Those bright-colored posters your elementary school’s librarians used to adorn the hallways with—of the “Reading is Knowledge” and “A Book Can Change Your Life” variety—were as demonstrably accurate as they were unequivocally cheesy. Reading is truly a game-changer. Cultivating a passion for learning and knowledge via reading, especially post-college, is one of the most important decisions you can make as an adult. To sustain good reading habits, you have to want to learn. You have to desire to move past the status of a well-intentioned leech on our political system, our economy and, most important of all, our culture. Don’t get me wrong: I love sports. I love seeing movies. I don’t want to give the impression that my solution to the state of things in the country is that everyone has their nose in a book at all times. Build relationships with loved ones. Volunteer in your community. But also read. Find things that interest and inspire you. Read something about world history and then pick up a classic novel you’ve always wanted to tackle and never have. Ask a friend to read the same book and go through it together. Heck, tweet me at @rjmoeller and I’ll read with you. Just you go and try me! Alright, enough preaching. Here are five books that have had a serious impact on my thinking and worldview in recent years that I earnestly believe will have an impact on anyone who reads them. So instead of a tie he’ll never wear, or another shirt that will end up at Goodwill, go for “hearts and minds” this Christmas season. 1) “Money, Greed and God: Why Capitalism is the Solution and not the Problem“ by Jay Richards Jay Richards presents a new approach to capitalism, revealing how it’s fully consistent with Jesus’s teachings and the Christian tradition—and our best bet for renewed economic vigor. Money, Greed, and God exposes eight myths about capitalism—including the notion that capitalism is based on greed—and demonstrates that a good Christian can be a good capitalist. I have nothing to add to this summary other than to say that if you have someone in your life—or you are the person I’m about to describe—who doesn’t “get” how Christians who claim to love God and his word can also support free enterprise, this is the most thorough, accessible and relevant book on the subject in the last 10 years. 2) “The Naked Constitution” by Adam J. Freedman
From law school classrooms to the halls of Congress, America’s elites have come to regard the Constitution as a mere decorative parchment to be kept under glass at the National Archives. In The Naked Constitution, conservative legal scholar Adam Freedman defends the controversial doctrine of originalism as the only way to restore the Founding Fathers’ vision of American liberty. Freedman argues that the fashionable “Living Constitution” theory has been used by judges and politicians since the Progressive Era of the early 1900s to centralize power in Washington and to threaten individual freedom.As you can see from the description above, if you want to know more about the Constitution and not be bored to tears with some pompously academic book (disingenuously masquerading as something for public consumption), buy a copy of Mr. Freedman’s excellent tome. 3) “The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas” by Jonah Goldberg Today, “objective” journalists, academics and “moderate” politicians peddle some of the most radical arguments by hiding them in homespun aphorisms. Barack Obama casts himself as a disciple of reason and sticks to one refrain above all others: he’s a pragmatist, opposed to the ideology and dogma of the right, solely concerned with “what works…” With humor and passion, Goldberg dismantles these and many other Trojan Horses that liberals use to cheat in the war of ideas. He shows that the grand Progressive tradition of denying an ideological agenda while pursuing it vigorously under the false-flag of reasonableness is alive and well. And he reveals how this dangerous game may lead us further down the path of self-destruction.” I think Jonah’s book here is brilliant and funny in all the right ways. Words matter, and people build entire worldviews based upon clichés that enough people have repeated in our society. He walks you through you some of the most common and important examples of these things, and sends you out in the world armed with thoughtful, in-depth rebuttals to them. 4) “After America: Get Ready For Armageddon” by Mark Steyn Says Steyn: “Nothing is certain but debt and taxes. And then more debt. If the government of the United States had to use GAAP (“The Generally Accepted Accounting Practices” that your company and the publisher of this book have to use), Uncle Sam would be under an SEC investigation and his nephews and nieces would have taken away the keys and cut up his credit card.” Slim as it is, however, Steyn argues there is still hope. “Americans face a choice: you can rediscover the animating principles of the American idea—of limited government, a self-reliant citizenry, and the opportunities to exploit your talents to the fullest—or you can join most of the rest of the western world in terminal decline. This is a battle for the American idea, and it’s an epic one, but you can do anything you want to do. So do it.” I love Mark Steyn’s writing more than any other living author today. Buy this book. Ask for this book. Read this book. That is all. 5) “The Road to Freedom: How to Win the Fight For Free Enterprise” by Arthur Brooks Entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, and upward mobility: These traditions are at the heart of the free enterprise system, and have long been central to America’s exceptional culture. In recent years, however, policymakers have dramatically weakened these traditions–by exploding the size of government, propping up their corporate cronies, and trying to reorient our system from rewarding merit to redistributing wealth. In “The Road to Freedom,” American Enterprise Institute President Arthur C. Brooks shows that this trend cannot be reversed through materialistic appeals about the economic efficiency of capitalism. Rather, free enterprise requires a moral defense rooted in the ideals of earned success, equality of opportunity, charity, and basic fairness. Brooks builds this defense and demonstrates how it is central to understanding the major policy issues facing America today. It’s Dr. Brooks. It’s economic freedom. It’s must-read stuff. Happy reading!