21 Books for 2021 – Misconceptions

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It is the responsibility of every individual engaged in politics to be thoroughly familiar with their own worldview, opposing worldviews, and the workings of the world around them.

Therefore, for those with plans to read more in 2021, this list should be helpful in providing reading material to better understand political philosophy, history, economics, and so on. It is by no means a definitive list. It intentionally excludes books that are likely to be found on nearly every generic reading list, and it also excludes any book listed from the previous year’s list, 20 Books for 2020.

Economics

Economic Science and the Austrian Method by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. To understand economics, and specifically what separates the Austrians from the rest, one must understand methodology. This is a short and excellent defense of the praxeological method against its critics.

Epistemological Problems of Economics by Ludwig von Mises. This is another book (along with Hoppe’s Economic Science mentioned above) that succeeds in defending the Austrian praxeological method of economics against its opponents.

History

Death in a Promised Land by Scott Ellsworth. Ellsworth reviews a tremendous amount of information to tell the (surprisingly) largely unknown story of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921. 

The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History by Tom Woods. The title has certainly aged, and nowadays does not give the book credit. It is a fantastic book on American history (along with its supplement book, 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask) written for the right-wing layman. You will retain far more accurate information from this than from any standard history textbook.

Political Thought

The Defenders of Liberty: Human Nature, Individualism, and Property Rights by Neema Parvini. An absolutely brilliant new book that argues that classical liberal theory must be grounded in a realist view of human nature. It reviews many classical liberal thinkers (including those of the Italian Elite school) and often corrects the conventional wisdom. It is a must read for any classical liberal.

Democracy: The God That Failed by Hans-Hermann Hoppe. A book infamous to many who haven’t bothered to read it, Democracy will make you reconsider how you view the workings of the world, whether or not you agree with the conclusions. It can be difficult to read for some at times, but you will certainly not regret it.

Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays by Murray Rothbard. A fantastic collection of essays by Rothbard, especially the title essay criticizing egalitarianism. In an era where the egalitarian mindset increasingly dominates, and the popular ‘rebuttals’ concede far too much ground, Rothbard provides a much-needed critique from a libertarian perspective.

Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of The New Left by Roger Scruton. For those interested in a tough but charitable criticism of New Left and postmodernist thinkers, this is a must-read.

Freedom and the Law by Bruno Leoni. This is an incredibly undervalued book and an absolute must-read for any defender of liberty. It gets one thinking about what exactly one means by “freedom” and “liberty.” How do they relate to law? If one is to defend these concepts, or even consider them of value, they must understand precisely what these terms represent. Leoni’s book will help you do so.

Fugitive Essays by Frank Chodorov. Described as “the last of the Old Right greats,” Chodorov was a brilliant man. His essays are passionate and unapologetic, and defend the anti-state individualism of his time.

How to Be a Conservative by Roger Scruton. The title of this book can be a bit misleading to non-conservatives. It is written from Scruton’s conservative perspective, but features essays such as “The Truth in Capitalism,” “The Truth in Socialism,” “The Truth in Multiculturalism,” and others with similar titles. It is Scruton’s examination of many worldviews, and what he believes they have correct.

Intellectuals and Society by Thomas Sowell. Sowell has written a tremendous amount on quite a few different topics. Though a larger book, Intellectuals and Society takes many of his ideas and findings and combines them into a single book, applying them to the intellectual class in today’s world.

Liberalism: In the Classical Tradition by Ludwig von Mises. To those interested in classical liberalism, and not the embarrassment that passes for liberalism today, Mises’s book is the perfect manifesto to understanding what classical liberalism was about.

Liberty and Civilization: The Western Heritage, edited by Roger Scruton. This collection of essays by different authors examines and defends the tradition of liberty within Western civilization from different perspectives.

The Present Age: Progress and Anarchy in Modern America by Robert Nisbet. Robert Nisbet is an undervalued thinker. He could out-conservative most conservatives and out-libertarian most libertarians. The book is divided into three sections, all concerning changes to America during the 20th century: The increasing prevalence of war, the increasing power of the leviathan state, and the decline of community.

Reflections on the Failure of Socialism by Max Eastman. This short book contains Eastman’s writings on his thinking as he realized the error of his ways and abandoned his radical socialist views. It is an insightful look into how a former socialist changed his mind while not necessarily changing his foundational perspective.

School of Thought: 101 Great Liberal Thinkers by Eamonn Butler. Some sections could probably be longer, and others could probably be shorter, but this short book provides an excellent brief overview of many thinkers (several of which few have ever heard of but should be familiar with). This book is valuable to discover influential thinkers and act as a stepping-stone into looking further into their work.

Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis by Ludwig von Mises. A larger book, but a thorough one. Mises’s writing allows one (if they don’t wish to read the whole book from start to finish) to easily navigate to a specific criticism of a specific variety of socialism. 

Very Short Introductions

Oxford publishes a book series of “Very Short Introductions” (roughly 100 pages each) on hundreds of topics. Some books are rather partisan, or solely defending the mainstream view, while others are excellently written. Considering how short they are, and how many there are, this series is definitely worth considering when researching any topic.

Aristotle: A Very Short Introduction by Jonathan Barnes. Aristotle is a foundational thinker that everyone should take the time to become familiar with. This introduction is a great starting point for understanding the basics of Aristotle’s thought.

Beauty: A Very Short Introduction by Roger Scruton. A fantastic overview of the concept of beauty (and objectivity in beauty) for the layman in a time that could certainly use more of it.

Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction by Christopher Butler. Since the rise of Jordan Peterson, there has been a rise in interest in figuring out exactly what postmodernism is. Butler takes a complicated topic and largely succeeds in making it reasonably easy to understand in a short introduction.

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Nathan A. Kreider is author of the Misconceptions column for Being Libertarian, and has written for the Austrian Economics Center, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Liberalists. He also occasionally publishes a blog and video content, including short book reviews, which can be found on his website, nkreider.com. He can be contacted by email via [email protected]

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