Here is my list of the most important works produced in the last half century or so that every conservative should read. The list includes books written by conservatives as well as book that discuss themes that are important to conservatism. Some writers who would not call themselves conservatives, including Margaret Mead and George Orwell, are on the list.
I should caution that this is not a comprehensive catalog; it is necessarily biased toward books that I have found persuasive and profound. Finally, I have kept the list brief, because life is short.
Patrick Buchanan, Right from the Beginning
A pugnacious and absorbing account of how the author came of age as a conservative.
Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom
This hugely influential book shows the similarities between Communism and fascism and makes one of the first and best defenses of libertarian individualism.
Paul Hollander, Political Pilgrims
A devastating account of the gullibility and outright stupidity of prominent liberal intellectuals who made pilgrimages to Stalin’s Russia, Mao’s China , and Castro’s Cuba.
Harry Jaffa, The Crisis of the Houses Divided
Through an examination of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, this book offers deep and subtle reflections on the exercise of political statesmanship.
Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot
A broad survey of the intellectual breadth of conservative thought, with a special emphasis on Edmund Burke.
Irving Kristol, Neoconservatism: The Autobiography of an Idea
Learned and incisive essays by a former liberal who was “mugged by reality” and moved right.
Peter Laslett, The World We Have Lost
This study of England before the Industrial Revolution shows the virtues, and the limitations, of the world that was transformed by technological capitalism.
Margaret Mead, Male and Female
A comprehensive and politically incorrect survey of sex differences and their social consequences.
George Nash, The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945
A useful historical account of how American conservatism went from obscure philosophizing to a mainstream political movement.
Peggy Noonan, What I Saw at the Revolution
A wonderfully revealing book that tells the reader a lot about Reagan, and a lot about Peggy.
Michael Oakeshott, Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays
The limits of social engineering and of rational blueprints for society, advanced elegantly and reasonably by the English philosopher and essayist.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago
A devastating indictment of Soviet Communism, and a story of one man’s spiritual triumph over the gulag.
Shelby Steele, The Content of Our Character
A revealing look at the psychological underpinning of affirmative action and other race-based policies.
Leo Strauss, Natural Right and History
One of conservatism’s most important philosophers makers an eloquent defense of natural right against the twin currents of relativism and historicism.
Eric Voegelin, The New Science of Politics
A learned, sometimes cryptic, account of liberalism as the modern version of an old Christian heresy.
Richard Weaver, Ideas Have Consequences
The Southern Agrarian diagnosis of the ailment of Western civilization—the decline of belief in an abiding moral order.