1. The Bible
You can’t be considered a literate person without having read the most important book in the history of Western Civilization.
2. Caesar’s Commentaries
I think it was Will Durant who said that Western Civilization is Caesar and Christ. So, as with the Bible, you might as well go to the source.
3. Machiavelli, Discourses on Livy (or Montesquieu’s harder to find
Considerations on the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline)
As we all know, empires and republics can decline and fall. Machiavelli wanted to learn from the history of Rome how to preserve a republic — and so should we.
4. Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Not a conservative book (though Gibbon was something of a conservative Whig) but a great one: History is the most important subject.
5. Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France
All conservatives pay lip-service to this classic, not enough have actually read it. That’s a shame because it is memorably, beautifully written and provides a necessary check on the unreflecting populism of some conservatives.
6. James Boswell, The Life of Johnson
Dr. Johnson reminds us that the first Whig (liberal) was the devil and that a truly conservative approach to politics is anti-ideological, anti-statist, and anti-political: “How small of all that human hearts endure that part which laws or kings can cause or cure.”
7. Russell Kirk, The Conservative Mind
College students who declare themselves conservatives should read Kirk so they’ll know something of what they’re declaring.
8. Shakespeare, Henry V
All college students are potential leaders; here’s Shakespeare on leadership.
9. Siegfried Sassoon, The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston
Part of the impoverishment of the conservative mind these days is that it has no idea what it wants to conserve (or restore) in large part because so many conservatives don’t bother to cultivate a conservative imagination by reading novels. Sassoon didn’t become a political conservative (and a Catholic convert) until later life, but this brilliant, evocative, gentlemanly book shows a conservative society (which he loved) that produced a generation of heroes, like the author himself, a veteran of the Great War.
10. George Orwell, Collected Journalism
Orwell was another professed Socialist who was in many ways conservative. For a college student, he’s a great tutor on how to write and how to recognize (and avoid) the politicization of language, an area where many political conservatives seem utterly tone deaf as “gender” replaces “sex,” “abstinence” replaces “chastity,” and “perception” becomes relative rather than acute. All of this is freighted with politics, which the left understands but our own folks don’t.