Top 10: A conservative’s summer reading list

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As Bay Staters escape from the realities of all things Trump and transgender this weekend to the refuge of beaches and barbecues this summer, here is a list of must-reading for proper conservatives. In anticipation of the upcoming political conventions, these selections are exceptional primers for those camp fire conversations, after the baseball, hot dogs and apple pie. Extra credit for those reading hard copy editions.

1. George F. Will: The Pursuit of Happiness and Other Sobering Thoughts. Before Ronald Reagan was elected president, the ascendancy of conservativism in the 80s could not have occurred were it not for intellectuals like Will, who helped lay its foundation. These columns (1974-1978), are a marvel of style, substance, wit and personality. Where else can you find pieces on Led Zeppelin and Solzhenitsyn in the same volume? You will understand why Will won the Pulitzer for commentary in 1977.

2. William F. Buckley: Nearer My God. Even before he founded National Review in 1955, Buckley understood what it was like to be a minority: he was a conservative and a catholic. In a sense, he was an ecumenical public figure in conservative political circles. But as an essay in evangelism, written when he was 72, however, this is a relentlessly probing personal journey. It concludes with a heartwarming story about his mother, Aloise, upon her death.

3. Margaret Thatcher: The Downing Street Years. Thatcher was critical middle link in the triumvirate of the pope (John Paul II in 1978), (her as prime minister in 1979) and president (Reagan in 1980) to stare down and dismantle much of 20th century totalitarianism. While all three reimagined a freer world, Thatcher had the added burden of remaking Britain. For eleven years, with temerity and tenacity, The Iron Lady held firm despite massive resistance.

4. Richard Brookheiser: The Way of the WASP. In polite company today, the phrase “character trait” is nearly unspeakable; it suggests a certain piercing stigmatization and crushing judgement. Here, the author surmises that six traits — conscience, industry, success, civic-mindedness, usefulness, and anti-sensuality — structured American life, and are what made America and how they can save America too.

5. Mark Steyn: The Undocumented Mark Steyn. An eclectic collection of his writings, the Canadian commentator (who resides in New Hampshire but was born in Britain) pulverizes political correctness. A scathing assessment of multiculturalism — many other progressive playing cards — Steyn’s stinging observation is only slightly less painful because of a devastating fall-down-funny irony, showcased throughout these pages. Highlight: “How Weird How Soon?”

6. Allan Bloom: The Closing of the American Mind. First published in 1987, and a surprising best-seller, this analysis was remarkably prescient. One can understand how higher education’s priorities today have degenerated into infatuations with micro aggressions and safe speech zones as substitutes for critical thinking. Bloom died in 1992; his worst fears have been realized in 2016. Every student should also read this before entering college

7. Tom A. Coburn: The Debt Bomb. What’s a greater threat to national security for the next generation, climate disruption or massive debts? The former Senator from Oklahoma was reelected to the chamber in 2010 but, remarkably, pledged not to seek reelection in 2016. This is compulsory reading for every American who wants a large government that costs nothing. Only austerity will arrest this troubling fact: we are now borrowing $42,222 every second just to keep government running.

8. Peggy Noonan: The Time of Our Lives. Full of grace and, remarkably, full of optimism. As a Wall Street Journal columnist, Noonan’s prose is tinged with a certain poetry, no doubt the literary residue from her days as one of Reagan’s speechwriters. “Miracle on Fulton Street” is gorgeous.

9. Randy E. Barnett: Our Republican Constitution. After seven years of Barack Obama running roughshod over the Constitution (part of the continuing “rise of the Executive-Administrative State”), comes this new gem from a conservative constitutional law professor. Today’s heated political debate may be a result of two very different notions of “We the People.” Barnett believes that Democrats view those three words as a “collective entity,” while Republicans view those words as an aggregate of “individuals.” Barnett calls for a return to a Republican Constitution as a means to restore individual sovereignty.

10. George F. Will: Restoration. A Trump presidency, some suggest, may augur a return to Congressional supremacy. Such supremacy is, Will writes, “a traditional tenet of American conservatism,” and also a “basic constitutional fact.” Written in 1992, he called for term limits for Congress as a means to achieve restoration, and reverse bad behavior by careerist legislators.

Honorable Mention: Laura Ingraham (The Hillary Trap), Ronald Reagan (An American Life), Mark Levin (Liberty and Tyranny), Zev Chafets (Remembering Who We Are), Glenn Beck (Dreamers and Deceivers), Charles Krauthammer (Things That Matter), Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged).

This summer, as progressive flotsam continues littering American minds, put down those steamy, salty paperbacks sold in pharmacies in favor of these thoughtful conservative treasures. What’s on your summer reading list?

James P. Freeman

James P. Freeman

James P. Freeman is a New England-based writer and former columnist with The Cape Cod Times. Read his past columns here.