Thomas Sowell, Charter Schools and Their Enemies. I reviewed this for Regulation and Forbes.com. It’s not Sowell’s best work (here’s my guide to Sowell), but even Sowell’s worst work is better than a lot of people’s best work. That’s to say you should still familiarize yourself with it. Charters are an off-the-shelf education reform that have gotten proven results but that threaten to rain on the parades of teachers’ unions.
Friedrich Hayek, The Fatal Conceit. This was Hayek’s definitive refutation of “The Errors of Socialism,” published in 1988–not that long, incidentally, before the Berlin Wall tumbled and the Iron Curtain tore. This might be the “one book by Hayek” to read, though I’ll have to think about that some more.
C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia. I didn’t read the Narnia books until around 2012 (which was also right around the time I first read C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy). They’ve become staples of long car rides–in this case, we listened to almost all of them on a road trip out west.
Alan Paton, Cry, the Beloved Country. Alan Paton’s classic novel of racially segregated South Africa. It’s a classic, and for good reason. It captures a lot of the apparent and not-so-apparent tensions in a multiracial, multicultural society that was, for the longest time, dedicated to white supremacy.
Kristian Niemietz, Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies. Available for $0 at the link. I reviewed it for Regulation and Forbes.com. Niemietz takes apart intellectuals’ romantic attachment to socialism everywhere it has been tried.
Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge. I’ve gotten interested in Hardy because apparently the economists James M. Buchanan and Frank H. Knight (Buchanan’s mentor) shared an affinity for Hardy’s poetry. I read The Mayor of Casterbridge in high school and didn’t remember anything about it; the discussions of commodity speculation take on a new meaning with a few decades of economics training and teaching behind me.
Timothy Zahn, Thrawn and Thrawn: Alliances. The former was very interesting in part because of its account of the ascent of the extremely ambitious Arrindha Pryce, imperial governor of Lothal in Star Wars: Rebels. Thrawn, the baddie in the last two seasons of Rebels and the star of the extended universe novels some credit with jump-starting the Star Wars franchise again in the early 1990s, is a very interesting character: super-principled, but joining the Empire out of a sense of realism. Positive change, the master strategist seems to think, can come about in the long run through imperial victory and then influence over the arc of imperial policy. Order, it seems, comes first. Thrawn: Alliances was about the history between Thrawn and Darth Vader. I think it over-promised and under-delivered, but then again, my expectations for an account of the adventures of the Emperor’s right and left hands were probably too high.
E.K. Johnston, Ahsoka. Ahsoka Tano is our eight-year-old’s favorite character in the Star Wars Universe, which speaks volumes to the “new reality” of Star Wars in the Disney Era in light of the fact that she doesn’t appear in any of the main franchise movies. I found the book forgettable.