Thomas Sowell

A writer both popular and profound, Paul Johnson has also written a very readable and insightful book on world history in the 20th century called Modern Times. Our schools and colleges do such a poor job of letting young people know what happened in the world before they were born that Modern Times should be must reading.

Economics is another important subject on which there is widespread ignorance and misinformation, despite many brilliant books by economists -- books which even graduate students often have trouble reading. Writing a readable book about economics is not easy -- as I discovered when I wrote Basic Economics, an introduction to the subject without graphs, equations, tables, or jargon.

Obviously, I am not the most objective judge of how good or how readable Basic Economics is. However, it has sold well and has been translated into Japanese and Polish, so apparently some people like it.

For a more philosophical -- but also very readable -- discussion of free market capitalism, you cannot do better than Free to Choose by Rose and Milton Friedman. Reading this book can undo years of collectivist indoctrination in the schools and colleges.

The desire for a collectivist world in which government controls more of our lives has survived many disastrous attempts to create such a world. Heaven on Earth by Joshua Muravchik is a lively and dramatic history of these disasters -- and of the good intentions that led to them.

One book that every American ought to read is The Federalist, also known as "The Federalist Papers," since it is a collection of popular 18th century essays written to explain to the general public why the government of the United States was being created the way it was in the Constitution. It is a gem.

One of the most important things for young people to understand, early on, is how much hostility there is to this country and its values by the intelligentsia in the media and in educational institutions. Useful Idiots by Mona Charen spells it out in plain English with unmistakable examples.

A landmark experience is reading Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple, about the effect of the welfare state on poor people and the social degeneracy to which it has led in Britain. A Brief History of Crime by Peter Hitchens tells the same story as regards crime in Britain, where leftish fads have gone even further than in the United States, with even more disastrous results.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate