In 1988, then-coach Lou Holtz of the Notre Dame football team wrote in his chronicles of that championship year that the two things which will make a difference between where you are now and where you are five years from now are the people you meet and the books you read. The year 2008 is nearing a conclusion, and it has been a year of transformational meetings and readings for me.
A friend I’ve known for about three years got me into Albert Jay Nock and Murray Rothbard. This year I read Nock’s Memoirs of a Superfluous Man and On Doing the Right Thing, both of which are available from Mises. I’ve read Rothbard’s Ethics of Liberty, published by NYU, as well as his Egalitarianism as a Revolt against Nature, which is, again, available from Mises.
I made the acquaintance this past May of another fine fellow, who in the course of discussing various political theorists, mentioned the august name of Richard Weaver and recommended that I read his Ideas Have Consequences, which I did, and which stood a number of my mistaken ideas on their sides, where they shall rightly languish forevermore. I added to this Weaver’s Language is Sermonic, a fascinating collection of essays which seem effortlessly (and perhaps a bit unintentionally) to get around to many more of the essential problems of modern life than the title might suggest. Writers and speakers, at the very least, should read this book. How I wish I had gotten to know the one who recommended Weaver to me so much sooner! Shortly after making his acquaintance, he moved to a wonderful but faraway place. We stay in touch via email.
I mention these books because all of them have played a role in shaping my thinking in drastic and positive ways. Each one has, in its own way, been a liberator. Weaver’s books ameliorate existential angst; Rothbard’s bring order out of chaos and offer a workable anarcho-capitalist solution; and Nock teaches the reader to be wise and to mind his own business. I feel like a free man after this stroll through the mid-20th century book stacks. Then there is H.L. Mencken. Suffice it to say that he improves anyone’s b.s. detector.
I am quite grateful to the friends who have put these books in my lap. They shall go nameless; they know who they are. And if only I could recommend a good book to them! I’ll have to think about that for awhile.
Lou Holtz was quite right in what he said, except for one thing: It doesn’t take five years for a friend or a book to make a difference. The really great treasures start to work their magic immediately.