"Knowledge makes a man unfit to be a slave." - Frederick Douglass
The goal of the individual should be liberation from ignorance. Through the pursuit of knowledge, you’ll gain key insight into your limitations, develop your wisdom, and grow beyond the pettiness which plagues the collective.
Knowledge is gained through reading and the consumption of wisdom. Below I offer the books which have made the biggest impact on my life. I also offer relevant links for purchasing and a short summary of the book. Read these books with care and deliberation.
Books are separated into categories based on genre.
Furthermore, I provide the reading lists from thinkers who have influenced me. Lastly, I list my favorite blogs and podcasts.
Ayn Rand expertly details what makes good fiction, why fiction should show the world as it ought to be, and how “realistic” and cynical portrayals of life are subpar ways of telling stories.
What bothered me about True Believer are the truths contained on every page. This book will help you understand why people give up their freedoms and the lives of their neighbors to join violent, collectivist movements. The saddest moment in the book is the realization of how impossible it may be to prevent mass movements from arising.
Self-help and self-improvement
Power is dynamic. The more power you have, the more control you possess over your life and future. Robert Greene offers the best book on how to cultivate, expand, and maintain power over your life and the lives of others.
Happiness is cultivated by serving the needs of those you love and care for. Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ makes the case for why we need to engage productively with our community.
Dr. Peterson is popular because he urges the individual to solve problems within her own life before looking outward. 12 Rules of Life will give you the foundational pieces you need to achieve happiness. From keeping your room clean to standing straight, he weaves practical advice with larger ideas such as the failures of communism and the virtues of masculinity.
Atomic Habits covers how to build better habits and eliminate bad ones. Through this book, you’ll improve 1% every day and become the individual you’ve always wanted to be.
The Subtle Art provides the tools you need to chill out and focus on the important things in life. Mark Manson covers how to worry about what’s important, how to overcome adversity by rejecting victimhood, and what love and death truly mean.
Master Fear covers the best techniques you can use to overcome your fear and excel in life. Brandon Webb maps out how a five-step process can highjack your brain and use your fear to propel your forward.
Finance and Economics
Debt is dumb. As an individual, being debt-free will serve you by delivering the monetary resources you need to remain free and pursue your goals. If you need help in defeating any debt you have, Total Money Makeover will walk you through the steps needed to grow wealth and achieve financial security.
One annoying aspect of culture is how people pretend economics is unknowable. However, Henry Hazlitt provides precise, simplified details to help the layman understand the principles of economics. Through this book, Hazlitt explores everything from price controls to special interests. Everyone needs to understand economics and this book will help you do it.
The Law is a foundational book detailing the proper role of government. Frédéric Bastiat makes an iron-clad, passionate case against the large government and special interests. Instead, he supports individuals, markets, and freedom as the best ways to structure civilization. If you want to understand limited government and maximized personal responsibility, The Law is the best book.
In Against the State, Lew Rockwell outlines the many flaws and evils of the state. He covers the failed War on Terror, the brutal War on Drugs, the for-profit Prison Industry, and more. Through his analysis, he expertly argues how these abuses in power are a design of the state apparatus. From here, Rockwell makes a bold case: humans would be better off without a state.
If you want to better understand anarchism and the nature of government, this is a crucial book of exploration.
The Fountainhead details the struggles of Howard Roark as he fights a brutish and selfish society. The Fountainhead provides inspiration as well as a thrilling narrative about the dangers of collectivism.
Superman is the greatest superhero and Grant Morrison delivers the evidence. In this story, Superman learns he is dying and spends his final days completing impossible tasks. By the end of this story, you’ll learn about heroism, death, and the value of good people both real and imagined.
Kingdom Come humanizes Superman by making him concerned, flawed, and desperate as he seeks to protect the Earth from murderous heroes. Through this story, you’ll engage with the ideas of retributive justice, traditionalism, and what it means to be a hero.
This powerful book is about a black community in the 40s. A black man is falsely sent to death row while a teacher teaches him to read. In the end, the falsely accused man and the teacher learn what it means to be a man as they challenge themselves and each other.
Every honest man understands the dangers of the government. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, we see how government and collective interests break the wills of individuals one day at a time.
What I love most about American Gods is the sense of wonder and mystery the world creates. The Old Gods (e.g. Odin) are fighting against the New Gods (e.g. Technology) and everyman Shadow is caught in the middle. It’s a thrilling ride full of twists, clever dialogue, and meaningful commentary on worship, honesty, and loyalty.
What I gained most from reading this book is an appreciation of life and the importance of leaving a meaningful legacy. To Dance with the White Dog is about Sam Peek, an old man dealing with the death of his wife and the steady march of time. The book is sincere, brilliantly written, and touching.
C.S. Lewis clearly shows wit with The Screwtape Letters. The story is about a demon trying to win over the soul of a man. C.S. Lewis details the best way the demon can defeat the man through various letters written by the senior demon, Screwtape. By the end of the story, you’ll learn more about the flaws of all individuals and the need to guard yourself against the worst elements of your characters.
I love the new Star Trek films. After watching Beyond, I’ve started reading more material and watching the older shows. I found The Unsettling Stars, set between the first and second films of the reboot trilogy, to be entertaining. It’s an engrossing story about how providing too much help can lead to those who you are assisting to become enslaved to you.
The brilliance of Master List is how it provides material for any fiction writer to craft a story and diversify descriptions. If you struggle to find synonyms for common descriptions or describe specific actions, then Bryn Donovan’s book is perfect for you.
Pebble is a brilliant book because it unfolds slowly. Through clever world-building Asimov builds a believable world of galactic empires and planet-wrecking racism. He ties everything together with an interesting cast of characters, each with their own stake in saving the galaxy.
The writing is sharp, meaningful, and interesting. This is a great fiction book if you want to remain engaged and hopeful.
Grant Morrison expertly details the history of superheroes while exploring his own journey as a writer. Through this book, you’ll learn about comics, laugh at good jokes, and reflect on the meaning of life and heroes.
Economics is a complex science which is under-appreciated by nearly everyone. In The Road to Serfdom, F.A. Hayek expertly covers the history of socialism and fascism. Furthermore, he discusses how such ideologies give rise to the brutalities of the 20th century as seen in Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Russia.
Biography and autobiography
Frederick Douglass rose from the hells of slavery to become an influential speaker, thinker, and abolitionist. His powerful autobiography details his climb out of slavery and serves as powerful motivation.
Dave Goggins’s childhood was hell but he refused to give up. His autobiography is a powerful testament to the strength of the individual to overcome hardships, pain, and suffering.
David Row is a death row lawyer and is responsible for representing people who rarely provoke sympathy. His memoir discusses death as he deals with the death of an inmate, his family dog, and his father-in-law. By the end, David learns more about life, its value, and his own purpose.
Hillbilly Elegy is a hard book to put down because J.D. Vance describes the struggles of the downtrodden with compassion and sternness. This book is excellent for reminding individuals of how to care for the poor while maintaining reasonable standards and expectations.
What I enjoy most from Booker T.’s momentous biography is his embrace of personal responsibility. He was a former slave dealing with post-slave America, and he identified personal responsibility as the best, long-term solution for individuals during such a difficult time. Although he and his ideas are controversial, I firmly believe his story and arguments can assist any individual in growing, improving, and excelling.
Infidel is a brutal ride and reveals the suffering of millions of individuals in Muslim countries. Ayaan Hirsi Ali presents a powerful case for atheism, individualism, and Western society by highlighting the oppressive horrors of her childhood. Above all, she clearly shows how lacking universal standards for everyone allows evil and brutality to fester.
What I love about Lori Gottlieb’s memoir is how entertaining and honest it is. After a bad breakup, our author therapist goes to therapy herself. From here, she learns more about herself as she deals with a variety of clients. You’ll gain an entertaining read while learning more about the world of therapy. Lastly, you’ll read a strong case as to why you should consider therapy and self-knowledge to improve yourself.
Within World War 2 was tragedy and horror but also heroism. Where the Birds Never Sing is the true story of the 92nd signal battalion and their brutal tract through Europe as they fight to defeat the Nazis. Their journey ends at Dachau where they see the evil results of the Nazis’ brutality.
Incidents provides insight into slavery from the female perspective. The life of a woman is hard and the exploitation of female slaves is difficult to process. However, as with all accounts of suffering, the book will force you to appreciate the better society we find ourselves in.
Also, you can read the tale of a strong individual as she learns to develop her will in a world that is eager to break her.
If you want to learn how to unlock your creative side then Drawing for the Right Side provides the advice and help you need. This book covers how to unlock your brain and tear down mental barriers, so you can become a better artist.
Business and Leadership
Navy Seal Jocko Willink details how personal responsibility keeps the SEALs at the top of their game. Additionally, he details how personal responsibility will keep you at the top of your game in your personal life and in the office.
Kim Scott details the habits, behaviors, and attitudes a leader needs to become the best boss for their team. Through meaningful, practical advice, clever writing, and beautiful stories, Kim fully details everything you need to excel in leadership and communication.
Becoming a linchpin is about developing the skills, traits, and abilities needed to be indispensable to your organization. Seth Godin details the ways you can grow in your company, solidify your position, and thrive in the corporate environment.
Identity and Religion
Jennifer Fulwiler’s fascinating book details her conversion from atheism to Catholicism. Throughout the work, she highlights her intellectual growth, emotional maturity, and growing humility. This is an excellent book if your curious about Catholicism or atheism.
C.S. Lewis is a master apologist because he distills the complexity of Christianity into simple principles and ideals. His work, Mere Christianity, is an excellent introduction to better understanding the Christian religion and tradition.
On Being Catholic serves as an introduction to the Catholic faith. Curious minds can learn more about the traditions, rituals, and beliefs of Catholics and the Catholic Church in a digestible way.
G.K. Chesterton was a master apologist, and The Everlasting Man serves as the best example of why. His book, a rebuttal to H. G. Wells’ The Outline of History, is substantial. However, the messages, words, and ideas are engaging, enriching, and satisfying to the intellectually curious.
W.E.B. Du Bois is an intellectual powerhouse, and The Souls of Black Folk expertly details the pains and struggles of black people following a generation after the Civil War. This political and historical work gives a more profound insight into the efforts of recently-freed people and their plight to be seen as human in a racist society.
The Case for Faith provides answers to common opposition to Christianity and faith. Lee Strobel interviews major figureheads in the apologist world including Peter Kreeft and Ravi Zacharias. This book is crucial for anyone trying to understand their faith or Christianity.
Why I Am Catholic is probably the best apologist book I’ve ever read. Brandon Vogt offers insightful, direct, and succinctly argues for God, religion, and the Catholic faith. Additionally, he isn’t shy about acknowledging the flaws of the Church. This book is perfect for helping your faith journey or your understanding of Catholicism.
Parenting and community
Michael Marshall presents the logical, scientific, and moral arguments for why spanking doesn’t work. He argues for better, more nuanced and sympathetic approaches to parenting which engage children and foster the best parenting habits.
What are the best ways to prepare for and raise a baby? John Medina’s book is perfect for parents looking to improve their parenting and give their children the best first start. In this book, you’ll learn about TV watching, sleep behaviors, food choices, and much more.
One of my life goals is to be the best husband and father. Through books such as The Whole-Brain Child, I believe I have a shot. This book expertly breaks down the best parenting techniques to help your child grow, develop, and become their best self.
This book is a fantastic read about what it means to be happy and joyful. The Dalai Lama and Archbishop have engrossing dialogue about the origins, purpose, and meaning of happiness. A great book for the curious mind seeking interfaith dialogue.
Simple, every recipe has six ingredients or less and fewer steps. The recipe selection is diverse from pistachio and cherry cookies to pork chops, salads, and squid. If you need a new cookbook, you’ll love this one.
The Simple Guide is a perfect introduction to minimalism. Leo Babauta covers how decluttering your life, shrinking your schedule, and streamlining your thoughts can help you save time, energy, and a whole lot of money.
One of my goals is to improve my writing. By consuming works such as On Writing Well, I’ve learned how to strip my content of clutter. Also, I’ve upgraded my use of verbs, nouns, and poetic copy.
If you need to upgrade your writing, then this book is perfect.