What are you reading?

Andy Matthews

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What are you reading?

Last summer I had a lot of fun putting together a list of summer reading suggestions, which I featured in one of my Week in Review columns. And, based on the feedback I received, many of you had a good time reading it — with several of you even taking the time to send me some recommendations of your own. So I’ve been looking forward to doing another list this year.

It probably won’t surprise you much when I tell you that I’m a pretty avid reader. And it won’t surprise you any further when I tell you that most of the books I read have something to do with the political and/or public policy worlds — though in the past year I’ve had occasion to branch out into some other genres here and there.

Still, I know my audience. And I know that if you’re reading this, it’s likely you share my passion for the wonky debates over public policy, political theory, etc. So with that, here are five books you should consider taking with you on that summer vacation this year.

Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

Sixty-eight years after it was first published, this introduction to free-market economic principles remains one of the very best books ever written on the subject. Most remarkable about it is the way Hazlitt boils a set of seemingly complex ideas down into a simple, clear and easy-to-digest form. The book has drawn praise from the likes of Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, F.A. Hayek, H.L. Mencken, Steve Forbes, Ron Paul and many others. (No doubt that if Hazlitt were alive today, he’d be touched to see me join that list.) Economics books can be heavy (in both senses of the word) but this is one you’ll actually enjoy while you’re sitting on that beach in Maui.

Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics by Charles Krauthammer

For an insightful, intelligent and honest examination into contemporary American politics, you can’t do any better than Hard Choices by Hillary Clinton Things That Matter by Charles Krauthammer. Few have covered Washington, D.C., as closely over the past 30-plus years as Krauthammer (for which he is deserving of our deepest sympathies) and at long last all of that wisdom has been collected in a single volume. He’s been one of my favorite writers since I first started following politics and public policy (I actually remember where I was the day I heard this book was coming out) and even if you don’t agree with all of his views, I have full confidence that you’ll get a ton of enjoyment out of reading this book. What was really striking in going through this collection is that, despite the massive societal changes over the past three decades, so many of the core issues and assumptions driving our political debates have remained constant. As the French say, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The Law by Frédéric Bastiat

I included this one on last year’s list, but it makes the cut again this year because it’s impossible to overstate the value of this classic. Last year I wrote: “If you know a burgeoning conservative who’s ready to start grounding his political instincts in a deeper and more coherent philosophical argument, this is the place to point him.” Still is. And it’s still available for free online: http://www.constitution.org/cmt/bastiat/the_law.html.

The Weed Agency by Jim Geraghty

Looking for something a bit lighter this summer, but still want that political fix? Check out Jim Geraghty’s novel centered on the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agency of Invasive Species (not an actual agency … yet). I’m a long-time reader of Geraghty’s work for National Review, and his first foray into fiction is a welcome one. His send-up of our incompetent and inefficient federal bureaucracy will leave you wondering whether to laugh at the absurdity of it all, or cry because you know how spot-on it is. Either way, it’s a great read.

Healthy Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It by Michael Cannon and Michael Tanner

If I were a tad smarter, I would have written this column a few weeks ago, when I could have taken the opportunity to plug Tanner’s appearance at our June 18 Spring Celebration. Then again, the fact that I’m still promoting it today, despite the lack of any selfish reason to do so, should tell you how big a fan I am of this book. More important than simply bemoaning the problems plaguing our health care system is identifying the solutions that will address them. This book is chock-full of them.

Well, that’s it. I suppose it goes without saying that this list is hardly exhaustive. Which means the next few days are sure to invite upon my inbox a barrage of emails that start with “How could you possibly exclude….?!”

And since I’m a good sport, I invite you to do exactly that. Send me your suggestions, and I’ll note a few of the more popular ones in next week’s column. I’m off to Massachusetts to visit family for the weekend (and I’ll be re-reading The Weed Agency on the plane), so my response time to emails might be a bit slower than usual. But I promise to get to as many as I can.

As always, thanks for reading. Take care, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President

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