163 of 183 people found the following review helpful
Jordan M. Poss
- Published on Amazon.com
Let me start off by saying I'm in favor of anything that encourages people to read more C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. If J.R.R. Tolkien, Shakespeare, and Jane Austen can benefit, too, then so much the better. 10 Books Every Conservative Must Read, as its author states at the beginning, is not a definitive list of conservative books or THE books conservatives should read, but it is a very good list.
The ten books are:
Orthodoxy, by G.K. Chesterton
The New Science of Politics, by Eric Voegelin
The Abolition of Man, by C.S. Lewis
Reflections on the Revolution in France, by Edmund Burke
Democracy in America, by Alexis de Tocqueville
The Federalist Papers
The Servile State, by Hilaire Belloc
The Road to Serfdom, by F.A. Hayek
And the four not to be missed (and one impostor) are:
The Tempest, by William Shakespeare
Sense and Sensibility, by Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Jerusalem Bible
Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand
The thing that struck me most is the internal consistency of Wiker's selections. All of these books highlight some facet of the central conservative beliefs that 1) human beings are flawed and 2) all government should be structured accordingly. Wiker finds support for this thesis in Aristotle, who goes on to describe both good and bad kinds of government; in Lewis, who also writes about the wishy-washyness of the modern intelligentsia; in Belloc and Hayek, who describe the terrible consequences of assuming human perfectibility; in Shakespeare, whose Tempest is an illustration of Aristotle's different kinds of government and the tendencies of each toward either good or evil; in Austen, who affirms tradition and dramatizes the follow-your-heart tendencies of the left--and their inevitably catastrophic results; and in Tolkien, at the heart of whose story lies a local populace fighting for self-government over tyranny.
If there's a weak section of Wiker's book, it's in the chapters on the Federalist Papers and the writings of the Anti-Federalists. Despite a thorough reading and checking back repeatedly, I'm still unsure of what he was trying to argue. It seemed that, especially in the section on the Federalist, he spent more time contextualizing the centralizing tendencies of the Federalists than explaining what is distinctly conservative about their positions.
I think, for me, the best section of the book was that dethroning Ayn Rand as a conservative heroine. I've always found Rand creepy and not-quite-conservative, but could never entirely explain why. Wiker carefully takes apart Rand's personal beliefs--which she repeatedly asserted could not be separated from her philosophy and politics--and shows that, far from being a conservative or libertarian, she essentially aimed at an immoral oligarchy of Nietzschean supermen. Might made right, an un-conservative position if there ever was one. (Rand was also psychologically disturbed and indulged in rather icky relationships with her strapping young disciples.)
Overall, Wiker's book was not an earth-shattering read for me--I had already read many of these books--but it was worth reading to see ideas connecting great modern writers with the ancient past, and, in the case of those books I haven't read, to look forward to more reading in the future.