This week, I discuss the recent books that have helped me grow as an individual.
Table of Contents
- How to be a Conservative by Roger Scruton
- The Limits of Liberalism: Tradition, Individualism, and the Crisis of Freedom by Mark T. Mitchell
- The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand
- Where the Birds Never Sing by Jack Sacco
- Why Spanking Doesn’t Work by Michael J. Marshall
- Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl By Harriet Jacobs
- Always Read
How to be a Conservative by Roger Scruton
“Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created.” – Roger Scruton
Overall, Roger Scruton’s ideas and arguments improve individualism. Why? Because one of the most significant weaknesses of individuality is self-worship. This self-worship deviates from rational pride and becomes arrogance. Once an individual is arrogant, he diminishes his virtue.
But Scruton lays out how you can contribute to your society without being the mob’s victim. He discusses obligations and responsibilities that avoid painting the individual as a sacrificial lamb to the first beggar. Additionally, he explores how collective goods such as peace, civility, public spirit, property, security, and family life require individual virtue instead of top-down, governmental sanctions.
The Limits of Liberalism: Tradition, Individualism, and the Crisis of Freedom by Mark T. Mitchell
The Limits of Liberalism: Tradition, Individualism, and the Crisis of Freedom is an excellent book for understanding the limits and problems with individualism.
Unfortunately, Mitchell often confuses hedonism for individualism. This confusion is the book’s greatest weakness. Individualism is the pursuit of one’s most virtuous self. However, hedonism is enjoying pleasures at the expense of virtue, sustainability, and purpose. These philosophies are not the same.
Thus, many criticisms will ring false. However, there are moments where Mitchell does accurately point out the flaws of individualism. For example, individualists can be self-centered and fail to maintain virtuous relationships. Or, individuals are too quick to dismiss tradition. And so on.
Instead of being defensive, I believe individualists should heed these criticisms. Mitchell makes prudent, good-faith criticism of individualism without losing the spirit of individual merit, virtue, morality, and responsibility.
The Romantic Manifesto by Ayn Rand
“Love is a response to values. It is with a person’s sense of life that one falls in love—with that essential sum, that fundamental stand or way of facing existence, which is the essence of a personality.” – Ayn Rand
Ayn Rand has always been a personal hero. She was wise, insightful, and understood the importance of defending the individual. Her work, The Romantic Manifesto is a brilliant commentary on what makes good fiction.
The greatest insight from The Romantic Manifesto is how art reflects the values of those who consume and make it. Typically, those who value heroic deeds and duties will consume works full of heroes. Those who value nothingness and weakness will consume “realistic” or nihilistic works. Through art we learn about ourselves and others.
Additionally, The Romantic Manifesto gives the best outline of what makes good art, so you can choose art that reflects life-giving, virtuous values. The art you consume will influence your mindset and philosophy. It is crucial you choose wisely.
Where the Birds Never Sing by Jack Sacco
World War 2 was brutal and a conflict where many heroes died. There is a multitude of emotional, moving tales of the brave men who fought in the war. Where the Birds Never Sing by Jack Sacco is one of many, but this reality does not diminish its effectiveness.
Jack covers his father’s journey to liberate Dachau as the German soldiers were being routed and defeated. The journey is harrowing and sobering, but that’s the work’s value.
Too often, individuals forget the blessings of the modern era. Furthermore, we forget that better, stronger individuals secured our collective peace, technological achievements, and relative stability. As I’ve said before, this does not mean we blindly worship the past. It means we remain grateful to the heroes who came before us.
When we adequately remember the bravery and horrors of the past, we are less likely to whine about the relatively minor inconveniences we experience.
Why Spanking Doesn’t Work by Michael J. Marshall
Spanking, objectively, doesn’t work. This book excels at providing logical, emotional, and moral arguments for why parents should not spank. From there, Michael J. Marshall explores alternatives for disciplining children that don’t require hitting or yelling.
This book gives individuals the tools they need to raise healthy, independent children who are not broken, frail, and damaged. Additionally, the wisdom offered in the book can help anyone with managing emotional control and volatility. Peaceful parenting benefits all individuals and ensures the next generation isn’t as broken as the previous one.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl By Harriet Jacobs
“My Master had power and law on his side; I had a determined will. There is might in each.” – Harriet Jacobs
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl is a depressing tale of Harriot Jacobs, a slave woman who was abused, mistreated, and had everything stolen from her. Despite this, she found the strength to overcome adversity, write her story, and live a fruitful life.
This book will give you insight into the comforts you enjoy. When we seek to co-opt the horrors of the past, books like Incidents will give you pause. It’s crucial to shame individuals, including yourself, for pretending to experience suffering others have endured.
Our lives are infinitely more comfortable because of the suffering stronger and better people went through. We should remain grateful. And that’s what Incidents helps us understand.
Reading is one of the best ways to improve your mental, emotional, and intellectual self. I would say you should dedicate at least ten minutes a day to reading.
Find books within topics that you find enjoyable and intriguing. Don’t start with hefty tomes just because some college professor said so. Start with issues that will serve, entertain, and challenge you in meaningful ways.
Keep reading, and I’ll see you next time.
- What are the books which changed your life?
- What about your life did they change? Your way of thinking? Your actions? Your beliefs?
- From a more objective standpoint, did these books change you for the better? For example, when I first read The Fountainhead, I was childish and abrasive in my display of individualism. By analyzing my actions, I could come to terms with my own trauma and better process the lessons the book offers. Although the books you selected may have helped you improve, could there be blind spots that you may be missing or bad habits that could be settling?
Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.
*Image credit to Unsplash.