Novelist Michael Walsh wants to help with your shopping:
If you can give but one book this Christmas, make it Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, if only for this review from Publisher’s Weekly, once the bible of the book business and now just another tired, irrelevant, revanchist, sneering leftist propaganda organ: “Author and conservative talk radio host Levin (Rescuing Sprite, Men in Black) takes on the Statist, a liberal straw man, in this collection of polemics against left-wing tenets (like “economic and social justice”), touchstones (like the New Deal), and institutions (strongholds of liberal thought like academia and the mainstream media).”
In a tight 256 pages (it feels shorter), Levin deftly limns the core principles of conservatism, never getting bogged down in transient policy positions and always keeping his eye on the prize: the restoration of the free country we were bequeathed by the Founding Fathers. After eight years of the New Tone — conservative allegiance to either of the Bush presidents remains one of the great mysteries of the modern era — the depressing fixed fight of the McCain campaign, and the dreadful Year One of the Manchurian Regency, dispirited wingnuts signaled their need for, and love of, Levin’s bracing analytical tonic by turning Liberty and Tyranny into one of the top-selling books of the year. So do yourself a favor and buy three. One to keep, one to give to the most wayward of your children, and one to hand to a liberal, just to watch his head explode.
As for classics, there are two evergreens I recommend to all and sundry. The first is the Great American Novel, Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, a book that operates on so many levels — ripping yarn, dark allegory, New England documentary, whaling how-to — that you can read it every decade of your life and always find something new, thrilling, and inspirational in it. And I do.
Another favorite: Thoreau’s Walden, published just three years after Melville’s masterpiece, in what turned out to be a heck of decade in American letters. When it’s that damp, drizzly November in your soul, hie thee not to sea but to the woods near Walden Pond, where Henry David explains the meaning of life to you in poetic chapters extolling Economy, Reading, Sounds, and Solitude, among other simple but radical pleasures. Where Ishmael had to circumnavigate the globe to be rescued by the Rachel, Thoreau found salvation in a simple cabin near Concord. Taken together, these men were founders of the American spirit just as surely as Washington and Jefferson were founders of the Republic. So make sure to include a copy of each along with Liberty and Tyranny. The cheers — and the jeers — will be worth it.