The 12 Books of Christmas (Recommended Reading List)


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Written by Harry

9 min read

Over the past few years I have asked for books at Christmas to add to my growing collection of books I intend to one day read. They tend to be non-fiction and cover subjects I found to have gaps in after my education, for example philosophy, economics and history. Expanding my knowledge on my own terms has been the best decision I have made for broadening not only my understanding of the world but also has helped my vocabulary and knowledge for those pub quizzes we have all been going back to after lockdown!

So with that in mind, I have put together a list of books you should all have on your Christmas list or to use those Amazon vouchers on and take the time to read over the Christmas and New Year!

1. The English and Their History – Robert Tombs

This book written by a Professor of History at Cambridge simply tells of the history of England from the dawn of historical writing, as early as the 7th century and St. Bede, all the way to the publication date in 2014. It is an excellently written narrative with many references keeping the story of the English both interesting and objective as possible. All parts of life are included from the monarchy to the serfs in mediaeval sections and our political leaders to the working class in more recent history. The book refutes some national myths as unfounded such as the “Lions being led by donkeys” line of World War 1 Britain as the book remains factual and only pushes truth. This is the perfect book for anyone interested in any period of English History.

2. The 48 Laws of Power – Robert Greene 

This book, written by an ex-Hollywood writer, is a collection of behaviours of the Hollywood elite observed by Robert Greene. Realising these elites were acting in a similar manner to elites and leaders throughout history he compiled the laws together in this book that should be read by everyone with any sort of drive to be hyper successful in the world. Greene’s writing style in this book is very direct and is deliberately emotionless. Each chapter has an explanation of the Law, an example or 2 of the Law being played out or broken by a historical figure, from Caesar to Houdini, and some even have examples of how to detect and stop a person following the law. There is a good reason this book is referred to as “Hollywood back-stabber's bible” and one of the most requested books in American prisons, with some prisons even banning the book, it is best to read this book and recognise the nature of power.

3. 12 Rules for Life – Jordan B Peterson 

Jordan Peterson’s classic, an interesting read with excellent advice from the clinical psychologist with decades of experience to distil his best self-help advice. Each chapter covers a rule first explaining why for example “Stand up straight with your shoulders back” is practical and helps you gain confidence in the real world. The chapters will then delve into mythology, both ancient and modern, sometimes even biblical, to explain how this advice has been implanted into Western culture since time immemorial. Peterson even goes into his own life and in the final chapter explains how even enjoying little things got him and his wife through the painful years of his daughter’s poor health. The perfect book for those wanting to improve their confidence and current life situation.

4. 1984 – George Orwell 

The first fiction book of the list, this book is a classic that everyone knows the meaning of; that authoritarian governments inevitably lead to a total loss of all liberty. The book follows the life of Winston Smith who works at the inaptly named Ministry of Truth, the propaganda machine of the government, and how they manipulate media to push the party’s narrative that contradicts the past and what happens when you go against the party. The book also follows Winston Smith’s personal life and how the telescreens and spies (party run children’s scouts) make sure the people of Airstrip One do not dissent and are always monitored. This book is not only a great work of fiction but also is the quintessential British text of anti-authoritarianism.

5. Basic Economics – Thomas Sowell 

The perfect text for learning about economics, Sowell’s straight to the point writing style and constant real-world examples affirm realities of economics such as supply and demand, interest and black markets. Basic Economics covers a vast range of topics including price ceilings/floors, centralised economics and government debts. There is no need to read the whole book in one go, it has been my go-to textbook for when the current talking points on economics jump from quantitative easing to rent controls to government bonds. This book is excellent for those of you who have little knowledge on economics and need somewhere to start.

6. Prisoners of Geography – Tim Marshall 

This book written by British foreign affairs journalist Tim Marshall attempts to explain how geography has affected global politics and relations. Each chapter takes a country or continent on Earth and explains the country or countries’ politics of the past and present with geography of the place at the forefront of explanations. Such as Russia’s constant interest in the Crimea since it would allow Russia to have access to a warm water port all year round in Europe. The book delves into Africa, explaining how large jungles, mountain ranges and deserts meant Africans struggled to develop in the past and allowed European empires to take advantage of this fact leading to poorly placed borders today. A good book for those interested in global politics and history.

7. The Two Treatises of Government – John Locke 

The Father of classical liberalism, Locke’s Two Treatises of Government is the foundational text for common law. The first treatise is a line-by-line refutation of Sir Robert Filmer's Patriarcha, Locke makes 2 main arguments. Firstly, Locke argues scripture supporting the divine right of kings put forward by Filmer are weak or don't support it at all and second that the divine right of kings can only lead to all those not being of royal blood to slavery. Secondly, Locke develops natural/freeborn rights of life, liberty and estate, called so because in Locke's conception of the state of nature we are not subordinate to anyone and are free to live and create wealth. The book goes through subjects on property, conquest and even revolution with logical arguments for natural rights using hypothetical narratives along with biblical scripture to support his concepts. A book for anyone wanting to explore the origins and ideas of English common law.

8. Abolition of Britain – Peter Hitchens 

Abolition of Britain goes through several subjects of British life that have affected British life between the funerals of Winston Churchill and Princess Diane. Hitchens believes that Tony Blair committed a slow-motion coup d'état throughout the British government and institutions creating cultural reform not demanded by the British public. The book covers changes to education, such as history now focusing on common people of the past rather than grand events between political leaders and monarchs. Changes to attitudes to drugs, sex and religion, pushed by media and various political actors away from British Christian attitudes are documented well and constant comments from Hitchens about outcomes on these changes give a helpful insight into a classic conservative mind. A book for those wondering why Britain went from Victorian cultural standards to looser modern standards over the second half of the 20th century.

9. Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heinlein 

A political manifesto disguised as a sci-fi war book, the book follows Filipino Juan Rico on his journey out of high school into the Terran Federation’s military. We follow Rico’s journey through basic training to the Mobile Infantry, power armoured units equipped with nuclear capable weaponry in their fight against the bugs, a thinly veiled parallel to communists. As mentioned this is a political manifesto disguised as fiction, there are sections where Rico studies in History and Moral Philosophy classes, where Heinlein places his critiques of Marxism, moral decline and even natural rights. The book is perfect for both sci-fi fans and those with an interest in modern philosophy, not recommended for Marxists.

10. Why Nations Fail - Professor Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson 

A book that destroys the myths that geography and genetics are destiny, a look throughout history as to why some nations prosper and others don’t. In 2 words the answer is “property rights” and the proper enforcement of property rights by political bodies. The book looks at the history of the world for reasons as to why there are economic differences between countries and finds that geography, culture and religion are all secondary reasons for this. The book also goes into the idea of extractive and inclusive economies, the former being economies that exclude most of society from being entrepreneurs and politicians, the latter including the majority of society. Of course, inclusive structures tend to lead to better outcomes in their research, I recommend this book for anyone interested in international politics and history.

11. The Righteous Mind – Jonathan Haidt 

A precise look into the human mind and why it is naturally tribal, Haidt explains in this book how his research has found how people tend to form opinions and rationalise them. Haidt has found through his research that people do not tend to base their opinions and moral attitudes on facts but instead intuition, a mind elephant, with rationality being the tool to explain why we have these attitudes, the rider. Using this analogy Haidt goes into why throughout history and today people split into tribes and have such hate towards those we do not morally see eye to eye. Haidt also includes his theory for how we can change people’s minds on deep moral positions and how we need to be less tribal to succeed as a civilization. A great books for those wanting a deeper understanding of human social psychology.

12. Socialism: The Failed Idea that Never Dies – Kristian Niemietz

The final book on my list is a simple text that demolishes the idea of Socialism, an ideology Kristian Niemietz of the Institute of Economic Affairs has had many dealings with over the years. The book simply states that, from a Western perspective, socialists go through 3 stages, first the honeymoon phase directly after a country becomes socialist, Western socialists will use it as the beacon of socialist freedom. Second, when socialist countries start to fail, there will be excuses about why the country is failing outside of the socialist government. Finally, when the country collapses we get the “that wasn’t real socialism” line. Niemietz uses many examples from the 20th century to illustrate these points, such as East Germany and Cambodia, and even directly quotes socialists going through each stage and contradicting themselves. A great book for anyone wanting a simple understanding of why Western socialist rhetoric lives on and what to look out for with socialist talking points.

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