As our society’s ideological tides shift rapidly leftward, being informed has never been more critical — especially when swimming against the current. As we pass one year of lockdowns, many have found added time for reflection, and for reading.
In 2021, we should devote our time to cultivating a greater mastery of our principles and arming ourselves with a more keen understanding before continuing to wage the present cultural war against illiberal leftism. From new reads to old classics, here are ten books every concerned citizen should read this year:
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided on Religion and Politics by Jonathan Haidt
Jonathan Haidt is a professor of social psychology at New York University, the founder of Heterodox Academy, and a leader in the academic movement for ideological freedom. In The Righteous Mind, Haidt takes a non-partisan stance as he examines the moral roots of political differences and illuminates the psychological underpinnings of modern conservatism and liberalism.
The Righteous Mind fosters a better understanding of our political adversaries, and teaches us “why good people are divided on religion and politics.” While our nation grapples with a broadening political divide, this book offers a healing outlook to readers. Haidt is also co-author of best-selling The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure with Greg Lukianoff.
The Case Against Socialism by Rand Paul
Kentucky senator and libertarian thought-leader Rand Paul makes a complete and compelling case against socialism in his latest book. As figures like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gain popularity, a whopping 43 percent of Americans believe that more socialism would be a good thing for our nation.
Paul’s book arms concerned citizens with a slew of arguments against common misconceptions about socialism, drawing from an extensive body of historical evidence and economic theory. The Case Against Socialism amounts to a destruction of this utopian idealism with hard-hitting truth.
1984 by George Orwell
1984 topped Amazon’s bestsellers this past year, decades after its initial publication. The infamous author George Orwell is among the most persuasive critics of authoritarianism, and although most of us likely read this book in high school, it is well worth a re-visit today.
In the age of COVID-19 and excessive government restrictions, many of Orwell’s prophecies are coming to fruition, giving rise to the nickname “COVID-1984.” As authoritarian leftist ideology continues to rise, the story also reflects the sensation of thought criminality many conservatives and libertarians feel today.
How to Have Impossible Conversations: A Very Practical Guide by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay
University of Portland professor of philosophy Peter Boghossian joins forces with notable cultural critic and Twitter provocateur James Lindsay in this guide to navigating treacherous conversations. Boghossian and Lindsay are also two of the three academics involved in the infamous and amusing Grievance Studies Affair. As the political divide continues to grow, this book will empower you with the tools to reach across the aisle civilly and constructively.
From academic insiders who know cancel culture and authoritarian leftism better than anyone, the commentary is relatable and honest. Lindsay also recently teamed up with Helen Pluckrose to publish the best-selling Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender, and Identity – and Why This Harms Everybody.
Springtime for Snowflakes: Social Justice and Its Postmodern Parentage by Michael Rectenwald
Retired professor of liberal studies at New York University and the infamous @AntiPCNYUProf on Twitter, Dr. Rectenwald accessibly traces the ideological roots of “woke culture” in Springtime for Snowflakes.
A former Marxist turned libertarian critic of political correctness, Rectenwald cleverly weaves together a first-person narrative from his perspective as a red-pilled convert in academia with a philosophical reflection on the postmodernist movement and its manifestations in modern leftism.
Unlearning Race: Self Portrait in Black and White by Thomas Chatterton Williams
Cultural critic and New York Times Magazine contributor, Thomas Chatterton Williams is perhaps best known as the mastermind behind the notorious Harper’s Magazine letter standing against cancel culture signed by dozens of celebrities and thought leaders.
In his recent book, Chatterton Williams explores his own racial identity as a mixed-race American man living in France, and ultimately concludes that the only way forward is a rejection of critical race theory and neo-racist identity politics in favor of a reclamation of our common humanity. The book is a refreshing perspective reminiscent of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision for our nation’s future.
A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Power Struggles by Thomas Sowell
Legendary economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell is the author of over thirty books, all of which are well worth reading. At 90-years-old, Sowell is truly a fixture of the modern libertarian and conservative movements and today serves as a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute.
In A Conflict of Visions, Sowell explains the root differences between liberals and conservatives, paying particular attention to conflicting views on the role of government. Sowell’s characteristic and unparalleled clarity makes this book particularly valuable as we reckon with a growing political divide and struggle to pave a path forward for our nation.
The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race, and Identity by Douglas Murray
British author and political commentator, Douglas Murray, has made waves with his best-selling The Madness of Crowds. The book chronicles the rise of woke culture and divisive identity politics, taking on societal misconceptions surrounding race, gender, and sexuality, with interludes on the cultural impacts of technology and Marxist theory.
A new forward from the author addresses the present popularity of Black Lives Matter, making the book all the more timely. All in all, Murray takes identity politics head on, fighting back against our culture’s fetishization of victimhood and obsession with identity.
A Lebanese-Canadian evolutionary psychologist and professor of marketing at Concordia University, Gad Saad provides a timely perspective from inside academia in his The Parasitic Mind. Saad examines the corrosive ideologies eclipsing Western ideals of logic, reason, and free speech.
Saad masterfully fights back against the rise of illiberalism in academia and our culture’s prioritization of feelings over fact. The book seeks to inspire change, concluding with a powerful call to action for the institutional restoration of our former cultural ideals.
12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
Canadian clinical psychologist, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto, and cultural thought leader Jordan B. Peterson pulls together all his best advice for success in his best-selling 12 Rules for Life. Drawing from psychology, mythology, biology, and religion, Peterson sets forth twelve principles for conducting oneself and leading a productive and fulfilling life.
Amidst a devastating pandemic and a societal crisis of faith, 12 Rules is truly an antidote to chaos in 2021. Peterson reminds readers of the importance of maintaining their selfhood and composure in a terrifically uncomposed world. This year, he released a chart-topping sequel, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. Peterson also has a wonderful list of 100+ great books, for those looking for further reading recommendations.
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2021 is a treacherous moment for free speech. From publishers pulling Dr. Seuss books from production, to Amazon removing books critical of the transgender movement, and even schools nixing classics like Homer from their curriculum, book burning is on the rise, both literally and digitally.
It is more important now than ever that we push back and reclaim our right to knowledge and our access to the free marketplace of ideas. Not only should we support these brave writers fighting back against ideological orthodoxy, but we should also endeavor to learn from these experts to become better exponents of our values as the fight against illiberal leftism rages on.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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