The Free Man’s Reading List

Cogitans asks the question:

What should a person, if he wishes to think of himself as a free man of the republic, absolutely must read?

I’m a free man of the dominion and a monarchist myself, but even so, it is still important for a free man to know the basics of freedom. I think building a reading list for free men is an excellent idea, I will create one and try to compile and update it over time as a reference. The permanent list to be updated can be found here. For right now, here’s the books I’ve put on the original list and an explanation. Please feel free to add your input.

Note: I have not read all, or even most of these yet; I’ve maybe read a quarter of them. Those I have read are personally recommended, those I have not are either classics in their field or have been recommended by others and I plan to read in the future.
Another Note: I do not necessarily either endorse or oppose anything expressed in these books. Just because something should be read does not mean it should be followed.

Being a free man is made of two parts: being a man and being free. This reading list will address both parts. Being only a man makes you someone else’s developed slave, being only free leaves you a weak hedonist. The goal is to be both.

The first three writers on the list establish the philosophical basis of freedom, a concept that I think is unique to the English. The fourth, Machiavelli, gives a view of liberty, a more universal concept.

John Locke – His Second Treatise of Government is the philosophical basis of English liberalism. It is a must-read for any free man.

Edmund Burke – Burke is the originator of modern conservatism (also called liberal-conservatism). His Reflection on the Revolution in France is a must-read and his A Vindication of Natural Society would also be important.

Thomas Paine – As a republican counterpoint to Burke’s monarchist liberalism, read Paine’s The Rights of Man and Common Sense. Together Burke and Paine will display the difference between monarchic freedom and republican freedom.

Nicollo Machiavelli -  The Prince is important to understand the nature of power in government, the Discourses are an important work on republicanism and freedom.

Having established the philosophical basis of freedom, we can turn to more modern pro-freedom works:

Barry Goldwater – The Conscience of a Conservative is the classic manifesto of modern American conservatism.

Robert Nozick - Anarchy, State, and Utopia is a strong moral defence for freedom which also fights the anarcho-capitalism of Rothbard.

FA Hayek – The Road to Serfdom in which Hayek argues that socialism leads to tyranny.

Isabel Paterson – The God of the Machine surveys history through a pro-freedom lens.

Having knowledge of societal freedom, we now turn to personal freedom. You might not be able to free society, but you can free yourself.

Ralph Waldo Emerson – Self-Reliance is an essay on your own self-worth and against conforming to the world.

Freidrech Nietszche – Thus Spake Zarathustra focuses on the concept of the Ubermensch, a self-mastered individual, while On the Geneology of Morality outlines the concept of the slave morality.

Harry Browne – How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World is a book on steps towards finding personal freedom.

Economics is the study of the free interaction of free men, it is the study of the workings of freedom, and having a a base knowledge of economics is essential for a free man. Most of the basics economics books are somewhat interchangeable, but the recommended pro-freedom books to learn the basics of economics are:

Henry Hazlitt – Economics in One Lesson will teach you basic economics.

Thomas Sowell – Basic Economics is a more expansive book on basic economics.

Milton Friedman – Capitalism and Freedom is a classic book asserting the good of the free-market from the leader of the Chicago school.

Knowing basic economics, we can then turn to Austrian economics, which pushes even more strongly for economic freedom and rejects mainstream economists’ attempts to control the market.

Frederic Bastiat – That Which is Seen and That Which is Not Seen. This was the original work that Austrians built upon.

Gene Callahan – Economics for Real People. In itself not important, but it’s said to be a good, simple introduction to Austrian economics. Any other introduction will do, or you can skip it and go straight to the next two books.

Murray Rothbard – Man, Economy, and State is his major work. The most important work of the originator of anarcho-capitalism and a major contributor to Austrian theory.

Ludwig von Mises – Human Action. The magnum opus of the man who really grew modern Austrian economics.

Now that we know what freedom is and how it works, we now must have the ability to be a free man. The first ability is a capacity for violence. Freedom comes from power and strength, as does masculinity, and power and strength come from a capacity for violence, so a knowledge of violence is essential. In addition to all these, you should probably pick up the defining book(s) (if there is one) of whatever martial art you choose to participate in (and every free man should be learning a martial art).

Boston T. Party - Boston’s Gun Bible is the book on firearm use and firearms freedom. Firearms are the modern tool of violence and this will introduce them to you thoroughly.

Improvised Munitions Handbook – The US Army’s guide to improvising weapons; a man should have the ability to get weapons when necessary.

Sun Tzu – The Art of War is the basic guidebook to war and to violence in general. It’s fairly simple and a lot of it is common sense, but it’s common sense for a reason. Read it.

Miyamoto Musashi – The Book of Five Rings is a classic Japanese text on martial arts, strategy, and philosophy.

Dave Grossman – On Killing, On Combat, and the Warrior Mindset are a trilogy on the psychology of violence. Knowing how to commit violence is an entirely different kettle of fish from being able to actually engaging in violence. These books will teach you how to keep your head when the SHTF.

Rory Miller – Meditations on Violence and Facing Violence help you prepare for violence in the real world. Lawrence Kane’s Little Black Book of Violence does much the same. All three will help you be prepared when the SHTF.

A man should have a mission and should have virtues he holds dear. He should be competent enough to be successful and have a diverse array of skills to promote independence. These will help you accomplish your mission (choosing your mission is up to you):

Jack Donovan – The Way of Men is a relatively short book outlining the virtues that make a man a man.

Roy Baumeister – Willpower is a guide to harnessing your willpower based upon modern science so you can better meet your goals.

Robert Greene – Mastery is a book about how to gain mastery (really?) and take control of your life.

Jim Rohn – 5 Major Pieces of the Life Puzzle
Napolean Hill – Think and Grow Rich and the Law of Success
Stephen Covey – The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

These last three are a few of the classics in the motivational self-help books. Danger & Play has outlined here why you should read them. Essentially, they outline the virtues you need to accomplish your mission.

A free man should be healthy and strong of body. These books aren’t must reads and aren’t irreplaceable, dozens of other books would likely work just as well, but information on nutrition and health is a must. If you don’t read these specific books, read others that fulfill a similar function.

Mark Sisson – The Primal Blueprint and the Primal Connection. These two books are guides to getting healthy in our modern world through lessons from our primal ancestors. The former is about physical health (ie. the primal/paleo diet), the latter is about mental health.

Mark Rippetoe – Starting Strength and Practical Programming are highly recommended guides to physical training and weight-lifting.

A man should be able to lead others (even if he chooses not to) and interact with others. Here’s some books on leadership and interpersonal communication:

U.S. Army Leadership Field Manual – This book is mandatory for all officers in training in the US Army. That should tell you something.

Robert Greene – The 48 Laws of Power, the 33 Strategies of War, and the Art of Seduction are brutally honest and straight-forward guides to obtaining what you desire in the social arena.

Dale Carnegie – How to Make Friends and Influence People and The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Public Speaking. The classic guides to interacting with others; a must read.

Allan Pease – The Definitive Book of Body Language is a good guide to body language. Reading this particular book is not necessary, but read a book on body language, as it makes up a large portion of human communication.

Athol Kay – Married Man sex Life Primer 2011 is essential if you have or plan to have a wife or long-term relationship. It will teach you how keep her and not have her dominate you. It will also introduce you to game.

Robert Glover – No More Mr. Nice Guy is about manning up (in the good way) and get what you want in life and relationships.

Isaac Asimov – Treasury of Humour goes goes through the various types of humour, analyzes them, providing examples, and explains how to tell jokes. Humour is an important part of socializing,a man should know how it works.

One part of being a free man is learning how you’ve been lied to you’re whole life. Now most of the above books will expose the lies you’ve been told, but these will teach you how to think and how they lie to you:

Darrell Huff – How to Lie with Statistics is a short simple guide to how people manipulate numbers to lie to you.

Miriam Joseph – The Trivium outlines the use of classical logic, grammar, and rhetoric.

This hasn’t fit in any of the other categories but I think it is essential:

The Bible -  Regardless of your religious beliefs, one can not deny that the Bible is the fundament upon which Western culture has been built. Western philosophy and civilization, upon which English freedom is built, can not be understood apart from the Bible. I don’t think any man can interact meaningfully with Western culture without having read the Bible.

The prior books have all been non-fiction, but here’s some fiction that should be read:

Robert Heinlein – Starship Troopers. Other books by Heinlein, such as the Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Glory Road, and Farnham’s Freehold, are strongly pro-freedom and make excellent reads , but Starship Troopers is an essential book on freedom, responsibility, and republicanism, plus it has tons of violence. What’s not to love?

Jack London – His two classic books Call of the Wild and White Fang form a companion set exploring individualism, primitivism vs. civilization, freedom, and violence.

George Orwell – 1984 and Animal Farm are his two classic works on totalitarianism and must be read. You’ve probably already read them, if not, do so.

Aldous Huxley – Brave New World is based on a totalitarianism more familiar to us; one of pleasure, hedonism, and distraction.

Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451 is a classic about the dangers of an entertainment society.

Kurt Vonnegut – Harrison Bergeron is a classic short story about the failures of equality.

Ayn Rand – Atlas Shrugged and the Fountainhead are two pro-freedom fiction books that have had massive influence on the freedom movement.

While created this list I realized I have a lot yet to read, and I’m already almost two dozen books behind in my reading list even before this list. It’s something to work towards though.

Here’s a couple of other reading lists I came across while writing this post if you want more to read:

Ron Paul’s freedom reading list.
Francis’ reading list.
Art of Manliness’ The Man’s Essential Library.
Art of Manliness’ 34 Books About Being a Man.
Learn Economics.

11 comments

  1. Just what I needed, to get further behind on my own reading.

    Three notes:

    Man, economy, and state is rough going, even if you like economics.

    The Art of War > The Book of Five Rings

    The movie, The Warring States, gives a fictionalized version of Sun Pin’s life and is not bad for understanding Sun Tzu’s philosophy. Read the book first.

    You may also want to start a list of movies.

    More book suggestions:

    Liberty Defined by Ron Paul, it was what pushed me over the edge from conservative to libertarian

    Taiko by Eiji Yoshikawa, A novel, based on a true person, who uses strategy and intelligence to overcome his lack of ability and conquer a country.

    Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa, A novel about the author of The Book of Five Rings. Look at a man’s development.

    Bourbon for Breakfast & Its A Jetsen’s World by Jeffery Tucker, marvel at the small things in life, marvel at what free enterprise brings us, and recoil against the tyranny of government.

    Bell of Africa by WDM Bell, Elephant Hunting in East Equatorial Africa by Arthur Neuman, A Hunter’s wanderings in Africa by FC Selous, What is more manly than hunting in Africa?

    Eat the Rich by PJ O’Rourke, see economics in action, not just in theory.

    Bang & Day Bang by Roosh V

    To Ride, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth by Jeff Cooper

    Principals of Self Defense by Jeff Cooper

    If I could only ever read one novel it would be Taiko, Musashi, or Jian by Eric van Lustbader.

  2. This is a good list, but missing from it is any education in moral philosophy. How can you know how to be a free man if you haven’t figured out what the teleology of manhood is? I would recommend Smith “Moral Sentiments”, Aquinas, Plato “The Republic” (focus on the idea of Justice, not the dubious socialist allegory), Chesterton “The Everlasting Man”, and MacIntyre “After Virtue” to start.

    This is obviously a very libertarian-leaning reading list, and there’s nothing wrong with that, other than the fact that the reason why liberty is valuable is because it affords us the opportunity to accomplish something of worth. It’s still necessary to understand what is worthwhile, what the teleology of our existence is – and that’s the purpose of moral philosophy. Many moral philosophers have been religious, but that doesn’t mean we have to read their works as religious apologies; we can simply read them for the content and accept or ignore the religious aspects as we see fit.

    I would also suggest that a free-thinking man ought to broaden his horizons from the established orthodoxy of modern liberal democracy in which the above list is steeped, and consider the other side. Joining the “Froude Society” is a good place to start – do a search for that and “unqualified reservations”.

  3. @Tim,

    You can’t say if you could only ever read one novel…and then pick three of them. Man up and make a decision.

  4. @ Free Northerner

    This is a great list and having a monarchist and republican viewpoints. The best government is the one only one that best recognizes man’s natural rights. A monarchy that respects the sovereignty of the individual is a better government than a corrupt republic that only pays lip service freedom.

    @ Chevalier

    I agree with the need to add a philosophical/moral bent to these readings as well. And on top of Plato I would add some of the works by Aristotle as well. I haven’t read your last two suggestions, but I will be adding them to my list.

    Thanks all for the suggestions.

  5. Excellent list. The Grossman and Miller Books look great, I’ll get my hands on them when I get a bit of cash together.

    I highly recommend Nassim Taleb’s three books as well. His new book, Antifragile is essentially a mainstream version of the manosphere, and a great read to boot.

  6. To this I’d add reading the works of Bruce Lee on martial arts: e.g., “The Tao of Jeet Kune Do”. When I was younger and into martial arts at the time, they were eye-opening as far as showing me that formalized movements, like kata, weren’t going to be helpful in real-life street violence situations.

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