunter S. Thompson
    Radical Chic – Tom Wolfe

  • Jason

    How about anything by Mark Helprin?…A fantastic novelist and conservative. “A Soldier of the Great War” or “Refiner’s Fire” or “A Winter’s Tale”…

    And I can’t help but agree with anything Tom Wolfe – but like one commenter said,”Electric Kool Aid” or “The Great Relearning” provides a fantastic counterpoint to 60’s era idiocy.

  • John Burke

    While I don’t doubt that many teachers and school administrations tilt left, it’s important to know the purpose of this AP history assignment to evaluate it and suggest alternatives. If the point is for the student to read a book that — as a matter of recent history — had a significant impact on the period and more specifically on the development of the “protest” movements and associated cultural changes that marked the period, why shouldn’t a conservative student read such a book and write a report from a conservative perpective? Friedan’s book, as I recall it, had some interesting insights, as well as lots of hooey, and certainly had a huge effect on propelling the feminist movement.

    A somewhat different tack might be to suggest that the biggest and most historically significant movement of that period was the civil rights movement. That being so, why not read a book by a figure in that struggle? And if the teacher takes your point, suggest The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which will give the student plenty to criticize.

  • Cathy Malinowski

    Besides Sommers’ Who Stole Feminism? there’s F. Carolyn Graglia’s Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism.

    Witness tops my ‘must read’ list but for a high school AP History student already deluged with additional reading from NRO readers how about just the Forward to Witness: “Letter to My Children”?

  • Craig

    How about, “Lies My Teacher Told Me”?

    Perhaps, for better shock effect, “More Guns, Less Crime”. Safest bet, “Democracy in America” or the “Federalist Papers”.

  • Brian

    Of all the comments, not one person gets my Favorite book right: have her read On The Road, along with you and discuss it together. Use this article as a guide for discussion about how the book is really about the emptyness of that era.

    Kerouac was a conservative and subscriber to National Review and friend of WFB.

    “It is not an advertisement for the sixties version of personal freedom, but a warning against it.”

    http://www.touchstonemag.com/archives/article.php?id=18-08-014-c

  • Richard Reed

    The Fisherman’s Lady by George McDonald (condensed version, w0/ the difficult Scots dialect).

    Last Train Over Rostov Bridge (it will break your heart, but it is also one of the best books on the Russian Revolution and the best and worst of human nature, that you will ever read).

    Til We Have Faces” by C. S. Lewis.

  • Guy De Boer

    Parliament of Whores: A lone humorist attempts to explain the entire US government, by PJ O’Rourke.

    Capitalism and Freedom, by Milton Friedman

    Modern Times, by Paul Johnson

    The first is, as stated, simply the best primer on American government extant, once one gets past the un-PC title!
    Nobody explains things better than Friedman.
    Johnson would be heavy wading, even for an AP student, but it rewards the effort.

    And since we’re filling up the young lady’s docket, and most girls like horses, I’ll throw in Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit: An American Legend. (the woman can flat out write)

    I keep trying to fit CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity in here somehow but could not until now.

  • http://xdr42@msn.com M. E. R.

    I think every high school student and college student should read The Forsaken: An American Tragedy in Stalin’s Russia by Tim Tzouliadis. It is a long read but what a great book. It tells the story of Americans who left the US and moved to Russia in the early 20′ and 30’s in order to live the communist dream- or so they thought. It really opened my eyes to what communism does to a country and to the individuals who live there.

  • Lazarus Long

    “Starship Troopers” or “The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress” or “Podkayne of Mars” all by Robert A. Heinlein.

    (n.b., As to “Starship Troopers” don’t let ANYONE get near the travesty of a movie that bears the same name)

  • Black Sabbath

    Nevermind this Leftist nonsense. Read and read again
    Fahrenheit 451
    Animal Farm
    1984

    Three books that detail what’s happening today.

  • Bob Bleck

    I think CMC and John Burke are on the right track. Don’t jump to the conclusion that this is an indoctrination. Those assigned texts provide good insights to the history of the protest era. Remember it is a history class and not a social studies class. I do agree it does seem odd that the 50’s and 60’s would come up in September. I think we need a bit more information. In middle school my son’s teacher assigned each student a protest song to analyze. It provided a interesting context to study history. (He got the Clash’s “London Calling”).

  • Jim Holloway

    One of the books I told my boys they should read is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl; “A Day in the Life..” is also excellent.

    The suggestion of doing a report on the tragic consequences of “Silent Spring” is also great. I read it as a teen and it was not until later that I learned the inconvenient truth of that book.

  • Balliol27

    Wow. This is great!
    I have been slowly making my way through The Age of Reagan by Steve Hayward (and savouring). It de-bunks everything about the era, and would be an antidote to many of the assigned texts.

  • John M

    Jacques Barzun’s “From Dawn to Decadence” or anything by Barzun.

  • http://gipperwatch.blogspot.com/ Roger Johnson

    I would suggest that for an assigmnent about US counterculture in the 50s and 60s, asking the student to read Chambers or Hayek or a biography of John Adams might be a little confusing.

    If the teacher is failing to encourage free and critical thought in the students, then a better teacher is needed, not “balance” in the reading list.

  • Douglas

    I’m less interested in alternatives (everyone else has given very good ones) and more interested in the reaction of the teacher to being questioned about the reading list.

  • http://chrisbolts.wordpress.com Chris Bolts Sr

    If it is supposed to fiction, I would have them read “Brave New World,” “Animal Farm” and “1984” in that exact order. After they read those books I would have them read two nonfiction books, “1776” and “The Forgotten Man”. That should give these students an indication about what is going on in this country and how it started to go wrong.

  • EMH

    “The Incredible Bread Machine” R. W. Grant…Written in the 60s and published in the 70s. Very simple and direct defense of capitalism. This book was made into a film that included sections on legalizing gambling and prostitution. I can’t recall if the book includes that. No matter. High school readers would feel like rebels embracing capitalism.

  • DWIGHT

    These are more for boys:

    Ender’s Game – Orson S Card
    Run Silent, Run Deep – Beach?
    Piano Player – Vonnegut
    Culture and Carnage – VD Hanson

  • Elizabeth

    Books that girls DO like:
    Ender’s Game- Orson S Card
    Run Silent, Run Deep- E.L. Beach
    Piano Player- Vonnegut
    Culture and Carnage- V.D. Hanson

    Self-explanatory. Great books can be liked and appreciated by all.

  • http://domestic-vocation.blogspot.com Christine the Soccer Mom

    I’d recommend some G. K. Chesterton. I’m new to his writing, and just finished “What’s Wrong with the World?” (fantastic!), but certainly his writing is an excellent counter-balance to the madness of our times. (I find “What’s Wrong…” to be an excellent counterbalance to Ayn Rand’s radical views of capitalism and hedonism, as well.)

    Since Chesterton is so incredibly prolific, you’re sure to find something of his that’s going to be a good antidote to the liberal lockstep – and even the conservative one, too. 😉 He doesn’t pull punches with anyone.

  • http://domestic-vocation.blogspot.com Christine the Soccer Mom

    Was thinking more on Chesterton … how about “What I Saw in America”?

    http://chesterton.org/discover/lectures/37isawamerica.html

    Seriously, I am only just discovering him, but am SO annoyed that I made it through college and NO ONE even mentioned Chesterton. Perhaps it’s because he saw where the world was headed and pointed out what is wrong with our general trend? He was prophetic.

  • Andrew G.

    I would recommend that this student choose to do her report on Kerouac’s “On the Road.” It will provide her the most latitude to critique (not that she would certainly incline to after reading it) the world view on offer: a narcissistic view of one’s existence on the planet and one’s role as a citizen of a free society. It basically provides the opportunity to criticize the Kris Kristoferson “Me & Bobbie McGhee” mindset that “Freedom ain’t worth nothin’ – but it’s free,” which actually encapsulates quite nicely the mindset of an entire generation and provides a lens through which to view the progressive policy agenda.

    In sharp contrast to how Kerouac describes his place in the world in his rambling “On the Road,” there is a book, “Existentialism, Or: Man’s Search for Meaning” by the late psychologist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, who spent most of the Holocaust at Berkinaw, the lower labor camp at Auschwitz.

    Frankl examines the will to survive amid some of the most brutal conditions ever known to exist, and how an existentialist view of one’s purpose in society can provide all the strength of mind one needs to “bear one’s cross,” or to accept one’s suffering. He outlines how, as the oppressors stripped the prisoners of every last vestige of possession and humanity, right down to their hair and portions of their skin, the one thing they could not take away from a prisoner was the individual’s freedom to suffer, and to find meaning in that suffering. And if one could find a purpose to one’s suffering through such utter depravity and find a way to make use of it if freedom ever arrived, then the will of the individual could never be broken.

    Thus, one would have the ultimate weapon of resistance against one’s oppressors. It was, if you will, a mental frame of mind that served as civil disobedience. While working to dig some dirt in Poland to lay track down for the arrival at the camps of his fellow co-religionists, and grappling with the idea that he was being forced to toil to make it easier for other Jews to be killed by his sweat, Frankl’s thoughts drifted to his wife, whom he was certain (and correct) had perished in the depravity. He thought of her to make his body keep going in the harsh winter conditions in which he struggled against starvation. As his daydream was ending, at that very moment, a small bird flew by and landed right in front of him on a wooden post. He could swear it was looking right at him, and it started chirping a beautiful song. At that moment, he was literally convinced his wife had been reincarnated and went to him to urge him on in his struggle. So his wife had died so that he could live. In other words, her ultimate struggle provided some sense of comfort to him through his own struggle.

    So he concluded that he must find a way to use his suffering to help others in their lives, should he ever live free again. He vowed that, if he ever had the opportunity, he would lecture about what he learned about the human condition and how his experiences prove that the power one gains by finding meaning in one’s suffering can make any pain endurable, and can markedly transform one’s life. And he vowed to help his individual patients find some meaning from the struggle to conquer their personal problems.

    What a sharp contrast to a piece of literature trying to make sweeping grand comments about the world through the mind of a spoiled 20 or 30-something with no responsibility to anyone or anything who relishes in the lack of meaning to his existence – a college-age lad’s version of “Catcher in the Rye,” without the sardonic humor and clever but tiresome dialogue.

    I don’t have a choice 2 or 3. My life was never the same after I read “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It may be the only book I can say that about. And I know this teenage student would find it transformative, as well as one of the most emotionally moving pieces of literature she will ever read. There is value even in attempting to read Frankl’s book in public places without breaking into tears uncontrollably as one watches contented people stroll by, rightly preoccupied with much lighter thoughts. I found myself often asking at such moments, “Could I possibly endure that without letting my oppressors break me?” Doubtful, but hopefully, I’ll never find out.

    No doubt I could easily endure a road trip around the United States heartland, even if I was totally incommunicado!

  • Andrew G.

    I would recommend that this student choose to do her report on Kerouac’s “On the Road.” It will provide her the most latitude to critique (not that she would certainly incline to after reading it) the world view on offer: a narcissistic view of one’s existence on the planet and one’s role as a citizen of a free society. It basically provides the opportunity to criticize the Kris Kristoferson “Me & Bobbie McGhee” mindset that “Freedom ain’t worth nothin’ – but it’s free,” which actually encapsulates quite nicely the mindset of an entire generation and provides a lens through which to view the progressive policy agenda.

    In sharp contrast to how Kerouac describes his place in the world in his rambling “On the Road,” there is a book, “Existentialism, Or: Man’s Search for Meaning” by the late psychologist and Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl, who spent most of the Holocaust at Buchenwald, the lower labor camp at Auschwitz.

    Frankl examines the will to survive amid some of the most brutal conditions ever known to exist, and how an existentialist view of one’s purpose in society can provide all the strength of mind one needs to “bear one’s cross,” or to accept one’s suffering. He outlines how, as the oppressors stripped the prisoners of every last vestige of possession and humanity, right down to their hair and portions of their skin, the one thing they could not take away from a prisoner was the individual’s freedom to suffer, and to find meaning in that suffering. And if one could find a purpose to one’s suffering through such utter depravity and find a way to make use of it if freedom ever arrived, then the will of the individual could never be broken.

    Thus, one would have the ultimate weapon of resistance against one’s oppressors. It was, if you will, a mental frame of mind that served as civil disobedience. While working to dig some dirt in Poland to lay track down for the arrival at the camps of his fellow co-religionists, and grappling with the idea that he was being forced to toil to make it easier for other Jews to be killed by his sweat, Frankl’s thoughts drifted to his wife, whom he was certain (and correct) had perished in the depravity. He thought of her to make his body keep going in the harsh winter conditions in which he struggled against starvation. As his daydream was ending, at that very moment, a small bird flew by and landed right in front of him on a wooden post. He could swear it was looking right at him, and it started chirping a beautiful song. At that moment, he was literally convinced his wife had been reincarnated and went to him to urge him on in his struggle. So his wife had died so that he could live. In other words, her ultimate struggle provided some sense of comfort to him through his own struggle.

    So he concluded that he must find a way to use his suffering to help others in their lives, should he ever live free again. He vowed that, if he ever had the opportunity, he would lecture about what he learned about the human condition and how his experiences prove that the power one gains by finding meaning in one’s suffering can make any pain endurable, and can markedly transform one’s life. And he vowed to help his individual patients find some meaning from the struggle to conquer their personal problems.

    What a sharp contrast to a piece of literature trying to make sweeping grand comments about the world through the mind of a spoiled 20 or 30-something with no responsibility to anyone or anything who relishes in the lack of meaning to his existence – a college-age lad’s version of “Catcher in the Rye,” without the sardonic humor and clever but tiresome dialogue.

    I don’t have a choice 2 or 3. My life was never the same after I read “Man’s Search for Meaning.” It may be the only book I can say that about. And I know this teenage student would find it transformative, as well as one of the most emotionally moving pieces of literature she will ever read. There is value even in attempting to read Frankl’s book in public places without breaking into tears uncontrollably as one watches contented people stroll by, rightly preoccupied with much lighter thoughts. I found myself often asking at such moments, “Could I possibly endure that without letting my oppressors break me?” Doubtful, but hopefully, I’ll never find out.

    No doubt I could easily endure a road trip around the United States heartland, even if I was totally incommunicado!

  • Scott Kelly

    Hey, Miller! 🙂 I’d recommend the following (hopefully no duplicates here):

    U.S. Grant’s Personal Memoirs, which his friend and publisher Mark Twain called the greatest military memoirs since Caesar’s, and of which Thomas Nast, the famed political cartoonist, declared: “He wrote as he talked, simple, unadorned, manly. He was the most complete and masculine person I ever knew, and his book is the most complete book I have ever read.”

    W.T. Sherman’s Memoirs, if for nothing else than the letter exchange between Sherman, CSA Gen. Hood and the city fathers of Atlanta over the American way of war. (Here, Sherman declared that “war is cruelty.”)

    Thomas Connelly’s “The Marble Man: Robert E. Lee and His Image in American Society” – not so much a bio of Lee as it is an examination of the men who crafted Lee, after his death, into the faultless, blameless, spotless icon of the “Lost Cause”–and woe be to anyone who disagreed. Highly useful for understanding not only how history is made, but also how it can be **manufactured** to fit an agenda.

    Ernie Pyle’s “Here Is Your War” and “Brave Men”

    Clarence Thomas’ “My Grandfather’s Son,” an unflinching memoir that will kick you in the teeth with Thomas’ brutal honesty about himself — and his formation as a man.

  • Sam

    “How Should We Then Live” by Francis Schaeffer, it is technically a Christian apologetics book but it is a survey of Western Civilization from Rome to the early 1970s. Our fair high schooler might have to plod through it because it covers some very deep terms very quickly.

    “My American Life”, aka Reagan’s autobiography for me was an excellent read. It is a big book but easy to read, and it brings to life parts of American culture that I am sure are alien (midwest poverty during the Depression and WWII, old Hollywood, 60s radicalism from a governor’s perspective, and fighting communism as a president) to this man’s daughter. It also could introduce her to autobiographies (which are my favorite type of history book).

    “Slouching Towards Gomorrah” by Bork has some great commentary on the 60s. IMHO it is the most underrated political book out there.

  • Sam

    Typo, Reagan’s autobio is “An American Life” not “My American Life”.

  • Hannah

    “Animal Farm” is a good social commentary, easy(ish) to read, from relatively the right time frame and, I believe, deals more with the problems of gaining power than then problems of socialism.

    “Atlas Shrugged” is a book that keeps you slugging through for the sheer hope that there’s hope at the end. Skipping the repetitive didactic parts is recommended.

    And a good solid auto/biography is an excellent choice. I would pick something about Jonathan Edwards, one of the most brilliant thinkers of early American life, president of Princeton University, prolific writer, and had some of the most liberal views regarding women for his time.

  • Brad Thompson

    There is to be a new edition of ‘Last Train Over Rostove Bridge’ which a lot of additional material that has since come to light. It will be published in the UK by Thin Red Line (Ashgrove Publishing) in January 2011.

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