The Books of Summer

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If you put a lot of marbles in a jar, then ask a thousand passers-by to estimate the number of marbles, the answers will vary tremendously, from ridiculously low to ridiculously high. The extraordinary fact is that if you then average all those thousand answers, the result will be very close to the correct number – usually closer than any single individual answer.

This finding is the basis of James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds,” now out in paperback (Doubleday). Surowiecki looks at some of the implications of the principle and its limitations. (If you had averaged Americans’ responses, four years ago, to the question “How many weapons of mass destruction has Saddam Hussein?”, you would have gotten a wildly inaccurate result, but if you’d asked me, I’d have given you the precisely correct answer.) Almost despite himself, the author’s conclusions are gently free-market. He’s a capable writer and the book is filled with entertaining insights and anecdotes.

What’s the explanation for the extraordinary fact itself? Surowiecki makes some stabs at this, but I feel that the puzzle remains. If there’s an elegant theoretical answer, it may amount to a Copernican revolution in social science.

Are we witnessing a new trend for action-packed thrillers passionately propounding ideological heresies? “The Da Vinci Code” presented a history of 1st-century Christianity even more implausible than the orthodox Christian one – and that takes some doing. A more recent, more accomplished example is Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear” (HarperCollins), which uses a yarn about eco-terrorists to make the case against global warming hysteria.

Who would suppose that you might have fun reading an adventure story in which the characters’ conversation is liberally sprinkled with graphs? They didn’t slow me down, but I suspected others might be discouraged, so I asked around.

People who’ve read the book tell me they enjoyed the arguments about the environment, graphs and all, just as much as they enjoyed the murders and the cyberbabble. “State of Fear” has sold less well than some of Crichton’s earlier tales, but that seems to be due to the predictable hostility of environmentalist bigots. The book has a factual appendix; and since it came out, Crichton has given many presentations challenging environmentalist follies.

Nearly all Crichton’s novels have been made into films, though some of these would have been better if they’d followed the books more closely. This one presents a special problem. In Hollywood’s eyes questioning global warming is morally equivalent to promoting the therapeutic benefits of rape. I guess we must look forward to a movie in which the good guys constantly agonize over the fact that the terrorists are also good guys, albeit wedded to tactless methods.

A book to read at least once every ten years is “Witness,” by Whittaker Chambers (Regnery), which, among other things, testifies to the great writer Chambers was and the greater writer he might have become if he had not gotten himself mixed up with a Communist spy ring. This true story, unfolded with prodigious novelistic skill, becomes all the more enthralling if you also read “Whittaker Chambers: A Biography,” by Sam Tanenhaus (Modern Library, 1998, slightly revised edition of Random House, 1997), which for me was full of little surprises, including the fact that Chambers became completely disillusioned with Joseph McCarthy.

Chambers was a brave man, an intelligent man, and above all a good man, pilloried by the sheeplike intelligentsia and media with their cult of “anti-anti-communism.” This doesn’t mean we ought to swallow his political worldview, which was naively apocalyptic and mystical. Yes, there was a Communist

“Elegy for a Soprano” is about the circle of people who surround great a singer, and what they are willing to put up with to be in the presence of greatness. Smith said it was the closest she would come to writing about Ayn Rand.


conspiracy, and yes, it was a far greater menace to our freedom than “McCarthyism.” However, Chambers enlarged it in his imagination by a factor of 20. I hope it doesn’t sound like a bad joke, but Chambers’ thinking is strikingly un-American. He would have seen eye to eye with Solzhenitsyn.

L.P. Hartley is one of the outstanding novelists of the 20th century (his acknowledged masterpiece is “The Go-Between” [New York Review Books Classics]). He was also a classical liberal, a fact which you would be likely to guess from only one of his books, “Facial Justice” (1960; currently out of print but easily available used online, or in libraries). This is the story of a post-nuclear world ruled by pursuit of “Good E” (equality) and fear of “Bad E” (envy). Envy is caused by the envied, so women are given standardized face transplants. And, just as you would expect, this makes them feel much better. What could possibly go wrong?

David Ramsay Steele is author of “From Marx to Mises,” co-author (with Michael Edelstein) of “Three Minute Therapy,” and a contributor to “The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief “

I recommended plenty of libertarian books in “Libertarianism: A Primer” and “The Libertarian Reader,” so I’ll venture a little further afield here.

Does anyone still read Robert Heinlein? At the founding convention of the Libertarian Part)!, 16°,10 of the delegates called themselves Heinleinian (or so I’ve heard), but I don’t hear his name much these days. “The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress” (Ori- on) is his most explicitly libertarian novel, a rollicking story of a thinking computer, a polygamous marriage (truly polygamous, neither polygynous nor polyandrous), and a revolution of the moon against the earth.

Kay Nolte Smith was an actress and a member of Ayn Rand’s inner circle. Like most of Rand’s associates, she didn’t start writing until she left that world. And then, in the far- too-short time between breaking with Rand and her untimely death, she wrote seven wonderful novels. The first, “The Watcher” (, was the most deeply Randian. In the second, “Catching Fire” (Coward McCann), the intense Randianism is gone; what remains are the Objectivist principles that values are important, and that one’s choices will have consequences. In “Elegy for a Soprano” (PaperJacks) she wrote about the circle of people who surround a great and greatly difficult singer, and what they were willing to put up with to be in the presence of greatness; Smith said it was the closest she would come to writing about Rand. These and her other novels are all terrific reading.

Tom Wolfe is a staunch conservative and a great writer. He writes huge sprawling novels about modem America – about sex and money and real estate and prison and character. Although he has a bit of trouble wrapping up his multiple plotlines, the books are totally engaging. I also recommend his collection of essays “Hooking Up” (Picador), especially “My Three Stooges,” his response to his critics John Updike, Norman Mailer, and John Irving; and “Two Young Men Who Went West,” about the parallels between Congregationalist minister Josiah Grinnell and microchip inventor Robert Noyce.

Fran Lebowitz was the Dorothy Parker of the ’70s. Perhaps she’d be the Dorothy Parker of the ‘OOs if she ever seemed to write anything. For now, we must console ourselves with her essays collected in two thin books (or one fat one) and with collecting her aphorisms – like “In real life, 1 assure you, there is no such thing as algebra,” and “The outdoors is what you must pass through in order to get from your apartment into a taxicab.”

“Fahrenheit 451” (Del Rey), by Ray Bradbury, is a classic novel about censorship, about a society in which firemen burn books and about the people who memorize books in order to save the world’s knowledge. Be sure to buy an edition with Bradbury’S “Coda” – about how, over the years, his publisher had secretly censored this very book in response to various pressure groups.

Read these books, and you’ll have a great summer.

David Boaz is the author of”Libertarianism: A Primer” and editor of “The Libertarian Reader.” He blogs at the Guardian’s “Comment is free” site and at Cato@Liberty.

It’s hard to know how to respond to an invitation to make suggestions for summer reading, since one wants neither to be cliched (e.g., I think you ought to read Thucydides) nor overly idiosyncratic (e.g., I think you ought to read Neil Gaiman’s twelve-volume graphic novel “The Sandman”). One also wants to be somewhat current: if I recommend Neal Stephenson’s “The Baroque Cycle,” I run the risk of ridicule, as this was the hot pick two years ago. (Alan Moore and Da- vid Lloyd’s “V for Vendetta” is well worth your time also, but that’s even less current!)

But since my field is political philosophy, perhaps I won’t get in too much trouble recommending a recent book in political philosophy. “Norms of Liberty” (Penn State University Press), by Douglas Rasmussen and Douglas Den Uyl, is the best philosophical defense of classical-liberal principles available. By best, I not only mean persuasive and reasonable, but also comprehensive, in that the authors respond specifically to a wide variety of prospective criticisms, both from the Left and from the Right. They use a neo-Aristotelian framework, which means that they have a coherent and effective way of combining pluralism with objectivity. They derive a compel- ling justification for a liberty-protecting political and legal order.

“But why,” you ask, “do you think that I, as a reader of this magazine, need a philosophical defense of a principle I already hold?” The question is fair enough. One answer is that if you’re like most readers of this magazine, you’re in a minority among your friends and co-workers, and find yourself need- ing to justify your positions. A good philosophical rationale will go a long way toward cementing your understanding of liberty and its value, and toward enhancing your ability to persuade others. You could use this book as effectively with your lefty-welfarist friends as with your natural-law theocon friends. And what better way to spend your summer than by arguing about political philosophy?

Aeon J. Skoble is Chair of the Philosophy Department at Bridgewater water State College in Massachusetts. He is the author of the forthcoming “Freedom, Authority, and Social Order” (Open Court), and also writes widely on philosophy and popular culture, most recently contributing to “The Philosophy of film Noir” (Kentucky).

This year I’ve been fortunate enough to encounter a number of entertaining and enlightening books. I’ll start with Steven Pinker’s bold and masterly “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature” (Penguin). Pinker, a leading cognitive scientist, surveys the mountain of evidence against the theory that we are born malleable, with our identities (our genders and personalities) formed by our cultural upbring- ing. He urges that the nature versus nurture debate is over, and nature beats nurture all hollow – to the immense distress of feminists and social reformers everywhere. Also masterly – and accessible – is Mark Skousen’s “The Making of Modern Economics: The Lives and Ideas of the Great Thinkers” (M.E. Sharpe). Skousen deftly explains arcane economic concepts and manages to make it all entertaining. He is archly Whiggish: the classical liberals are the good guys, and triumph in the end.

Another fascinating book is Bjorn Lomborg’s “The Skeptical Environmentalist: Measuring the Real State of the World” (Cambridge University Press), a work as controversial as it is comprehensive. Lomborg was a devout member of the High Church of Environmentalism, when he came across the writings of the rogue economist Julian Simon. (Those unfamiliar with Simon’s work might want to read his autobiography, “A Life Against the Grain” [Transaction Publishers], which I reviewed in the Sept. 2004 issue of Liberty). Simon’s research sharply challenged environmentalist dogmas (that the earth is being overpopulated, that the ecosystem is being destroyed, and so forth), and Lomborg set out to refute him. He was eventually forced to admit that Simon was mainly correct. Lomborg provides a wealth of data to buttress his views.

Finally, following the theme of intellectual honesty (a somewhat uncommon quality in the academic worlds I’ve inhabited), there is Jeffrey Meyers’ superb biography, “Orwell: Wintry Conscience of a Generation” (Norton). You might think it odd that a libertarian should admire Orwell, a socialist, but I do: his writings played a key role in discrediting communism, and I admire his genuine journalistic commitment. When he wrote about being down and out, living the homeless life, he wasn’t some callow lefty pup, recently graduated from Columbia J-school and writing from the Olympian heights; he lived on the margins for a couple of years to learn what it was really like. The same holds for his description of the lives of British coal miners; he lived among them too, and his real-life experiences shortened his life considerably. This sort of autobiographically tinged, socially critical writing is rare these days, because contemporary writers’ lives are so often bereft of any interesting life experience.

Gary Jason is a writer, businessman, and philosophy instructor. He lives in San Clemente, Calif.

These recommendations feel very personal to me. I want to introduce you to two books that have touched and affected me profoundly. They are among the handful of books that I reread every few years or sooner. They have enriched my life, and I hope they will enrich yours.

The first is “The Gadfly” by E.L. Voynich (Kessinger Publishing).

Bertrand Russell said of this extraordinarily dramatic, fiery and thoughtful book, “It is still one of the most exciting novels I have read in the English language.” First published in Europe in 1897, where it has sold more than 12 million copies, and translated into more than 30 languages, “The Gadfly” has been described by Harrison Salisbury as “a story of revolutionaries and conspiracies, of an effort to overthrow an established order and to destroy the grip of a powerful State and Church.” It is that, and it is more than that.

At its heart, this novel is a love story, but not of the usual kind. It is the story of the incorruptible love between Arthur, the passionate, courageous revolutionary who is the Gadfly of the title, and the young English girl who is his co-revolutionary. It tells of Arthur’s equally incorruptible love for Italy, his countr~ and of the danger and agony into which that love propels him. It tells of the devotion to his Church of Cardinal Montanelli, Arthur’s mentor, who holds locked within himself the secret of Arthur’s birth. But most of all, this novel is the story of the desperate love and the equally desperate antagonism between two men of heroic stature, the atheist Arthur and the God-intoxicated Cardinal. Love and antagonism reach their climax in the novel’s final chapters, chapters of such power and drama as to be almost unbearably intense.

When I first read this magnificent novel many years ago, I raced through it, half-skipping passages because the excitement of the events led me on to discover what happened next. I then immediately reread it, slowly and carefully; its intellectual drama made, me want to savor every page, .to think about it, to shake my head in wonder at its climax. This is a philosophical novel of the highest order.

“My Name is Asher Lev,” by Chaim Potok (Anchor) is my second remarkable book.

Asher Lev was born with a gift: the gift of experiencing the world in the manner of a painter, through line and color and shape and texture and composition; the gift of finding his spirit’s expression through the medium of paint on canvas. “What color is feeling cold?” the young boy asks his mother. From early childhood, he is a member of the religion called painting.

Asher LeT, the son of devout Hasidic Jews, was born with a curse: the curse of loving the father who sees in the boy’s choice of a painter’s life the abandonment of his sacred heritage, and who turns from his only son; the curse of loving the intense and narrow world of the Hasid, its rituals and beliefs and passionate concerns, a world that turns against him as he follows the path of his gift.

He must learn to be true to himself, the young Asher knows. But which self?

This powerful novel, written with great beauty and subtlety, and exquisite simplicity)T, follow the destiny of the young man torn between art and religion, and we, the readers, follow the growth of a prodigy. But only on one level is it the story of a conflict between art and religion. More profoundly, it is the story of a young man who must make a wrenching choice between two passionate loves.

It is said that a man approached Somerset Maugham and said: “I would give ten thousand pounds not to have read “Of Human Bondage.'” As Maugham bristled angrily, the man added: “So that I could have the pleasure of once again read- ing it for the first time.” I think that is how you will feel when you turn the final pages of these two novels.”

Barbara Branden is the author of “The Passion of Ayn Rand.” She writes occasionally at the “Objectivist Living” site.

Shelby Steele explains the American .neurosis over race better than any other writer I have encountered. “White Guilt” (HarperCollins) is his latest. The book is only 180 pages long, and is presented as thoughts on a road trip up the California coast from Los Angeles to Monterey. He starts with a radio announcer’s comment about Eisenhower, then is off on a thought-voyage about race, moral authority, and guilt.

“White guilt,” he says, “makes the moral authority of whites and the legitimacy of American institutions contingent on proving a negative: that they are not racist. The great power of white guilt comes from the fact that it functions by stigma, like racism itself. Whites and American institutions are stigmatized as racist until they prove otherwise.” If it puzzles you why big corporations and universities are so insistent on preserving racial preferences, read this book. It explains the whole thing.

For all the fans of war history, this year’s selection has to be “Ivan’s War” (Metropolitan Books, 2006). If there was ever an army you’d rather read about than be a member of, it was the Soviet army in World War II. The author, British historian Catherine Merridale, has put together a colorful account, drawing on contemporary statements, diaries, intelligence reports from both sides, and interviews with wrinkled veterans.

There are terrifying stories here, including tales of Russian defenders who retreated into caves and never came out, of Russian villagers who confronted their own army with pitchforks, and of Russian soldiers who turned rapist when they crossed the border into Ger- many.

This is the story of a politically correct Stalinist army that shattered in 1941 and was built back through bloody-mindedness into a killer force in 1944-45. It’s fine history, and it will blast any idea that the Soviets won mainly because of aid from the United States.

For those who savor obscure books, here’s one: “The Pallid Giant” (Fleming H. Revell), a science-fiction novel published in 1927 that is one of the first fictional depictions of a nuclear holocaust. The author, Pierrepont Noyes, was an official of the U.S. occupation of the Rhineland after World War I, and begins his novel at the Paris peace talks of 1919. It quickly turns to weird archaeology, a lost race, and a fantastic tale. It was written before the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction and assumes that any weapon that is effective will be used, if only in fearful preemption. The book was reissued after the dropping of the first atomic bombs, though it is forgotten today – and hard to find.

Those who need a fat book to occupy themselves while crossing the Pacific or fishing where there are no fish might consider “Life and Death in Shanghai” (various editions), Nien Cheng’s story of her imprisonment by Mao’s China during the Cultural Revolution. It is a classic of prison literature, and the best of its genre to come out of China. Don’t start read- ing it when you have only a short time to read, because you’ll be fighting a tendency to curl up with it until you’re done.

Bruce Ramsey is a journalist in Seattle and author, recently, of three collections of the works of an earlier libertarian journalist, Ga- ret Garrett, the latest of which is “Insatiable Government.”

Have I got a book for you! “The Greek World,” a 1996 Rizzoli publication edited by leading Italian archeologist G. Publiese Carratelli, is heavy going only in the sense that it weighs in at roughly four pounds. Its purpose was to celebrate an exhibition at Venice’s Palazzo Grassi, a presentation of “the most detailed, wide-ranging study ever made of the Greek civilization in the ancient world.”

Why might a libertarian care about the 8th century B.C.? In two words: shared values. In an era of exceptional development, Magna Graecia – new Greek settlements – sprang up along the west coast of Ital)’, from the Bay of Naples to Sicily. Art, architecture, literature, politics, religion, science – all of it flourished because of a “dynamic fusion” of Greek and Italian cultures that marked the beginning of “an age of immense creativity.” In “The Greek World,” essays by 60 scholars, combined with over 1,600 captivating photographs (sculpture, ceramics, jewelry), explore every aspect of these Italian colonies, chronologically tracing the Greek influence on myriad subjects, from the Greek alphabet to the revolutionary thoughts of the first philosophers.

I couldn’t agree more with the jacket copy assessment that here is “essential [reading] for anyone interested in the classical world that laid the foundations for our own cultural identity and artistic inheritance.”

But should photographs, no matter how magnificent, of the marble statue of the winged Nike from Delos or a detail of a palace fresco – bluebird amidst bronze-gold flowers – put you in the mood to “create” your own inner photographs, there’s no better way to serve your purpose than to pick up a superlatively written novel, one that allows you to fill in some blanks even as plot, characterization, and graphic style pull you into spine-chilling escapism.

Scottish novelist Val McDermid’s mostly British police procedurals – a four-book (so far) series – are addictive. The author manages to wed serial-killer detection, a sense of place that’s both poetic and rings true, and a suspenseful ride through the twists and gut-wrenching turns of some diabolically clever killer’s mind – pitted against the combined talents of imaginative detective inspector Carol Jordan and brilliant, troubled criminal profiler, Tony Hill. Forewarning: read in order: “The Mermaids Singing,” “The Wire in the Blood,” “The Last Temptation” (St. Martin’s Minotaur Mysteries), and “The Torment of Others” (HarperCollins).

If sun, sand, and beach blanket dream-spinning is your preference … and if a smidgeon of that dream shapes up as “someday I’d like to write a novel,” hit Amazon to find out how I turned those very words into reality, trading a legal ca-

“The Pallid Giant” was written before the doctrine of mutually Assured Destruction and assumes that any weapon that is effective will be used. The book was reissued after the dropping of the first atomic bombs.


reer for writing publishable fiction, thanks to Ayn Rand, my fiction-writing teacher – which happens to be the title of my new book, “Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher” (Madison Press).

Or maybe you just want to satisfy your curiosity about some writing principles that went into the creation of ”Atlas Shrugged.” Or much later, into my own novels. Or what it was like being Rand’s protege. Or whether she was a good teacher. Or what pitfalls await every aspiring novelist and how to confront or avoid them.

Relax; this book is a lighthearted, good-natured affair. It has nothing to do with politics, nothing to do with political philosophy. Depending on your mindset, it can be as much fun to read as it was for me to write.

Erika Holzer is a novelist living in Southern California. She is the author of “Double Crossing” and “Eye for an Eye.”

Black history is not usually standard summer reading fare for libertarians. This is surprising because few other topics offer a more compelling case for the destructive role of government intervention.

On slavery, Roger G. Kennedy’s provocative “Mr. Jeffer- son’s Lost Cause: Land, Farmers, Slaver~ and the Louisiana Purchase” (Oxford University Press) deserves a prominent place. Kennedy highlights the contradiction between Thomas Jefferson’s actual policies and his stated vision for populating newly acquired lands with yeoman farmers. Jefferson fumbled golden opportunities to stop the spread of slavery. During his administration, the federal government used the debts of individual Indians as a pretext to get control of tribal lands and then sell them at a discount to planters. The result was to smother in the womb promising efforts to fill the South with independent black, white, and Indian farmers.

Probably the best source for the post-slavery period has been surprisingly overlooked by libertarians: David E. Bern- stein’s “Only One Place of Redress: African Americans, Labor Regulations and the Courts from Reconstruction to the New Deal” (Duke University Press). Bernstein shows how local, state, and federal regulations put roadblocks in the way of blacks’ advancement. Often their only protection came from the courts, which struck down regulations for violating property rights and freedom of contract.

“America in Black and White: One Nation, Indivisible” (Simon & Schuster), by Stephen and Abigail Thernstrom, combines a superb summary of black history with a wealth of data on economic progress, which began long before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and changes in black and white attitudes. This book is a devastating retort to those claiming that the racial situation has not dramatically improved since the 1950s.

The most prominent libertarian-oriented black figure in the 1930s and 1940s was Zora Neale Hurston, a novelist, folklorist, and veteran of the Harlem Renaissance. Like Rose Wilder Lane and Isabel Paterson, she zealously held true to

Skip the shabby plots and overheated prose on the bestseller racks, and pick up a book you remember enjoying in a childhood summer, however long ago.


the principles of liberty and responsibility. “Zora Neale Hurston: A Life in Letters” (Doubleday) has every available letter she wrote from the 1920s to 1950s. They display her contempt for Roosevelt’s wartime and domestic policies and her support for Robert Taft. The editor, Carla Kaplan, puts each phase of Hurston’s life into context with richly illustrated and fair-minded background essays.

On civil rights, a good starting point is Charles M. Payne’s “I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle” (University of California Press). Payne explores the movement in Mississippi before the advent of Martin Luther King, Jr. The core leaders were entrepreneurs, who had achieved earlier success through thrift, self-help, and initiative. They also relied heavily on armed self-defense to advance these goals. The final section, on the post-1960s period, has depressing object lessons about how the achievement of political power can corrupt even the most admirable of idealists.

David T. Beito teaches history at the University of Alabama and belongs to the Liberty and Power Group Blog (www.libertyand- at the History News Network. His books include “From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social Services, 1890-1967.”

For the convenience of people who are interested in libertarian ideas, I thought it might be a good idea to offer a list of the classics – all of them widely available, in various editions and formats.

John Locke’s “Second Treatise of Civil Government” and John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” are essential reading. Of 20th- century writings, Friedrich Hayek’s “The Road to Serfdom” and Milton Friedman’s “Capitalism and Freedom” are the leading works, in my opinion. Other personal favorites in the same genre, though not as explicitly libertarian, include Mill’s “Utilitarianism” and “Principles of Political Economy” and Jeremy Bentham’s “Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation.”

I should also note Hayek’s other invaluable work: “Individualism and Economic Order,” “The Constitution of Liberty” “Law, Legislation and Liberty,” and “The Fatal Conceit.” In addition to the very influential “Capitalism and Freedom,” Friedman’s key works include “The Methodology of Positive Economics” in “Essays in Positive Economics,” and his and Anna Schwartz’s “A Monetary History of the United States, 1867-1960.”

For those of a more literary bent, Ayn Rand’s novels “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead” are thought-provoking and enjoyable. George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984” are vital, and Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon” provides much insight.

Lanny Ebenstein is a Cato Institute adjunct scholar and has written the first biography in English of Friedrich Hayek. He is currently at work on the first biography of Milton Friedman.

“Summer books,” as advertised by the big-box book- stores, are usually the dumbest, laziest books of the year. Blatant mysteries, oily romances, neurotic thrillers: these are the books I’m supposed to take with me to the hammock? I want to feel relaxed, not lobotomized.

My suggestion is to skip the shabby plots and overheated prose on the bestseller racks, and pick up a book you remember enjoying in a childhood summer, however long ago. A simple pleasure, perhaps, but isn’t that what summer is for? Consider, then:

“The Westing Game,” by Ellen Raskin (Puffin). Paper tycoon Sam Westing turns up dead, and his bizarre will names 16 heirs – one of whom, he writes in the document, took his life. His entire fortune will go to the heir who puzzles out the culprit. Every character harbors secrets, and the central mystery is by no means the only one, or even the most important. Well worth reading and rereading, it’s packed with subtle clues, many of which stay hidden the first time through.

“Archer’s Goon,” by Diana Wynne Jones (HarperTrophy). This tale of a pleasantly eccentric family and the querulous wizards who secretly run their town features enough identity changes and hidden motives to keep Chesterton entertained. All those who have read the Harry Potter series (and almost everyone should, even if only to spite Harold Bloom) ought to give Jones a try. “Archer’s Goon” is the best introduction to her complex magical worlds.

“Dann)T, the Champion of the World,” by Roald Dahl (Knopf). When a wealthy beer baron tries to push Danny and his widower father (“the most marvelous and exciting father any boy ever had”) off their land, they fight back by targeting the brewer’s prized possession: a flock of pheasants he maintains for society shoots. Though quite different from the wild-eyed looniness of the “Charlie” books, and much gentler than Dahl’s savage short stories, this idyllic comedy is still one of his strongest works.

“The Phantom Tollbooth,” by Norton Juster (Knopf). Milo is a boy who doesn’t know what to do with himself until he discovers a miniature tollbooth left mysteriously in his room. On the other side of the booth are the Lands Beyond, where figures of speech live in the flesh. Allegorically, the book itself is the tollbooth, and on the other side are the fields of the mind: all it takes to get there is the toll of a little spare time.

In the perfect summers of youth, time is something that can always be spared. Perhaps it can be spared right now, as well.

Before becoming an editor at Liberty, Andrew Ferguson spent many summers indoors, selling summer books.

I’d like to recoITunend SOITle books that -were crucial to me.

Works from ancient times that have most influenced me are Plato’s “Theatetus,” Aristotle’s “Poetics” and “Nicomachean Ethics,” and Marcus Aurelius’ “Meditations.”

All the writings of David Hume are crisp and clear and full of philosophical bite, but the one that proved a lifesaver for me as I was approaching philosophical maturity was his “Dialogues concerning Natural Religion.” Also very influential were John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” and “Three Essays on Religion.”

In our own time, of course I was greatly influenced by “Atlas Shrugged,” though it didn’t come on the scene until I was almost 40 years old, and I came to know Ayn Rand personally shortly thereafter. By that time I had been influenced by Hayek’s “Road to Serfdom” (in later years I taught his “Constitution of Liberty” to graduate classes at USC) and by Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson” (Fox & Wilkes), recommended to me early on by Ayn Rand, followed by his “Foundations of Morality” (Foundation for Economic Education), after which we became personally acquainted. Many books in the Objectivist-libertarian tradition also influenced me, such as Isabel Paterson’s “God of the Machine” (Transaction), also recommended to me by Rand; Rose Wilder Lane’s “Discovery of Freedom” (Fox & Wilkes); and Edmund Contoski’s “Makers and Takers” (American Liberty Publishers).

The 20th-century person I would most like to have known is Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. I was greatly influenced by his novels and, when they appeared in translation, the three volumes of his magnum opus, “The Gulag Archipelago,” one of the crowning literary achievements of the century. Toda}T, even years later, whenever I learn of some catastrophic tum of events in international relations, or of some example of political blindness or malevolence which could all too quickly turn the tide between war and peace, I
turn again to Solzhenitsyn’s descriptions of actions which have brought suffering and death to millions of people, and ask, “What is there to keep it from happening all over again?” I wonder which of these two
Russians, Rand or Solzhenitsyn, will in the end be the more influential in delivering the world from such a fate.

For good summer reading, you could try any of the novels of Mario Vargas Llosa. Or you could make a journey into the distant past.

Our classical liberal forebears took it for granted that the ancient Anglo-Saxons marked a significant episode in the history of liberty. Among his many other accomplishments, Jefferson should be given credit for almost single-handedly reviving the study of the Anglo-Saxon language, Old English. He was at first “obliged to that source for explanation of a multitude of law terms” and later, like David Hume, saw the Anglo-Saxon period as a foundation for his political philosophy: “The difference between the Whig and the Tory of Eng- land is that the Whig deduces his rights from the Anglo-Saxon source and the Tory from the Norman.” Eventually Jefferson suggested the study of Anglo-Saxon in its own right and even established a curriculum at the University of Virginia to further that end.

Toda}T, more than at any other time in history, there is a wealth of interesting literature and scholarship about the Anglo-Saxons. It extends well beyond the popular and wildly overrated verse translation of the “Beowulf” poem by Irish poet Seamus Heaney. An excellent place to start is Kevin Crossley-Holland’s “Anglo-Saxon World” (available in a cheap Oxford paperback), which includes a complete translation of “Beowulf” along with “The Battle of Maldon” and other important poems, excerpts from the “Anglo-Saxon Chronicle” (where we find much about their law and politics), and key charters and wills.

“Beowulf” is widely known as the greatest literary work of Old English (not Middle English, as the writers of “West Wing” would have us believe). Preserved in a single manuscript in the British Library, it remained unpublished until 1815 and was probably unknown to Jefferson. Some people may be acquainted, from their undergraduate days, with the very decent prose translation by E. Talbot Donaldson, first published in 1966. A good recent verse translation is by Alan Sullivan and Timothy Murphy (Longman). For those interested in checking out the original, “Beowulf: An Edition” (Blackwell), by Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson, is an exemplary work of scholarship, complete with a glossary and many other aids. Tolkien fans will want to read his essay “‘Be- owulf’: The Monsters and the Critics” (HarperCollins). It’s still the most important work on the Anglo-Saxon epic.

John Hospers is a philosopher and author of UHuman Conduct: Problems of Ethics,” Meaning and Truth in the Arts, ” Libertarianism, ” and other books. He was the presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party in 1972 and finished third in the Electoral College.

For good summer reading, you could try any of the novels of Mario Vargas Llosa. Or you could make a journey into the distant past.

Our classical liberal forebears took it for granted that the ancient Anglo-Saxons marked a significant episode in the history of liberty. Among his many other accomplishments, Jefferson should be given credit for almost single-handedly reviving the study of the Anglo-Saxon language, Old English. He was at first “obliged to that source for explanation of a multitude of law terms” and later, like David Hume, saw the Anglo-Saxon period as a foundation for his political philosophy: “The difference between the Whig and the Tory of Eng- land is that the Whig deduces his rights from the Anglo-Saxon source and the Tory from the Norman.” Eventually Jefferson suggested the study of Anglo-Saxon in its own right and even established a curriculum at the University of Virginia to further that end.

Toda}T, more than at any other time in history, there is a wealth of interesting literature and scholarship about the Anglo-Saxons. It extends well beyond the popular and wildly overrated verse translation of the “Beowulf” poem by Irish poet Seamus Heaney. An excellent place to start is Kevin Crossley-Holland’s “Anglo-Saxon World” (available in a cheap Oxford paperback), which includes a complete translation of “Beowulf” along with “The Battle of Maldon” and other important poems, excerpts from the “Anglo-Saxon Chronicle” (where we find much about their law and politics), and key charters and wills.

“Beowulf” is widely known as the greatest literary work of Old English (not Middle English, as the writers of “West Wing” would have us believe). Preserved in a single manuscript in the British Library, it remained unpublished until 1815 and was probably unknown to Jefferson. Some people may be acquainted, from their undergraduate days, with the very decent prose translation by E. Talbot Donaldson, first published in 1966. A good recent verse translation is by Alan Sullivan and Timothy Murphy (Longman). For those interested in checking out the original, “Beowulf: An Edition” (Blackwell), by Bruce Mitchell and Fred C. Robinson, is an exemplary work of scholarship, complete with a glossary and many other aids. Tolkien fans will want to read his essay “‘Beowulf’: The Monsters and the Critics” (HarperCollins). It’s still the most important work on the Anglo-Saxon epic.

Dorothy Whitelock’s “The Beginnings of English Society” (Penguin) is the best and liveliest short introduction to Anglo-Saxon England. A fuller, authoritative account is Frank M. Stenton’s “Anglo-Saxon England” (Oxford University Press). Another book, which is hard to find but considerably more fun than Stenton’s, is R.I. Page’s “Life in Anglo-Saxon Eng- land” (Putnam). And the best overall introduction to the literature and language of the period is Peter Baker’s robust and very recent “Introduction to Old English” (Blackwell).

The Anglo-Saxons, as removed from us today as their language, are still with us in our songs of heroism, our struggle for freedom, and what “Beowulf” calls our “eagerness for fame.”

Garrett Brown is an acquiring editor in the book division at the National Geographic Society.

Almost a decade back, in New Delhi, I went to a speech on “freedom” by Andrew Cohen, an American spiritual teacher. The speech was about how our worldviews imprison us. He challenged us to recognize that despite the way we talk about freedom, somewhere in our minds we do not want to be free. That we so closely identify ourselves with our material possessions and social prestige and our pathological need for external validation that we make ourselves puppets of other people’s agendas. That by covering our insecurities in drama, we manipulate others to serve our ulterior purposes, and eventually wind our minds into knots. That as a result, we have a complicated society where everyone wants to be free, but everyone also wants to control others.

I had gone to the speech to learn something about personality development that could enable me to conduct myself better at work, and in society in general. I walked out with a completely different perspective, but something immensely more valuable and fundamental. Others can have this experience if they read Cohen’s “Living Enlightenment” (What Is Enlightenment Press).

One of Cohen’s friends is Ken Wilber, who is a prodigious writer. His fiction, “Boomeritis: A Novel That Will Set You Free” (Shambhala), has had a tremendous influence in helping me understand myself, other people, and the world

around me. I found it difficult to follow the stor~ but his philosophy is enthralling. His discussion of Don Beck’s”spiral of development” as a blueprint for evolution provides a structure for understanding the worldviews that people hold, and why people who hold different worldviews cannot understand one another’s ways of life. He does not say that all these views are fine, as a multiculturalist would say – they exist in a hierarch~ one more enlightened than the other.

A few years earlier, in Vancouver, I was invited to join a discussion group of people interested in Cohen’s philosophy. They were extremely wealthy, and all worked in top positions in big companies. One day we talked about public policy. They talked, quite hypocritically, about how the developed world was exploiting the poor, how multinational companies were getting away with paying dirt cheap salaries in the poor world, etc. They wanted me to contribute some sob stories. I disagreed. Developed countries and multinational companies are hardly saints (although coming from where I do, I often see them that way), but the poverty of the poor countries is of the poor countries’ own making: it results from their world- views, and from the corruption and conflicts that are built into their hearts, minds, and cultures. I told the group that, from a certain perspective, Nike and Adidas were heroes. I was virtually thrown out of the meeting!

Cohen’s teachings might put off some people, as this group in Vancouver put me off. And I’m not sure what Cohen would think about what the group believed. Either way, both An- drew Cohen and Ken Wilber have remarkable insights about the human mind. Both are politically incorrect, and refuse to accept cultural rationalizations for human stupidities.

Jayant Bhandari is a business analyst in Vancouver. He wrote “The Real India, Behind the Fog” for the May issue of Liberty and blogs at

Some people must wake up in the morning and jump out of bed and say, “Hello new day! What can I do with you?” Not I. I have the hardest time reconciling myself simply to arising. But those other people fascinate me. They not only desire to create; they have the compulsion, persistence, and pure cussedness to see that creativity through. Because it is, perhaps, the most valuable of human traits, I want to recommend three books about creativity.

The first, and most obvious, choice is “Creators,” by Paul Johnson (HarperCollins). In many ways this is an answer to his previous work, “Intellectuals.” While “Intellectuals” is a frolicking look at many of the “greatest minds” of the past three centuries (with their hypocrisies and wickedness joyfully detailed), “Creators” takes a much more respectful approach. Here are admiring portraits of artistic innovation – in Chaucer and Shakespeare, in painters and architects, in fashion designers and lyric poets. Do not fear; Johnson’s trademark wit is not on hiatus. He can’t resist a juicy anecdote, particularly if it involves his own encounters with such persons as Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot, and C.S. Lewis. My one quarrel with this book is that it is limited to creativity in the cultural arts.

If you’re looking for a story of creative vision (not to mention creative perseverance) in a field outside of art, it’s hard to find anything more interesting than “The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity)’, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary,” by Simon Winchester (Harper Perennial). While many people contributed to the OED, two had key roles, and their intertwined stories are fascinating. Imagine, if you will, Dr. James Murray of the London Philological Society. He has been approached by Oxford to coordinate an enormous academic venture: an exhaustive compilation and

These wealthy people talked about how multinational companies were exploiting the poor. They wanted me to contribute some sob stories. I told them that Nike and Adidas were heroes. I was virtually thrown out of the meeting!


categorization of the English language. As the submissions for this project pour in from across England, one contributor stands apart in his accumulation of word definitions culled from innumerable texts. Curious, Dr. Murray seeks out this erudite fellow and learns that he is not a man at liberty for casual get-togethers. He is W.C. Minor, an American Civil War veteran and surgeon whose permanent residence is Broad- moor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, where he has been incarcerated for murder. The story is remarkable; its telling is highly readable; what is more, the book is a fine introduction to the marvel of the OED.

Among the three studies of creativity I want to recommend, my favorite is probably “The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America,” by Erik Larson (Vintage). Here is everything that makes for a rousing, disturbing, and inspirational tale – ambition, innovation, determination, deception, depravity, and, above all, drama. Whose tale is more compelling: that of the brilliant architect, Daniel H. Burnham, who raised a shining beaux-arts dream out of the squalor and swamps of late-19th-century Chicago, or that of the serial killer, Dr. H.H. Holmes, who used the chaos and anonymity of the young city to lure, murder, and dispose of his victims? It’s a coin toss. Both narratives are spellbinding. The irony is that both men show the same peculiar strand of compulsive genius, which can manifest itself in darkness or light but is always of magnetic interest.

Justine Olawsky explores literary and cultural issues in her popular blog:

Here are some books that I’ve spent time with over the last year. I think that other people will like them, too.

First, “The State,” by Anthony de Jasay (Liberty Fund). “The State” is an encyclopedic look at the many problems with that singularly problematic institution. Since the time of Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan” most people have (tacitly) assumed that almost any government is preferable to life in the state of nature. Not so fast, Tom, says de Jasay. Maybe it’s not such a deal after all. He writes: “It is not hard to interpret history in a way which should make me prefer the harm people do to my interest, to the harm people organized into a state and capable of coercing me, can do to my interest.” After all, “The state … has got all the guns. Those who armed it by disarm- ing themselves, are at its mercy.” Thanks, Tom, but no thanks. De Jasay shows that it is the advocates of limited government, not the anarchists, who are the wild-eyed utopians. Expecting a state to limit itself is like expecting a wolf to choose dandelions over lamb at lunchtime. And no, a constitution is no solution.

Second, “Our Enemy the State,” by Albert Jay Nock (Fox & Wilkes). Speaking of constitutions … Nock is one of the godfathers of the modem libertarian movement, but who’s read this book lately? Its substance and tone are different from standard libertarian fare. Except for Jefferson, Nock has no time for the “Founding Fathers,” who were intent on leaving the British Empire so they could start their own exploitative “Merchant-state.” The Constitution was the result of a “coup d’etat” in Philadelphia, where men who were supposed to make only marginal adjustments to the Articles of Confederation opted for a whole new system featuring a strong tax- collecting central government. Thus was born America’s Corporate State. Yet, for reasons that escape Nock, constitutional sentimentalism lives – even among libertarians. Go figure.

Third, “Studies in Mutualist Political Economy/’ by Kevin Carson (self-published; see The author is a self-proclaimed “free-market anti-capitalist,” a fan of the 19th-century American individualist anarchist Benjamin Tucker. I disagree with some of what Carson has to say, but he is dead-on when he writes that libertarians “use the term ‘free market’ in an equivocal sense: they seem to have trouble remembering, from one moment to the next, whether they’re defending actually existing capitalism or free-market principles.” As a result, the people he calls “vulgar libertarians” defend the reigning property distribution and the dominant corporations as though they had arisen under laissez-faire. He throws down the gauntlet to libertarians: either stop apologizing for the corporate elite or stop complaining about government intervention in the economy.

Fourth, “Faith in Freedom: Libertarian Principles and Psychiatric Practices” (Transaction Publishers), by Thomas Szasz. One of the latest books by one of my favorite people, “Faith in Freedom” examines the writings of a slew of classical lib-

De Jasay shows that it is the advocates of limited government, not the anarchists, who are the wild-eyed utopians. Expecting a state to limit itself is like expecting a wolf to choose dandelions over lamb at lunchtime.


erals and libertarians, and finds that in most cases, they are inexplicably nonchalant about the systematic violation of the rights of people branded “mentally ill” by the pseudomedical specialty called psychiatry. It’s another case of libertarians needing to wake up.

Sheldon Richman is editor of “The Freeman” and proprietor of the bIog “Free Association” (

When Jeannette Walls was a student at Barnard College, a professor asked the class to discuss what might be done for the homeless. Walls responded, “If some of them were willing to work hard and make compromises, they might not have ideal lives, but they could make ends meet.” The professor shook with outrage at this seeming callousness. “What do you know about the lives of the underprivileged?” he demanded. “What do you know about the hardships and obstacles that the underclass faces?”

As it turns out, quite a lot. Jeannette’s parents were living on the streets of New York City at that very moment, homeless by choice. As a child Walls had lived in a trailer, a tent, the family car, a converted railroad depot, and eventually a tiny house in West Virginia with no heat or electricity, but plenty of running water pouring through the roof. But in that Barnard classroom, Jeannette wasn’t ready to reveal
her past. “You have a point,” she meekly responded.

Now a reporter for MSNBC, Walls is ready to tell her story, through an astounding memoir called “The Glass Castle” (Scribner). Raised by brilliant, educated parents who would not settle down or hold jobs,
at times she was so hungry she ate food from the school trash can. If anyone had an excuse to whine and complain, she did. But the tone of her memoir is uplifting and triumphant, capturing the adventure of a life lived on the fly, outside the normal rules. “We heard Mom and Dad talking about buying us kids real beds,” she writes, “but we said they shouldn’t do it. We liked our boxes. They made going to bed seem like an adventure.”

Walls makes her whole childhood seem like an adventure. Instead of sniveling about the absence of Santa Claus, she describes the wonder of sitting in the desert with her father on Christmas Eve, being allowed to choose a star for her very own. Once she wanted to transplant a tiny Joshua tree closer to the house they were staying in, where it could be protected from the wind. Her mother stopped her. “You’d be destroying what makes it special,” she said. “It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty.”

That seems to be the controlling metaphor for this memoir. Witt.» honest, sometimes joyful and sometimes shocking, her story is not an invitation to attend a pity party, but a description of the struggle that brought beauty to her life. Walls is proud of who she has become, and understanding of the parents who built “glass castles” for her to dream on. Her memoir will bewitch you.

Jo Ann Skousen teaches English literature and writing at Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, N. Y: Her film reviews are a regular feature in Liberty.

Thomas Sowell’s “Black Rednecks and White Liberals” (Encounter Books) is a stunning collection of lengthy essays about race. The principal essay identifies the surprising genesis of redneck culture in America, and its devastating effect on black culture; and it puts the blame exactly where it belongs: on white liberals. Other essays are equally informative and provocative. Sowell’s chapter “Black Education: Achievements, Myths and Tragedies” is at once revealing and heartbreaking. He writes that “[r]acial discrimination barriers kept educated blacks out of some . . . occupations but, until perhaps the middle of the 20th century, there were relatively few [educated] blacks to be kept out by such barriers.”

If there were two major issues that divided this nation in the 20th century, race being one, the other certainly was radicalism. And there is no better exegesis of the radical experience, personality, politically, and culturally)T, than that provided by David Horowitz. He rejected the radicalism of his Communist parents and embraced the principles of national security and individual rights that are today the cornerstone of American conservatism. Horowitz’s “Radical Son: A Generational Odyssey” (Free Press) is the compelling story of his time on the battlefields of the political and cultural wars that were fought in America from the 1940s to the end of the 20th century. In prose often rising to the poetic, he unsparingly bares his personal, psychological, and political soul. In the end, he openly admits that “[i]f I knew at the beginning what I have learned, I would not have given my life to the socialist fantasy, or the Panther cause, or marriage to a woman addicted to an illusion. But I would not now give up the impulse to love or dream that brought me these travails, either. Or the passion for justice. Or the will to make myself better. If ever I were tempted to give up hope, I would only have to look at how far I have come.”

The wars over race and radicalism are, in the end, disputes about the fundamental issue of the nature of this country and the scope of individual rights. Accordingly, and at the risk of being accused of self-promotion, I make a third choice for summer reading: “The Keeper of the Flame” (written by me and available at, an examination and analysis of Justice Clarence Thomas’ opinions during his 14 terms on the Supreme Court. These opinions show that Thomas understands the appropriate role of a Supreme Court justice. They also show his methodology for proper decision-making and his position on fundamental constitutional questions, among them federalism, separation of powers, judicial review, and such Bill of Rights issues as abortion, affirmative action, the death penalty, and the alleged rights of prisoners. (As such,

“Keeper of the Flame” is also a primer for the major areas of modem American constitutional law.} Justice Thomas’ opinions prove that his originalist jurisprudence is rooted in the Founding, and thus aims at preservation of the constitutional fabric and the individual rights it was designed to protect.

Henry Mark Holzer, a constitutional lawyer, is Professor Emeritus at Brooklyn Law School. He is the author of “Sweet Land of Liberty?”, “Speaking Freely,” “Why Not Call It Treason?”, and other books.

Reading lists are as fun as they are arbitrary; no real book-lover can list just one book, or a dozen, as Best, or Favorite, or Most Important. And of course, Liberty’s readers are already familiar with the classics of libertarianism. So I will pick four books that I suspect few libertarians have read but that are worth their while. I write this list in the faith that books exist not only to tell us what we want to hear, but to bang on our doors and shout through our windows and give us questions as well as answers.

“America’s Constitution: A Biography” (Random House), by Akhil Reed Amar. I know of no writer who understands the Constitution – including such subtle matters as divided sovereignty and the legal significance of the preamble – better than Akhil Amar. Given the alarming number of libertarians willing to humiliate themselves with such concoctions as the “right to secede,” it would be a real relief to see more of them sober themselves with this brilliant book. Like his last book, 1998’s “Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction” (Yale University Press), Amar’s “Biography” combines meticulous precision and encyclopedic knowledge to explain how the Constitution works as a complete structure – an approach that allows him to be simultaneously original and faithful to the Constitution’s original meaning. Like the document itself, this book is within the reach of the layman but also a work of profound wisdom.

“The Tyranny of History: The Roots of China’s Crisis,” by W.J.F. Jenner (Penguin). This little-known commentary on Chinese culture, first published in 1992, is aging quickly, but its insights are still extraordinarily enlightening. Chinese culture, Jenner writes, is suffering from “the rule that thou shalt commit no novelty,” a hex that could portend catastrophe in the new century, and that casts a shadow over the optimism with which many libertarians view China today. Fans of Virginia Postrel’s “The Future and Its Enemies” will especially enjoy Jenner’s analysis of the ultimate static society.

“The John Varley Reader” (Ace). Varley – my very favorite writer (see “Libs in Space,” Libert)’, August 2003, or “Of Mars and Mammoths” on p. 45) – makes writing seem so easy. But what he accomplishes is the hardest task of all: no matter how outlandish his premise, he carries you into a world of absolute realism. And Varley’s science fiction has some of the most bizarre premises of all. His characters can change sex at will, store their memories in case of death, and sculpt atmospheric storms as artworks. More than imagination and narrative skill qualifies Varley for this list, however. His stories reveal a dynamism – an acceptance of the inevitable pluses and minuses of progress, and a basic confidence in humanity – that mark him as a true “free spirit.”

“The Metaphysical Club,” by Louis Menand (Farrar, Straus). Well deserving of the 2001 Pulitzer Prize, Menand’s book tells the story of the modern age, and especially of progressivism, the philosophical revolution that created the regulatory welfare state (see my “Curse of the Progressives,” Liberty, August 2004). Menand, though sympathetic to progressivism, is honest enough to acknowledge its shortcomings. More important, he tells the story in memorable, endlessly compelling terms. The richness of his story is a refreshing counterweight to the boring morality plays pervading so many books on political history. Not that there weren’t any bad guys; Oliver Wendell Holmes was nothing short of a monster. But how he got that way is an awful philosophical tragedy. This is must-reading for understanding how we got to where we are.

Timothy Sandefur is a staff attorney at the Pacific Legal Foundation.

The recent passing of Jane Jacobs makes me recall that the great, underacknowledged theme of her popular classic, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” (Modern Library), was that successful urban life cannot be centrally planned. It results, instead, from individuals acting harmoniously. This was the view that set her in opposition to New York’s master builder Robert Moses and his intellectual sidekick Lewis Mumford, who both believed that Higher Intelligences could be wiser than public tastes.

Another Jacobs theme was that life on the street was a greater measure of the quality of a neighborhood’s life than, say, its architecture. While the latter can be photographed, the former must be felt to be understood. Her model was the western precincts of Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, where she lived, where people walk sooner than drive, where many homes are owned rather than rented, where she successfully resisted Moses’ plan to bulldoze residential housing to make way for a freeway, much as he had done in the Bronx in a disgusting episode documented in Marshall Berman’s “All That Is Solid Melts into Air” (Penguin).

Need I add that Jacobs’ bias influenced my own “SoHo: The Rise and Fall of an Artists’ Colony” (Routledge), whose libertarian theme holds that no central authority planned the transformation of an industrial slum into a fertile artists’ colony with renovated “lofts” in the 1970s and 1980s and, by the

Books exist not only to tell us what we want to hear, but to bang on our doors and shout through our windows and give us questions as well as answers.


21st century, into an informal shopping mall – that, may I repeat, were not centrally planned but simply resulted from many individuals acting freely and harmoniously. Indeed, because the industrial slum was so decrepit, it was simply a white space on planners’ maps. I’m now try- ing to relocate to the Rockaways, which is New York City’s beach town on the Atlantic Ocean, where the Mosesmen in the late 1960s bulldozed three miles of friendly summer housing in the name of “urban renewal” that still has not happened. Imagine: oceanfront property in New York City that has been empty for over three decades!

May I also recommend Jacobs’ classic to people who have spent their lives in suburbs and rural territories, as a means of explaining how city folk and urban neighborhoods thrive. That’s a good reason for reading my book as well.

Way back in 1980, having earlier relocated to Toronto (so that her teenage sons would not be drafted during the Vietnam War), Jacobs published a book sympathetic to Quebecois separatism, which I still think would be a good idea, not just for the Francophones but also for English Canadians. Had she stayed in New York in the 21st century, she might have joined me in advocating the secession of my hometown, if not the entire eastern seaboard, which would be good not just for us sophisticates but also for Yahooland. But that’s my fantasy for the life that Jane Jacobs, a sympathetic polemicist and sensible activist, might have led, had she lived here rather than there.

Richard Kostelanetz is an artist/writer living in New York. He is the author of “Alternative Views” (Autonomedia) and of other new books, appearing under NExamples” on www.richardkostela-

So many books, so little space. Now that I’ve retired from Laissez Faire Books, summer books are all I read. I should have known I’d have to submit a book report.

Two of my favorites are “Iron and Silk” by Mark Salzman (Vintage), and “The Left Hand of Darkness” by Ursula Le- Guin (Ace). Salzman’s book is a memoir that recalls his time in the early 1980s teaching English in the Hunan province of China. With a delightful knack for describing his students and coworkers, the petty rules of bureaucratic China, and the exacting demands of Pan, his famous wushu (martial arts) teacher, he draws the reader ever more deeply into an exotic world. Salzman remains a stranger in a strange land, but his curiosity to understand the Chinese people is infectious, and his determination to excel in his chosen sport is inspiring.

Even more exotic are the people and places of LeGuin’s science fiction novel. “Few foreigners are so foreign as I,” explains Genly (or sometimes Genry), the narrator of the piece. Genly might seem very usual and knowable to us, but on the world to which he is the emissary he is indeed “foreign,” considered to be a sexual “pervert.” You see, on the planet Winter, normal folks are all androgynous until they reach kemmer, at which point they (and the persons to whom they are attracted) select a gender and have a relationship, perhaps a child. This choice of gender isn’t permanent. And the ability to switch sexes isn’t necessarily the most interesting thing about the inhabitants of Winter, either. LeGuin gives us an abundance of persuasive, fascinating detail about her lushly imagined world and its people.

It’s that same attention to detail that lifts “Iron and Silk” out of the newly-disgraced category of the memoir. To prepare for my book report, I’d planned to just flip through these volumes and quickly refresh my memories of them. But I found myself ensnared anew, compelled to read each from cover to cover. These are books to love, to treasure, to visit again and again – as different as could be, but equally exhilarating.

Since a few words remain of my allotment, I’d like also to mention “Heretic: Confessions of an Ex-Catholic Rebel,” by Jerome Tuccille (iUniverse), a prequel to Tuccille’s notorious cult-favorite “It Usually Begins with Ayn Rand” (Fox & Wil- kes). “Heretic” is just as outrageous, just as fun, and just as serious in its underlying questions.

Plus, if you order quickly from Laissez Faire Books, you might still snag an autographed copy of “Ego & Hubris” (Ballantine), Harvey Pekar’s graphic and graphically illustrated account of the outlandish life-so-far of Michael Malice, a Randian who interned at the Cato Institute. Liberty readers will likely feel a kinship.

Whew! I’ve written my book report and even managed to sneak in a plug for, so now I can go back to watch- ing the anarcho-brigand science fiction series “Firefly” for the umpteenth time. Then I’m going to read a book …

Andrea Millen Rich ran Laissez Faire Books for 22 years. She is now exploring her next career.

“Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?” – Henry Ward Beecher

My favorite pastime is to drift into a used bookstore during a lazy summer afternoon, and discover a new world. I figure that 80% of of used books can’t be found in a new bookstore like Barnes & Noble or Borders, but oh, what treasures they are. You’ll discover novels, biographies, and words of wisdom that have somehow been lost in today’s busybody world. I well remember the day I sauntered into a bookstore in the small college town of Durango, Colo., and discovered the Chinese-American philosopher Lin Yutang and a first edition of his masterfully wise and entertaining “The Importance of Living” (John Day). I’ve read it many times, and have memorized and repeated his musings and missives on American life – his listing of the “three American vices,” and his old Chinese counsel to venerate the old, enjoy the conversation of the female voice, and “lie on a plot of grass under tall beautiful trees of an idle afternoon and just do nothing.”

So “The Importance of Living” is my first recommendation. Buy it in a used bookstore if you can, and on Amazon if you must (you probably won’t find it in most new bookstores, even though Little, Brown has issued a new printing).

For those inclined toward pecuniary gain, may I suggest that you avoid Donald J. Trump’s ramshackle “How to Get Rich” and focus your attention on a real classic published originally in Playboy – “How to Be Rich,” by J. Paul Getty, America’s first billionaire. (Note the difference between the verbs in those two titles.) What a tale of enterprise, intrigue, and obsession! The first chapter, “How I Made My First Billion” is a hoot, and the chapter on “The Wall Street Investor” is the most profound twelve pages ever written on the subject. Although the book was published in 1965, every page rings true today. Pick up a hardback first edition, or if you can’t find one, try the 1983 Penguin Jove edition in paperback.

My third recommendation is a math book. No, not a boring textbook on algebra or calculus, but a delightful and captivating work on the beauty and magic of numbers. It’s “Mathematical Mysteries,” by Calvin C. Clawson. You’ll be mesmerized by Euler’s Theorem, the Golden Ratio, Fibonacci numbers, and the magnificent harmonic series. Clawson also tells the unbelievable stories of famous mathematicians such as Gauss and Ramanujan. Published ten years ago by Perseus Books, “Mathematical Mysteries” is both entertainment and education.

There is no doubt in my mind that if you read any of these three books on the beach, you will be surrounded by admirers in no time. Buen provecho.

Mark Skousen is the author of “The Making of Modern Economics.”

At the top of my recommended summer reading list is a book by Erika Holzer: “Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher” (Madison Press). 1love this book. Rand was Erika’s mentor and friend for many years; this book is part memoir and part style guide. As a literary autobiograph~it highlights the relationship between Rand and Holzer with stories that are both poignant and humorous. As a literary guide, it extends Rand’s aesthetics, exploring the implications of “The Romantic Manifesto” and the many applications of Rand’s lectures on writing fiction.

Erika’s husband Henry Mark Holzer also offers a great addition to summer reading: a new book that analyzes in great detail all the majority, concurring, and dissenting Supreme Court opinions of Justice Clarence Thomas. “The Keeper of the Flame” (Madison Press) is a remarkable book on many levels; even if you’re not a fan of Thomas, Hank Holzer presents a case that is methodical, logical, and historical. He makes a thought-provoking argument for regarding Thomas as a defender of constitutional principles.

For the philosophically inclined, let me suggest a new book by Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas J. Den Uyl: “Norms of Liberty: A Perfectionist Basis for Non-Perfection- ist Politics” (Penn State University Press). The book continues the Rasmussen-Den Uyl project of providing a neo-Aristote- lian foundation for political liberalism. The authors give us a well-reasoned and principled argument in support of individualism and a libertarian politics.

Finall~for a change of pace, get thee to an online bookstore specializing in used books and order a copy of Miklos Rozsa’s autobiography, “Double Life” (Hippocrene Books). The book was published in the ’80s, but 1 can’t think of a better way to prepare yourself for the Rozsa Centenary, which is almost upon us (April 2007). Rozsa was one of the finest composers of his generation, and he wrote some of the greatest cinematic scores. But his celebrated work for epic and film noir genres is only half the story; his compositions for the concert hall remain a remarkable, though largely unheralded, achievement. This book will help you understand how a unique creator masterfully navigated his way through two worlds of music.

Chris Matthew Sciabarra is editor of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies and the author of “Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism. ”

I’m not sure how summer reading differs from other reading, but if you’re stuck on the tarmac in an airplane that is going nowhere, it would be great to have with you a Sue Grafton or a Jane Austen, and this summer I’ll probably be reading Jane Jacobs as well.

Grafton writes the “ABC” series of mysteries, starting with “A is for Alibi” (Crimeline). She has reached “S is for Silence” (Putnam), the only one 1haven’t read yet. In my view, Grafton is the best writer about female detectives; her Kinsey Milhone is wiry and tough and intensely serious about her investigations. Grafton’s writing has some of the spareness of Robert Parker’s Spencer novels, but the plots are more intricate and satisfying, and Kinsey is much more appealing than anyone in those books. She rejects social commitments – her strongest emotional ties are with her octogenarian landlord, Henry Pitts – and we respect her while feeling the pain that she doesn’t quite admit to. An oddity of the series stems from the fact that the investigation in each book follows quickly on the previous one. The first book was published in 1982, so even after 18 volumes the year is probably 1990. No cell phones or iPods.

Part of Kinsey’s charm is that she can’t bear society. Eliza- beth Bennet, the heroine of one of the best novels ever written, also seeks freedom from society – in her case, from the stifling corset of life among the English gentry in the early 19th century. What makes “Pride and Prejudice” eternally exhilarating is that Elizabeth doesn’t merely escape the bounds of society but triumphs over them – morally emotionally, and financially. Her complex courtship with Darcy is breathtaking every time you read it. Unfortunatel~ explaining Jane Austen’s genius is like trying to explain the excitement of golf to a nonplayer, so I won’t try.

As for nonfiction, my first thought was any book by Thomas Sowell, but I’m switching my choice to Jane Jacobs. Her recent death at the age of 89 reminded me of the wealth of insights she has given us. I’d like to consider them anew, not through the lens of the urbanists (planners and anti-planners) who have beatified her, but through my own. (“The Death and Life of Great American Cities” [Modern Library] is the urbanists’ Bible and the Devil quotes it as well as anyone.)

Not only was Jacobs an autodidact (I learned that word through a somewhat sneering review of one of her later books), but she moved, as interest led her, through disciplines from sociology to economics. Nor did she stop at just a few ideas, even though many of her acolytes did. So I’ll probably

look back at the surprising “Economy of Cities” (Vintage), in which she introduced the idea that cities preceded agriculture. Then maybe I’ll search to see if her hypothesis has gained any traction in academic anthropology departments. Oh, but then I’ll need to search the internet, and you can’t do that on the airplane …

Jane S. Shaw is a senior fellow with PERC, the Property and Environment Research Center, in Bozeman, Mont.

I’d like to recommend four books that make thinking about complex issues fun, and·a fifth that offers a very personal statement by a remarkable man.

“The Undercover Economist: Exposing Why the Rich Are Rich, the Poor Are Poor – And Why You Can Never Buy a Decent Used Car!” by Tim Hartford (Oxford University Press). This lengthily entitled book is an attempt by a writer for the “Financial Times” to introduce people to how economists see the world. It works: Hartford’s comments on a wide range of topics, from the price of coffee to the question of why poor countries are poor, are both interesting and completely accessible to readers with no background in economics.

“5000 B.C. and Other Philosophical Fantasies” by Raymond Smullyan (St. Martin’s). As the title suggests, Smullyan’s book can be described as playful philosophy. The author deals with central ideas, but does so in amusing puzzles and anecdotes. He is the best writer I know at condensing complex issues. Almost hidden among the games and stories is the most elegant depiction of the issues raised by the celebrated Kurt Godel that I have ever seen – and a lovely discussion of the ontological argument for the existence of God. Neither topic is eas}T, but Smullyan makes them look that way.

“The Pleasure of Finding Things Out,” by Richard Feyn- man (Basic Books). Feynman was a hero to a generation of scientists. He was a Nobel laureate who resigned from the National Academy of Science because “that was another organization most of whose time was spent in choosing who was illustrious enough to join.” He worked on the Manhattan Project, wrote the minority report for the Challenger inquiry (a report included in this book), and inspired many scientists simply to do what scientists ought to do – pursue understanding. All his books are worth reading. This one offers 13 short pieces, among them a thoughtful attempt to discuss the conflict between religion and science, and two discussions that set the stage for nanotechnology.

“The Singularity Is Near: When Humans Transcend Biology” by Ray Kurzweil (Viking). This interesting book should be read as a cross between science and science fiction. The author is a highly respected inventor and a successful businessman. He conceives of himself as writing “the story of the destiny of the human-machine civilization, a destiny we have come to refer to as the Singularity.” He believes we are at the point of creating a man-machine intelligence of enormous power: “by the end of this century the nonbiological portion of our intelligence will be trillions of trillions of times more powerful than the unaided human intelligence.” In a few areas in which I believe I am competent to judge, I found his positions far too optimistic. But there is much of value in his arguments, and he has made a laudable effort to make them comprehensible. Read this for entertainment. If it strikes a chord, the references are there for you to pursue.

“Dear America,” by Karl Hess. The book was published by Morrow in 1975 and is long out of print, but I was able to get a used copy from Abebooks ( for under $5, plus shipping. If you knew Karl, as many people in the libertarian movement did, or only know of him, you will enjoy his summary of a remarkable life. After all, he did write speeches for both Barry Goldwater and the Black Panthers, and he did run guns to Cuba. His attempts to explain why corporations are dehumanizing can be questioned, but his sincerity and wisdom should not.

Ross Overbeek has been a professor at Northern Illinois and a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory. Most of his past research was in computer science, but in 1989 he met Carl Woese and has since focused on understanding microbial life. He most recently was a founder of the Fellowship for Interpretation of Genomes.

Surveys usually show that people prefer long books to short ones. Anyway, summer is the natural habitat of long books. So have you read all the great long books?

“Paradise Lost”: Nobody who has got through the first two pages has ever put it down – although, as Samuel Johnson said, nobody ever wished it longer.

“War and Peace”: The plot is formless, the philosophy is ridiculous and obtrusive, the characters are almost wholly unsympathetic, as are the reasons that are supposed to make you like them. The measure of the novel’s greatness is that despite all that, the book is irresistible; its vitality carries all before it. Besides reading the book, you should check out the DVD of the film version (Russia, 1967) in its complete, eight-hour, newly re-released edition.

“Mansfield Park”: The Jane Austen novel that you’re not supposed to like is actually her greatest achievement. Its “conservatism” is actually a harrowing vision of good and evil, deception and redemption – a fascinating literary accomplishment.

But literary adventures cannot be measured by number of words or complexity of artistic devices. If I were going to suggest just one book for everyone to read, it would be “Paddle-to-the-Sea,” Holling Clancy Holling’s illustrated tale for children, first published in 1941 but readily available in a good reprint by Houghton Mifflin. It’s the story of an Indian boy who carves a model boat and places it on a snowbank above a tributary of Lake Superior, knowing that when spring comes it will float away from him: “You will go with the water and you will have adventures that I would like to have.” And so it is. The tiny vessel, freed by the sun, traverses the Great Lakes, “witnessing” much of the landscape of America and receiving the friendly assistance of various types of people, who repair it and help it on its pilgrimage to the great salt sea. The pictures are beautiful, the text is truly educational, and the message is unforgettable. It comes at the end, in the final picture, at the conclusion of part 27; you’ll get to it; and you’ll enjoy every stage of the journey.

Stephen Cox is editor of liberty. His most recent books are “The Woman and the Dynamo: Isabel Paterson and the Idea of America” and “The New Testament and Literature.”

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