In case you have a lot of time on your hands and you are up for some serious reading, a number of blogs have posted reading lists. These blogs tend to have an academic tilt and so the books are often far from light reading (no Ann Coulter here). But since I know my readers are intelligent I will link to them.
Josh Chafetz, over at OxBlog, started it all of with his massive list of the classics of political philosophy. He sums it all up this way:
Wow, that was long! Sorry. These are, I think, books to live with (with the exception of some of the post-World War II stuff, which may or may not turn out to be worth living with). They are, in my opinion, the greatest examples of political thought we have. They disagree with each other; they contradict each other; and they certainly won’t tell you who’s right in the stem cell debate. But they’ll teach you how to think; they’ll give you new prisms through which to view events; they’ll help you analyze everything from more angles. They’re amazing works, and they’re worth getting to before you die.
Matthew Yglesias (Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist) has an interesting, if rambling, discussion of political philosophy and its literature. It includes this interesting paragraph:
Once you’re done with all this, Richard Rorty’s Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity will tell you it was all pointless, and you should go read novels if you want to become a better person. This is true, insofar as by “better person” you mean kinder, but assuming you want to not only mean well, but also do well, you’re going to need to read a lot of boring, non-philosophical, empirical literature. If you ask me, there is actually only one big question in political theory: Is there a God? I tend to think not, but you won’t find the question properly addressed in books of political philosophy. Besides that, the issues are all really empirical. Even the alleged theoretical issue of what we’re supposed to do about the whole God question given the fact that we disagree is really mostly an empirical one about how any given person can best go about brainwashing everyone into holding the correct opinion on this question without anyone noticing.
These guys are out of my league ( I have a degree from a lowly MAC school) but I will try to add my list of key conservative works soon.