During this time of pandemic, many of us “non-essential” workers find ourselves confined to home. Suddenly, I have time to tackle all of the items on my home “to do” list; my house has never been this clean and organized. Don’t judge me, but I have even alphabetized my spice rack. For those of you who are running out of ways to pass the extra time, I present a curated list of reading material from my colleagues at Independence Institute; today is World Book Day after all. If you are looking for light, happy reading, this list might not be for you. If you are looking for political, pandemic and/or disaster-related reading, then we have you covered.
My recommendation is Doomsday Book by Connie Willis. I read this book about two years ago and loved it so much that I read nearly every book written by the author. I was pleasantly surprised to learn Connie Willis lives in Greeley. Doomsday Book is about a time traveler who ends up in England in 1348, during the black death. And if you love time travel books, like I do, there is also the classic by H.G. Wells, The Time Machine.
DENNIS POLHILL, Senior Fellow, was the first to respond to my request for staff book recommendations so he gets top billing here. He recommends The Law by Frédéric Bastiat but warns that it requires frequent stops to think/absorb the content. Fortunately, with our imposed quarantine, most of us currently have that extra time.
JOSHUA SHARF, Senior Fellow, is an overachiever and sent multiple recommendations with uplifting titles such as In the Wake of the Plague by Norman Cantor. However, in all honesty, I did set the tone with Doomsday Book. Joshua also recommends:
- A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe
- The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History by John Barry which Joshua notes he has not yet read but it comes highly recommended
- The Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney. Joshua notes the book comes complete with a bonus description of worries in Rio that the flu wasn’t real, and that the government would use it to take away people’s rights.
ROB NATELSON, our resident Constitutional Jurisprudence expert, recommends Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century.
DAVE KOPEL, Research Director and Second Amendment Project Director recommends Frank Dikötter’s award-winning trilogy on Mao’s reign in China. It starts with the Chinese revolution (The Tragedy of Liberation: A History of the Chinese Revolution, 1945-1957), then moves on to the Great Leap forward (Mao’s Great Famine: The History of China’s Most Devastating Catastrophe, 1958-1962), and just when you think things can’t get worse for the Chinese people, along comes Mao’s Cultural Revolution (The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976).
Dave also recommends the British history books of G.M. Trevelyan.
SHAYNE MADSEN, Director of our Political Law Center, recommends The Secret Diary of Hendrix Groen, 83 1/4 Years Old by Hendrix Groen. She describes the main character as “A modern-day resident of a Dutch old age home who forms the ‘ain’t dead yet’ group of pranksters and philosophers.”
JOSH WILLIAMS, Donor Relations Manager, recommends The Transall Saga by Gary Paulsen for younger readers (youth to teen). If you know a teenager who actually reads (I hear they do exist), please feel free to pass along this suggestion.
RANDAL O’TOOLE, Transportation Policy Center Director, is a fan of Amity Shlaes. He recommends The Forgotten Man, which tells the story of why the New Deal didn’t work and Great Society which highlights the misguided and ineffective policies of the 1960s.
SCOTT WEISER, CompleteColorado.com Investigative Reporter, recommends Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies by M. Stanton Evans. Scott notes this is the definitive work on Senator Joe McCarthy and the infiltration of communists in the U.S. government. It is filled with things few people know about the era and what really happened.
The grand prize for over-achievement goes to LINDA GORMAN, Health Care Policy Center Director. Her numerous recommendations will keep you reading until the next pandemic hits. In Linda’s words:
- If one must read a plague book, I recommend William H. McNeill Plagues and Peoples. Truly original for its time. Plus, gives a good dose of history.
- For political reading: Parliament of Whores by P.J. O’Rourke, especially if you are too young to have caught it the first time around. Good if you pay too much attention to government or political news and need an educational humor break. Call it an overview of public choice economics and it can also be a twofer of humor and serious political study.
- Anything by Jane Austen, but especially the big three—Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, and Sense and Sensibility. I liked the Emma movie better than the book. Austen’s snarky humor in Pride and Prejudice is not to be missed.
- If you like low-action spy stories, try the Liz Carlyle series by Stella Rimington, former director of MI5.
- The Faye Kellerman Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus series for a set of police/detective novels. Or Michael Connelly’s books. Some of them are too gory for me, which requires skipping pages, but the books are good. Especially liked the Lincoln Lawyer ones. Also J. A. Jance books, especially the Arizona ones as Seattle is darker and wetter. If I want dark, I’ll read the COVID literature. If I want wet, I can read the news stories about it.
- In the Jack Ryan/Mitch Rapp thriller vein, the Stephen Coonts Jake Grafton/Tommy Carmellini series, the Wade Larsen David Slaton series and the David Balducci John Puller series, especially The Escape. Also not to be missed is the Daniel Silva Gabriel Allon series, high quality throughout.
- And if you missed them, the Heinlein books (NOT Stranger in a Strange Land). A surprising number of boomer free-market movement people will say Heinlein was important to their intellectual formation. Some suggestions: Double Star, Glory Road, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers.
- For mindless entertainment in which the hero is always saved in the nick of time, can use chewing gum and paper clips to save the world and delivers peak performance with injuries that would put anyone else in the trauma unit, there’s always Clive Cussler’s Oregon series. In these times who wouldn’t like to cruise around on a disguised freighter armed to the teeth with the latest weaponry along with luxury quarters, fine food, and a dedicated physician with the equivalent of an ER on board?
- For the more literate, there are always Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple novels and P.J. Wodehouse’s Jeeves novels.
- For mindless entertainment in the form of seriously funny chick lit wrapped in a detective story with New Jersey attitude, exploding cars and a choice of heroes, try Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series.
Last but not least, our president, JON CALDARA weighed in with his favorites. He recommends The Three Languages of Politics: Talking Across the Political Divides by Arnold Kling, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankel, and Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlet.
That wraps up our staff book recommendations, we hope you enjoy reading them! I will update this post with additional recommendations if they come in.