Good right-wing reading material

I need some suggestions to keep me understanding of Conservatives’ viewpoints. I want something that is well argued, and has basis in observation, preferably supported with statistical information. Topics ranging from welfare to warfare. I find myself in danger of viewing the Right as horribly out of touch with most people’s reality, and want to keep a balance of perspective. Thanks

I for one would like to request this thread not be sidetracked into a liberal vs. conservative fight. I would be interested to see what both sides see as well-supported conservative books.

The only one I’ve read is “The Ten Things You Can’t Say in America” by Larry Elder. He’s a libertarian with a radio show. Try to track down the paperback edition, it has an extra chapter.
The book talks about several things, racial issues, women and the glass ceiling, gun control, welfware, and other stuff I can’t remember.

P. J. O’ Rourke is generally pretty good.
I recall “Eat the rich” as being espicially enjoyable.

He’s pretty damn funny as well which helps.

I won’t turn this into a right-vs-left argument, but given that the vast majority of people in America, including most Democratic party members, are much more conservative than any nation in Europe, I don’t see that conservatives are out of touch with the American people…more of a case of Americans being different in philosophy from most Europeans. Most people in America who would call themselves moderate would be considered right wing in Europe.
It seems more as if the truly liberal people in America are out of touch with America. As for a book…hmmm. I am not given to read much political argument, preferring straight history, but perhaps some William Bennett?

Any of William F. Buckley’s non-fiction works would be good. David Horowitz has written an autobiographical work Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey which is very interesting, as well as his columns (and those of several others) at

Thomas Sowell has written lots of interesting stuff about education and about race from a neo-conservative viewpoint. Dinesh DiSouza has written a massive work called Illiberal Education and another called Letters to a Young Conservative, or try Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Freedman.

I suspect it may be impossible to mention his name without getting this thread thrown instantly to Great Debates or the Pit, but Rush Limbaugh is extremely popular among conservatives. If you want to know what some commonly found attitudes among conservatives sound like, read some of his books. A great deal has been said about him, some of it true, some of it not. I would recommend listening to what he said, not what his enemies said he said. If you would like to know what the enemies of conservatives say, read Slander by Ann Coulter.

If you can’t handle that, try The Road to Serfdom, by F.A. Hayek on socialism.

There is a lot out there.


I’m not on the same side ofthe political fence as O’Rouke, but I thoroughly enjoy his books. They are immensely readable (perhaps with the sole exception of the Bachelor Home Companion, which was a bit silly).

If you want to read some good conservative columnists, I suggest Charles Krauthammer from the Washington Post and William Safire (the one at the bottom, after all the liberals).

I forgot to add that Safire is from the New York Times.

The National Review Online ( has some reasonably well-written articles, IMHO, and they get bonus points for a slogan that you can emblazon on merchandise purchased through the site: “Making Al Gore Regret Inventing the Internet”

A great many self-described conservatives whom I know at other boards seem to think that Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” sum up their whole life philosophies. They also think “Unintended Consequences” by John Ross is a rip-roaring good read.

I second virtually anything by P.J. O’Rourke and William F. Buckley.

On strict constructionism and the courts:
The Tempting of America by Robert Bork, for explication on original intent theory.
A Matter of Interpretation by Antonin Scalia, for explication on textualism.

I would also recommend Bork’s 1978 book The Antitrust Paradox: A Policy at War With Itself. It’s interesting because Bork’s more recent position in the Microsoft case amounts to something of a repudiation of the ground he stakes out in that seminal book.

I would not recommend Bork’s Slouching Towards Gommorah or other recent works – it’s basically a book-length Pit rant. A well-written Pit rant to be sure, but still just a rant.

If you can find a copy in print (good luck), I highly recommend Lino Graglia’s 1976 book* Disaster by Decree: The Supreme Court Decisions on Race and the Schools*. It’s basically a then-contemporary history of the busing decisions that turns out to have been remarkably accurate – no one agrees those decisions were good ones anymore. As such, it’s a good case study on the role of the courts in shaping society. It was also written by one of my law school professors – easily the crankiest, most conservative, and most controversial teacher on the faculty – whose classes I adored, so I’m a bit biased.

Friedrich Hayek’s Road to Serfdom belongs on any must-read list.

Russell Kirk edits the Portable Conservative Reader, which is an anthology of conservative thought going back to Edmund Burke. Good reading if you’re interested in the evolution of conservatism over time.

Stephan and Abigail Thernstrom’s America In Black and White is a seminal work on race relations in America.

John Lott’s much-criticized More Guns, Less Crime has become so central to keep-and-bear-arms debates that it qualifies as a must-read.

Not a “conservative” book, but a good one nonetheless is Robert Ellickson’s Order Without Law, a case study on how California cattle ranchers settle disputes – showing that informal methods of dispute settlement are often at odds with what “the law” says the result should be. Interesting as a demonstration of the limits of public policy to effectuate change.

I’m sure I could think of more, but that’s a good start.

I think it a good policy to stay away from anything written by anybody whose primary job is a TV/radio pundit. There is a wellspring of nuanced thought in conservatism that isn’t exactly well-represented by the Limbaughs and Hannitys of the world.

Nitpick – while I think many conservates do find Rand’s work praiseworthy, those who think it “sums up their whole life philosophies” are probably best described as libertarians.

Oh, almost forgot – anything by Milton Friedman, especially Capitalism and Freedom and Free to Choose.

Yeah, I’ll third PJ. He’s intelligent and funny. It’s a good combination. And he’s a reformed leftist hippy so he approaches it from that perspective.

Magazines: On the scary fringe is Pat Buchanan’s American Conservatism. It’s a new magazine for the paleo-conservative bunch. I interviewed with them to run the whole shebang. Man, were they scary.

After noodling around a bit on Amazon, I came across this booklist on conservatism’s history that seems pretty good to my eye. It’s logically organized and well-structured by conservatism’s subgroups, so you might want to take a gander.

Jonathan: do tell, man! Dish the dirt!

I also suggest P. J. O’Rourke, particularly All The Trouble In The World. While I don’t agree with everything O’Rourke says, he visits other countries and actually bothers to investigate some of the things he writes about. And he is quite funny. Florence King is also a good writer with a somewhat conservative viewpoint–I’d recommend her book When Sisterhood Was In Flower.

Robert Nozick’s *Anarchy, state, utopia * (1974) is well-known in political philosophy for arguing forcefully for a standpoint close to libertarianism. Note: Nozick himselves apparently has years later retracted the views advocated therein. The book, however, is still used as a lucid and rhetorically strong expose on that standpoint.

Another enthusiastic vote for P.J. O’Rourke. He’s indispensable. I especially recommend “Parliament of Whores”.

And another vote for National Review Online. Jonah Goldberg is clearly trying to follow in P.J.'s footsteps…