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A Reading List for the Counter-Intelligentsia ^ | 19 Dec. 2001 | Robert Locke

Posted on 01/01/2002 10:26:41 AM PST by Politically Correct

Reading List for the Counter-Intelligentsia

A Reading List for the Counter-Intelligentsia

Why read? Because the key asset of thinking conservatives in our effort to influence this country is superior knowledge. As you may have figured out, there are not that many first-rate political minds out there, so we have a real chance of attaining superior intellectual firepower if we are willing to do the work. But that firepower must be nourished by reading the right things. There is also a great synergy in our all reading the same right things, so we have common points of reference in conversation and a coherent shared body of knowledge. We need to become a coherent thinking community, a counter-intelligentsia as it were.

There is reason to believe that after decades of intellectual torpor, the Right in America is poised to surpass the Left in intellectual quality. This is true for two reasons. First, the Left has slipped from the high intellectual standards it maintained from the 20’s to the 70’s. It has strayed into pseudo-intellectual mush like deconstructionism (article) and has led the affirmative-action driven assault on academic rigor at our universities. It has become hostile to facts as such and prefers that its followers be uneducated. Second, the Right is being reinvigorated by a number of trends, some of them erudite like the widening influence of the late University of Chicago scholar of ancient political philosophy Leo Strauss, and others mundane, like the desire of home-schoolers to write their own curricula.

This is not a list of the most important books or the most important conservative books. Not all are here because of their ideological soundness; some indeed are here because they represent our opponents’ errors well. Most are a mix of the sound and the unsound, as one cannot develop depth of mind by reading only books that are ideologically congenial. (In fact, it is a serious skill to learn to extract the truth from books that are not.) Some are out of print, but with the advent of et cetera it is no longer that difficult to obtain them. They are in roughly descending order of importance within their categories.

A few things to bear in mind: One: conservatism is ultimately experiential. Unlike the political faiths, it is irreducible to a small — or even a large — number of principles, so you are not reading to assemble a list of rules. (You are reading to know the facts and to learn how to think.) If conservatism had a principle, it would be something akin to Platonic dialectic: the truth is what can be said and found to survive the test of experience and debate. And do not presume that conservatism is any one thing: it is an error to try to tease out "what is the conservative position" on every issue. There are many varieties of conservatism and you should always be gently classifying and disentangling them in your mind as you read. The books mentioned here represent neoconservatives, paeloeconservatives, fusion conservatives, right-libertarians, paleolibertarians, capitalists, monarchists, Constitutionalists, Burkeans, Christians, Aristotelians, Platonists, democrats, Lockeans, nationalists, republicans, Thomists, aristocrats, reactionaries, romantics, and Stoics.

How should one read? The first piece of advice is to read whatever you can get read, i.e. things your mind is naturally drawn to and that you enjoy. Do not worry if this leads you into obscure corners; every mind develops differently and that is what makes it your understanding your own. A deep knowledge of one thing can often translate, because of the systematic similarities of the world, into a broad knowledge of many things. Let one book lead you to another. Always have a book handy. After a hard day at work, it is just as easy to collapse into an easy chair with a good work of history as it is to collapse in front of the TV, and far better for the soul. (Getting rid of your TV is in itself a brilliant stroke if you can manage it.) Buy a few more books than you have time to read immediately so that you always have a ready supply and a choice for every mood. Browse in bookstores to glean the value of books not worth owning and take home the ones that justify deeper exploration. Always check if the book you are interested in is available on tape so you can listen to it while driving to work.

One need not read books from cover to cover, nor in the right order, nor all at once. Sometimes nibbling on a book bit by bit is the best way to digest it. Begin in the middle at a passage that catches your eye. You need not read one book at a time; it is often good to have a selection of light and heavy reading afoot so that you can always pick up something to match your mood. Have political magazines handy for when you want lighter fare. It is a good idea to mark and underline books as you reads them, if only so that you can find your favorite passages later. Do not worry about keeping books, with the exception of coffee-table books, pristine; they are there to be consumed and wear their tear honorably. Write your names in them, have a decent bookcase, cherish and collect them. Revisit favorites periodically and the classics on a regular basis. A truly profound book will read differently to you each time you read it.

P.S. If you haven’t already discovered, do so now. You should never pay more than half the list price for a book and should aim to average about a third. Scan for exceptionally cheap items. If you have anything to add to this list, e-mail the title, with a short description, to me at . I regret that I cannot add books sent in without descriptions. My thanks to Jim O’Neill of Washington, D.C. for his suggestions.


Robert Locke

December 19, 2001

New York City


Historical Background:

Allen, Henry. What it Felt Like. An educated conservative should cultivate not just a knowledge of history but a sense of history, i.e. the ability to think about former times as if they were as real as his own. This elegantly-written book describes, with perfect pitch, what it felt like to live through the various decades of the American Century.

Yapp, Nicholas. Decades of the 20th Century: The Hulton Getty Collection. In cultivating the vivid sense of the past that a conservative should have, pictures are very useful, and this series of well-chosen images, one book per decade, is a good means to that end.

The Arts & Culture:

Paglia, Camille. Sex, Art and American Culture. This book, a populist companion volume to her Sexual Personae, is the book that brought academic feminism to its --ahem-- knees. Sexual differences are alive, well, and grounded in nature. The impulse to sexual objectification is inseparable from the art impulse. One of the most hated books of our time by the opposition.

Douglas, Ann. Terrible Honesty: Mongrel Manhattan in the 20's. This wide-ranging and profound book is the sine qua non for any serious analysis of the cultural condition of modern America. It convincingly argues that the demotic technocracy that is American culture first took shape in 1920's New York. If Negroes did not exist, it would be necessary to invent them.

Rosenman, Joel. Young Men With Unlimited Capital. This is, unbelievably given its title, a book about the Woodstock music festival of 1968. The key thing to learn from it is that the counterculture was staged for a profit. Hippies never sold out; they were money-grubbing phonies from the start. Impressarios control the culture.

Rand, Ayn. The Romantic Manifesto. Aesthetics is not normally taken very seriously in our culture, which is a pity since we produce and distribute so much culture that we might as well make sure it's good. This is the great Objectivist (read libertarian with metaphysics) philosopher's contribution to the subject. Basically, art should be propaganda for the good, rightly understood.

Burke, Edmund. Considerations Concerning the Sublime and Beautiful. Aesthetics is something that we should all be taking more seriously if we want to have a culture we actually like, and this is one of the classics on the subject by the impeccably conservative 18th-century philosopher Edmund Burke.

Meisel, Lou. Richard Estes. This volume contains pictures by Richard Estes, the foremost photorealist painter in America today. See what art can still do for us once the lazy dogma of avant-garde abstraction is shucked. This book will give you hope for the future of our culture. (A coffee-table book.)

HRH The Prince of Wales. A Vision of Britain. This would be the perfect introduction to the problems of modern architecture and what the traditionalist response is, except for the fact that it's so terribly English that it is of less relevance in this country. His Royal Highness believes all skyscrapers are bad, for example. Still, definitely worth reading and a must for Anglophiles.

Anthology. New Classicism. Architecture is the one part of the culture war that conservatives are winning, and this is the best introduction to the favorable trend.

Stern, Robert A.M. New York 1900. To develop a cultured sense of what architecture, the most civic of the arts, should be, one must look to the past. This book gives a coherent picture of how Americans have aspired to great refinement in their built environment since long ago. It treats both of individual buildings, the shaping of the city around them, and the social forces that produce good buildings. Pick New York 1880 or New York 1930 instead if you like those periods better; pick New York 1960 to see it all fall apart. (A coffee-table book.)

Wolfe, Tom. From the Bauhaus to Our House. The best short introduction to what's wrong with ugly modern architecture and how it got that way.

Wolfe, Tom. The Painted Word. The best short introduction to what's wrong with modern art and how it got that way.

Harries, Karsten. The Meaning of Modern Art.

Silver, Nathan. Lost New York. Nothing so provokes the conservative sense that our heritage must be preserved as seeing what has been destroyed. New York has destroyed more great architecture than most American cities ever had to begin with. Get Lost Chicago instead if you are more familiar with that city. (A coffee-table book.)

American Institute of Architects Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C. Central Washington is itself the single greatest document of American classicism. Walking the streets, particularly around the Capitol and the Federal Triangle, one gets a real feeling of the orderly civic idealism that classicism implies. Sample it vicariously in this book.

Paglia, Camille. Sexual Personae.This is the more scholarly version of Paglia's basic ideas for all you former English majors out there. An examination of great works of literature in support of her thesis.

Meisel, Lou. Photorealism. The key omnibus volume with color reproductions of the leading photorealists. May or may not be your taste. (A coffee-table book.)


Warren, Robert Penn. All the King's Men. Widely regarded as the greatest American political novel, this is a fictionalization of the career of Huey Long, the great Southern demagogue of the 1930's. It has a dark flicker of serious political philosophy on the nature of civic virtue and corruption, but I prize it above all for its vivid recreation of the lost world of the pre-WWII South. Melodramatic.

Anonymous. Primary Colors. Rollicking entertainment as a novel, this book is valuable for its fictionalized depiction of Clinton's 1992 campaign, which was so accurate in threw Washington into a tizzy for months trying to figure out who the author was. (We now know it was Joe Klein, a Newsweek reporter.)

Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. A provocative negative utopia.

Koestler, Arthur. Darkness at Noon. This is the most readable of the great anti-Stalinist novels. It traces the insanity of Bolshevism through the trials of one man punished for a crime against the state he did not commit.

Rand, Ayn. Atlas Shrugged. Ayn Rand's novels are considered unreadable by some for her sulfurous and hectoring prose style, but she is also a cult figure for many on the Right. You may be one of those who hits it off with her. Capitalism and individual rights are her real theme in this story of heroic railroad executives and slimy intellectuals.

Orwell, George. Animal Farm. The history of the Russian Revolution and Soviet Communism retold in the allegorical form of a revolution staged by the animals on a farm.

Orwell, George. 1984. A gray Negative Utopia.

Ishiguro, Kazuo. The Remains of the Day, is exquisite, contains insight into aristocracy and the ancien regime, and the fact that it was written by a Japanese is pregnant with untimely suggestions about multiculturalism. It is about the perfect butler reminiscing in postwar England.

Heinlein, Robert. Starship Troopers. Under no circumstances see the stunningly bad movie made from this book. The book itself is one of the greatest works of political science fiction ever written. It expresses a philosophy of civil society that is ruthlessly logical, highly civilized, and also far to the right of anything ever seriously proposed in the United States. The perfect way to jump-start a sci-fi reader into serious political thinking.

Dick, Phillip K. The Man in the High Castle. This is the only worthwhile riff on the commonplace theme of What if the Other Side Had Won World War II? Dick masterfully bends one’s historical sense backwards and forwards to the point of inducing a vertigo that is not without insight into the contingency of life.

Trevanian. Shibumi. This curious book, which has a cult following so intense that its readers divide the world into those who have read it and those who have not, does not, as we say, express sound views. It does, however, contain matchless insights into such topics as aristocracy, American culture, the relations between East and West and Ancient and Modern. The hero is a sort of philosopher-James Bond. Highly entertaining and witty. Elitist.

Solzhenitsyn, Alexander. The Gulag Archipelago. The novel that made people pay attention to the crimes of Stalin. A gruesome tour through the Soviet system of political prisons.

Homer. The Illiad and The Odyssey. Get the Robert Fagles translation of the first and the Bernard Mandelbaum translation of the second. The Illiad is about war as the human condition and the hero as the highest kind of man. The Odyssey is about what happens when that kind of world is no longer possible.

Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury.

Wolfe, Tom. Bonfire of the Vanities; A Man in Full. Two novels of razor-sharp social observation set among the executive class and its working-class minions, the first novel in New York and the second in Atlanta.

Koszcinski, Jerzy. Being There. It’s a toss-up between the book and the fine movie version with Peter Sellars. An exquisitely dry and subtly subversive comedy about wealth, power, and … television. The world isn’t really like this, is it?

Walker Percy. The Last Gentleman.

Dobbs, Michael. House of Cards, To Play the King, The Final Cut. A trilogy of masterful novels of British politics premised on filling the space in history occupied by Prime Ministers John Major and Tony Blair with one Francis Urquhart. Begin with the first if you read them. In the BBC-TV version, which can be obtained on video, the second stands on its own and is the best of the three; they spoiled the third.


Alinsky, Saul. Rules for Radicals: A Practical Primer for Realistic Radicals. Treat this book as an intelligence intercept concerning how the enemy thinks. Alinsky lays bare the hidden principles underlying left-wing radical tactics. We can learn from this not only in terms of anticipating their moves, but in terms of stealing their effective tactics.


Anthology. The Bible. This I presume I don't have to tell any conservative to read, but I include it to forestall people asking me why I didn't.

Lewis, C.S. Mere Christianity. The best starting point for the greatest 20th-Century Christian apologist.

Podles, Leon. The Church Impotent: the Feminization of Christianity. Argues that the gradual feminization of the church, as seen in such trends as the ordination of women, is a crisis.

Ware, Timothy. The Orthodox Church. The Orthodox tradition is usually familiar only to those Americans descended from Greeks, Russians, etc. It deserves to be more widely known and understood. Roughly, Catholicism without the excesses of spiritual bureaucracy.

Shahak, Israel. Jewish History, Jewish Religion: the Weight of 3,000 Years. This book is far from sound, the author being a pal and Israeli equivalent of Noam Chomsky. It is, however, a very interesting look at the dark side of historical Judaism. Educated readers will realize that this is no darker than its times or than other religions.


Plato. The Republic. The single greatest book ever written about politics. Can be a tough read without a mountain guide to help you through it the first time, but if you can handle this on your own, you are a truly exceptional mind. Get the Allan Bloom translation.

Aristotle. Politics. The most readable of the great ancient philosophers and nothing to be afraid of tackling on your own, though you should be prepared to read small bites and chew on them for a long while. The best kind of government is a mixture of democracy, aristocracy, and monarchy. Read it together with the Nicomachean Ethics. Get the translation by Carnes Lord, who was Dan Quayle's domestic policy advisor.

Aristotle. Nicomachean Ethics. This is one of those truly great works of philosophy that anyone can read. Happiness is a kind of activity and virtue is a mean between two vices.

Burke, Edmund. Reflections on the Revolution in France. This is the founding document of modern conservatism. An analysis of the nature of the radicalism set loose in the French Revolution and why conservative principles are the answer to it. Archaic style found splendid by some, a hurdle by others.

Cropsey, Joseph. History of Political Philosophy. If you are serious about mastering political philosophy, at some point or another you will have to match wits with each of the major thinkers covered in this book, which contains erudite but concise chapters, one per philosopher.

DeTocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. This is one of the all-time great classics about American society. Someone once described the discipline of sociology as the art of trying to prove something about American society that Tocqueville didn't know. An abridged edition is fine.

Drucker, Peter F. The End of Economic Man. This is an analysis of what the Nazis were really about that was considered so good by Churchill that he made it required reading for all British officers. In order to explain Hitler, Drucker evolves a theory of society that shows why traditional conservatism is the only ultimately viable solution.

Drucker, Peter F. The Future of Industrial Man. A companion to The End of Economic Man, Drucker goes on to explain why the totalitarian crisis of the 30's proves that Burkean conservatism is the way out.

Strauss, Leo. Natural Right and History. The best introduction to the thought of the grandfather of all serious conservative political philosophy since WWII. Strauss's great achievement was to restore the legitimacy, in an era that damned them as irrelevant, of the traditional ways of thinking about politics that gave us everything from Plato to the Declaration of Independence.

Kirk, Russell. The Conservative Mind. One of the earliest classics of modern American conservatism.

Wilson, James Q. The Moral Sense. It has been a commonplace of intellectual discourse for ages that morality is obviously arbitrary because different cultures have different opinions on moral questions. But as Wilson masterfully shows, this is not empirically true: most cultures in all eras have agreed on the moral basics, and even where they disagree, they fall into a few basic patterns. Therefore human beings do have an innate sense of right and wrong.

Henry, William. In Defense of Elitism. At some point, most thinking conservatives just give up trying to find polite ways to gloss over the fact and admit out loud that elitism is true as a philosophy. This book, written by a liberal disgusted with liberal egalitarianism, is a squarely-reasoned analysis of why this is true. Most people are born for the bleachers; only a few for the playing field or the stage, and everyone’s better off that way.

Berlin, Isaiah. The Crooked Timber of Humanity. Fallibilistic conservatism from a modern British thinker.

Ortega y Gasset, Jose. The Revolt of the Masses. Concerns the impact of the modern "mass man" on society.

Hirschman, Albert. The Passions and the Interests. This book is about arguments for capitalism that were made before its triumph as an economic system. Basically, it was well-understood a long time ago that capitalism tended to make men soft and this was a lot better than having them fight each other all the time.

Weaver, Richard M. Ideas Have Consequences. This undated 1940’s book makes clear how far in advance our current crisis was foreseen. According to the author, the crisis of Western Civilization is caused by (1) Replacement of transcendent sentiments with utilitarianism & pragmatism; (2) Undermining senses of order and hierarchy by liberalism and socialism; (3) Loss of focus and an embrace of fragmentary obsessions; (4) Exercise of raw ego and self-indulgence; (5) Dereliction of media responsibility; (6) The emergence of the spoiled-child phenomena. He believes the solution lies in (1) Preserving the sanctity of private property; (2) Using of meaningful language and rhetoric; (3) Embracing notions of piety and true justice.

Rothbard, Murray. Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature.

Goldwater, Barry and Bozell, Brent. The Conscience of a Conservative. An early conservative classic.

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. Philosophical Investigations. This is definitely not a book for everyone; in fact, all but former philosophy majors are likely to come to grief with it. But if you're up to reading it, it is the book of 20th-Century philosophy. In his sly, gradual, but ruthlessly inexorable way, Wittgenstein lays out all the celebrated insights of modern irrationalism but without falling over the edge into the nonsense we so often encounter in these things. Language is the bottleneck of our understanding and is not what we think it is. Read in small doses.

Hutchinson & Smith. Nationalism: An Anthology. Nationalism is famously that great ideology that lacks a single great thinker. This is an anthology of the lesser thinkers who define what nationalism is and why we believe in it.

Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. Democracy: the God that Failed.

History, American:

Heffner, Richard. Documentary History of the United States. To know what the Constitution actually says, which is different from what most people think it says, you need a copy of this book. It also has other key documents.

Ellis, Joseph. Founding Brothers. Understanding America means understanding what our country was really founded on, and one of the best ways to get at this question is through biographies of the founding fathers. Adams, Burr, Franklin, Hamilton, Jefferson, Madison and Washington.

Zinn, Howard. A People’s History of the United States. This is deep inside enemy territory, and most of this shrill lefty monsterpiece may confidently be presumed false. It is worth knowing, however, what the opposing synthesis of American history is. Basically a long catalog of everything that’s been wrong with our country. A tendency to play up the marginal for its own sake.

Frum, David. The 70's: How We Got Here. The 70's are the decade that brought the radical innovations in social mores incubated in the counterculture in the 60’s into the lives of average Americans. They are thus the true origin of the way we live now.

Van Alstyne, Richard. The Rising American Empire. This book makes one important point with brutal clarity: America is what it is today because the founding fathers deliberately undertook the conquest of the desirable parts of North America from their tiny East Coast base. We are an empire and should be proud of it.

Baylin, Bernard. Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. The thing that stands out the most in this book is that there was no turning point in the American Revolution when the colonists started to think of themselves as independent: their ancestors had thought of themselves as independent even before they left England.

Fischer, David. Albion's Seed. When someone says America is an Anglo-Saxon nation and means something more than DAR snobbery, this is what they mean. A detailed look at the complex ways in which our nation was formed from a British model, patterns which are vivid even today once one understands them. 

Morris, Edmund. Dutch. Stylistically, this is a keen competitor for the worst-written major book of the 90's, but it is still Reagan's biography and as such worth reading.Reagan, Ronald et al. Reagan In His Own Hand. In these essays and other notes, Reagan shows that he was one of our most, not least, thinking presidents.

Buckley, William F. God and Man at Yale

Klehr, Harvey. The Secret World of American Communism.

Phillips, Kevin. The Emerging Republican Majority. This is one of the classics of modern American political science. It describes, presciently and in great detail, the reasons for the Republican resurgence. Too bad Phillips didn't foresee the mass immigration that is destroying Republicans' electoral chances with the same relentless demographic logic that he describes.

Halbertstam, David. The Fifties. The fifties are a key decade of reference for conservatives because they are the last decade that our values seem to have predominated in American life. Of course, they also produced the sixties, so they can't be all that sound, can they?

Horowitz, David. Radical Son. Who were the 60's radicals? Where did they come from? How did one become one? And how did some figure out they were wrong and change sides? All these questions are answered in the form of the autobiography of one man, none other than our editor David Horowitz. Written with a scorching emotional intensity rarely seen in political books.


Caro, Robert. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York. One of the greatest books on American politics ever written, this is about the rise and fall of supertechnocrat Robert Moses of New York City. Power corrupts, they say.

Davis, Mike. City of Quartz. A work of non-fiction with the pathos and icy finesse of a hard-boiled detective story. Southern California comes off in this omnivorous history and analysis as a candy-coated cyberpunk nightmare projected out of the subconscious of American dreams of bourgeois tranquillity. His eye for the telling detail is unsurpassed and this book sets the new standard in urban studies. Ignore the leftish economics.

Rieff, David. Los Angeles: Capital of the third world. A fascinating look at where our society is going through the lens of where our second-largest city already is.

Ehrenhalt, Alan. The Lost City: Rediscovering the Virtues of Community in the Chicago of the 1950’s. Most conservatives remember the 50's as a kind of golden age of American society, but many of the key questions of how it all actually worked are left unanswered. This book fills in the key blanks with a study of the Chicago of this era. Vivid and anecdotal.

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. This book was never intended as a critique of liberalism, but that is how it reads today, given that all the policies the author decries were the policies of liberal governments. Basically, a city is an organic whole and artificial state interventions in its delicate fabric only tear it apart, not heal it. Burkean in a odd way. Eyes on the street are the key for preventing street crime.

Vergara. The New American Ghetto.

Garreau, Joel. The Nine Nations of North America. This book, which came out in 1979, is a bit dated now in its analysis of the key regions of North America and their differing characteristics, but it is still enormously worth reading because of his amazingly sharp eye for picking out the national character of different societies. Learn to think regionally.

Garreau, Joel. Edge City. An edge city is a suburb that has acquired all the functions of a traditional downtown. This book rigorously analyses the physical structure of the cutting edge of American growth.

Duany, Andres et al. Suburban Nation. Most of us have a vague intuition that suburbia is in some way inadequate, but this book gives a detailed analysis of what is wrong with it, physically speaking. Government-imposed planning -- surprise! -- turns out to be a big part of the problem. And it is perfectly possible to do something about it.

Fuchs, Ester. Mayors and Money. The best quantitative analysis of America's urban predicament. Lots of charts.

Kramer, Jane. Europeans. This book is valuable both for its descriptions of the national character of the various European nations and for Kramer's sheer skill as a writer. Read this to learn to make sharp-eyed observations.

Riordon, William. Plunkitt of Tammany Hall. The classic introduction to political corruption for fun and profit, written by a practitioner from old New York.

Siegel, Fred. The Future Once Happened Here. A devastating analysis of the decline of urban America.  


Bright, John. A History of Israel. This is the standard, and very readable, scholarly history of Ancient Israel. Brings the Bible into real focus like nothing else. Nothing to scandalize Christians or Jews, but not sentimental myth, either. Fascinating on the relations of the Israelites to other ancient societies.

Thucydides. History of the Peloponesian War. This was the first real work of history and political science in the West, and is still as sharp as the day it was written. It’s okay to ignore the boring details.

Lendon, J.E. Empire of Honor: The Art of Government in the Roman World.

Current Issues:

Coulter, Ann. High Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Case Against Bill Clinton. The single best point-by-point explanation of why Bill Clinton deserved to be convicted in his impeachment.

Timperlake, Edward & Triplett, William C. Year of the Rat: How Bill Clinton Compromised U.S. Security for Chinese Cash. This was by far the worst thing Clinton did in office; read all about it.

Borjas, George. Heaven's Door. An unsparing analysis of Third-World immigration to the United States by a Cuban-American scholar.

Brimelow, Peter. Alien Nation. The dispositive book on why our current high-immigration policy is an ongoing disaster for America. Readable and comprehensive.


Morris, Dick. Behind the Oval Office. Dick Morris is probably the single smartest purely political thinker in America. This is the key book on how Clinton managed to win reelection in '96 despite the Republican upsurge of '94.

Lind, Michael. Up from Conservatism. You are a solid conservative when you can read the worst the opposition has to throw at us and still remain true to your beliefs. This is by a former conservative who quit to form a political party of one, calling himself a liberal nationalist. His criticisms aren't very biting, but it's important to know what can be said against us.

Postman, Neil. Amusing Ourselves to Death. The single best thing you can do today to become a better conservative is throw out your television, which is probably even more pernicious that this indictment makes it out to be.

Morris, Dick. The New Prince. Morris argues, in between sharing his unsurpassed political insights, that American politics would be better off if politicians pursued their self-interest (rightly understood) in getting elected.

Friedman, Thomas. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. Thomas Friedman of the New York Times is one of the high priests of globalism, by which he means that globalization is inevitable. Some of his insights are quite good, but he systematically glosses over the real problems. Readable to the point of parody.

Schlafly, Phyllis. A Choice, not an Echo.

Horowitz, David. The Politics of Bad Faith. Our political enemies know they're lying. Worse, they exploit the presumption of goodwill in American public life to work their mischief.

Horowitz, David. Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes. The Left isn't really motivated by a love of freedom, justice, or even equality. It is motivated by a series of hates: for America, for the middle class, for whites, et cetera.

Goldberg, J.J. Jewish Power. There is enough rot said about the influence of Jews in this country that it is worth having a decent factual book on the subject. It will be very interesting to see how this holds up after 9/11 and the ensuing demands to throw Israel to the Arab wolves to make them leave us alone.

Phillips, Kevin. Arrogant Capital. The populist resentment this book explores has been muted by late-90's prosperity, but it is surely about to return and this is the best guide to it. Elites that act in contempt of the people they govern risk their status.

Braver, Stanford L. & O’Connell, Diane. Divorced Dads: Shattering the Myths. Everyone knows deadbeat dads are among society’s worst villains. This is actually false, and they are in fact among its victims. Review of this book.

Dunn, James R. & Kinney, John E. Conservative Environmentalism. An introduction to the conservative critique, and version, of environmentalism.

Huber, Peter W. Hard Green : Saving the Environment from the Environmentalists. An introduction to the conservative critique, and version, of environmentalism.

Poe, Richard. The Seven Myths of Gun Control. Gun controllers aren't just wrong on the moral issues: their facts aren't facts. Get the right ones here.

Wolfe, Alan. One Nation After All. Sociologist Wolfe argues that the moral consensus of our society is not fractured after all: most Americans agree on an ideology that has been described as private relativism and public nihilism. Author not a conservative.

Wolfe, Tom. Radical Chic and Mau-mauing the flak catchers. Tom Wolfe was one of the first to spot the sheer absurdity of cultural liberalism, and this book remains one of the most acid dissections of it.

Wolfe, Tom. Hooking Up. The latest collection of essays and reportage from the master.

Woodward, Bob. The Agenda. A fly-on-the wall look inside the early Clinton White House.

Comic Sociology & Satire:

Brooks, David. Bobos in Paradise. This delightfully vicious little number, which I reviewed in another article, is a take-down of the culture of our current ruling class. Bobos are bourgeois bohemians: rich and powerful establishmentarians who style themselves as bohemians in order to be rich while pretending not to be. This book makes sense of a lot of otherwise-puzzling cultural trends.

Birnbach, Lisa. The Preppy Handbook. A witty historical document on the epigones of the old WASP upper class.

Roberts, Johnathan. How To California. A book of no discernable political color but worth reading just to sharpen one’s observational skills. Southern California, that is.

A Field Guide to North American Males. Again, no politics, but a razor eye and a sharp tongue.

Frank, Thomas. Commodify Your Dissent. This is truly one of those books that after you have read it, you will have a compulsive desire to make everyone you know read it, and will divide the world into people who have grasped its insights and those who have not. Its central theme is the utter phoniness of hip America. Satire so sharp you could shave with it.

Fussell, Paul. Class. A viciously funny and spot-on dissection of the American class system. Learn to think like a European and smirk at your pathetic status-seeking neighbors. Spot prole drift everywhere.

Foreign Policy:

Buchanan, Patrick. A Republic, Not An Empire. The controversy over the legitimacy and desirability of America's currently extended role in the world is neither new nor the exclusive province of cranks. Buchanan demonstrates here that it has a long history, well-grounded in the respectable founding principles of our nation. He's for the republic.

Economic Policy:

Buchanan, Patrick. The Great Betrayal. Buchanan's key point in this book is very simple: America's classic heritage is protectionist, not free trade, and our greatest years of economic growth took place under protectionism. Even if you're not willing to go all the way with him, this is an essential antidote to globalist lies about our history.

Lowenstein, Roger. When Genius Failed. Long-Term Capital Management was a private investment firm run by Nobel laureates, but it went bust nonetheless in '98. This is the perfect cautionary tale about how technocratic arrogance meets its match.

Porter, Michael. The Competitive Advantage of Nations. Much is spoken (or was back before the 90's boom, when people actually worried about America's economic future and still feared Japan) about the need for our nation to compete economically with others, but most of this debate goes on in utter ignorance of the real economics of competition between nations. This work, by a professor at the Harvard Business School, is the state of the art on the topic. Very empirical.

Porter, Michael. Competitive Strategy. One of the most readable truly profound books on economics since Adam Smith, this volume explores the nature of competition between firms. Even if you forget the details, it will greatly sharpen your understanding of how the economy works.

Von Hayek, Friedrich. The Road to Serfdom. The classic work on how economic planning leads to more economic planning leads to… you guessed it.

Von Hayek, Friedrich. The Fatal Conceit: the Errors of Socialism.

Von Hayek, Friedrich. The Constitution of Liberty.

Drucker, Peter F. Post-Capitalist Society. Fundamentally, Drucker is a moderate, reasonable globalist, so he should not be swallowed whole, and he does have his own special kind of psuedo-profound nonsense at times. That being said, he is also one of the most original and insightful economic thinkers around. Very readable.

History, European & World:

Rummel, R.J. Death By Government. One would do well, in thinking about politics, to begin by reminding oneself how brutally high the stakes are. Rummel's message is simple: government in the 20th century has largely been about killing people: 165 million, to be exact. He lays out in cold detail who has killed whom. We have all heard of the Nazi and Soviet atrocities, but who knew that Poland and Pakistan are each on the books of history for a million victims apiece?

Schama, Simon. Citizens. This history of the French Revolution is so damning that it has yet to be translated into French as it is too hot to handle. Not only was the Revolution the bloody denouement of the ideologies of modernity, it was also a spectacularly futile jerking around, for want of a better phrase.

Shirer, William. The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Everyone should know the sordid history of Nazi Germany, and this is one of the most readable, by an American foreign correspondent who lived through much of it.

Bullock, Alan. Hitler and Stalin: Parallel Lives. The world is much better at admitting that the communists were just as bad as the Nazis than it used to be; this is a key text for comparing the two. Hitler still comes off as a much more interesting sick pup.

Canadine, David. Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy. For an American, this book is really about the passing of the Old World that died in 1914 and was whisked to oblivion in 1939. Understanding what this world was like is key to getting some depth in one's understanding of how societies work and not being constrained by the narrow walls of modernity. Just what were people trying to conserve for so long?

Friedberg, Aaron. The Weary Titan. Any empirically-grounded debate about the problems of America's vast global involvements must take seriously the collapse of the British Empire. This is the single best and most readable book on that elegiac topic.


Orwell, George. Homage to Catolonia. An insider’s account of the Spanish Civil War, written by someone who fought on the wrong side but still staunchly anti-communist.

Manchester, William. The Last Lion. The introduction of this book, "Land of Hope and Glory" is probably the finest single piece of historical writing of the last 50 years. The body is about the life and career of Winston Churchill, the aristocrat who saved world democracy. Some criticize it for hero-worship.

Charmley, John. Churchill: The End of Glory. Churchill tends to be hero-worshipped by British and American conservatives, but he is quietly becoming a controversial figure. Read this book to learn how his contributions to history are being questioned.

Nolte, Enrst. Three Faces of Fascism: Action Francaise, Italian Fascism, National Socialism. The correct history of fascism has yet to be written, as the subject is still too drenched in blood for people to be objective about. This book, however, is as close as it gets.

Massie, Douglas. Dreadnaught. The first modern technological arms race was between Great Britain and Germany before WWI and its object was to build the ultimate battleship. A good introduction to how these pre-war governments and societies worked.

Huntingdon, Samuel. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. After the Cold War, how will the world divide itself? Huntingdon thinks it will divide itself into "civilizations,"that is blocs based up heritage. The Islamic-Western rivalry is the most talked about, but there’s an Islamic-Hindu, Islamic-African, Sino-Japanese and others.

Hayek, Friedrich. Capitalism and the Historians. The point of this little book is very simple: whatever may have been the horrors of the Industrial Revolution, they were far more humane than the way things were before.

Welles, James. The Story of Stupidity: A History of Western Idiocy from the Days of Greece to the Present. This entertaining volume is an analysis of the role of stupidity through history. Although written in an amateurish style and not up to the highest scholarly standards, it is nonetheless a convincing argument that failure to adapt to the truth is a systematic feature of all social systems.

Yergin, Daniel. The Prize. It is probably no secret to you that oil is a commodity important to modern affairs, but you are probably not aware of the actual history of the single greatest material prize in the history of the world. This one substance is quite important enough to support its own history of the postwar era. And did you know Hitler lost because he ran out of gas?

Wedgwood, C. V. A Coffin for King Charles. The best narrative account of the execution of Charles the Martyr, king of England.

Anthology. The Black Book of Communism : Crimes, Terror, Repression. A reliable list of whom the communists killed and otherwise oppressed.

McNeil, William. Plagues and Peoples. You thought history was the history of our species? Wrong. McNeil convincingly demonstrates that microbes and rats, by devastating or sparing human populations, have had a far larger impact on history than most people imagine. Who knew?

McNeil, William. The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community. The best introductory history of world civilization. Readable.

Tuchman, Barbara. The Guns of August. This book is frequently cited by people as the one book that turned them on to history in the first place. An analysis of the causes and opening of WWI, which in case you didn't know was probably more historically consequential than WWII.

Tuchman, Barbara. The Proud Tower. For real conservatives, Europe before 1914 is the point of reference for so many things. This is a wide-ranging account of what that world was like. Did you know Marxism was on the defensive intellectually by the 1890's?

Hitchens, Peter. The Abolition of Britain. Did Margaret Thatcher fail? Will all her economic and social reforms come to naught in the face of the reduction of Britain to a province of the European Union saddled with nihilistic social decay? This is a tough-minded look at how 80's conservatism failed to take on the key sources of national decline while it had the chance. The obvious extrapolation to the US is a frightening possibility. This is by Peter Hitchens, conservative brother of the more-famous left-wing Christopher.

Morris, Jan. Pax Britannia. This account of the British Empire at its height makes clear what decency the world is capable without modern notions of democracy and equality.

Johnson, Paul. Modern Times. This is the single best introduction to 20th-Century world history. Johnson is definitely one of us. Extremely readable and not afraid to make moral judgements.

Johnson, Paul. A History of Christianity. The single best one-volume history of Christianity. Simply grasping that Christianity has a complex history, and that one's own denomination is the product of a long tree of development, is a big intellectual leap for a lot of people, but one worth making. It is depressing to see how Christians ruin their religion in the same ways time and again throughout history.

Johnson, Paul. A History of the Jews. The best one-volume history of the Jews. Philo-semitic but unafraid to call Jewish Bolshevik scum what they were.

Sowell, Thomas. Conquests and Cultures. Sowell does it again with the highly-inflammatory issue of what we are to make of the fact that most human societies are the products of historical acts of conquest. Sweeping.

Johnson, Paul. Intellectuals. If you have ever suspected that intellectuals are not just not smarter about social questions than the rest of us, but downright dumber, this is the book that will confirm your suspicions. Johnson looks at the messes that intellectuals have made of their private lives and then asks, how can we possibly listen to these people telling us how to run our lives or our country?

Johnson, Paul. Birth of the Modern: World Society 1815-1830. Here he traces the origins of many of the features of the modern world that we take for granted.

Heller, Mikhail. Utopia in Power. The best politically-sound one-volume history of the USSR.

Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Vicious and insane, to be sure, but there is value in understanding what Hitler actually thought as opposed to what people say he thought.

Kissinger, Henry. Diplomacy. The single best book on the subject. Great historical depth.

Sex: Davies, Bob. Coming out of Homosexuality. You can argue the pros and cons of gay rights and the moral legitimacy of homosexuality all you want, but some people have actually undertaken to do something about righting this condition when it occurs.

Van Den Aardweg, Gerard. The Battle for Normality: Therapy for Homosexuality.

DeBeauvoir, Simone. The Second Sex. This one belongs to the opposition, but it is well worth reading to see what feminist ideology really believes. She gives the essential ideology in a compact form and of course, as Jean-Paul Sartre's lover, shows how feminism is an intellectual consequence of existentialism.

Graglia, Carolyn. Domestic Tranquillity. This is the best all-out assault on feminism, written by a sharp-tongued intellectual grandmother.

Gallagher, Maggie. Enemies of Eros. Not only is the sexual revolution undesirable for all the usual reasons, it is also profoundly anti-erotic. Eros requires a balance between permission and prohibition.

Crittenden, Danielle. What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us. Concerning how feminism is contrary to the accumulated feminine wisdom of the ages, a wisdom that young women are increasingly finding vindicated by their experiences.


Chubb, John; Moe, Terry. Politics, Markets, and America's Schools. The best conservative introduction to why America's schools are a mess and why market-based solutions are appropriate.

Bloom, Allan. The Closing of the American Mind. This bestseller was the first real shell to crack the armor of political correctness back when it came out in 1986 and made an obscure philosophy professor a multi-millionaire. The American mind is being closed by relativism; reading the traditional great books of philosophy is the way out. Simultaneously pugnaciously readable and exquisitely erudite.

D'Souza, Dinesh. Illiberal Education. The best introduction to the mess of the liberal universities.

Lewis, C.S. The Abolition of Man.

Jones, Judy; Wilson, William. An Incomplete Education.

Science:Denton, Michael. Evolution: A Theory in Crisis. Evolution may not be dead, but it is certainly in trouble as a theory. The point is not that we should be proclaiming biblical creationism from the rooftops, but that evolutionists have no right to treat their speculations as beyond reasoned debate.

Sokal, Alan. Fashionable Nonsense. Concerning how deconstructionists write things about science that are not only false, but reveal that they literally don’t understand their subject matter at all.

Gross, Paul R. Higher Superstition: the Academic Left and its Quarrels With Science. The intellectual vanguard of the other side doesn’t really believe in science any more.


D'Souza, Dinesh. The End of Racism. The best conservative discussion of the status of racism in American life.

Maharidge, Dale.The Coming White Minority. This is the taboo topic that everybody knows about but won't discuss. The book is very objective and addresses all the relevant issues. Certainly not extremist.

Sowell, Thomas. Race and Culture. Mr. Sowell, a black economist at Stanford, faces the facts of differing racial levels of achievement with the unflinching gaze that only a black man would dare, but he does not go for the easy racial explanation. He seeks to demonstrate that race is really not the driving variable in the achievements of different cultures; culture is.

Robertson, Wilmot. The Dispossessed Majority. This somewhat notorious but prescient analysis of American society explores the way in which the American ethnic majority has been deprived of control over the nation. Ruthless but not extreme.

Richburg, Keith. Out of America. A black American goes to Africa and confronts the fact that, Bob Marley songs notwithstanding, he is not an African but an American.

Marable, Manning. Speaking Truth to Power. Rubbish from start to finish, this is included in case you need a clear fix on what the racial demagogue-intellectuals of the other side think. Its shrillness can be entertaining if you have an advanced sense of irony.

Steele, Shelby. The Content of Our Character: A New Vision of Race in America. Meritocracy, not affirmative action.

McWhorter, John. Losing the Race: Self-Sabotage in Black America. Documents the ways in which the culture Black Americans have created for themselves sabotages their archievements. Says a lot of things white people would get in trouble for saying.

Connerly, Ward. Creating Equal: My Fight to End Race Preferences.

Stoddard, Lothrop. The Rising Tide of Color. Certainly not a book to be swallowed whole, this is a specimen of what racist intellectuals in the United States used to think before such thoughts became unsalonfahig. Very matter-of-fact, does not foam at the mouth, and makes the point that American racists were at least not Nazis. Pseudo-scientific.

Grant, Madison. The Passing of the Great Race. Similar to The Rising Tide of Color.

Military Affairs:

Keegan, John. The Face of Battle. This is an ideal first book on war for those who don't normally read about it. It is a series of accounts and analyses of what it has actually been like to be in battles. It takes Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somne as its paradigm cases. Keegan is a superb thinker.

Keegan, John. A History of Warfare. A multi-disciplinary study of what it means for human societies to make war.

Lutwak, Edward. The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire. A prominent contemporary security analyst applies himself to analysing what the Romans were up to, militarily speaking, at the height of their empire.

Mitchell, Brian. Women in the Military: Flirting With Disaster. Title explains it all. Also see Stephanie Gutman’s new book on the subject.

Hanson, Victor Davis. Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power. Why has Western civilization has spread so across the world? In Carnage and Culture, military historian Victor Hanson makes this argument: Westerners are more effective killers. Focusing specifically on military power rather than the nature of Western civilization in general, Hanson views war as the ultimate reflection of a society's character: "There is…a cultural crystallization in battle, in which the insidious and more subtle institutions that heretofore are murky and undefined became stark and unforgiving in the finality of organized killing." 


Murray, Charles. Losing Ground. The book that caused welfare reform! This is a good first book if you are interested in what conservative quantitative sociology is like. Proves with rigorous statistical arguments that the old welfare system made things worse.

Gilder, George. Men and Marriage. A conservative-minded exploration of how marriage is good for men.

Wright, Robert. The Moral Animal.

Murray, Charles. The Bell Curve. 90% of references to this book concern just one chapter of it, on IQ and race, which is too bad, because its systematic exploration of the social and political significance of IQ differences is fascinating.

Olavsky, Marvin. The Tragedy of American Compassion. Olavksy is a former leftist who is Bush's adviser on welfare reform. This book documents how much better welfare was managed in the days before government took it over and removed its moral dimension.

Packard, Vance. The Hidden Persuaders. Nominally about advertising and how it works, but in fact a razor-sharp analysis of human motivation and the science of persuasion. A must for the cynic.

Rieder, Jonathan. Canarsie: the Jews and Italians of Brooklyn Against Liberalism. A classic account of the revolt of the white lower-middle class against racial liberalism, centered on one neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Sowell, Thomas. Knowledge and Decisions. This is a book often cited by people as the key text that made them become conservative. Why liberalism presupposes ways of making social decisions that are doomed to failure.

Sowell, Thomas. The Vision of the Anointed. Sick of know-it-all liberal elitism? This book is a systematic analysis of the structure of the liberal belief that they know better what people need than they know themselves.

Van Wolferen, Karel. The Enigma of Japanese Power. The nominal subject of this book is how strange the Japanese power elite is. Its greater implications concern what a slippery thing a power structure is when you actually rigorously analyze it.

Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Vindication of Tradition

The Well-Ordered Life:

Post, Emily. Etiquette. (1922 edition only).

Epictetus, Enchiridion.

Aurelius, Marcus. The Meditations. Thoughts on private and public virtue by perhaps the best emperor Rome ever had.

Seneca. Letters.

Fisher, M.F.K. How to Cook a Wolf.

Dement, William. The Promise of Sleep.

Covey, Steven. The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

Documents & Essays:

The Mayflower Compact (

Henry, Patrick. The War Inevitable (

Arnold, Matthew. Dover Beach.

Orwell, George. Politics and the English Language.

Oakeshott, Michael. Rationalism in Politics.

Adams, John Quincy. Monsters to Destroy. (

Lewis, C.S. Learning in War-time.

Newman, Cardinal John Henry. The Idea of a University.

Yeats, W.B. The Second Coming.

Russell, Bertrand. Pragmatism & William James’s Conception of Truth. (found in his book Philosophical Essays) Many of the sophistries of the present day are really varieties of a philosophical ideology called pragmatism, which is superficially very attractive and whose leading present-day exponent is the famous Richard Rorty. Russell’s refutative essay on the topic may be the single most dispositive philosophical essay ever written on any topic. The second essay is along similar lines with a broader focus.

Lear, Jonathan. Inside and Outside the Republic.

Eliot, T.S. Notes Toward a Definition of Culture.

MacArthur, Douglas. Address at West Point.

Reagan, Ronald Time for Choosing : The Speeches of Ronald Reagan 1961-1982

Von Hayek, Friedrich. Why I am Not a Conservative.


Kipling, Rudyard. Recessional, The White Man's Burden.

Frost, Robert. Stars, The Death of the Hired Man.

Stevens, Wallace. Sunday Morning, The River of Rivers in Connecticut, A Mythology Reflects its Region.

Eliot, T.S. Four Quartets, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land.


Robert Locke Home




TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Miscellaneous
Intelectual fodder for the new year.
1 posted on 01/01/2002 10:26:41 AM PST by Politically Correct
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To: Politically Correct
Canon fodder, as it were. ;^)
2 posted on 01/01/2002 10:44:09 AM PST by headsonpikes
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To: Politically Correct
3 posted on 01/01/2002 10:50:30 AM PST by Fiddlstix
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To: Politically Correct
Very interesting, thanks and a bump.
4 posted on 01/01/2002 10:52:15 AM PST by Eva
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To: Politically Correct
A couple of glaring omissions (unless I somehow missed them):

Our Enemy, The State - Albert Jay Nock (or anything by Nock)
The Burden of Bad Ideas - Heather MacDonald

Happy New Year to all

Own Drummer

5 posted on 01/01/2002 11:12:12 AM PST by Own Drummer
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To: Politically Correct
Bump for later
6 posted on 01/01/2002 11:25:30 AM PST by Celtjew Libertarian
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To: Politically Correct
bump and bookmark.
7 posted on 01/01/2002 1:04:49 PM PST by Ms. AntiFeminazi
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To: Hugh Akston
I should have bumped you to this n my previous reply. Don't get any bright ideas. I've got 3 books sitting right here in front of me that I haven't touched yet. lol.

btw, I saw a good biography on Ayn Rand today. Unfortunately I missed the first half because someone wanted to watch football instead. Imagine that! lol.

8 posted on 01/01/2002 1:09:59 PM PST by Ms. AntiFeminazi
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To: Politically Correct
Thank's for the list. I'm going to check out Albion's Seed from the local library tomorrow. Got lot's of good reviews on as well.
9 posted on 01/01/2002 1:38:46 PM PST by BigBobber
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To: Politically Correct
bump for later
10 posted on 01/01/2002 1:40:25 PM PST by charphar
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To: BigBobber
Thank's for the list. I'm going to check out Albion's Seed from the local library tomorrow. Got lot's of good reviews on as well.

Have that one on the bookshelf.....outstanding read!....just had to have it in my collection.
You'll like it.

11 posted on 01/01/2002 2:11:15 PM PST by Politically Correct
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To: Politically Correct; nutmeg
just bumpin' this worthwhile "reading list".
12 posted on 11/30/2002 7:39:38 PM PST by evilC
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To: evilC
BUMPing back at ya! (Thanks)
13 posted on 11/30/2002 7:50:34 PM PST by nutmeg
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To: nutmeg
11 minutes bump to bump. Do you ever sleep?

14 posted on 11/30/2002 7:54:26 PM PST by evilC
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To: evilC
15 posted on 11/30/2002 9:23:41 PM PST by nutmeg
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