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A Conservative Summer
Read, relax, be Right.


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Summer has arrived, and at National Review Online we know that the season is the occasion of that emblem of the conservative movement: leisure time. Rest, relaxation, and reading are at hand, and we’ve gathered some friends and colleagues and posed a series of reading questions and other diversions. For your reading pleasure . . .


Richard Brookhiser
What’s the best political novel you’ve ever read? Why is it the best?

Henry Esmond, by Thackeray. It shows how a good cause goes bad.

If there were only one book on conservatism you could recommend to a newcomer, what would it be and why?

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The Complete Poetry of Robert Frost. Not very detailed at the policy level, but lots of reality.

Is there one book that you’d recommend to uplift and inspire depressed conservatives this summer?

Suite Francaises, by Irene Nemirovsky. The fall of France. Come on people, it can be a lot worse.

What’s your favorite WFB book and why?

Cruising Speed. It brings him back.

What’s your favorite political movie and why?

The Leopard
, starring Burt Lancaster. I am a sucker for loss.

If you could read or reread one classic this summer, what would it be? What are the odds you actually do?

I don’t know if Cultural Amnesia by Clive James is a classic, but it’s very interesting. I’m making headway.

Is there any recent book that’s made you want to buy copies for everyone you know and love? Did you actually make the purchases?

Forge of Empires
, by Michael Knox Beran. Lincoln, Bismarck, and Tsar Alexander II. I have been talking this up to everybody, but I haven’t bought any because I am cheap.

Are there any summer movies you’re looking forward to?

I don’t see many movies.

Would you rather listen to John McCain’s convention speech or read Dick Morris’s new book?

Could Dick Morris be president?

Name one book we’re going to be shocked you read.

The Naked Capitalist
, by W. Cleon Skousen. Sheer insanity. I’m sure the Ron Paul campaign studied it carefully.

– Richard Brookhiser is a senior editor of National Review and presidential historian.


Mona Charen
What’s the best political novel you’ve ever read? Why is it the best?

I confess that the political novel is not a genre I’ve sampled much. Read Advice and Consent in high school. It was okay. If I’m going to read fluff, I usually choose a thriller or historical fiction. Still, I’ll give you one I did enjoy: Full Disclosure by William Safire. It features a president who is blinded by an assassination attempt. Very entertaining and Safiresque, though no doubt quite dated now — it was published in 1977.

If there were only one book on conservatism you could recommend to a newcomer, what would it be and why?

Impossible to name just one! Modern conservatism, that wisest of sensibilities, is composed of many elements: realism about human nature particularly with regard to sex differences, skepticism of state power, appreciation for the American heritage of ordered liberty, hostility to collectivism in all its forms, and impatience with liberals who fail to recognize and confront evil. There is no one book that encapsulates all of that. So here’s a partial reading list taking each of those elements in turn: Men and Marriage by George Gilder; Losing Ground by Charles Murray and anything by Thomas Sowell; John Adams by David McCullough and Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman; The Black Book of Communism by Stephane Courtois et al; and um, with all due modesty, cough, cough, Useful Idiots by yours truly.


Is there one book that you’d recommend to uplift and inspire depressed conservatives this summer?

America Alone
by Mark Steyn. It’s the wittiest and funniest book on a dead serious subject I’ve ever read.


What’s your favorite WFB book and why?

Cruising Speed
. It was Bill in his prime. His life was outsized in every way — and in this book, he allows the reader to share it for one exhilarating week.


What’s your favorite political movie and why?

In the early 1960s, Billy Wilder made perhaps the only Cold War comedy, One, Two, Three. It starred Jimmy Cagney as a Coca Cola executive working in Berlin just before the wall was built. Hilarious, with plenty of digs at the Soviets and excellent use of The Saber Dance by Aram Khachaturian.


If you could read or reread one classic this summer, what would it be? What are the odds you actually do?

Ha ha! I already have. The Way We Live Now by Anthony Trollope. Eight hundred pages. Exquisite satire on the Victorians. My only hesitation is the anti-Semitism. Trollope lampoons the anti-Semitism of some of his characters, and yet, and yet, he is not quite above it himself. I’d be interested in readers’ reactions.


Is there any recent book that’s made you want to buy copies for everyone you know and love? Did you actually make the purchases?

I sent out a number of copies of America Alone.


Are there any summer movies you’re looking forward to?

The last movie I saw was One, Two, Three. Okay, seriously, I didn’t even know which movies were upcoming till Kathryn asked, but I am now looking forward to Bottle Shock, the story of how a California wine bested the French in the 1976 Paris competition. Stars Alan Rickman, one of my favorites.


Would you rather listen to John McCain’s convention speech or read Dick Morris’s new book?

Don’t know how to respond to this one.


Name one book we’re going to be shocked you read.

Dracula.

– Mona Charen is a syndicated columnist.


Dinesh D’Souza
What’s the best political novel you’ve ever read? Why is it the best?

Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities. It captures a whole era, dissecting the ideological implications of race relations, money, criminal justice, marriage, and, well just about everything.

If there were only one book on conservatism you could recommend to a newcomer, what would it be and why?

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France. Here is conservatism in an entirely different context, and yet with all the first principles clear and intact.

Is there one book that you’d recommend to uplift and inspire depressed conservatives this summer?

Anything by P. J. O’Rourke, a pessimist who’s funny about it, or Ben Stein, an incurable optimist.

What’s your favorite WFB book and why?

God and Man at Yale
. Buckley’s first and best book. It develops a highly original argument about who should run the university.

What’s your favorite political movie and why?

Breaker Morant
. It makes the case for colonialism and the case against it at the same time, and then integrates them into a riveting drama

If you could read or reread one classic this summer, what would it be? What are the odds you actually do?

Pascal’s Pensees. The best apologetic for Christianity, and not so well known.

Is there any recent book that’s made you want to buy copies for everyone you know and love? Did you actually make the purchases?

No. But Bernard Lewis’s Islam and the West should be distributed to Congress at taxpayer’s expense.

Are there any summer movies you’re looking forward to?

No. Maybe Hollywood is past its heyday, but can’t they at least make comedies as good as My Cousin Vinny?

Would you rather listen to John McCain’s convention speech or read Dick Morris’s new book?

Morris.

Name one book we’re going to be shocked you read.

John Milton, Paradise Lost. About which Samuel Johnson wrote, “None ever wished it longer than it is.”

– Dinesh dSouzas most recent book is Whats So Great About Christianity?


Alvin S. Felzenberg


If there were only one book on conservatism you could recommend to a newcomer, what would it be and why?

Here we have a tie. William F. Buckley, Jr.’s The Unmaking of a Mayor, and Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative. Both provide perspective on how conservatives and liberals approach questions on public policy. Readers will be confounded at how little the nature of the policy debate has changed in the past half century. Substitute “Islamo-fascism” for the “U.S.S.R.” and it is 1959 all over again.

Is there one book that you’d recommend to uplift and inspire depressed conservatives this summer?


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