Culture

My Growing List of 65 Read-ALL-Their-Books Authors

Editor’s Note: We’re launching some discussions this winter in dialogue with the new fiction publishing company Liberty Island. See the previous installments: David S. Bernstein on November 19: “5 Leaders of the New Conservative Counter-Culture,”  Dave Swindle on November 25: “7 Reasons Why Thanksgiving Will Be My Last Day on Facebook,” and this collection of discussion starters from yesterday: “60 Questions to Provoke Debates About How to Fix Our Popular Culture.” To learn more about Liberty Island and their extraordinary writers see the collection “How To Join This Unique Team of 33 Creative Writers.”

Dear Jeremy Swindle,

I’d like to thank you for inspiring me with your PJ Lifestyle articles this fall. They confirmed for me something I already knew and now take extreme pleasure in bragging to others about: my younger brother has more natural writing ability than I.

You have a lot of potential, Jere, and lots of choices about where you’re going to choose to focus your creative energy and how you’ll refine your craft. In figuring that out I’m going to try to caution you against some of the mistakes that I’ve made over the last 15 years in my wanderings across culture, religion, and political ideology.

Your writing and your destiny is your own and it’s not my agenda to try to convert you to my positions. Rather, I want to try and give you a map of the territory that I’ve explored so far. Some of the books and authors I’ve gone through may be helpful to you as you continue do develop your own style and priorities.

I believe it’s important to study broadly across many subjects. Over the coming weeks and months my goal is to finish the giant-size recommended reading guide that I’m making the first part of my book. I’m planning on 365 books total, organized into 7 lists of 52 each. And as I’m writing each part in epistolary format with a specific reader in mind, for this opening section I’ve decided to write it to you, Jere. I’m trying to assemble an alternative college reading list, a Good Will Hunting, DIY, just-pay-the-late-charges-at-the-library, book-reading education. This is still the most entertaining scene of the movie, isn’t it?

At the core of the list there are several writers I’d direct more attention to than others. These authors are worth trying to take in in full. They range from famous, even legendary, long dead figures to writers only a few years older than you who I’ve worked with for years. All continually inspire me — just don’t assume that I necessarily agree with everything they write or that I’ve read all of their works yet. Here’s the list, I’ve written about most of these authors already and will be presenting the case for each of them. Some, like Aleister Crowley and Ann Coulter, are very misunderstood by many — don’t make the mistake of dismissing a writer just because some of their soundbites might throw you: 

  1. Howard Bloom
  2. Robert Spencer
  3. Michael Ledeen
  4. Daniel Pipes
  5. Kathy Shaidle
  6. Barry Rubin
  7. David P. Goldman
  8. Andrew C. McCarthy
  9. Leszek Kolakowski
  10. Paul Johnson
  11. Thomas Sowell
  12. Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
  13. Stanley Kurtz
  14. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  15. Ben Shapiro
  16. Dennis Prager
  17. Joseph Telushkin
  18. David Mamet
  19. Robert Anton Wilson
  20. Camille Paglia
  21. Weston La Barre
  22. J. Christian Adams
  23. Shelby Steele
  24. Ann Coulter
  25. Adam Carolla
  26. Michael Walsh
  27. William F. Buckley, Jr.
  28. Andrew Klavan
  29. James Madison
  30. Roger Kimball
  31. Theodore Dalrymple
  32. Allan Bloom
  33. Roger L. Simon
  34. Douglas Rushkoff
  35. George Gilder
  36. Hannah Sternberg
  37. Frank J. Fleming
  38. John Waters
  39. Glenn Reynolds
  40. Helen Smith
  41. Ray Kurzweil
  42. James Wasserman
  43. John Whiteside Parsons
  44. Maimonides
  45. Niccolò Machiavelli
  46. Benjamin Franklin
  47. Aleister Crowley
  48. Booker T. Washington
  49. Israel Regardie
  50. Thomas Jefferson
  51. John Adams
  52. Ron Radosh
  53. Victor Davis Hanson
  54. Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik
  55. Franz Rosenzweig
  56. J.R.R. Tolkien
  57. Michael Barrier
  58. Frederick Douglass
  59. Alejandro Jodorowsky
  60. Lisa De Pasquale
  61. Shmuley Boteach
  62. Abraham Lincoln
  63. Gary Lachman
  64. Sarah Hoyt
  65. Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Jere, I hope to include you on a future version of this list…

To see some of the specific books from these authors and how I’m organizing them by subject, I’d point you over to the debut of PJ Lifestyle Book Talk today, which I’ve titled “I Need Your Help Assembling the Ultimate Reading List For My Brother.” There I list the raw collection of several hundred books I’ve been reading and am still reading. I arrange them by day, each with a big question that I’m trying to understand:

Monday: How can we understand Evil? I explore books about orthodox Islam, revolutionary Marxism, and antisemitism. In particular I’m going to try to explain how they’ve evolved over the centuries.

Tuesday: What is the relationship between ancient paganism and today’s popular culture? I argue that the idols described in the first five books of the Bible have a lot in common with the stars up on the screen today. Here I’ll try and break down the similarities and show how they evolved through the books that persuaded me.

Wednesday: How does technology transform our lives? And by “technology” I don’t just mean computers — writing is a form of technology. One’s diet is a technology. These are practical tools one should master.

Thursday: How and why do ideological movements change and evolve over time? The word “conservatism” and the goals of the movement it describes have changed a lot. Here I try to untangle some of the conflicting currents of the ideology and point toward the thinkers within it I most appreciate.

Friday: What lessons can we learn from extraordinary lives? I’m trying to pick 52 biographies and memoirs ranging from people in the ancient world through the Middle Ages on through to the present day.

Saturday: How can we reconcile science and spirituality? I try to blend books that take a spiritual approach to science and a scientific approach to spirituality. The fight between science and religion is bogus, reconciled through mysticism.

Sunday: How did Judeo-Christian values emerge from the chaos of ancient paganism and what effect did they have on humanity? I explore books about the history of Western civilization, Judaism, Christianity, and the religions’ mystical practices. Maybe you’re wondering how it is I’ve come back to the Bible and Christianity after more than a decade away. It took me a long time to figure out just what it was that drove me away from our church during my teen years but now it’s become clear to me through my readings and life experience: Christianity divorced from its Jewish roots is a false religion. Christians who just focus on Jesus and the words of the New Testament miss out on so much, but worse: they paint a false picture of God and drive people away from understanding the Divine. My life and perspective has transformed as I’ve started to learn pieces of Hebrew and the techniques of a mystical practice based in the Bible…

One last tip that might help: in organizing and developing my book list I’m going to further utilize the technology of the Freedom Academy Book Club. It’s free to create an account to sort and organize books you’ve read and want to read.

Best wishes, I love you and am so proud of you, your brother,

David

P.S. PJ writers and readers: I’m aiming for a list of 100 authors whose collected works are worth reading in full. That leaves room for 35 more. Note that these are book authors — those who write in other mediums will eventually have different lists.