Did you make a New Year’s resolution to read more in 2015?
Heritage Foundation experts put together this list of recommendations that will give you plenty of ideas for which books to tackle first.
Military and National Security
1) “The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown
An uplifting story that celebrates that unique and exceptionally American quality. True grit!
—James Roberts, research fellow for economic freedom and frowth in the Institute for Economic Freedom and Opportunity at The Heritage Foundation
2) “Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War” by Mark Harris
A time when Hollywood went to war and the whole town was actually on our side (instead of just Gary Sinise). The story of how the guys that made the movies we love made movies about the war we won.
—James Carafano, E.W. Richardson fellow and vice president for the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at The Heritage Foundation
3) “Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath” by Michael and Elizabeth Norman
A haunting and moving non-fiction account of the Bataan death march, told through the eyes of an American GI, Ben Steele, who survived. A riveting account of the brutality inflicted on American POWs and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit. This is “Unbroken” on steroids—and you won’t be able to put it down.
—Cully Stimson, manager of the National Security Law Program and senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation
4) “Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies” by Ben Macintyre
This true recounting of World War II’s critical Operation Fortitude—the Allies’overall deception strategy leading up to the Normandy invasion–reads like a grippingly suspenseful spy novel. It is filled with madcap exploits and bizarre adventures involving a very bizarre quintet of double agents including a Peruvian playgirl, a tiny Polish fighter pilot with delusions of grandeur, a mercurial Frenchwoman, a Serbian seducer and a deeply eccentric Spaniard with a diploma in chicken farming. These real characters, known as codenames Bronx, Brutus, Treasure, Tricycle and Garbo, make this meticulously researched story immensely entertaining and a real page turner. Ben Macintyre is an unparalleled storyteller – his other books “Operation Mincemeat” and “A Spy Among Friends” are great too!
—Jessica Kline, assistant director for Legal Programs at the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation
5) “Restraint: A New Foundation for U.S. Grand Strategy” by Barry R. Rosen
A tightly reasoned discussion of American foreign policy that argues U.S. foreign policy would be more effective and less costly by focusing on preventing one power from securing hegemony over the Eurasian landmass and by securing the command of the commons” through naval, air and space power, instead of permanently stationing as many U.S. forces overseas and engaging in conflict in so many peripheral areas.
—David Burton, senior fellow in economic policy at The Heritage Foundation
6) “The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War” by James Bradley
This book talks about America’s role in forming a new power map of Asia after the Sino-Japanese War and the Japan-Russia War. Looking into the present, Asia, China, Russia and Japan are pursuing a new power map of Asia, which again calls for America’s role. James Bradley criticizes Teddy Roosevelt for a wrong judgment Bradley says led to the Pacific War and the Korean War. What would be America’s judgment for today and tomorrow? This book may give us a hint!
—Joong Kyung Choi, senior visiting fellow in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation
7) “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi” by Mitchell Zuckoff
It is the first eyewitness account from the scene in Benghazi and helped blow a lot of holes in the administration’s story about what happened on Sept. 11, 2012, and what those on the ground experienced. It also blows holes in the report by the House Intelligence Committee.
—Helle Dale, senior fellow for public diplomacy in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation
8) “Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis” by Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow
A fascinating case study that analyzes the government’s decision-making process during the Cuban Missile Crisis from different perspectives. Does the government make decisions like a single rational actor, as a collection of bureaucracies or as different leaders with different objectives and interests? For those interested in the national security decision-making (or domestic decision-making for that matter), Essence of Decision is a must-read classic, with interesting history to boot, especially given President Obama’s announcement that he is seeking to normalize relations with Cuba.
—David Inserra, research associate for homeland security and cybersecurity at The Heritage Foundation
9) “President Me: The American That’s in My Head” by Adam Carolla
Admittedly, the idea of Adam Carolla as president sounds like a joke, but just consider the alternatives. Name another candidate saying stuff like this: “You always hear politicians on the campaign trail saying ‘I will fight for you.’ Is that what we want, someone to fight for us? Shouldn’t we want to do our own fighting so that when we get our first house or start our own business, we can have the pride that we did it ourselves?”
—Bryan Riley, Jay Van Andel senior policy analyst in trade policy at The Heritage Foundation
10) “The Political Theory of the Federalist” by David Epstein
The book shows the deep preliminary arguments beneath our Constitution.
—Arthur Milikh, assistant director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation
11) “Leo Strauss and the Problem of Political Philosophy” by Michael and Catherine Zuckert
The authors establish themselves as the best commenters on Strauss and impressive political philosophers in their own right. (Full disclosure: Michael recently served as chair of my dissertation committee.) The book will challenge anyone interested in thinking more deeply about the theologico-political problem, the ancients and moderns, Athens and Jerusalem, virtue and virtù, right and rights—positivism, historicism, nature … and philosophy.
—Ryan T. Anderson, William E. Simon fellow in religion and a free society at The Heritage Foundation
12) “Things That Matter” by Charles Krauthammer
A must-read for thinking conservatives, this is a collection of his best essays over the last three decades. Krauthammer is incisive, insightful and independent. How lucky conservatives are to have a thinker who goes to the heart of an issue every time.
—Lee Edwards, distinguished fellow in conservative thought, B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation
13) “The Constitution of Liberty” by Friedrich von Hayek.
This book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand how massive, well-intended laws such as Obamacare and Dodd-Frank can go so horribly wrong. Society is far more complex than we can grasp, thus we should approach policy reforms with humility. In the words of Hayek, “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”
—Romina Boccia, Grover M. Hermann fellow in federal budgetary affairs at The Heritage Foundation
14) “The Great Debate: Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine and the Birth of Right and Left” by Yuval Levin
One of my favorite books. It is a brilliant treatise on modern political theory that traces the conservative/liberal philosophical divide on such topics as justice and order, natural law and history, reason and the role of tradition. The debates today largely cover the same grounds, and they are colored only by the changing circumstances of our own times. Levin’s book brings the nature of the basic conflicts into sharp relief. At issue is whether public policy is to be driven hard and fast by ideological abstractions or whether change is to be effected through a profound respect for the sentiments, traditions and dispositions of the people. The quality of his scholarship, evidenced in this fine book, is yet another reason why Yuval Levin has emerged as an intellectual leader of the conservative camp.
—Robert Moffit, senior fellow in the Center for Health Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation
15) “Obama’s Enforcer: Eric Holder’s Justice Department” by Hans von Spakovsky and John Fund.
My favorite book this year. It’s a great present!
—Mike Gonzalez, senior fellow in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation
16) “A Race for the Future: How Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans” by Mike Gonzalez.
By an interesting coincidence, this was my favorite book.
—Hans von Spakovsky, manager of the election law reform initiative and senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation
17) “Room” by Emma Donoghue
This book is written from the perspective of a 5-year-old boy who, through a set of strange circumstances, was born while his mother was kidnapped and confined to raising him in a single, tiny room. The unique writing style, simple-but-sweet portrayal of boyhood and very real kinship through struggle between mother and son, contributes to a beautiful and suspenseful, yet heart-wrenching story.
—Olivia Enos, research assistant in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation
18) “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens.
I read it every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas for the lessons it teaches us.
—Paul Larkin, senior legal research fellow in the Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at The Heritage Foundation
19) “Animal Farm” by George Orwell
Although the immediate target—Soviet communism—has passed into the dustbin of history, George Orwell’s political fable is still relevant. The kind of propaganda he brilliantly satirizes—”all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others”; “four legs good, two legs bad”—is still used by a radical left that, while claiming to represent the people, seeks to manipulate them to its own ends.
—Carson Holloway, visiting fellow in American Political Thought at The Heritage Foundation
20) “Galapagos” by Kurt Vonnegut
A novel of a group shipwrecked on Galapagos. As it turns out, the end of the world is nigh—attributable in part to the “big brains” of human beings. Darwinian evolution takes over; the species become aquatic mammals with furry skin and smaller brains. Outlandish as the story may be, serious philosophical issues are at play—not the least of which is whether humanity will self-implode under our own ingenuity.
—Joel Griffith, research associate at The Heritage Foundation
21) “Brave New World” by Aldous Huxley
This dystopian novel, originally published in 1932, sheds much light on modern liberalism. Huxley doesn’t get everything right, but he does understand what makes the bitter pill of statism digestible. As he explains in the preface: “As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator … will do well to encourage that freedom. In conjunction with the freedom to daydream under the influence of dope and movies and the radio, it will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.” Why bother with Orwellian tyranny when soma can do the job?
—David Azerrad, director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for Principles and Politics at The Heritage Foundation
22) “Lafayette” by Harlow Giles Unger
There is a reason so many places in America take their names from the Marquis de Lafayette. There has been no more beloved foreigner, or foreign lover of America. He was a hero of both the American and French Revolutions. But while he was instrumental in securing liberty in America, the American model of constitutional democracy he held up for France ultimately collapsed into the Terror and his own wretched imprisonment. A man of deep commitment to liberty, Lafayette was persecuted by both royalists and radical republicans alike. Unger’s book takes the reader through Lafayette’s remarkable, long life. It is particularly good in its depiction of the loving partnership he had with his wife, Adrienne, a reminder of the many such revolutionary-era husband-wife teams that shaped America.
—Walter Lohman, director of the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation
23) “Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded—August 27, 1883” by Simon Winchester.
Not only a retelling of the explosion of the Indonesian island, but also tying in the development of the global telegraph system (an earlier version of today’s information networks), Dutch colonialism, everyday life in the East Indies and the rise of news organizations.
—Dean Cheng, senior research fellow in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation
24) “The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History” by John M. Barry
This book combines all the thrills of a pandemic zombie apocalypse novel with the fascinating history of medical innovation and modern military practices. Barry manages to keep the reader engaged by moving between the medical details, historical background and character accounts with ease, making the book enjoyable for the expert and layman alike. A great read for anyone with an interest in military and medical history and who enjoys seeing how things relate in the ‘big picture’!
—Irene Dana, special assistant in the chief economist’s office at The Heritage Foundation
25) “Considerations on France” by Joseph de Maistre
There are a number of books I make sure to reread periodically. One of them, which I just finished again and which I highly recommend to any conservative, is de Maistre’s work. Many folks know about Edmund Burke’s “Reflections on the Revolution in France,” which is another great book. De Maistre, however, goes straight for the liberal jugular, explaining how and why the revolution in France was so predictable and so damaging to human good.
—Andrew Kloster, legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation
26) “Aquariums of Pyongyang: Ten Years in the North Korean Gulag” by Kang Chol-Hwan and Pierre Rigoulot
This is a compelling autobiographical story of a North Korean defector’s journey to freedom after spending nine years of his childhood in a North Korean labor camp. You don’t have to be policy minded to grasp the desperate reality of day-to-day life in North Korea. This book is a vivid, yet tasteful, perspective on one of the worst human rights crises in the last 100 years.
—Olivia Enos, research assistant in the Asian Studies Center at The Heritage Foundation
27) “The Pike” by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
It is a biography about the turn-of-the-century controversial Italian poet, writer, soldier and politician Gabriele D’Annunzio. A large part of the book focuses on his role fighting for Italy on the Italian-Austrian front during World War I. He was a staunch nationalist and irredentist who placed little value on human life. It was said that many of D’Annuzio’s beliefs influenced Benito Mussolini. The book is an interesting and sober reminder of how European nationalism brought war and tragedy to the continent twice in one century.
—Luke Coffey, Margaret Thatcher fellow at The Heritage Foundation
28) “Ring of Steel: Germany and Austria-Hungary in World War I—The People’s War” by Alexander Watson
A blockbuster history of the war from the other side, as vast as it is readable. Without minimizing the atrocities committed by the Central Powers, it emphasizes that there is no easy connection between those crimes and Hitler’s far more vast crimes before and during the Second World War. It does not sympathize with the sufferings of the German and Austro-Hungarian peoples, but it does, by making them clear, empathize with them. And by relating the vast mobilization efforts of Germany, in particular, it reveals just how much was at stake in the war. And in spite of the many errors of the Allies and the frequent tactical brilliance of the Germans, it shows just how badly led the autocratic Central Powers ultimately were and so offers a lesson in the comparative, competitive advantage of democracy in war.
—Theodore Bromund, senior research fellow in Anglo-American Relations at The Heritage Foundation
29) “Roughing It” by Mark Twain
Twain’s autobiography of his young-and-foolish years in the nascent American West is amazing. He was like a Forrest Gump of the 1860s: He escapes death, makes and loses fortunes and sees America’s natural wonders more by accident than by design.
—Salim Furth, senior policy analyst in macroeconomics at The Heritage Foundation
30) “The Killer Angels: The Classic Novel of the Civil War” by Michael Shaara
I had an opportunity to visit Gettysburg twice in 2014, once while reading this book and after finishing it. It’s a remarkable story of the key figures involved in one of the most important Civil War battles. And winner of the Pulitzer Prize.
—Rob Bluey, editor in chief, The Daily Signal
31) “The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, and Bliss” by David Bentley Hart
If you know anyone snookered by the new atheism (or really, any atheism for that matter), this is the book. Hart is better read and more intelligent, and writes with greater elegance, than any of the anti-theists. And in this book he shows that all of our human experiences are ultimately founded upon the experience of God.
—Ryan T. Anderson, William E. Simon fellow in Religion and a Free Society at The Heritage Foundation
32) “The Methodology of Economics: Or, How Economists Explain” by Mark Blaug
A highly readable and engaging exploration of the foundations and history of economic thought addressing methodological issues but also the foundations of neoclassical economics such as the theory of the firm, capital theory, consumer behavior, marginal productivity theory, monetary policy and other issues.
—David R. Burton, senior fellow in economic policy at The Heritage Foundation
33) “Sex, Power, and Pericles: Principles of Advanced Public Speaking” by Reid Buckley
The book provides ways in which to improve diction, pacing, volume, gestures and eye contact. In addition, numerous historical speeches are analyzed to understand how ideas can be transmitted from a speaker to an audience. One is left with a greater recognition of the power of the spoken word.
—Joel Griffith, research associate at The Heritage Foundation
34) “Adventures in Group Theory: Rubik’s Cube, Merlin’s Machine, and Other Mathematical Toys” by David Joyner.
Interesting treatment of group theory, a fascinating concept in pure mathematics.
—Kevin Dayaratna, senior statistician and research programmer at The Heritage Foundation