Want to advance liberty and Western civilization effectively?
Maybe you’re studying political theory or the humanities and planning to go to grad school. Maybe you’re an editor for an independent paper with dreams of becoming a sharp, no-nonsense journalist after graduation. You’re not interested in a career that will only make you money; you want to serve a higher, nobler cause.
Here’s how to do it: Go find a giant, and scramble up onto his shoulders.
In other words, bring some good books along for the ride, and wear their pages out.
What You Read Is What You Know
Do you ever get the sense that you’re debating someone with volume but no logical coherence?
Whenever I meet new people, one of my favorite questions to ask them is which books most shaped their lives. Why? You learn a lot about people this way: whom they respect and admire, where their heart is, what they think about.
And it gives you an idea how much they know about their subject.
It’s like the difference between the posts of an angst-filled teenager and a book by Russell Kirk. Kirk can be passionate and still communicate coherently, compellingly, and with authority. The teenager probably just sounds hormonal.
Read Often, Read Widely
You already know how instrumental your library is to personal development, not to mention to your work. So this means your greatest responsibility is to read! Read often, and read widely. Here are a few titles you’ll want to become acquainted with today:
The Quest for Community by Robert Nisbet. Although he was writing in 1953, Nisbet saw that the breakdown of family, neighborhood, church, and guild would lead straight to the issues facing us today. You can’t find sharper insight into the causes and effects of our contemporary problems outside of this book.
The Roots of American Order by Russell Kirk. What holds America together? According to Kirk, the answer can be found in five cities: Jerusalem, Athens, Rome, London, and Philadelphia. This book will give you a rich overview of America’s founding, which is actually richer than Pennsylvania soil and older than 1776.
The Politics of Prudence by Russell Kirk. Kirk again? Of course! He’s considered the godfather of modern American conservatism, and a quick read through any page of this book will prove it. This book is a good sequel to Roots in its presentation of influential conservatives and principles of conservative thought.
The Life of the Mind by James V. Schall. Intellectual health is just as crucial as bodily health, and maybe even more so. In this little book, Schall shows you how you’re built to know, and how to nourish the intellectual life worth living.
The Great Tradition by Richard M. Gamble. What’s the point of getting an education, anyway? How did it all start? Gamble reveals the rich tradition behind the university by choosing short selections from some of the West’s greatest thinkers, from Plato and Aristotle to C. S. Lewis and Eric Voegelin. This wise book gives you the tools you need to battle modern utilitarians and vocationalists who take this old form of education for granted.
The Solzhenitsyn Reader by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The definitive collection of Solzhenitsyn’s short stories, poetry, essays, and speeches. Solzhenitsyn doesn’t only show you the raw truth of ideological tyranny; he also demonstrates the power of the human spirit, which has the ability to topple modern dystopian systems. The Solzhenitsyn Reader features material that isn’t available in English anywhere else, making it a critical treasure for any library.
10 Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Anthony Esolen. This book isn’t just for the parents; it’s for the would-be parents, too. How do you form a healthy, vibrant imagination in yourself, as well as your children? This book shows you the do’s and don’ts.
Write notes in the margins. Dog-ear the pages. Bend the covers. Read each one, then come back for seconds. They’re the type of leftovers that never go cold or stale.
You’re going to do great things one day. You’ll be looked to for leadership and advice in academia, politics, or journalism. And when that day comes, you’re going to be the one with intellectual muscle, hardened by good reading.
Renowned author and scholar Joseph Pearce once said, “ISI Books is in the forefront of the fight for civilization, and is on the frontline in the battle to restore culture and to revitalize politics.” Don’t go into your future unarmed.
Joseph Cunningham is the digital media editor at ISI and associate editor of the Intercollegiate Review.
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