15 August 2011

Recommended books and media

Here is a list of the books and media I've read over the years that I have either (a) enjoyed the most or (b) learned the most from.

Within each category, authors are listed alphabetically. Where more than one book is listed for an author, I've listed the books in order of preference.

Fiction/Literature/Literary Nonfiction:

Dante Alighieri, Inferno
Ray Bradbury, Dandelion Wine; Fahrenheit 451
Willa Cather, O Pioneers!My Antonia
Albert Camus, The Stranger
John Cheever, Collected Stories
Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
Goethe, The Sorrows of Young Werther
William Golding, Lord of the Flies
John Grisham, The Client; The Runaway Jury; The Firm
Knut Hamsun, Growth of the Soil; Pan; Victoria; Dreamers
Jim Harrison, Returning to Earth and True North
Hebrew Bible / Old Testament: Ecclesiastes, Job, Genesis, Song of Songs, Exodus, Hebrews
Joseph Heller, Catch-22
Ernest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls; The Old Man and the Sea
Herman Hesse, Steppenwolf; Siddhartha
Homer, Iliad, Odyssey
Victor Hugo, Les Miserables
Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House
James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Dubliners
Jack Kerouac, On the RoadThe Dharma Bums
Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild
Halldor Laxness, Independent People
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Thomas Mann, The Magic Mountain
George R.R. Martin, A Song of Ice and Fire (series)
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude; Chronicle of a Death Foretold
Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
Herman Melville, Moby Dick, Billy Budd
Arthur Miller, The Crucible
Yukio Mishima, The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea; Confessions of a Mask
Czeslaw Milosz, Native Realm
The New Testament: John, Luke, Revelations, James
Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged; We the Living; The Fountainhead; Anthem
William Shakespeare, King Lear; Hamlet; Othello; Julius Caesar; Macbeth; Richard II
Natsume Soseki, Kokoro
John Steinbeck, East of Eden; Travels with Charley; The Grapes of Wrath; The Pearl; The Red Pony; Junius Maltby
J.R.R. Tolkier, The Lord of the Rings; The Hobbit
Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace; Anna Karenina; The Death of Ivan Ilyich
Virgil, Aeneid
Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-5
Elie Wiesel, Night


Anna Akhmatova
Yehuda Amichai
W.H. Auden
Elizabeth Bishop
William Blake
Billy Collins
T.S. Eliot
Thomas Hardy
Randall Jarrell
D.H. Lawrence
Robert Lowell
Czeslaw Milosz
Sylvia Plath
Ezra Pound
Rainer Maria Rilke

Poetry anthologies:
The Columbia Book of Modern Korean Poetry
The Norton Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Poetry
The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry

"Children's" Literature (great for all ages):

Beverly Cleary, Dear Mr. Henshaw
Roald Dahl, Matilda; James and the Giant Peach; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; The BFG
Louise Fitzhugh, Harriet the Spy
Brian Jacques, Redwall (series)
C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia (series)
Lois Lowry, The Giver
Katherine Paterson, The Bridge to Terabithia
Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials (trilogy)
J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter series
Louis Sachar, Sideways Stories from Wayside School (trilogy)
Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree; The Missing Piece; Where the Sidewalk Ends; A Light in the Attic
Jerry Spinelli, Maniac Magee
E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

Politics, History, and Social Sciences:

Stephen Arons, Compelling Belief: The Culture of American Schooling
Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation
David Baldwin, Neorealism and Neoliberalism: The Contemporary Debate
Randy Barnett, The Structure of Liberty
W.M. Theodore de Bary, Sources of Chinese Tradition; Sources of Japanese Tradition; Sources of Korean Tradition
Jacques Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence; Begin Here: The Forgotten Conditions of Teaching and Learning
Frederic Bastiat, The Law
Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind
Jacob Burckhardt, The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy
Bruce Cumings, Korea's Place in the Sun
Norman Davies, Europe: A History
William O. Douglas, The Douglas Letters
W.E.B. Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk
Victor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
Sigmund Freud, Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego
Francis Fukuyama, America at the Crossroads
J.K. Galbraith, The Good Society
Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics; The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution; Global Political Economy
Jonathan Glover, Humanity: A Moral History of the Twentieth Century
Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom
Chris Hedges, War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning
E.D. Hirsch, The Knowledge Deficit
Robert Maynard Hutchins, Education for Freedom
Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide
Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion
John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration; 2nd Treatise on Civil Government
John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty; Autobiography
Ludwig Von Mises, Human Action
Barack Obama, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance
Murray N. Rothbard, Man, Economy, and State; For a New Liberty; What Has Government Done to Our Money?
Snell and Gail Putney, The Adjusted American: Normal Neurosis in the Individual and Society
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Social Contract
Scott Sagan and Kenneth Waltz, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate Renewed
Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political
Harvey Silverglate, FIRE's Guide to First-Year Orientation and Thought Control; FIRE's Guide to Free Speech on Campus
Voltaire, Political Writings
Kenneth Waltz, Theory of International Politics; Man, the State, and War
Michael Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars
Jack Welch, Winning
Charles Wheelan, Naked Economics
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States; A Power Governments Cannot Suppress

Philosophy, Religion, and the Humanities:

Augustine, Confessions
Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics; Poetics
Julian Baggini, Atheism: A Very Short Introduction
Derrick Bell, Ethical Ambition
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
Wendy Doniger, The Implied Spider: Politics and Theology in Myth
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays
David Hume, Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals
Soren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling; The Sickness Unto Death
C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Martin Marty, Luther
Montaigne, Essais
Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra; On the Geneaology of Morals
Blaise Pascal, Pensees
Josef Pieper, A Brief Reader on the Virtues of the Human Heart; The Four Cardinal Virtues
Plato, Symposium; Phaedrus; Apology; Republic
Joseph Ratzinger, Introduction to Christianity
Bertrand Russell, The Problems of Philosophy; Why I Am Not a Christian
Friedrich Schopenhauer, Essays and Aphorisms
Paul Tillich, The Eternal Now; The Courage to Be; Systematic Theology; On the Boundary

Magazines, Websites, and Columnists:

The Economist
Education Next
Future of Capitalism
The Freeman
Cafe Hayek
Frederick Hess
Hoover Institution
The Marginal Revolution
Mises Daily
The New Yorker
The New York Times
Political Wire
The Writer's Alamanac with Garrison Keillor
George F. Will

11 July 2011

Rethinking the Great Depression and the New Deal

I've become increasingly interested in the history of the 1930s, and I just finished Eric Rauchway's The Great Depression and the New Deal: A Very Short Introduction.  It has become increasingly clear to me that there are major holes in the dominant historical narrative about the Great Depression, the New Deal, and the Roosevelt administration.  The standard, high-school-textbook version of the story goes something like this:

"Greedy stock market speculators caused the stock market crash of 1929, which triggered the worst depression in American history; President Herbert Hoover believed in an outdated laissez-faire economic philosophy, so he did nothing; thankfully, President Roosevelt was elected, and his New Deal policies saved capitalism and helped the common man survive the Great Depression; and finally, World War II was an enormous boon to the U.S. economy, and it finally solved the problem once and for all."

Those of us with a preference for economic liberty and peace should be greatly disturbed by this story.  If true, it suggests that the best ways to fix a broken economy are (1) total war, including conscription; and (2) dramatic increases in government taxation, spending, regulation, and redistribution.

Thankfully, there are convincing reasons to believe that the standard narrative is wrong.  There is a lot more I need to read on the topic, but here are some resources and ideas that I look forward to exploring further:

-Murray N. Rothbard, America's Great Depression (free PDF and ebook)
-George Selgin, "The Economics of America's Great Depression" (course syllabus in PDF format with many links to readings).  My interest in this topic is largely attributable to a fantastic lecture I heard Selgin deliver in June.
-David Gordon, "What you must read about the Great Depression," Mises Daily, 2/22/09
-George Selgin, review of Hall and Ferguson's The Great Depression.

Stephen Davies, "Top 3 Myths About the Great Depression and the New Deal," LearnLiberty.org:

In my next post, I will share excerpts from Rauchway's The Great Depression and the New Deal, which - unlike the libertarian works linked to above - is firmly on the side of the standard narrative.

06 July 2011

Lying about Libya

My latest op-ed, "Lying about Libya," appeared today in Mises Daily, a publication of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.  You can read the article here. In it, I write:

"What was sold to the American public as a humanitarian intervention morphed almost immediately into unreserved support of one side in Libya's civil war and a commitment to overthrowing Libya's existing government.
To decide whether a military action undertaken in our name is prudent and just, we must adopt a skeptical stance toward politicians' stories and rationalizations. We must attempt to see through these to the reality of the situation.

Stories can change, and new excuses can be spun, but once a war is launched there is no predicting the course it will take or the consequences it will have. Wars rarely go according to plan; they set in motion a course of events that no one person or group of people can hope to control."

Click here to read the entire article. Please consider posting it on Facebook or Twitter, or otherwise passing it along to others if you enjoy it. Thanks, as always, for reading.

30 June 2011

Use of Predators Sets Dangerous Precedent

My op-ed "Use of Predators Sets Dangerous Precedent" appeared today on Antiwar.com. In it, I criticize President Obama's decision to authorize drone warfare in Libya. I write:

"The expediency of drones makes it all-too-tempting for governments to use them frequently and carelessly, brushing aside the ethical questions they raise and ignoring the long-term security consequences their use could entail."

Click here to read the full article. Thanks, as always, for reading.

14 June 2011

Excerpts from Klein, Warren, Chirelstein, and Gluck

Customs grow out of social processes whose details are highly individuated in regards to the type of activity, the individuals involved, their reputational pedigree, the knowledge they have about each other, and so on.  Viewing cultural evolution as deeply and densely rooted process may make one doubt the wisdom of government attempts to fine tune, guide, or supplant it.  It is highly unlikely that the blunt instruments of government will be well suited to cultivating the growth of delicate, teeming, unique interactions.

Daniel B. Klein
--"Assurance and Trust in a Great Society."  FEE Occasional Paper Two.

I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.

Robert Penn Warren
--from "Touch Me"

01 May 2011

Book received: "The Crimean War: A New History"

Thanks to Henry Holt and Company for sending a review copy of Orlando Figes' The Crimean War: A History."  I look forward to reading it.

Authors and publishers interested in sending review copies of books in the social sciences or humanities - especially education and international relations - should contact me by email at ryan (dot) mccarl (at) wideawakeminds (dot) com.

30 April 2011

Robert Nozick's "Experience Machine"

The following is political philosopher Robert Nozick's incredible allegory of the "Experience Machine," from his book Anarchy, State, and Utopia. The allegory makes a case against hedonism, the idea that sensory pleasure is the highest good:

Suppose there were an experience machine that would give you any experience you desired.

27 April 2011

Discussing the Libya War on "Russia Today"

I appeared on Russia Today (RT) yesterday to discuss the U.S./NATO intervention in Libya as well as the situation in Syria - feel free to check it out if you are interested:

My related article, "Rolling the Dice in Libya," appeared on Antiwar.com yesterday.

Another, unrelated op-ed of mine appeared yesterday as well in the Michigan Education Report: "National standards will stifle innovation." In it, I argue that "strict standards risk forcing students and teachers alike into a curricular straitjacket, alienating creative teachers and sapping the motivation of students."

You can find links to all of my online publications at my homepage, www.ryanmccarl.com.

Thanks, as always, for reading.

26 April 2011

Rolling the dice in Libya

My latest op-ed, "Rolling the dice in Libya," appeared today on Antiwar.com.

You can find the op-ed here as well as pasted below. If you enjoy it, please consider sharing it on your Facebook wall, mentioning it on Twitter, or emailing it to a friend. Thanks, as always, for reading.


Rolling the dice in Libya

Ryan McCarl

President Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination in 2008 partly by reminding the party’s base of his early, prescient criticisms of the ill-fated decision to invade Iraq. “What I am opposed to is a dumb war … a rash war,” then-Senator Obama explained in 2002.

04 March 2011

Excerpts from Jacques Barzun, "From Dawn to Decadence"

(Note: The excerpts below are related to issues outside of education; I will post education-related excerpts from From Dawn to Decadence on Wide Awake Minds, my education blog. You can find these here if you are interested.)

Here are a few excerpts from what I've read so far:


In any art a new technical power leads to uses and ideas not suspected at first.
Another singularity in Petrarch's life was that he climbed a high hill in southern France in order to admire the view. If it was done before him, it was not recorded. Nature had been endlessly discussed, but as a generality, not as this landscape.

Inquisition as such, that is, apart from methods and severity of results, has remained a live institution. The many dictatorships of the 20th century have relied on it and in free countries it thrives ad hoc - hunting down German sympathizers during the First World War, interning Japanese-Americans during the second, and pursuing Communist fellow-travelers during the Cold War.

"Heretics are given us so that we might not remain in infancy. They question, there is discussion, and definitions are arrived at to make an organized faith." -St. Augustine

It takes hundreds of the gifted to make half a dozen of the great.