Summer Reading

A number of people were asked by Law & Liberty to provide their summer reading lists. Here is mine:

My summer reading goals—like perennial New Year’s resolutions to exercise more and lose weight—are partially aspirational. But I will definitely make a dent in my growing stack (actually, stacks) of unread books, beginning with the volumes I discuss here. Purely recreational reads are a welcome break from the weighty tomes my editor at Law & Liberty sometimes assigns me.

Accordingly, I am anxious to devour Kurt Schlichter’s latest novel, Indian Country, a prequel to his highly-entertaining 2016 fictional debut, People’s Republic. Schlichter is a practicing litigator in California who also writes pungent political commentary for Townhall.com and other conservative sites. His novels depict a dystopian future in which the United States has split apart in a civil war, with the west coast and northeast/Great Lakes region forming a leftist police state called the People’s Republic, and the rest of the country continuing as the U.S.A. version 2.0, with the nation’s capital located in Dallas, Texas. Schlichter mines this premise with mordant humor, through the adventures of a military veteran protagonist named Kelly Turnbull, with a style more reminiscent of Carl Hiaasen than George Orwell or Robert Ludlum. As a California refugee who now lives in Texas, I find the plot line to be strangely captivating.

My friend and correspondent R. Richard Schweitzer, a long-time follower of—and occasional commenter on—this site, has encouraged me to explore the Liberty Fund’s extensive catalog of classic works, especially Carroll Quigley’s 1961 The Evolution of Civilizations: An Introduction to Historical Analysis. Quigley (1910-1977) taught at the Georgetown School of Foreign Service for over 30 years. Dick does not lightly recommend books, so I am sure that Quigley’s comparative history of civilizations will be edifying (if not as fun as Indian Country).  I will save one of Dick’s other suggestions—a “deep dive” into Michael Oakeshott—for next summer.

Like many television viewers, I have seen Canadian college professor Jordan Peterson on various news shows, where he consistently delivers cogent and refreshing commentary. Out of curiosity I ordered his latest book, 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (2018), which I hope is as illuminating as his talking head tutorials. If so, I may send copies to young adults in my life who could benefit from greater direction.

I am embarrassed that I have owned for some time but still have not read (at least cover-to-cover) Columbia law school Professor Philip Hamburger’s dense 2014 treatise Is Administrative Law Unlawful? At a recent Federalist Society event in Austin, Georgetown’s John S. Baker cited a “Cliff’s Notes” version of the longer book, entitled The Administrative Threat (also written by Hamburger), published by Encounter Books. I look forward to digesting the 64-page precis as lighter fare, or perhaps an appetizer for the main course.

Finally, I was impressed enough by one of the books I reviewed this year—and various essays by the same author, academic historian Kevin Gutzman—that I ordered two of his “popular” books, The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Constitution (2007) and Who Killed the Constitution? (2008) (co-authored by Tom Woods), the former of which was a New York Times bestseller. At a time when constitutional theorists increasingly invoke history in aid of their various conceptions of originalism, the views of an actual historian regarding the Constitution provide a valuable reality check.

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