Wisdom Through the “Fifteen Hundred Page” Doctrine
“Books are the carriers of civilization. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.” – Barbara W. Tuchman
“You will be the same person in five years as you are today except for the people you meet and the books you read” – Charles “Tremendous” Jones
Unfortunately for me, I did not acquire a serious interest in reading until my early thirties but for the better part of a decade now I have been playing catch-up as fast as I can. (An even greater challenge now with two youngsters in the house.) Over the last year or so it has been good to see a more explicit focus and interest in book reading here at Redstate and, while this spotlight on conservative themed books is refreshing, I do wish to stress the importance of expanding into history and science also.
As for the diary title, I just wish to plant a seed for thought as many are digging into some of the very good titles and lists that have been compiled here in our little neighborhood. (And, for the record, these are rather soft guidelines that I abuse regularly…I just liked the sound of ”Doctrine” above.)
The point is to recommend seeking out at least 1500 pages on any given topic for the added value of a broad, well rounded knowledge base. Presumably, this will entail different authors with a variety of positions and historical perspectives on the given topic. I would advise against stacking them up back-to-back. Spread them out over a couple of years or more and return to a subject only after some time to let the information sink in and get mixed up with a balance of other reading material. Try to include at least one 500-plus pager for a more expansive treatment of the subject. Reread (good) books periodically and, as I’m starting to do more and more these days, highlight / underline passages as you go. It sure helps to find a particular quote when you want to use it in a diary.
As a quick aside, I’ll immediately violate these guidelines by recommending 168 pages of stand-alone true value in “The Little Red Book of Wisdom” by Mark DeMoss from which I borrowed both of the above quotes.
With that, I would like to humbly list some examples of grouped readings from my “library” with an open invitation to add recommendations to improve upon the “well rounded knowledge base”. While specific books and authors will always be subject to the tastes, preferences, and circumstances of the reader… many of these are only here because they were found on a sale rack, mentioned on a radio program, or just jumped out at me while passing through a local bookstore…no great insight went into these selections. However, I will try to indicate with a (***) those which I believe are must reads on a topic.
First up, our founding era, of course (~1922 pages):
John Adams by David McCullough (***)
Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (***)
1776 by David McCullough
The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin by Gordon S. Wood
For the record, I also have a not-abridged-enough version of Jefferson by Saul K. Padover (186 pages). No disrespect intended towards the author…I just don’t care for the specific subject. I believe I’ve referred to him as the most dangerous ever VP (to the Republic) on this bandwidth before and nobody has yet changed my mind. But, I digress.
Next up, the Civil War era (~1442 pages):
The Soul of Battle by Victor Davis Hanson (***)
Grant and Sherman by Charles Bracelen Flood (***)
Grant by Jean Edward Smith (***)
I cannot seem to get enough of either Grant or Sherman. Also, with the previous section, this completes my list of greatest Americans who also became Presidents…Adams and Grant. (The semantic game there is Greatest American and Not-Necessarily-Great-President with history possibly being a bit harsher that warranted. I may add Ike to the list after I’ve read more about him.)
How about the Middle East and terrorism (~1709 pages):
A Peace to End All Peace by David Fromkin
Ghost Wars by Steve Coll
The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright (***)
The Truth about Muhammad by Robert Spencer
Please note that if you stop by your local bookstore and read just the prologue / introduction to any of these you will be vastly more informed on the topic than just about all MSNBC talking heads put together.
I’ll summarize this category as “Freedom and Threats to it”…most are short books so it takes many to reach my target minimum (~1428 pages):
Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman
The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry M. Goldwater
Slouching Towards Gomorrah by Robert H. Bork (***)
Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman (***)
The Case for Democracy by Natan Sharansky
Animal Farm by George Orwell (***)
Presidential biographies are valuable for wider context and perspective. In addition to those listed above I’ll add (~2240 pages):
Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris
Truman by David McCullough (***)
The Reagan Diaries by Douglas Brinkley (Edited)
How about science under the sub-category “Calibrating Perspective before Misusing the Term ‘Global’ in your Anti-Science Crusade Against Reality” (~1462 pages):
The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg
Rare Earth by Peter D. Ward and Donald Brownlee (***)
The Privileged Planet by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards
*A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson (*** – A very fun read.)
And, last but not least, keeping the most important issue of this beautiful Sunday in mind and adding to the obvious ancient texts (~824 pages):
The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
The Case for Faith by Lee Stobel
More than a Carpenter by Josh McDowell
Cries from the Cross by Erwin W. Lutzer
Happy Easter everyone.
Proud Redstate “Old Timer” – 5 years 7 months