Worthy Books: A Reading List

I have decided to pull together a reading list of some of the better books and book-length blogs that I have read over the course of my life. My selection criteria mandated that the books must be approachable by a generally educated person, must have high signal-to-noise from cover to cover, and must be engaging reads. In a few cases I have included books that I have not yet read, but that come very highly recommended and that I plan to read. I have marked those with asterisks.

Some of these books are quite controversial. Inclusion in this list does not mean I agree 100% with the book, nor is at an endorsement of everything the author has written.

Without further ado, my own list of worthy reads:

Governance, Politics, and Group Conflict

World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability
In ethnically diverse countries, certain ethnic groups have a tendency to rise to the top economically. If the wealthier ethnic group is a minority, the majority ethnic group often uses their demographic power to launch pogroms, confiscate assets, or worse. World on Fire chronicles a long history of this pattern of attack on market minorities.

The Rule of the Clan: What an Ancient Form of Social Organization Reveals About the Future of Individual Freedom by Mark Weiner
Humans have generally lived in either state-based societies or clan-based societies. This is an overview of how clan based societies function.

Government’s End by Jon Rauch
The author was a Washington D.C. journalist with a close-up view of the failures of both the Clinton healthcare plan and the Gingrich revolution. He makes a compelling argument for why politics is actually broken: the small concentrated interest always wins over the general interest. Democracy is not really the rule by the majority – but rule by hundreds of small factions, each stealing from the public pie.

Hardball: How Politics Is Played Told By One Who Knows The Game
An entertaining overview of some of the inside stories and calculated politics that went on in Washington from the 1970s through the 90s. The lessons given are applicable far outside of politics. My favorite chapter: Don’t get mad, don’t get even, get ahead. Sage advice for the modern world.

What it Takes: The Way to the White House
An account of the political campaign of the 1988 election that reads like a novel.

Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed by James C. Scott
A chronicle of schemes by those who wielded power to organize, categorize, and rationalize the entire society. For instance, we own our own names to the needs of state tax collectors. Some such schemes worked, but others ended in disaster, as they wrecked the organic fabric that makes society function.

Nick Szabo’s Essays
An enlightening set of essays, on topics such as the origin of money or the development of property rights.

Jim’s Liberty Library by James Donald
A collection of essays from various authors on the subject of liberty. Have you heard the term “natural law” but wondered what it means, and if it still has relevance in a secular world? This collection contains a great explanation.

Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence by Dale Peterson and Richard Wrangham
Traces the origins of human violence by studying our ape relatives. It turns out that explaining why males go to war against other males is not difficult: war happens because it works. This book describes how gangs of Chimpanzee systematically murder other tribes in order to take over territory and steal females. The book also examines other apes, such as Gorillas and Orangatangs, and theorizes about why Bonobos differ from Chimpanzees. Overall, this is essential reading for understand human violence.

America: History and Government

The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America: The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675 by Bernard Bailyn
A history of North America during the 1600s. An incredible tale of violence and bloodshed. Turns out, your grade school history was highly sanitized.

Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America by David Hackett Fischer
Traces the unique origins and culture of the four different Anglo groups that settled North America – the Puritans, the Cavaliers, the Scots-Irish, and the Quakers. Shows how the cultural divisions that exist in modern America trace their roots back to the various regions of England. There are hundreds of fascinating details and anecdotes about the early history of these American peoples.

Life of John Marshall by Albert Beveridge John Marshall was one of the most important early Americans, and he was in the midst of nearly every event in its early history: he fought in the early battles of the American revolution; survived Vally Forge; defended the new Constitutions when its approval was being debated in the Virginia legistlature; was a close ally of Washington; helped lead a militia to suppress revolts against the early federal government; and as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court handed down many important decisions for the early republic. Not only is this a biography, this is a complete history of early America, in which you see the lives and conflicts of the time in full color.

Outre Mer: Impressions of America by Paul Bourget
A French traveler’s account of the United States in the 1890s. This book is the closest thing possible to hopping in a time machine back to a century ago.

Master of the Senate/Years of Lyndon Johnson by Robert Caro
A masterful account of the rise of President Lyndon Johnson, covering his takeover of the Senate. The book reveals the machinations Lyndon used to obtain and manipulate the levers of power. It also provides a window to the politics and history of the time period.

The Power Broker : Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert Caro
The central political myth of our time is that politicians are in charge. In fact, unelected bureaucrats wield massive amounts of power. This book is the biography of one such bureaucrat, Robert Moses, who used his position to transform the roads and infrastructure of New York City during the middle of the 20th century.

Out of Bondage by Elizabeth Bentley
The memoirs of an American communist agent, who was involved in conspiracies at the highest level. This is a riveting real-life spy tale. It tells a history that is often ignored – there was in fact a communist conspiracy, and it did touch the highest levels of American government.

Oxford History of the American People, 1965 edition, by Samuel Eliot Morison
A general history of the United States, giving a detailed overview of all the milestone events and people. If you find you have big gaps in your basic knowledge of American history, this book is a good one to give you the basics. This is history as it was written before recent progressive/liberal revisionism. It is a good book to use as a base, and then you can dig further and read both the more reactionary and more liberal critiques and revisions. But starting with liberal revisionism and only reading modern liberal revisionism, as is now common in high schools and colleges, will leave you with a very warped sense of American history.

Other Traveler’s Accounts of American History
Outre Mer is the best travelers account I have read, but there are other fine ones too. Traveler accounts are the closest thing we have to the reports of time-travelers, they often pick up on oddities that a native might notice. Some good accounts include Land of the Dollar, Life and Liberty in America by Charles Mackay, Journey to America by Alexis de Tocqueville, American Notes by Charles Dickens, Democracy and the Organization of Political Parties by M Ostrogorski.

Assorted Non-American History

The Europeans by Luigi Barzini
The memoirs of a cosmopolitan traveler and writer, during the years of Europe’s great upheaval. Filled with first-hand accounts of the changes in England, Germany and Italy, going from before World War II up and through the 1970s.

The Classic Slum: Salford Life in the First Quarter of the Century by Robert Roberts
A detailed portrayal of the culture, public life, and home life of the working-class in early 1900s England.

Memoir’s of a Revolutionary by Victor Serge
A first-hand account of the rise of the communist movement in Russia and the course of the Bolshevik revolution.

Holy Madness by Adam Zamoyski
The fall of traditional religion during the enlightenment opened up a new world of radical idealists who wished to build utopias on Earth. This books tells the story of over a dozen revolutions that took place in the Western world from 1770 to 1870. The utter insanity of the time period shows the dark side of The Enlightenment and the Romantic Era.

Understanding Human History by Michael Hart
You have probably read Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. At the very least you have been marinated in his ideas. Diamond uses pure geography to explain why some civilizations have beat out other civilizations. Michael Hart’s explanation is much more politically incorrect and thus you will never find his book in college book stores or your local library. You can read both Hart and Diamond, and come to your own decision about which scholar’s view seems more compelling.

Outline of History by H.G. Wells
A history of the world from the beginning of time until the end of World War I. If you have big gaps in your basic historical knowledge, reading the relevant chapters of this book is a quick way to fill them in. The prose and structure is a lot more engaging than a typical wikipedia article. It tells history as a story, rather than a set of facts.

Africa: A Biography of the Continent
Both a history of the origins of the human race, and of Africa and its people up to recent times. Contains fascinating insight on how the unique geography of Africa restricted the domain and development of humans in ways not found on other continents.

China in World History by S A M Adshead, Reshmi Dutta-Flanders
A history of China much heavier on “insight porn” rather than tedious details. Recommended by one of the biggest China experts that I know.

A History of Rome From Its Origins to A.d. 529, As Told By the Roman Historians by M Hadas
A short, 232 page history of Rome created by combining excerpts of Roman historians. It’s not a replacement for reading the historians themselves, but it will at least get you started on your understanding of Roman history.

Man, Women and Family

Models: Attract Women Through Honesty by Mark Manson
A guide for single men on how to attract women. While the book incorporates insights from the “game” community, it puts an emphasis on genuine self-improvement rather than telling readers to simply perform a shtick.

Married Man’s Sex Life Primer by Athol Kay
A guide for men in relationships on how to both establish harmony at home and keep the spark the alive.

Why Men Rule: A Theory of Male Dominance by Steve Goldberg
“The first edition of this book was lavishly praised by many authorities as the most formidable demonstration of an unpopular truth: males rule in all societies known to history or anthropology, for reasons arising from innate physiology, a brute fact that can never be conjured away by tinkering with social institutions. This new edition has been completely rewritten in the light of two decades of scholarship and debate, taking account of all published criticisms of earlier editions.”

Economics & Finance

Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell
This is a broad introduction to all economic concepts, from a very pro-free-market perspective (a perspective I find to be largely correct). If you know nothing about economics, or have never read a proud defense of capitalism and free markets, then this is a good place to start.

Reminiscences of a Stock Operator by Edwin Lefèvre
Fictionalized memoir of trader Jesse Livermore from the 1920s. This book is an entertaining read and it contains timeless lessons about the psychology of markets. But keep in mind that Lefèvre ultimately lost his fortune – so do not use him as a how-to guide.

Hedge Fund Market Wizards: How Winning Traders Win by Jack Schwager
A collection of interviews with investors and traders who made boatloads of money. Great, informative stories.

The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are (Still) Going Broke by Elizabeth Warren
Warren argues that when women entered the work force, the increased incomes of parents simply means they bid up the price of housing. Turns out that discretionary income of for families has not risen at all.

Liar’s Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street by Michael Lewis
A time machine that takes you to the rise of the financial industry in the 1980s. An entertaining read.

The Great Depression: A Diary by Benjamin Roth
A time machine back to the years of the Great Depression.

A Random Walk Down Wall Street
Explains why trying to beat the market will most likely result in severe underperformance. Provides a simple investing strategy for the ordinary investor.

Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb
A book of incredible breadth, covering everything from economics to lifestyle choices to urban planning to technology. His central framework of trying to identify situations with convex outcomes (for good or bad) is extremely useful. Note that this is far from a perfect book. His tone can be annoying and smug and his advice sometimes seems more on the side of being self-serving, convenient, or simplistic rather than being completely truthful. But many things he say are both novel and true, and so the book is very much worth reading.


Dune by Frank Herbert
A grand tale of wars and power struggles in the desert planet of Arrakis. Fantastic and imaginative world building.

The Foundation Saga
The great psychohistorian Hari Seldon has predicted that the empire will fall. A small foundation must be established to preserve and rebuild civilization. The book has a great premise and a fun, engaging story. It is more of a young adult fiction book, as the characters are simple, and the worldview is quite naive (I feel much harm has been done by academics that try to do psychohistory in real life). But overall, it has lots of interesting ideas, and is a fun, fast read.

Wool and the rest of the Silo Series by Hugh Howey An original tale, an intriguing and mysterious world, fascinating ideas, realistic and complex characters, and strong pacing that keeps you turning the page – this series is everything you could want from a work of fiction.

Bonfire of the Vanities by Tom Wolfe
A Wall Street bond salesman in the go-go 1980s runs into trouble when he is involved in a hit-and-run with a black teenager. This fictional story explores the themes of many news stories of the last few years, ranging from the corruption in Wall Street finance to the eruptions over the shooting of Trayvon Martin. But this book gets all the more credit for being written decades before those events happened. Tom Wolfe is an author who does his homework. He sat alongside bond-traders as research for the novel. The result is a fictional story that provides a window into real world dynamics.

Song of Fire and Ice (A Game of Thrones)
Two things to love about these books: First, when somebody does something stupid that should get themselves killed, they actually die. Second, the perils and pitfalls of leadership are portrayed in full. Unlike in most fantasy, a king does not have power simply by the fact of holding the scepter and having the title king. Maintaining the allegiance of vassals, building alliances, not being deceived by the courtiers – all these are part of the precarious and unending task of leadership. The books are also a good yarn of wars, magic, and dragons. Unfortunately, the novels lose steam after book three, at which point I stopped reading.

Human Nature and Psychology

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Explore the evolutionary and genetic logic that determines behavior in the animal kingdom. Animals face a wide array of choices: to fight, bluster, or run away; to cry to mom for food, or to stay silent so as to not alert predators; to fight with siblings or to share; to take care of a baby or to abandon it. All these behaviors can be understood better by understanding the logic of the selection of genes.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini
Robert Cialdini studied combined studies of modern marketing with lessons from history into a book on how people are influenced. The knowledge in this book can help you both advance your interests and avoid being manipulated.

JayMan’s Blog Archives
JayMan’s blog focuses on a taboo subject: the role genes play in determining the differences in human behavior. His posts review the latest statistics and research about how genes impact everything from IQ gaps, to obesity, to child development, to political leanings. In my opinion, he can go a bit far in explaining everything with genes. But the topic is so under explored by mainstream sources, that reading his blog is a worthwhile corrective.

The Bell Curve by Charles Murray
The modern world allows great wealth to be created by and captured by those who are experts at manipulating abstract concepts. But this ability is not distributed equally. Charles Murray surveys the research on how IQ is linked to both income and other life outcomes. He shows that disparities in cognitive traits are a central fact that underlie much social phenomena of our time. This book provoked a public outcry when it came out. You can read the most sophisticated counter-attacks via the book Scientists respond to the Bell Curve. You can read rejoinders to the rejoinders in this long article, The Bell Curve, 20 Years After. My own take is that critics of The Bell Curve mainly point out the statistical limits to our degree of certainty – limits which Murray mostly already acknowledged. The critiques do not prove the overall conclusions wrong, much less do they prove the opposite conclusions. Statistics are always imperfect, but I tend to agree with Murray’s conclusions since (a) the raw data so overwhelmingly supports his theses, and (b) his conclusions match what I have personally observed in life.

Sociological Eye Blog Archives by Randall Collins
An assortment of fascinating articles, including: a theory of shooting spree killers, a discussion of the charisma of Lawrence of Arabia, and an analysis of why the Mona Lisa is so intriguing.

Career Skills

How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie
While the methods in the book can be overused, the general advice is sound. Every modern worker needs to know how to get points across without aggravating their boss, coworker, or client.

The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker
Just published recently, I found this to be a far more useful guide to writing than the more commonly recommended Elements of Style.


Reddit Fitness Wiki, FAQ, and Community
If you want to lose weight, get into shape, and build a body you are proud of, the Reddit Fitness FAQ has you covered. Fitness is made much more complicated than it needs to be, because people are always looking for shortcuts. Reddit Fitness tells you how it is, with knowledge based off of hundreds of people posting their personal transformations. Join the community and get inspired and motivated.

365 Slow Cooker Suppers by Stephanie O’Dea
Slow cookers are an amazing life-upgrade. Prepare a week’s worth of delicious food with minimal effort and cost.


The Long Crusade: Profiles in Education Reform, 1967-2014 by Raymond Wolters
A comprehensive and realistic overview of all the reform efforts in American education over the past fifty years. This should be mandatory reading for anyone in education policy – if you want to change the system, you need to understand where all the previous reformers went wrong.

The Burden of Brown: Thirty Years of School Desegregation The Brown v. Board of Education decision is one of the most famous in American history. So what happened to all the schools that were impacted by court-ordered desgregation? Professor Wolters tells us the stories.

Left Back: A Century of Battles over School Reform Schooling in the United States has changed dramatically, in its goals, in its execution, over the past hundred fifty years. Diane Ravitch tells the story.

The World We Created at Hamilton High by Gerald Grant
The story of an American high school during the 1960s and 1970s, it covers topics such as integration, race relations, and the transformation of schools from the more staid and disciplinarian attitudes and policies of the 1950s to the looser attitudes of the 1970s. Crucial for understanding how our schools changed so much from the 1950s to today.

Startups, Business, and Management

Paul Graham’s Essays
After building and selling his own startup, Paul Graham founded a startup accelerator that has funded hundreds of startups. He is the world expert in the startup business, and his essays are all worth reading. Be warned though – much of what he writes has now become conventional wisdom, which means it is no longer enough to give you an edge.

Y Combinator Startup Library
A list of worthy readings from the premier startup accelerator.

Startup Class by Y Combinator president Sam Altman
The president of the investment firm Y Combinator taught a class at Stanford covering every aspect of running a startup. He invited in dozens of speakers, who in turn covered areas ranging from management, to marketing, to finding investors, to product development.

The Hard Things About Hard Things
A gritty account of being a startup CEO. Contains lots of nuts and bolts advice about problems that are not typically covered in the business literature, such as how to prevent politics in your company, or what to do when a star achiever stops working hard.

Zero to One by Peter Thiel
Based on a Stanford class that investor and former PayPal founder Peter Thiel taught about startups. Filled with insight and advice.

Traction: How Any Startup Can Achieve Explosive Customer Growth by Gabriel Weinberg
Compendium of dozens of techniques that startups have used to market themselves. Lays out a simple methodology for figuring out how to market your own product.

The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes
Not only is this one of the better books on sales, but it also contains great tips on management, productivity, and self-motivation. Be aware though, that some of the sales tactics may be outdated and off-putting when targeting more modern or sophisticated customers.

Marc Andreessen’s Startup Blog Posts
Andreessen founded Netscape and Opsware, and now runs a premier venture capital firm. This archive contains his best advice about startups and business.

Founders at Work by Jessica Livingston
A collection of interviews with founders of famous technology companies about what happened in the very earliest days.

Autopsy - Lessons from Failed Startups
Links to dozens of startup post-mortems in which founders and employees recount why their startup failed.

Venture Deals: Be Smarter than your Lawyer and your Venture Capitalist by Brad Feld
Comprehensive guide to the nuts and bolts of putting together a venture capital deal.

Great Deeds

The Anabasis by Xenophon
10,000 Greek warriors were hired by a Persian prince to help him fight a civil war. When the prince dies in battle, the Greeks must fight their way back through Persia to return to their homeland. Their leader, Xenophon, tries to hold the men together as they encounter challenge after challenge.

The Right Stuff by Tom Wolf
Story of the astronauts who participated in the early space program.

Skunk Works: A Personal Memoir of My Years of Lockheed by Ben Rich
Inside look at the Lockheed-Martin division that built some of the finest planes ever, including the U2 spy plane and the SR-71 Blackbird (the first plane to go Mach 5). These planes have not been surpassed, even today.

In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives
Tales from the early days of Google.

Showstopper!: The Breakneck Race to Create Windows NT and the Next Generation at Microsoft
How Microsoft created a new operating system from scratch – Windows NT – which ultimately became Windows XP and the basis for their operating systems going forward.

“Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman!”: Adventures of a Curious Character
The memoirs of the world renown physicists. Filled with tips on being smarter and insights about life.

The Making of the Atomic Bomb*
From an Amazon review: ‘“The Making of the Atomic Bomb” is a richly detailed epic, a table-shaking beast of a book that frequently sent me on evening walks to ponder and process the last few chapters I’d read. This is more than just a book about Hiroshima, Oppenheimer, and the Manhattan Project. We get an in-depth look at the early history of atomic physics, the personalities of key scientists, politicians, and military leaders, the complex political and military issues surrounding the bomb’s development and use, and the historic and social events that shaped its creation. This is NOT a beach read - better put aside two weeks and plenty of undivided attention before tackling it!’

Social Problems

Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America by Jill Leovy
An L.A. Times journalist reports from the front-lines of crime-wracked Watts and Compton about interactions between the police and the neighborhood. The book contains a vivid portrayal of both the people committing the violence, and the police dealing with the aftermath.

American Millstone: An Examination of the Nation’s Permanent Underclass
A collection of articles from the Chicago Tribune in the 1980’s about the plight of the black underclass.

American Police Systems by Raymond Fosdick
Fosdick extensively studied both the European and American police systems during the 1910s. His findings about the problems of crime and bad law enforcement are still relevant today. His critique of the American crime problem could, unfortunately, be applied to today without needing much updating. Chapter 2 and Chapter 10 are especially topical and interesting.

Devil’s Night: And Other True Tales of Detroit by Ze’Ev Chafets
A writer born in Detroit returns to the city after being away for decades. A wrenching account of what the city once was, and what it has become.

Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980, by Charles Murray
An exposition of how the social policy of the 1950s and 60s broke up families and enabled the great rise in crime. A good statistical companion to read along with American Millstone. (I recommend American Millstone if you only have time to read just one).

Gang Leader for a Day by Sudhir Venkatesh
A University of Chicago grad student walks into a dangerous housing project, starts following around a local gang leader, and writes about the experience.


(I have gone light on the classics here, since I don’t have anything especially unique to contribute. If you want more good ones, the late Larry Auster had a great annotated reading list of the classics)

The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon*
We who live under the umbrella of the American hegemony, can benefit from reading of the decline and fall of one the great past empires.

The Peloponessian War by Thucydides One of the first real histories ever written. Written by a general who lived through the events, it covers the war between Athens and Sparta in the 400s BC.

The Rise of the Roman Empire by Polybius* Learn about the rise of one of histories great empires from someone who was there and actively involved.

Lives by Plutarch*
From Larry Auster: “All the Lives that I have read are good, but for some reason the life of Marcus Crassus (the member of the First Triumvirate who defeated the Spartacus slave rebellion) made the strongest impression. The spectacle of a successful, extremely wealthy, powerful man, suddenly in middle age getting a brainstorm to win glory and empire and going off to Mesopotamia to fight the Persians and ending up defeated, humiliated, and dead.”

The Bible
It has tales of our most ancient history, wisdom and moral codes that echo down through the ages, and is the base text of three of world’s great religions. This is essential reading for any educated person.

The Iliad and the Odyssey*
The earliest tales from our Western tradition.

The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
One of the first great works of English literature, and also a window into that time period.

Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard II, King Lear by Shakespeare Great literature, chocked with insights about human nature, and an essential part of our Anglo-American heritage.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen A portal into the world of the 19th century.

The Gulag Archipelago by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
A first-hand account of the terror and purges of early Soviet Russia.

Nicomachean Ethics and Politics by Aristotle*
Aristotle was one of the first great philosophers, he had hundreds of data-points to work with from observing Greek cities, and his ideas on virtue and politics still hold up today.

American Political Classics

50 Core American Documents: Required Reading for Students, Teachers, and Citizens
These are the documents that form the basis of our modern American government. They are often cited and often debated. If you want to be involved in these debates, you really must read the originals so that you can make your own judgements about their interpretations.

Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson*
Jefferson is one of the most influential thinkers of the early American Republic, and his ideas set the tone for much that would follow. Read him in his own words.

Alexander Hamilton: Writings*
Hamilton represents the great Federalist thinker of the early Republic, and the great opponent of Jefferson. Between reading him and Jefferson you can get a full sense of how the founding generation thought about the American experiment.

Counter-Whig History

In America, we are heirs to Whig history. The Whig interpretation of history is a four hundred year narrative in which Western civilization progressed from the darkness of monarchy, aristocracy, stasis, inequality, bigotry, and anti-empiricism, toward a world of freedom, democracy, progress, equality, and scientific enlightenment. All mainstream history today is Whig history. Even conservative history, as interpreted by the National Review or Heritage Foundation, is 99% Whig history, with only dissent when it comes to the most recent events and revisionism. For instance, no mainstream conservative is openly on the side of the Tories or Loyalists on the question of the American Revolution.

Not only is Whig history the official narrative, we rarely even read the views of the non-Whigs. Whether we take a typical AP History class or endure the Yale Directed Studies survey course, we do not read what the losers and reactionaries had to say.

One hypothesis is that the Whigs were in fact the good guys, and good has consistently prevailed over evil. A second hypothesis is that the Whigs were almost always the bad guys, and that evil routinely triumphs over good, and then writes histories to make their faction not seem so evil. A third hypothesis is that sometimes the Whigs were the good guys, sometimes they were the bad guys. Sometimes they won, sometimes they did not. But whoever won wrote the history books, and painted themselves as good guys, painted themselves as the friends of liberty and equality, painted themselves as heirs to the Whig tradition, whether it was true or not.

If you genuinely love history, I encourage you to sample some readings from the other side, the losers, the non-Whigs. As you read, keep the all three hypotheses above in mind. On events ranging from the English Civil War, to the American Revolution, to World War I, to the Red Scare, it is time to hear the other side of the story, the side of the story that you never before read. You may end up eventually renewing your faith in Whig-history – but at least by reading the other side your views will now be in full color. You will have replaced the cartoon version of history’s bad guys with a three-dimensional version.

The Counter-Whig history tour guides

Our starting place for counter-whig history is the blog Unqualified Reservations, written by a pseudonymous character by the name of Mencius Moldbug. Moldbug grew up with inside knowledge of American government – his father worked in the foreign service, his mother was a high official in the energy department, his step-dad was a Capitol Hill staffer. After success at a startup, he took a multi-year sabbatical, during which he spent $500 a month on old books. During this period, he single-handedly created the field of counter-whig studies.

Here are some of his posts that are most approachable. Be warned, some people find Mencius too long-winded, and find that he makes too many weird sci-fi references. If you find him unreadable, perhaps try one of the books from the General Counter-Whig History series below:

Introductory Moldbug Posts
Moldbug Sequences

Once you have a sample above, I recommend reading one of his multi-post sequences:

Both are also available as ebooks (here and here).

There is vast trove of additional posts, go to the following web page to get a full index categorized by subject: http://moldbuggery.blogspot.com/

Foseti’s Books Reviews

A second tour guide is the blogger Foseti. The best way to sample him is by doing a google search for book reviews on his web site, and then picking through ones that seem interesting.

General Counter-Whig Histories

Holy Madness by Adam Zamoyski
The fall of traditional religion during the enlightenment opened up a new world of radical idealists who wished to build utopias on Earth. This books tells the story of over a dozen revolutions that took place in the Western world from 1770 to 1870. The utter insanity of the time period shows the dark side of The Enlightenment and the Romantic Era.

Understanding Human History by Michael Hart
You have probably read Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel. At the very least you have been marinated in his ideas. Diamond uses pure geography to explain why some civilizations have beat out other civilizations. Michael Hart’s explanation is much more politically incorrect and thus you will never find his book in college book stores or your local library. You can read both Hart and Diamond, and come to your own decision about which scholar’s view seems more compelling.

Popular Government by Henry Sumner Maine
Written by a 19th century British jurist and historian, this book is an analysis and critique of democratic government. His view is that outside of Britain and America, democracy has been an unstable and ephemeral form of government.

Liberty or Equality by Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn
Kuehnelt-Leddihn marshals the strongest possible case that democratic equality is the very basis not of liberty, as is commonly believed, but the total state. He uses national socialism as his prime example. He further argues the old notion of government by law is upheld in old monarchies, restrained by a noble elite. Aristocracy, not democracy, gave us liberty.

Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse
“Kuehnelt seeks to redefine the political spectrum. His background as an Austrian nobleman gives him a perspective on politics that is very different and unique compared with the vast majority of Americans. Kuehnel also openly writes from a Roman Catholic viewpoint and pro-Christian viewpoint. He defines as ”leftist“ as any movement that emphasizes ”identitarianism“ (i.e. sameness) and either the total rule of the state or ”the will of the people“ over the populace’s affairs.”

On power, its nature and the history of its growth by Bertrand de Jouvenel
Jouvenel frames history as a conflict between centralized power and local power. The essential conflict is the high (central power) promising the masses that it can free them from the oppression of the middle (aristocrats, Church, clan authority, village leaders, etc.) But when central power wins, the masses find themselves with a new master, and one that is not necessarily better.

The Machiavellians by James Burham
Burham argues that it is the cynics and realists who protect freedom – not the naive idealists.

World Wars

Wedeymer Reports by Albert Wedemeyer
“I’m not sure there’s anybody who can better help us understand what happened during World War II than General Albert C. Wedemeyer. He was involved in the planning of the European strategy at the highest levels. Before the conclusion of the war in Europe, however, he was sent to China to lead the US efforts. As he puts it, “many American officers were to experience the close-up phases of warfare more intensively than I, but few were to have my opportunities to see the whole war.” And to talk strategy with Churchill, FDR, Chiang Kai-shek, the Chicom leaders, and many others.”

World War I as Fulfillment: Power and the Intellectuals by Murray Rothbard
“It is not an exaggeration to say that the progressive movement during the late 1800s and early 1900s was the story of an insane religious cult taking over the American institutions of power. Murray Rothbard makes a compelling case.”

Road to War 1914-1917 by Walter Millis
Walter Millis worked mainly as a newspaperman for the New York Herald Tribune, and wrote books about current affairs, especially world conflicts. In this book he looks at the United States from the time war was declared in Europe in 1914 up until the time the US got involved in the fighting herself. He doesn’t much like what he sees. Although America declared neutrality at the beginning of hostilities in Europe, she was actually supporting the side of the Entente (England, France, Italy) from the start. Thus, while most of the country didn’t want America in the war and President Wilson had promised to keep the country out of it, because the country had from the beginning “chosen one side over the other,” she was inextricably drawn in.

How Diplomats Make War by Francis Neilson
This was written by a member of the British Parliament in 1915. He resigned shortly after publishing it. “Neilson’s thesis was that Germany didn’t bear some unique guilt for the war; there was plenty of blame to go around, but ultimately its rests with the arms buildup and secret diplomacy of Britain. His reconstruction of the history of 19th-century diplomacy provides incredible detail to fill out this thesis, even as he never loses sight of the big picture.”

The Roosevelt Myth by John Flynn
In the liberal view, Roosevelt is the greatest president. Flynn presents the complete opposite view, arguing that Roosevelt was closer to a mendacious, corrupt dictator who brought centralized, near tyrannical government to the United States. He sometimes goes overboard with argument, but his book is a necessary corrective to the usual hagiographies.

The 20th Century Anglo-American History

Out of Bondage by Elizabeth Bentley
The memoirs of an American communist agent, who was involved in conspiracies at the highest level. This is a riveting real-life spy tale. It tells a history that is often ignored – there was in fact a communist conspiracy, and it did touch the highest levels of American government.

Chronicles of Wasted Time by Malcolm Muggeridge
Muggeridge had a front row seat to the great events of the 20th Century. He hob nobbed in high places in British society, was a foreign correspondant in Stalin’s Russia, traveled through Nazi Germany, and fought in the British military during war. His story is one of continual disillusionment with his previous socialist ideals.

Radical Son by David Horowitz
Horowitz went to Berkeley, published Ramparts and published other progressive works with Peter Collier. He also fell in with the Black Panthers and particularly with Huey Newton. Soon, his political transformation. As he tells it in the book, the transformation was essentially a realization that the New Left was no different than the Old Left. If there was one turning point for Horowitz, it came when the Panthers killed his friend (and Panther member) Betty Van Porter. Just as the Old Left protected horrible crimes, so was the New Left.

Radical Chic and Mau Mauing the Catch-flakkers by Tom Wolfe
“These are two long essays dealing with Race in America in the late 1960’s. Radical Chic is the more famous of the two. Imagine the scene as Leonard Bernstien and his wife throw a cocktail party in their posh Manhattan Apartment with members of the Black Panther Party as the guests of honor. Wolfe was present at this strange event and offers a play by play of how Radical became all the Chic in the New York social scene…briefly.”

Memoirs of a Superfluous Man by Albert J. Nock
“Albert Jay Nock, perhaps the most brilliant American essayist of the 20th century, and certainly among its most important libertarian thinkers, set out to write his autobiography but he ended up doing much more. He presents here a full theory of society, state, economy, and culture, and does so almost inadvertently.”

Detroit an American Autopsy by Charlie LeDuff
“Back in his broken hometown, Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Charlie LeDuff searches through the ruins for clues to its fate, his family’s, and his own. Detroit is where his mother’s flower shop was firebombed in the pre-Halloween orgy of arson known as Devil’s Night; where his sister lost herself to the west side streets; where his brother, who once sold subprime mortgages with skill and silk, now works in a factory cleaning Chinese-manufactured screws so they can be repackaged as ‘May Be Made in United States.’”

Slaughter of the Cities by Michael Jones
From the 1940s through the 1990s, many of the major cities in America lost half their population, and often 60-90% of their white population. What happened? Michael Jones writes an account of the minority WASP elite using urban renewal to break up white ethnic neighborhoods, and destroy Catholic ethnics as a political power.

It Didn’t Start At Watergate
“The press has been, and still is, more likely to cover the failings of their ideological opponents. As Lasky continually illustrates, media favorites were seldom scrutinized and never were these miscreants taken to task. Documented throughout with private testimony, Commitee testimony, news accounts and some government agency reports, Lasky’s reportage dips far back into the vindictive actions of Franklin Roosevelt. We are led through the Truman administration into both the unethical and illegal acts of the Kennedys. Finally capping this accounting of dirty tricks with a near out of control LBJ. Many of the lesser participants are studied.”

Pre-1900 Anglo-American History

Behemoth by Thomas Hobbes
“The dialogue opens with the student asking the master how it was that a monarch as strong as Charles I should ever have had to face a rebellion. The master relates that a growing opposition to the crown was promoted by seven factions, each of them for their own ends and not in concert, who stoked the fires of rebellion. These factions were: Papists, Presbyterians, Independents including other sects of religious faith, those who were corrupted by their reading of the Latin and Greek classics, centres of commerce and trade such as London, those with no means of support who saw the war as a way to profit, and the lack of understanding as to the important role played by the monarchy in society.”

True History of the American Revolution by Sydney George Fisher
Written in 1906, it presents the history of the American Revolution from a more even-handed perspective than I am used to reading. The resulting history is more believable than the classic story and, in many ways, more interesting. The most interesting aspect of the “true” history is that Mr Fisher paints the struggle which we commonly view as between England and America as a struggle between Whigs and Tories. Initially, the English troops were led by General Howe, while the navy was led by his brother, Admiral Howe. Both were committed Whigs. Whigs, at the time, were sympathetic to American independence. Chapter 8, on the American Reign of Terror, is also fascinating reading, as this part of history is normally left out of the civics class version.

Democracy and the Party System in the United States by Moisey Ostrogorsky
There is a lot of myth-making about our great democratic traditions in America. This colorful account of democratic politics in the 19th century shows that the truth about democracy was very different than the civics class version.

Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction

Shall Cromwell have a statue? and Tis Sixty Years Since by Charles Francis Adams Jr.
Charles Francis Adams Jr.’s bio includes: being born the grandson of president John Quincy Adams; graduating from Harvard, fighting in the civil war on the side of the Union; earning the rank of colonel; running the Union Pacific Railroad; chairing the Massachusetts Park Commission; and serving as president of the American Historical Association. These two pieces describe his reflections and views on the Civil War, with the perspective of many decades gone by.

Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made by Eugene Genovese
“In his best-known book Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (1974), Genovese examined the society of the slaves. This book won the national Bancroft Prize in History. Genovese viewed the antebellum South as a closed and organically united paternalist society that exploited and attempted to dehumanize the slaves. Genovese paid close attention to the role of religion as a form of resistance in the daily life of the slaves because slaves used it to give themselves a sense of humanity. He placed paternalism at the center of the master-slave relationship. Both masters and slaves embraced paternalism, though for different reasons and with varying notions of what paternalism meant.”

Reconstruction in South Carolina by Daniel Chamberlain
A southern view of reconstruction written in 1901. Chamberlain denounces reconstruction as being the act of partisans and selfish politicans, who wished to use corrupt means to buy the black vote, looted the state treasuries, and tried to ensure a permanent national Republican majority.

Colonialism, Post-Colonialism and Third World

The English in the West Indies; or, The bow of Ulysses by James Anthony Froude
The Victorian era historian, James Froude, tours the British West Indies and gives his thoughts on British colonialism.

Robbery Under Law by Evelyn Waugh
Written in 1939, Waugh describes the descent of Mexico into a third-world mess. “So party politics were introduced with pleasant expectations of candidates competing with benevolent projects and a party loyalty finding expression in coloured rosettes and rotten eggs. The result has been twenty-five years of graft, bloodshed and bankruptcy.”

Chief of Station Congo by Lawrence Devlin
This book is the memoir of the American CIA station chief in the Congo during and after independence. He describes a country that instantly descends into chaos and farce, which is completely devoid of any type of leadership.

Bitter Harvest by Ian Smith
Ian Smith was the last president of Rhodesia, before it turned into Zimbabwe. Here he tells his own side of the story, of how his country was betrayed by the international community, with ultimately disastorous results.

Freedom at Midnight
Foseti writes: “I’ve been searching for good history books on India or China for a long time. This book is the first one I’ve read that I would call good. The book is a history of the end of British rule in India and the creation of the modern states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The story is told through people: Mountbatten, Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah (possibly Patel, as well) are the main characters whom the story revolves around.”

From Third World to First: The Singapore Story by Lee Kuan Yew
The former dictator of Singapore tells his own account of how Singapore transformed into one of the richest and most orderly states in the world.