It’s August. In Europe, this means taking the month off. Here, it means sweating your face off and ducking for shade in a beckoning book while trying to ignore the news notifications on your phone.
Since you’re usually poring over our content, we thought it was only fair you get a peek at what we’re reading. So, we asked our American Consequences‘ contributors and editors whose words they can’t get enough of in 2021… related to finance, politics, or just a good read.
So, throw a book on the fire – er, a log over the firepit (someone’s reading Bradbury), dig your toes in the sand (or carpet), and check out our staff’s favorite titles of the moment.
Summer Literacy Club
Trish Regan: Publisher, American Consequences
Basic Economics, Thomas Sowell
I first read this book when I was 24 years old, and I love going back to it. Sowell’s Basic Economics is one of the best explainers on how the real world works, and I encourage everyone to read cover to cover, again and again.
I have a few days off later this month, and I’ll enjoy digging into one of my most favorite reads. The beauty of rereading a book is that you always spot things you missed the first time around. And, with this book there are new events that help frame the conversation. I encourage everyone to give it a read.
Dave Lashmet: Editor, Stansberry Venture Technology
Brave Men, Ernie Pyle
Brave Men is Pyle’s second (and last) book that’s an on-the-ground account of American and British soldiers in World War II. It’s written like a conversation, and he covers the grueling, tedious, focused, funny, and all-around dangerous nature of war. Each of his subjects stands out as people – down to their home addresses. Ernie spends a lot more time with sergeants and privates than Admirals or Generals – although, at one point, he gives his first book to Eisenhower!
He subverts that brush with greatness by ensuring that everyone knows Ernie is a coward (arguable), contrasting the former presidents of the world with the brutality of life and death at the battlefront. But Ernie is often in harm’s way as he’s in foxholes all the time – ultimately killed by a sniper bullet in the Pacific. We lost a writer and a soldier’s friend.
Tom Carroll: Editor, Cannabis Capitalist
This book is the history I never learned in school – it’s about the Comanche Indians in western Texas from the 1830s to the early 1900s. Great book.
This one is all about the Blackwell sisters, the first women admitted to medical school in the U.S., and their subsequent careers in medicine.
The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History, Elizabeth Kolbert
This book is a science-based argument that the Earth is in the midst of the next massive extinction of most life on the planet. It looks at the fossil and carbon records of prior mass extinctions and connects the dots to today. Humans are playing a pivotal role this time.
Kim Iskyan: Executive Editor, American Consequences
In the Woods, Tana French
If you’re up for escapism (no finance or investment themes here) that is compelling, gripping, page-turning, and deeply stirring – featuring vivid characters and plots that stay with you for months afterward – Tana French is the ticket. She’s an Irish/American (not hyphenated American – but both, really) thriller/suspense/mystery writer whose touchstone series is about the (imaginary) Dublin Murder Squad. They investigate crimes that get to the very heart of what it is to be human – the sadness and anger and anguish and buried secrets that are never gone forever. In the Woods is the first of the series and will get you hooked. The second, The Likeness, has a premise that’s uniquely brain-melting and extraordinary, and you won’t be able to put it down.
To get an introduction to French’s style – literary and vivid and with a narrative as well constructed as a seamless wardrobe – start with the standalone novel The Witch Elm, which is about friendship, murder, deception, and jealousy and the distortions they create. French’s most recent book, The Searcher, is brilliant as well, but something of a departure in style and approach, and not as easy to slide into as the others… so save it for later.
Dan Ferris: Editor, Extreme Value
The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes and Why, Amanda Ripley
A key lesson early in the book is that regular people (i.e., not trained first responders) respond pretty well when disaster strikes. The calamities discussed include the Mont Blanc explosion in Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia, the 1992 gas explosion in Guadalajara, Mexico, and the 1993 terrorist attacks on World Trade Center.
It’s about his walking trip along the country’s railroad lines with his dog and various friends. He intersperses historical episodes and ponders the nature of freedom. It’s short but worth reading. It left me feeling hopeful.
Anti-Politics, Sal Mayweather
The author features agorist essays and excerpts – agorism advocates a society involving only voluntary exchanges. The most frequent author in the collection is philosopher Samuel Edward Konkin III, the father of agorism. Also included are tax resister Karl Hess, anarchist Benjamin Tucker, Mahatma Gandhi, economist Murray Rothbard, 16th-century political theorist Étienne de la Boetie, anarchist Emma Goldman, economist Per Bylund, and Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy.
It Was A Very Good Year: Extraordinary Moments in Stock Market History, Martin S. Fridson
Fridson’s work has one chapter on each of the 10 best years in the U.S. stock market in the 20th century. I’ve only read 1928, but it was enough to convince me that “the Dean of High Yield” has produced a history book worth reading.
Rumor, Fear and the Madness of Crowds, J.P. Chaplin
He covers some strange historical events like the Salem witch madness, the insane destruction of a Boston convent in August 1834, and the weird career of “end of the world” prophet William Miller in the early 1830s.
The events all show how rumors and widespread irrational fears can cause people (especially in crowds) to behave in highly destructive, extreme ways. The Miller thing wasn’t so terrible because the world didn’t end, and that pretty much ended his career.
The Temper of Our Time, Eric Hoffer
Hoffer’s books are all must-reads. He’s well-known as the “longshoreman philosopher.” He’s also highly quotable. If you’ve never heard of him, read The True Believer first – an excellent book about mass movements and the people involved in them.
God’s Debris: A Thought Experiment, Scott Adams
This book’s courtesy of the “Dilbert guy” – an excellent 134-page thought experiment. Nothing to do with Dilbert. The reader’s job is to “try to find out what’s wrong with the simplest explanations.” I won’t say anymore because I don’t want to spoil it.
Dr. “Doc” David Eifrig: Editor, Retirement Millionaire
Bourbon For Breakfast, Jeffrey A. Tucker
Every night before bed, I like to finish my day with an essay from this book. Until recently, Tucker was the editorial director for the American Institute for Economic Research. Tucker is a card-carrying libertarian who I’d call an intellectual extremist on liberty and capitalism. You get a sense of that in this book, but so much more.
Bourbon for Breakfast breaks into chapters with different themes like “Crime,” “Health & Manners,” and “Food.” In one piece, he talks about food etiquette and people who smack their lips while they eat. In another, he explains how Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is about the benefits of entrepreneurship. In his book, Tucker also argues that we should ban government protection of copyrights and intellectual property.
Bourbon for Breakfast is equal parts goofy, fun, engaging, and thought-provoking.
John Tamny: Editor of RealClearMarkets
Right now, I’m reading this very exceptional and timely piece from my FreedomWorks colleague. Adam very crucially reminds readers that so much of what divides this amazing country is an arrogation of power by national politicians. Let the policy fights be local to make the U.S. even more exceptional.
Bill Shaw: Editor, Commodity Supercycles
Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, Michael Shellenberger
It would be hard to find a more dedicated environmental activist than Shellenberger. He has all the green bona fides. That’s what makes this book so important. Concerned with the hysteria taught in schools, he decided to use his 30 years of “boots on the ground” experience to set the record straight.
After dissecting the wrong-headed environmental movements of the last 50 years, he makes a priceless pitch for nuclear energy. It’s a must-read for anybody who thinks they know the “science” of climate change.
Empire of the Summer Moon: Quanah Parker and the Rise and Fall of the Comanches, the Most Powerful Indian Tribe in American History, S.C. Gwynne (*doubly recommended*)
A fascinating true story of the mixed-race son of a kidnapped settler – if you enjoy the history of the American West, you’ll have a tough time putting this one down.
The Art of War, Sun Tzu
This classic treatise on strategy is 2,500 years old, yet it’s still relevant today. Military leaders have taught these lessons for millennia, but it has also found its way into business schools, boardrooms, and sports. It’s a quick read, but its advice is invaluable.
P.J. O’Rourke: Editor in Chief, American Consequences
The Ax, Donald E. Westlake
Donald E. Westlake (1933-2008) was an absurdly prolific author. He wrote more than 100 books, mostly in the crime fiction genre. But tucked among the whodunitry is an item of serious literature, The Ax.
I picked it up at the used bookstore while looking for a little light reading… only to find myself with the most disturbing book about capitalism ever.
The Ax is much more upsetting than any Left-wing novels denouncing free markets from the likes of John Steinbeck or Upton Sinclair. Westlake takes property rights, supply and demand, profit and loss, corporate structure, senior management motivations, investor incentives, and ruthless competition all as givens.
Then Westlake ups the ruthless to a lethal dose. The Ax debuted during the glory days of NAFTA with every corporate downsize and shift to lower labor costs greeted with a “hooray” from Wall Street.
The narrator, Burke Devore, loses his middle-management job running the production line at a paper mill that moves to Canada.
Devore is an articulate man who rose to what seemed to be a safe and comfortable height on the corporate ladder. He finds his finances, family, and own life wrecked by two years of unemployment. And there are other paper mill production-line managers out of work, too – some of them better qualified than he is.
In an all too convincing way, Devore explains what goes wrong with capitalism when investors quit paying attention to anything except a corporation’s share price… when C-suite management loses touch with its chain of command… when a business becomes cynical about its workforce… when the cooperation that is the requisite other half of competition disappears from the free market… and when it’s every man for himself.
But Devore makes all this clear not because he wants to change the economic system but because he wants to join it – as the kind of guy you don’t want on your side.
Devore researches what well-paid jobs are still available in his industry. Then he tracks down the best-qualified applicants for those jobs. And he sets out to kill them.
I won’t give away the ending. But I will provide a hint… Depending on which way your moral compass is spinning these days, everything turns out for the best.