Ten most influential books

Ilya Somin has a list today of the books that most influenced his world view. I thought that was fun to think about, so here’s my list based on a few minutes of thought:

  • The Bible. The authoritative work on God and man.
  • C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters. All the lies we tell ourselves to keep ourselves from God. Also, an indictment of American education.
  • C.S. Lewis, Perelandra. Why do we sin, really? Satan seeks to repeat the Fall on a new planet, but this time God sends someone to debate him.
  • C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce. I never understood the idea of hell before I read this book. Hell is not a punishment; hell is a choice.
  • Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom. Hayek explains why socialism leads to totalitarianism.
  • Robert Barro, Macroeconomics. A definitive treatment of neoclassical macroeconomics. It taught me that liberal economics (and big-government conservatism) is doomed to failure.
  • Finn Kydland and Edward Prescott, Business Cycles: Real Facts and a Monetary Myth.  An economics paper that shows that, contrary to common belief, economic contraction — not growth — causes inflation. After reading this paper, watching the news is never the same again.
  • Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged. Much of what Rand says is wrong, and even more of it is right, but she never does anything by half-measures. Aside from the energy machine, this book seems less far-fetched every year.
  • Jonah Goldberg, Liberal Fascism. Fascism is a phenomenon of the left, not the right. Goldberg examines the history of progressivism and fascism and finds them deeply intertwined, and in many cases one-and-the-same. Basically this is a historical confirmation of The Road to Serfdom.
  • Vernor Vinge, The Ungoverned and Marooned in Real Time. I’m almost embarrassed to admit how much these two stories influenced me. The first paints a compelling picture of a working society with no government. The second goes mainly in a different (and extremely cool) direction, but in passing explores the evils of government a bit further.

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