Books of influence

An interesting article on how most of our presidents have been big readers, and how the books they read have influenced their policies:  For Obama and past presidents, the books they read shape policies and perceptions.  Truman’s reading about ancient history led to his support of the founding of Israel.  Kennedy and Johnson read books on the poor in American that led to the “war on poverty.”  Nixon pored over histories in working through his foreign policies.  Jimmy Carter got his sense of national “malaise” from “The Culture of Narcissism.”   Reagan read Milton Friedman, which led to his free-market reforms.  Bush, contrary to stereotype, read extensively, and his reading of Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky’s books on democracy inspired him to attempt to spread democracy throughout the world.

What books have influenced YOUR political beliefs?

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    The Servile State- Hilaire Belloc
    Small is Beautiful -EF Schumacher

  • http://spaceagelutheran.blogspot.com/ SAL

    The Servile State- Hilaire Belloc
    Small is Beautiful -EF Schumacher

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Winston Churchill’s “History of the English Speaking Peoples”
    And other history books for the most part.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Winston Churchill’s “History of the English Speaking Peoples”
    And other history books for the most part.

  • katy

    I’ll Take My Stand and what SAL said

  • katy

    I’ll Take My Stand and what SAL said

  • George

    George Bush’s favorite book was “The Adventures of Dick and Jane.”
    It took him awhile, but he eventually finished it.

  • George

    George Bush’s favorite book was “The Adventures of Dick and Jane.”
    It took him awhile, but he eventually finished it.

  • Manxman

    “The Second American Revolution,” “Parents’ Rights,” “The End of Man” – John Whitehead

    “Bad News for Modern Man” – Franky Schaeffer

    “A Christian Manifesto” “How Shall We then Live?” – Francis Schaeffer

    “Operation Rescue” – Randall Terry

    “What are they Teaching our Children?” – Mel & Norma Gabler

    “The Roots of American Order” – Russell Kirk

  • Manxman

    “The Second American Revolution,” “Parents’ Rights,” “The End of Man” – John Whitehead

    “Bad News for Modern Man” – Franky Schaeffer

    “A Christian Manifesto” “How Shall We then Live?” – Francis Schaeffer

    “Operation Rescue” – Randall Terry

    “What are they Teaching our Children?” – Mel & Norma Gabler

    “The Roots of American Order” – Russell Kirk

  • Orianna Laun

    “Women Who Make the World Worse” by Kate O’Beirne
    “The Spiritual Society” by Fred Baue

  • Orianna Laun

    “Women Who Make the World Worse” by Kate O’Beirne
    “The Spiritual Society” by Fred Baue

  • MarkE

    “Modern Times” by Paul Johnson
    “The Last Lion” William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill
    “America Alone” by Mark Steyn

  • MarkE

    “Modern Times” by Paul Johnson
    “The Last Lion” William Manchester’s biography of Winston Churchill
    “America Alone” by Mark Steyn

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    “The Revenge of Conscience” by J. Budziszewski

  • http://wipfandstock.com/store/As_Though_It_Were_Actually_True_A_Christian_Apologetics_Primer Matt C.

    “The Revenge of Conscience” by J. Budziszewski

  • Purple Koolaid

    The Road to Serfdom by FA Hayek

    Animal Farm by George Orwell

    Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

    Thomas Sowell’s books—all are excellent Economic Facts and Fallacies AND A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, Black Rednecks and White Liberals are good starters

    and most recently : No More Wacos: What’s Wrong With Federal Law Enforcement and How to Fix it by David Kopel and Paul Blackman http://www.amazon.com/No-More-Wacos-Federal-Enforcement/dp/1573921254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271856725&sr=1-1

    I would be happy to donate any of these to your library.

  • Purple Koolaid

    The Road to Serfdom by FA Hayek

    Animal Farm by George Orwell

    Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt

    Thomas Sowell’s books—all are excellent Economic Facts and Fallacies AND A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, Black Rednecks and White Liberals are good starters

    and most recently : No More Wacos: What’s Wrong With Federal Law Enforcement and How to Fix it by David Kopel and Paul Blackman http://www.amazon.com/No-More-Wacos-Federal-Enforcement/dp/1573921254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1271856725&sr=1-1

    I would be happy to donate any of these to your library.

  • Tom Hering

    “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism”
    by Andrew J. Bacevich.

  • Tom Hering

    “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism”
    by Andrew J. Bacevich.

  • http://yellingstop.wordpress.com Matthew Stokes

    All things by William F. Buckley, Jr.
    Allan Bloom – The Closing of the American Mind
    Russell Kirk – The Conservative Mind
    Kirk’s The Conservative Reader
    C.S. Lewis – The Abolition of Man
    Whittaker Chambers – Witness
    Richard Weaver – Ideas Have Consequences

    I’ll confess that while younger my thoughts were shaped by back issues of National Review, Commentary and lots and lots of Rush Limbaugh.

  • http://yellingstop.wordpress.com Matthew Stokes

    All things by William F. Buckley, Jr.
    Allan Bloom – The Closing of the American Mind
    Russell Kirk – The Conservative Mind
    Kirk’s The Conservative Reader
    C.S. Lewis – The Abolition of Man
    Whittaker Chambers – Witness
    Richard Weaver – Ideas Have Consequences

    I’ll confess that while younger my thoughts were shaped by back issues of National Review, Commentary and lots and lots of Rush Limbaugh.

  • LAJ

    Recently, Huccabee-Do the Right Thing

  • LAJ

    Recently, Huccabee-Do the Right Thing

  • Joe

    Atlas Shrugged – Rand
    Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement – Suprynowicz. et al.
    The Federalist Papers
    The Communist Manifesto
    Animal Farm
    Brave New World
    Revolution – Ron Paul (not sure of the impact if it yet; just read it and am still thinking it through).
    Republic – Plato
    The Prince – Machiavelli

    There are a lot more that are not coming to mind. I think you shape your philosophy by reading this you don’t agree with just as much by reading things you do agree with.

  • Joe

    Atlas Shrugged – Rand
    Send in the Waco Killers: Essays on the Freedom Movement – Suprynowicz. et al.
    The Federalist Papers
    The Communist Manifesto
    Animal Farm
    Brave New World
    Revolution – Ron Paul (not sure of the impact if it yet; just read it and am still thinking it through).
    Republic – Plato
    The Prince – Machiavelli

    There are a lot more that are not coming to mind. I think you shape your philosophy by reading this you don’t agree with just as much by reading things you do agree with.

  • Booklover

    Bible
    Milton Friedman
    anything by Francis Schaeffer
    the book of life

  • Booklover

    Bible
    Milton Friedman
    anything by Francis Schaeffer
    the book of life

  • Booklover

    What would really be interesting to know is, did you read a book that radically changed your point of view? I think we all tend to read books that verify the view that we’ve already had. We choose our books according to the way our reed is bent.

    So—has a book changed a radical right-winger into a rabid left-winger, or vice versa?? :-)

  • Booklover

    What would really be interesting to know is, did you read a book that radically changed your point of view? I think we all tend to read books that verify the view that we’ve already had. We choose our books according to the way our reed is bent.

    So—has a book changed a radical right-winger into a rabid left-winger, or vice versa?? :-)

  • Steven

    One book that really changed my mind came from a dismissive, throw-away line in an article in New Republic about 15 years ago. After a little searching, I came across “Socialism” by von Mises.

    Another book that has had a lot of impact on my thinking is Glacken’s “Traces on the Rhodian Shore”. The book that fundamentally challenged many of my assumptions as a Lutheran was Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship”, while much of my philosophical outlook was influenced by the works on Phenomenology by Husserl.

    Also the histories of 16-17th Century Spain and Europe by Geoffrey Parker and J.H. Elliott.

  • Steven

    One book that really changed my mind came from a dismissive, throw-away line in an article in New Republic about 15 years ago. After a little searching, I came across “Socialism” by von Mises.

    Another book that has had a lot of impact on my thinking is Glacken’s “Traces on the Rhodian Shore”. The book that fundamentally challenged many of my assumptions as a Lutheran was Bonhoeffer’s “Cost of Discipleship”, while much of my philosophical outlook was influenced by the works on Phenomenology by Husserl.

    Also the histories of 16-17th Century Spain and Europe by Geoffrey Parker and J.H. Elliott.

  • Winston Smith

    Anyhing by James Bovard or Judge Andrew Napolitano

  • Winston Smith

    Anyhing by James Bovard or Judge Andrew Napolitano

  • Louis

    “Tales of the Longbow” – Chesterton.
    “The Napoleon of Notting Hill” – Chesterton

  • Louis

    “Tales of the Longbow” – Chesterton.
    “The Napoleon of Notting Hill” – Chesterton

  • Another Kerner

    The Law : Frederic Bastiat
    Luther’s Warning to His Dear German People
    The Federalist Papers
    The Road to Serfdom: Hayek
    Bureaucracy: Von Mises
    Roosevelt’s Road to Russia: Crocker

  • Another Kerner

    The Law : Frederic Bastiat
    Luther’s Warning to His Dear German People
    The Federalist Papers
    The Road to Serfdom: Hayek
    Bureaucracy: Von Mises
    Roosevelt’s Road to Russia: Crocker

  • Purple Koolaid

    did my views change by reading??
    Yes, I come from a very liberal family; in fact, I have never seen anyone vote for a non-democrat. I went to Univ of Colorado Boulder—Ward Churchill was a professor of mine. People’s Republic of Boulder is a valid description. I had read everything by Barbara Ehrenreich (marxist feminist), but nothing by any of the author’s I listed. After graduation I had the occassion to read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and I started reading more books. So yes, a complete turn around. Thomas Sowell is amazing and changed my indoctrination about racism etc. Experience also made a difference in the different jobs I’ve had and places I’ve lived.

  • Purple Koolaid

    did my views change by reading??
    Yes, I come from a very liberal family; in fact, I have never seen anyone vote for a non-democrat. I went to Univ of Colorado Boulder—Ward Churchill was a professor of mine. People’s Republic of Boulder is a valid description. I had read everything by Barbara Ehrenreich (marxist feminist), but nothing by any of the author’s I listed. After graduation I had the occassion to read Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and I started reading more books. So yes, a complete turn around. Thomas Sowell is amazing and changed my indoctrination about racism etc. Experience also made a difference in the different jobs I’ve had and places I’ve lived.

  • Samuel B.

    Booklover @15
    Since 2004, I’ve gradually moved from the right wing to what you’d call the left. Books that helped change my view include those by Andrew Bacevich, Chalmers Johnson, Jane Meyer, Victor Hugo, Taylor Branch and the papal encylicals on Catholic social teaching.

  • Samuel B.

    Booklover @15
    Since 2004, I’ve gradually moved from the right wing to what you’d call the left. Books that helped change my view include those by Andrew Bacevich, Chalmers Johnson, Jane Meyer, Victor Hugo, Taylor Branch and the papal encylicals on Catholic social teaching.

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    @BookLover

    I read Crossans “Birth of Christianity”, and thought he was certifiable. And yet, it revealed to me many flaws in the theology and practice of my own denominational affiliation. Not a radical change, but neither a reinforcement. I find books that challenge my thinking far more helpful than those that reinforce it. Other books I have enjoyed:
    Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (imho indispensible to the Christian thinker)
    Reformed Dogmatics
    In Defense of Globalization
    The Age of Diminished Expectations
    Common Sense Economics
    The Red Queen
    Poverty, Agrarian Structure, & Political Economy in India
    Power and Privilege
    Game Theory for Applied Economists
    Confessions of an Economic Hitman
    Nixon and Mao
    Darfur’s Sorrow

  • http://www.redeemedrambling.blogspot.com/ John

    @BookLover

    I read Crossans “Birth of Christianity”, and thought he was certifiable. And yet, it revealed to me many flaws in the theology and practice of my own denominational affiliation. Not a radical change, but neither a reinforcement. I find books that challenge my thinking far more helpful than those that reinforce it. Other books I have enjoyed:
    Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (imho indispensible to the Christian thinker)
    Reformed Dogmatics
    In Defense of Globalization
    The Age of Diminished Expectations
    Common Sense Economics
    The Red Queen
    Poverty, Agrarian Structure, & Political Economy in India
    Power and Privilege
    Game Theory for Applied Economists
    Confessions of an Economic Hitman
    Nixon and Mao
    Darfur’s Sorrow

  • Jerry

    in my teens: None dare call it treason
    in my thirties: How shall we then live
    in my fifties: The anonymous god

  • Jerry

    in my teens: None dare call it treason
    in my thirties: How shall we then live
    in my fifties: The anonymous god

  • Another Kerner

    P.S.

    Fabian Freeway: Rose Martin
    The Tragedy of American Compassion: Olasky

  • Another Kerner

    P.S.

    Fabian Freeway: Rose Martin
    The Tragedy of American Compassion: Olasky

  • moallen

    I have read a number of political books, and tend to enjoy those with very opinionated writers. My grandparents were very involved in local Democratic politics. My parents were primarily non-political (although my Dad always said Republicans support “the rich getting richer”). I witnessed the Reagan revolution in high school and college – and that together with conservative reading (National Review primarily, plus books listed below), plus a strong pro-life position turned me away from the Democrats to being a Conservative Pro-life individual. My grandparents did NOT like Reagan – but seemed incapable of telling me what he did that was so evil.

    “What I Saw at the Revolution” – Peggy Noonan. Notwithstanding her recent foray into – well, wherever Noonan is going in seemingly abandoning all principal and supporting the winning team, wherever that may take her today – before all of that Noonan wrote a great book about the Reagan administration that really made me admire Reagan and appreciate conservative ideas and the greatness of Reagan.

    “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation” – Ronald Reagan & C Everett Koop. It is unheard of for a sitting President to author a book. Reagan felt so strongly about abortion and the future of the nation that he put out a book. This together with other pro-life books influenced me towards a strong life position.

    “America Alone” – Mark Steyn. Western Civilization may essentially cease to exist in my lifetime. This saddens me, but God’s purposes are His own as the “center” or growth and faithful witness of the Church has shifted to Asia, with this shift accelerating as the years go by. Western Civ no longer believes itself worth supporting and defending.

    “1984,” “Animal Farm” – George Orwell. these 2 books also helped me understand the genius of a free society.

    “The Stranger” – Albert Camus – after reading this Existentialism began to lose it’s luster for me, although I am still influenced by this philosophy as it is the source of “what’s true for me” ideas that pervade western culture.

    “Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism” – Ann Coulter – I know, she’s a bomb thrower, but she’s intelligent, does extensive research, and presents a lot of compelling information. Plus she’s hilarious.

  • moallen

    I have read a number of political books, and tend to enjoy those with very opinionated writers. My grandparents were very involved in local Democratic politics. My parents were primarily non-political (although my Dad always said Republicans support “the rich getting richer”). I witnessed the Reagan revolution in high school and college – and that together with conservative reading (National Review primarily, plus books listed below), plus a strong pro-life position turned me away from the Democrats to being a Conservative Pro-life individual. My grandparents did NOT like Reagan – but seemed incapable of telling me what he did that was so evil.

    “What I Saw at the Revolution” – Peggy Noonan. Notwithstanding her recent foray into – well, wherever Noonan is going in seemingly abandoning all principal and supporting the winning team, wherever that may take her today – before all of that Noonan wrote a great book about the Reagan administration that really made me admire Reagan and appreciate conservative ideas and the greatness of Reagan.

    “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation” – Ronald Reagan & C Everett Koop. It is unheard of for a sitting President to author a book. Reagan felt so strongly about abortion and the future of the nation that he put out a book. This together with other pro-life books influenced me towards a strong life position.

    “America Alone” – Mark Steyn. Western Civilization may essentially cease to exist in my lifetime. This saddens me, but God’s purposes are His own as the “center” or growth and faithful witness of the Church has shifted to Asia, with this shift accelerating as the years go by. Western Civ no longer believes itself worth supporting and defending.

    “1984,” “Animal Farm” – George Orwell. these 2 books also helped me understand the genius of a free society.

    “The Stranger” – Albert Camus – after reading this Existentialism began to lose it’s luster for me, although I am still influenced by this philosophy as it is the source of “what’s true for me” ideas that pervade western culture.

    “Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism” – Ann Coulter – I know, she’s a bomb thrower, but she’s intelligent, does extensive research, and presents a lot of compelling information. Plus she’s hilarious.

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    In no particular order -
    “Spirituality of the Cross” – Gene Veith
    “The Gospel According to the Simpsons” – Pinsky – got me thinking in religious lens when watching and reading popular media.
    “Spiritual Care under the Cross” – Richard Eyers
    “They will see His face” – Richard Eyers
    “Your God is too Small” – JB Phillips
    “Christ, Have Mercy” – Matt Harrison (still reading it but quotes have already made it into sermons.)
    “Mere Christianity” – C.S. Lewis (his commentary on the nature of truth is very applicable to the post-modern mindset)

  • http://lutherama.blogspot.com Dr. Luther in 21st Century

    In no particular order -
    “Spirituality of the Cross” – Gene Veith
    “The Gospel According to the Simpsons” – Pinsky – got me thinking in religious lens when watching and reading popular media.
    “Spiritual Care under the Cross” – Richard Eyers
    “They will see His face” – Richard Eyers
    “Your God is too Small” – JB Phillips
    “Christ, Have Mercy” – Matt Harrison (still reading it but quotes have already made it into sermons.)
    “Mere Christianity” – C.S. Lewis (his commentary on the nature of truth is very applicable to the post-modern mindset)

  • The Jungle Cat

    Most political books worth reading have already been mentioned. I did a brief skim and am sure that “Democracy in America” must be in there somewhere, but it is worth repeating: Read “Democracy in America”. If I could recommend one book on foreign policy written after Sept. 11th, it would be “The West and the Rest”.

  • The Jungle Cat

    Most political books worth reading have already been mentioned. I did a brief skim and am sure that “Democracy in America” must be in there somewhere, but it is worth repeating: Read “Democracy in America”. If I could recommend one book on foreign policy written after Sept. 11th, it would be “The West and the Rest”.

  • Pete

    Purple Koolaid, I’m with you, man – anything by Thomas Sowell is tremendous. His book, “Preferential Policies” is great and a marvelous polemic against the government tinkering with things to improve a particular group’s plight.

  • Pete

    Purple Koolaid, I’m with you, man – anything by Thomas Sowell is tremendous. His book, “Preferential Policies” is great and a marvelous polemic against the government tinkering with things to improve a particular group’s plight.

  • Another Kerner

    Thank you to Dr. Luther in the 21st Century and Book Lover for including books which address the Christian World view….
    A clear understanding of “politics” for Christians really should be, and often is, an extension of a clear understanding of the Christian world view….
    At first I thought I would include The Book of Concord in my political reading list as well… because our view of sacrifice, law, freedom , justice, forgiveness, love, etc., spring from Scripture….
    but I elected instead to confine my choices to the political arena.

    The doctrine of the two kingdoms is true, but the two kingdoms interlock and bleed into one another, no?

  • Another Kerner

    Thank you to Dr. Luther in the 21st Century and Book Lover for including books which address the Christian World view….
    A clear understanding of “politics” for Christians really should be, and often is, an extension of a clear understanding of the Christian world view….
    At first I thought I would include The Book of Concord in my political reading list as well… because our view of sacrifice, law, freedom , justice, forgiveness, love, etc., spring from Scripture….
    but I elected instead to confine my choices to the political arena.

    The doctrine of the two kingdoms is true, but the two kingdoms interlock and bleed into one another, no?

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    For a different angle on the Middle East:

    “It’s the Crude, Dude” by Linda McQuaig
    Queen Noor of Jordan’s biography

    On the Reform Party in Canada: Preston Manning, former leader of the opposition, son of Alberta Premier Ernest Manning. He advocated a grass roots type of democracy, where the elected official actually votes for what his constituency wants him to.

    The first candidate ever elected from that party was from our riding. (Her name is Deborah Grey and she held my baby at an election party at our house.)

    Also Ezra Levant on anything. He is just up and coming. Very effective blogger and very couragous. Local boy, also.

  • http://thoughts-brigitte.blogspot.com Brigitte

    For a different angle on the Middle East:

    “It’s the Crude, Dude” by Linda McQuaig
    Queen Noor of Jordan’s biography

    On the Reform Party in Canada: Preston Manning, former leader of the opposition, son of Alberta Premier Ernest Manning. He advocated a grass roots type of democracy, where the elected official actually votes for what his constituency wants him to.

    The first candidate ever elected from that party was from our riding. (Her name is Deborah Grey and she held my baby at an election party at our house.)

    Also Ezra Levant on anything. He is just up and coming. Very effective blogger and very couragous. Local boy, also.

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Mark Henderson

    I’m with Bror: Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples was formative for me, as I started reading it when I was about 10 since it was the only non-fiction book my granbdmother had in her house, which I used to visit often. But I think you can’t best the classics: Augustine’s City of God and Luther’s Temporal Authority are the fountainheads of Christian political thinking as far as I am concerned, but I would also nominate Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics and N. Ethics on this list as seminal reading. Of more recent works Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom served as a watchman’s warning against creeping statism and should be read by all politicians.

  • http://acroamaticus.blogspot.com Mark Henderson

    I’m with Bror: Churchill’s History of the English Speaking Peoples was formative for me, as I started reading it when I was about 10 since it was the only non-fiction book my granbdmother had in her house, which I used to visit often. But I think you can’t best the classics: Augustine’s City of God and Luther’s Temporal Authority are the fountainheads of Christian political thinking as far as I am concerned, but I would also nominate Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics and N. Ethics on this list as seminal reading. Of more recent works Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom served as a watchman’s warning against creeping statism and should be read by all politicians.


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