Books

I put this at the other site, but thought I’d cross-post it here

I’m not going to blog about healthcare today. OK, not much. I’m exhausted on the subject, having rabble-roused on it non-stop, here and elsewhere, for the last couple of weeks. The arguments still apply. I’m just taking a break from all that.

For relief, I thought I’d spin off a post Tyler Cowen put up. He listed the ten books that have most influenced him and encouraged other bloggers to do so. My list, and some explanation is after the break. Ignore if you wish or put up your list of influential books.

I’m doing this gonzo style. I’m not thinking too hard or doing any research. I’m just listing the ten that immediately spring to mind. I’m also looking for influence, not “favorite”. So a few of my favorite books (LOTR, The Mote in God’s Eye, etc.) get left out.

In no particular order:

Free To Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman. I was a always a free market guy. But this book solidified my trust in the free market and explained how and why it works and how it can be applied to modern political problems. Das Kapital has a similar influence, but for opposite reasons. After reading it, I couldn’t believe anyone took it seriously.

Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. Sad to say, I was a very repressed kid growing up. I didn’t have a strict upbringing or anything. I was just shy and unpopular. This book started the long process of breaking me out of that shell (a process that reached its apotheosis with a particularly wild and crazy girlfriend). And no, my libertarian beliefs were formed after I became a more well-adjusted person. When I grow up, I want to be Jubal Harshaw.

The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Nothing can prepare you for the true evil of the Soviet Union that is unveiled in this book. After reading this, I no longer found communists in any way “cute” or “idealistic”. This also formed a lot of my opinion of the Bush “enhanced interrogation” regime since it is very similar to the way the gulag extracted confessions from the zeks. Solzhenitsyn goes into this in great detail. (Tip of the hat to Anne Applebaum’s Gulag, which is also outstanding).

Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I can’t really explain this one. I’ve now read it three times and it speaks to me like almost no other book does.

Watership Down by Richard Adams. A wonderful political allegory completely masked as an amazing piece of fiction. One of the few books to bring tears to my eyes.

The Inferno by Dante Aligheri. This started a long fascination with religion and Christian eschatology in particular. Paradise Lost should get an honorable mention here as should the commentaries is Etz Chayim.

Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. This rekindled my interest in science fiction.

Parliament of Whores by P.J. O’Rourke. This book showed me that stupid politicians and idiot liberals can also be funny. And it was a big part of my turn toward libertarianism. It is also a big part of my realization that while people oppose big government in principle, they love it in the particulars.

The Histories by Herodotus. This kindled a growing interest in ancient history. Combined with Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, I’ve developed a deeper appreciation of how precious civilization is, how easily it can fall and how important it is to defend it.

The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. Much of my insight into economics and sociology comes from this book. The Prisoner’s Dilemma is also good, but in a different way.

Hmm. Somehow I managed to get through that list without a singly Ayn Rand title. How’d that happen?

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