Books that Impact your thinking

John Hawkins over at Right Wing News has posted an interesting survey: Right-Of-Center Bloggers Select The Books That Have Had The Biggest Impact On Their Thinking. I participated and thought I would share with you the books I selected. I sent John the following, admittedly without a great deal of thought and not in any particualr order:


The Bible
Not particularly surprising choice as this is likely the most influential “book” in history. Besides the impact of its religous message, it has impacted the world’s view of history, literature, language, ethics, and more. It is certainly the most influential book in my life, impacting the way I think, act, and view the world.

Prospects for Conservatives and Enemies of the Permanent Things by Russell Kirk
Kirk has had a profound influence on my thinking and these two lesser know works are great places to start if you want to dig into Kirk. They eloquently and insightfully lay out the foundational principles behind a traditionalist conservatism. Kirk deals with the basic ideas of freedom, order, and justice to outline what a just society would look like and how conservatives can further that cause. More people should read Kirk, instead of just dropping his name. Kirk’s most popular, and most influential, work The Conservative Mind made John’s list.

Ideas Have Consequences by Richard Weaver.
This is another great, and short, introduction to traditionalist conservatism. Weaver unpacks the underlying symptoms of our civizational decay and suggests a return to the powerful ideas that sustain a just and well ordered society. Again, an oft sited but rarely read work.

Up From Liberalism by William F. Buckley, Jr.
WFB was a big influence on my thinking as well and this classic is still worth reading – witty, thought provoking, and challenging.

The Vision of the Anointed:… by Thomas Sowell
This book should be required reading for anyone interested in politics or policy making. Sowell uses his razor sharp mind to disect exactly how the left distorts polictics and policy. His formulation is brilliant: first liberals create a fictious problem, then they create a “solution” that will be worse than the “problem,” then when the inevitable failout happens they claim government didn’t try hard enough or spend enough money. As I said, a brilliant and deadly accurate description of the rhetoric the left uses to foward its agenda.

Around the Cragged Hill by George F. Kennan
Kennan’s thought and writing has had big influence on my thinking, despite the fact that he is not really associated with conservatism. This is still a wise and thought provoking book that attempts to wrestle with many of the problems we are confronted with today.

Strategies of Containmentby John Lewis Gaddis
Whether you agree with Gaddis or not this is a briliant book. It changed the way I thought about foreign policy and played a big part in my decision to go to graduate school and study containment.

American Visions of Europe : Franklin D…. by John L Harper
This too was a book that had a big impact on my graduate studies and consequently my views on foreign policy. A fascinating look at some important thinkers and policy makers and how their “visions of Europe” impacted their thinking and policy prescriptions during the Cold War.

Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien
I added this series because it really stoked my love of reading and started my fascination with imaginative fiction. It is a series I have read dozens of times and it still never fails to delight.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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