The Books in My Life

There’s a wave of “tagging” washing through the blogosphere: the idea is to stimulate discussion of books by “tagging” someone you know to reveal what books they’ve read recently, how many books they own, the five top books that went into forming their views, etc. Butler Shaffer of has tagged me, and Butler being a nice guy and all, I am obliged to respond. So here goes:

Total number of books owned: Around 1,000 are in my tiny apartment — that’s a very rough estimate — which means I am surrounded by books on almost every side.

Last book I bought: Dreaming to Some Purpose, by Colin Wilson. This is the autobiography of one of the most prolific, and fascinating, writers around. I’ll say no more since I’m working on a review, except that I read the British edition: the American edition is due out on July 26.

Last book I read: The New American Militarism: How Americans are Seduced by War, by Andrew J. Bacevich. (Yes, I’m working on a piece about this one, too, but I’ll just say here that it deserves to be a best-seller.)

Top Five Books:

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand — Without having read this book I would never have survived beyond the age of 17. I would say this about her other works, too, including Atlas Shrugged and We, the Living, because they reinforced my complete identification with Rand’s sense-of-life (albeit not with all aspects of her philosophy, which she called “Objectivism,” and I call libertarianism).

The Outsider, by Colin Wilson — I have chosen Wilson’s first book because it is the best known, but I have to say that his subsequent works (an amazing 100 books, by my count) had even more of an impact on my own thinking, including especially New Pathways in Psychology: Maslow and the Post-Freudian Revolution, The Strength to Dream, The Age of Defeat.

The Peoples Pottage, by Garet Garrett — This book (the recently re-published edition, put out by Caxton Press, is titled Ex America) includes three essays, two of which were written during the New Deal era, that gives the Old Right’s history of that time, from the rise of Roosevelt to what Garrett calls, in the title of the last essay, the “Rise of Empire,” meaning the American Empire. Lyrical, embittered, imaginative, and ultimately forgotten, Garrett was the emblematic figure of the Old Right in America. His book on American history, The American Story, is a forgotten gem. When I first started writing about Garrett, in my Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, my goal was to see as many of his books back in print as possible (back then, they were all out of print). Today, I am glad to say, he is becoming known again, and not only Ex America but also two collections of his essays — Salvos Against the New Deal and Defend America First: The Antiwar Editorials of the Saturday Evening Post, 1939-1942 — are in print and informing a new generation of conservatives and libertarians.

An Austrian Perspective on the History of Economic Thought, by Murray N. Rothbard — This is the great Unfinished Symphony of economics, which Rothbard — my dear friend and mentor — died before he could complete. It is about … everything: or, at least, much more than just economics. But then economics cannot exist without reference to other fields, including religion, ethics, politics, foreign policy, customs, mores, and the entire woof and warp of life itself (which is one of the main themes of this two-volume work). In addition, I have been profoundly influenced by all his written works: go here for a complete list. And be sure to check out The Irrepressible Rothbard, a collection of his essays that captures the spirit of the man.

I also have to mention Thomas E. Mahl’s Desperate Deception: British Covert Operations in the United States, 1939-44, a short but highly informative and even shocking account of how the Brits finagled and schemed to drag us into World War II using any number of “dirty tricks” while spending an enormous amount of energy, effort, and money. It really brought home to me how a foreign country can influence American policy overseas, often decisively, and the power of foreign lobbies in the U.S.

UPDATE: Oh, yeah: I almost forgot. So now I have to “tag” five others. Hmmmm…. Let’s see: how about the other bloggers on this website? Yeah, that’s the ticket! Ok, c’mon you guys, let’s get with the Program….