Charles Kraut’s Constitutionist Recommended Reading List
Updated October 2020
I have read all the books and watched all the videos on this list. I have added comments
about each item.
The item numbers are not intended to be the order in which they should be read but are for use in a presentation when the list is discussed.
Note that this is not a general reading list for Constitutional studies, but rather my personal list of things I found valuable in formulating my own opinions and ideas about how we may yet save this great country of ours.
If you are ready to dig in and do some reading, here are the most important items on the
list and a suggested order in which you read them:
The “Top Ten”
73. The Patriot’s Guide to Taking America Back
51. We Still Hold These Truths
71. Will You Help Save Your Country?
54. The 5,000 Year Leap
53. The Failure of the Founding Fathers
57. Original Intent
59. A Sacred Union of Citizens: Washington’s Farewell Address
65. The Communist Manifesto
67. Rules for Radicals
68. Barack Obama’s Rules for Revolution
5. Silent Spring at 50: The False Crises of Rachel Carson
24. The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War
28. Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America, 1919
37. Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq
41. The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of DIsaster Capitalism
46. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun precludes Climate Catastrophe
13. Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War
If you read these books you will get an education all Americans ought to obtain, but almost never do.
“Problem” books (describe America’s problems without proposing
1. Tom Fitton is the head of Judicial Watch, perhaps the best
organization in the United States today monitoring the actions of
corrupt public officials and working to expose them.
Clean House: Exposing Our Government’s Secrets and Lies
describes the activities of Judicial Watch in and leading up to 2016.
More than a typical “problem” book, this organization is working hard
to effect change, particularly in “draining the swamp.” All we need now are indictments and prosecutions.
2. Mark Levin is a well-known conservative commentator. Most of his ideas in
Liberty and Tyranny are good, but his solutions ignore the larger
question as to how they are to be brought about. The same is true of
all “problem” books.
Mark Levin is one of several well-known authors and entertainers who favor and are working for a Convention of States. I have never heard any of them detail the specific Amendment to the Constitution they want this Convention to pass, nor do they discuss the great likelihood that such a convention will be hijacked by the Progressives.
3. In National Suicide: How Washington is destroying the American Dream from A to Z Martin Gross lays out solid arguments for the decline of the American Dream, but his “solutions” are presented without means for implementation.
4. In American Empire: Before the Fall Bruce Fein focuses on events of the past 75 years in which America has projected power and influence across the globe to bring about – what? The author takes on Henry Kissinger and others who attempt to rationalize and justify the creation of the “American Empire.”
No workable solutions here, either, but some interesting historical insights.
5. Silent Spring at 50, published by the Cato Institute, is a
compilation of essays regarding the disastrous effect that Rachel
Carson’s Silent Spring had in boosting the environmental movement,
particularly 1) the devastating global ban on DDT and 2) the rise of
the precautionary principle.
None of the authors label Carson a mass murderer, but the data
makes it plain that her work contributed significantly to the suffering and death of hundreds of millions – and that tragedy continues today.
6. Dennis Prager writes an informative book about the values that can make America a great nation by contrasting those values with what the Left has to offer. Still the Best Hope: Why the World needs American Values to Triumph shows the emptiness of the Left and its ideas but offers no solutions.
7. Chris Hedges is a journalist. The World as it Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress is a collection of his articles and essays written while he was on assignment at various places around the world. His implicit criticisms of our government are caustic and well founded. He is an equal-opportunity critic; he doesn’t care whether the policies that caused death and destruction were Democratic or Republican.
8. In Wilson’s Ghost: Reducing the risk of conflict, killing, and catastrophe in the 21st Century, Robert McNamara describes his involvement and the lessons learned from two separate crises in which America was heavily involved: the Vietnam War and the Cuban Missile Crisis. His formula – which to my mind is completely valid and practicable – does not seem to attract the interest of either major political party.
What I find most interesting about this book is that it offers a realistic path to diplomacy that would reflect a beneficent superpower rather than the current perception of an empire builder and bully.
9. In A Nation of Laws: America’s Imperfect Pursuit of Justice, Peter Charles Hoffer combined several essays on various issues of law to cast the rule of law in a slightly different way than the traditional one; Hoffer wants the law to become completely inclusive and to deal effectively with America’s “diversity.”
10. This 2003 book by Victor Hanson, Mexifornia: A State of Becoming deserves updating even though it is a genuine “problem” book and offers no useful solutions.
11. It’s hard to believe that the average American may be committing as many as three felonies each and every day, but Harvey Silverglate gives specific examples of government finding or inventing crimes they can use to charge ordinary Americans. Three Felonies a Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent deals primarily with high-profile Americans, but most of us can easily commit at least one felony per day all by ourselves.
12. In The Colder War: How the Global Energy Trade slipped from
America’s Grasp, Marin Katusa tells an interesting story about Putin and Russia that gives a very different perspective. He shows how Putin is utilizing Russia’s massive natural resources to reshape the economic landscape of the European Union. More than a “problem” book, this is a challenge to any occupant of the White House to take another look at US-Russian relations and make significant changes.
13. In Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War, CFR (Council on Foreign Relations) member Andrew Bacevich writes a compelling narrative denouncing the rise of the military-industrial complex and it immense power in determining America’s policies today.
14. Joseph Ellis is a first-rate though somewhat “liberal” historian who writes mostly in anecdotes. These are usually little-known events that deserve to be better known. They add color and detail to the lives of the participants and detail things that influenced the making of history. American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies at the Founding of the Republic is one of his best.
Keep in mind that Joseph Ellis, as gifted a writer as he is, takes a “loose construction” approach to the Constitution.
15. Gary DeMar’s America’s Christian History: The Untold Story may be mistitled. Like American Creation above, this book is a series of historical vignettes selected to illustrate times when the outcome would have been different if, for example, America had been ruled by biblical law instead of natural law.
For a much more thorough treatment of America’s Christian history you might want to look at Benjamin Morris’ lengthy tome The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States.
16. William Hogeland’s page-turner Declaration: The Nine Tumultuous Weeks when America became Independent, May 1-July 4, 1776 is a detailed history of the weeks leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
17. Chris DeRose is another good author. In Founding Rivals: Madison vs. Monroe; The Bill of Rights and the Election that Saved a Nation, he tells a story with which very few people are familiar today. In 1789 Madison and Monroe ran against each other for
Congress, the only time in American history where two future presidents did so. The way in which they conducted their campaign is a model which was seldom, if ever, replicated.
18. John Kaminski wrote The Great Virginia Triumvirate: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison, an important book containing a composite biography of Washington, Jefferson, and Madison and their relationship during the Revolutionary period and afterward.
19. James Simon’s What Kind of Nation: John Marshall, Thomas
Jefferson, and the Epic Struggle to create a United States is a very
well written account of the conflict between cousins Thomas Jefferson and John Marshall.
20. In Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence Joseph Ellis tells a compelling tale of the first disastrous summer of the American Revolution, and the crisis that almost destroyed the American dream.
21. In Through the Perilous Fight: Six Weeks that Saved the Nation, Steve Vogel details the history of the British invasion of the Chesapeake Bay, the attack on Fort McHenry, and the burning of Washington.
22. In Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates Brian Kilmeade writes a highly readable account of America’s first foreign military action - and its first attempt at regime change.
23. Simon Winchester offers up a fascinating volume of light reading on the fulfilment of America’s “Manifest Destiny” will fill in some of the gaps in your knowledge of American history. The Men Who United the States can be read in an hour or two.
20th and 21st Century History
24. James Bradley also wrote Flags of our Fathers, the story of the six men who raised the American flag on Iwo Jima. One of them was his father.
The Imperial Cruise tells an important story from American history which is usually covered up. It shows how Progressivism began to take hold in America during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, who utilized his ideas of racial supremacy and who practiced genocide in bringing “civilization” to the benighted peoples of Asia.
25. One of the best history books ever written, Barbara Tuchman’s famous The Guns of August is included because of the effect World War I and its aftermath had on American foreign policy.
26. War Addresses 1915-1917 is a compilation of Henry Cabot Lodge’s speeches in Congress and elsewhere as he tried to keep the United States out of World War I.
27. Scott Anderson’s well-documented account clearly lays out the struggle between France and Great Britain to carve up the Middle East for their own benefit, as it does the exploits of T.E. Lawrence in causing constant changes to British policy regarding the region.
Lawrence in Arabia: War, Deceit, Imperial Folly, and the Making of the Modern Middle East is a page-turner well worth reading.
28. Ann Hagedorn wrote Savage Peace: Hope and Fear in America, 1919, an eclectic history of 1919. To me, its greatest value is in its details of America’s suppression of suspected disloyalty, and in its account of American troops fighting in Siberia during the Russian Revolution.
29. Wesley Reisser’s The Black Book gives a detailed account of Wilson’s plans to redraw the maps of Europe and the Middle East, America’s first such attempt to flex its muscles internationally.
30. This book by Henry Cabot Lodge has been roundly criticized as an attack on Woodrow Wilson and a window into Lodge’ own personality. The Senate and the League of Nations offers valuable insights from Senator Lodge’s point of view that are particularly important, because Lodge was able to win over a majority of Republicans and Democrats in his fight to keep the United States out of the League of Nations.
31. Arthur Link is considered the leading authority on Woodrow Wilson. In Woodrow Wilson and the Progressive Era he draws extensively upon the writings of others to assemble an essay on the
history of the Wilson “era” from the turmoil in the Republican Party in 1910 to the entry of the U.S. into World War I in 1917.
32. John Milton Cooper’s landmark work Breaking the Heart of the
World takes 400 pages to get to the point, but it details the very public debate over the ratification of the Treaty of Versailles.
As a Constitutionist I disagree with his conclusions.
33. In Woodrow Wilson and the Roots of Modern Liberalism
Ronald Pestritto continues the argument that Wilson had to be drawn to “the dark side” of Progressivism, and that in the election of 1912 Wilson was the conservative candidate, while Teddy Roosevelt was the Progressive candidate.
34. In In the Garden of Beasts Erik Larson gives a chilling account of
life in Berlin in the months before World War II, as seen through the
eyes of the US ambassador to Germany.
35. Jonah Goldberg begins Liberal Fascism with Mussolini and continues through Hillary Clinton to detail why the real Socialists today are the liberals and not the conservatives. Looking at the Democratic candidates for President in the 2020 elections, I guess we know that by now.
36. (DVD) This well-regarded film Thirteen Days is a reasonably accurate representation of the key days of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
37. Blood Money: Wasted Billions, Lost Lives, and Corporate Greed in Iraq is an important anecdotal account of America’s repeated failures to rebuild Iraq as a modern nation after deposing Saddam Hussein.
38. The Cold War, a welcome addition to the Very Short Introduction series helps place the events of the Cold War into both their proper perspective and their historical context.
39. F. A. Hayek’s 1944 seminal work The Road to Serfdom is a powerful warning about the rise of controlled economies. It is an economics book, but it is more readable than most.
40. In Scarcity: Why having too little means so much, Sendhil Mullainathn and Eldar Shafir discuss their research into a combination of behavioral science and economics and provide some very interesting answers to problems faced in the boardroom and on dirt farms in India.
41. Opening with a secret CIA lab in Canada, in The Shock Doctrine:
The Rise of Disaster Capitalism Naomi Klein tells a true but untold
story of the darker side of a famous American Nobel Prize-winning
economist (Milton Friedman), and the murders, kidnappings, extortion, and financial ruin his protégés created.
42. John Perkins’ (if that is his real name) Confessions of an Economic Hit Man weaves an incredible tale of deception, greed, and corruption. However, if you read it in conjunction with Blood Money and The Shock Doctrine you will probably begin to believe that the unthinkable is actually true.
43. David Stockman’s book Trumped! is not an endorsement of The Donald. Far from it; Trumped! is an economic treatise detailing some of the problems any occupant of the Oval Office will have to face in 2017 and beyond.
Trumped! is heavy going for those not well versed in economics. In the last few chapters Stockman shares his opinions on situations around the world, making this book a little more readable.
Politics and Issues
44. Ron Paul was wise enough to distance himself from the more popular Libertarian movement, utilizing the Libertarian Party as his platform for a Presidential run rather than building his own third party. The Revolution: A Manifesto is an honest book which almost sounds like it was not written by a politician.
45. I met author Gregory Wrightstone at CPAC in 2018. I wish I had read this book before speaking with him. Inconvenient Facts is
overwhelming as it destroys all the arguments about the dangers of
man-caused global warming. No sacred cow is spared; global
temperature trends, cyclical warming and cooling, polar bears, the
Antarctic ice shelves, ocean acidification, tree ring studies, and much more.
You will be pleased to learn that we need more CO2 in the atmosphere, not less.
46. The Neglected Sun: Why the Sun Precludes Climate Catastrophe is a book I had been waiting for. This heavily documented book provides the first balanced approach I have seen to the genuine issues regarding climate change.
The research referenced in this book makes it clear that solar cycles account for at least half of global warming and cooling. CO2 has much less effect than the folks at IPCC claim. However, CO2 levels are increasing, and they do have an effect that must be dealt with. Read this book to understand that we have a “grace period” which will last for decades in which to address these issues.
47. If Arthur Koestler had written nothing else, this 1940 novel would have made him famous. Darkness at Noon should be required reading in every high school in the United States. It was a popular, if dark, play. In the book, “No. 1” is Joseph Stalin.
In 1998 Darkness at Noon was rated by The Modern Library as #8 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th Century.
48. George Orwell’s famous 1949 dystopian novel 1984 prophesied a
world not far removed from what we have today. Orwell, whose real
name was Eric Arthur Blair, wrote extensively about poverty, social
injustice, and opposition to totalitarianism. The original movie version is worth watching.
49. Orwell’s equally famous Animal Farm is an allegorical novella, first published in 1945. The allegory refers to events leading up to the 1917 Russian Revolution and then on to the Stalinist era.
50. Aldous Huxley’s 1931 novel Brave New World is set in the year
2540. In addition to anticipating technological developments the book is also a dystopian social commentary and a reaction to the more positive visions of the future authored by H. G. Wells.
51. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s 1962 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich preceded The Gulag Archipelago by more than a decade. This novel paints a very realistic picture of life in the Soviet gulags and is a good companion to Darkness at Noon.
52. I was so impressed with We Still Hold These Truths that I went to Washington, DC to meet Matthew Spalding in his office at the Heritage Foundation. The first nine chapters offer some important insights into the Constitution, but Chapter 10 is the real gem. Chapter 10 defines Progressivism in no uncertain terms. It provides a foundation for our understanding of the relationships between Progressivism, Socialism, and Communism both in terms of underlying philosophy and the day-to-day operation of government. There is a workbook for We Still Hold These Truths to aid in teaching these concepts.
53. States’ Rights and the Union, 1776-1876 is one of Forrest McDonald’s more important books in that it discusses the differences between a “national” government and a Federal government – and the direction we have taken since the Civil War.
54. In The Failure of the Founding Fathers Bruce Ackerman wrote a readable account of American political history as the Constitution became the law of the land and its omissions and flaws began to be discovered.
55. Cleon Skousen’s most important book The 5,000 Year Leap is a compilation of important principles which found their way into the Constitution.
56. In The Wall between Church and State Dallin Oaks edited and wrote the Introduction to the essays in this 1963 book. It is still timely today, and perhaps more now than when it was published.
57. In What Would the Founders Do? Richard Brookhiser draws some useful insights, but all in all I thought this book was a disappointment. Perhaps my expectations were too high, or perhaps Brookhiser did not add in the component of Providence and religious belief to the Founders’ convictions.
58. David Barton is a first-rate historian, and Original Intent is one of his best. Without being judgmental he lays out the religious basis for the constitutions of every state in the Union, and the way in which religion played an important role in the early years of our state and federal governments.
59. In The Revolutionary Constitution David Bodenhammer provides an excellent discussion of Constitutional issues showing how the Constitution framed by the Founding Fathers has been changed, interpreted, bent and deformed in cases to what it is today. Bodenhammer believes (as do I) that the Constitution is a unique, inspired document produced in an extraordinary manner by
60. George Fletcher is an unrepentant Progressive who sees the
major shift in Constitutional thought toward “social justice” and more
government as an essential good. I could hardly disagree with him
more, but if you want to defeat your “enemy” you must know who he
is – and how he thinks. Our Secret Constitution is a book you need
to read and think about.
61. Though possibly not Matthew Spalding’s best work and all of his books are excellent) A Sacred Union of Citizens is a paragraph-by-paragraph exposition of George Washington’s Farewell Address. The authors claim, and with good reason, that the Farewell Address belongs right with the Declaration of Independence as one of the most important political documents of all time.
62. (DVD) This DVD should be required viewing in every high school in America. A More Perfect Union tells the story of the debate over the Constitution and provides insights into the character of the participants and how the various compromises came about.
(Available from The National Center for Constitutional Studies,
https://nccs.net/ in a theater version and an educational version.
63. Harlow Unger has written a biography of an extraordinary man. What I found most interesting about Lion of Liberty is Unger’s discussion of Patrick Henry’s opposition to the ratification of the Constitution.
64. Thomas DiLorenzo writes about the negative aspects of people like Hamilton and Lincoln. Hamilton’s Curse is new material for most people; most if not all of it is true, and some of it may actually be important. We should understand that Hamilton was one of the authors of The Federalist Papers, and in addition to a strong central government he advocated institutions like a national bank, though one quite different from today’s Federal Reserve.
65. In George Washington James MacGregor Burns puts a mildly Progressive spin on the life of George Washington. Again, this type of book helps you identify Progressivist thought patterns and ideas.
66. Marx and Engels’ 1848 Communist Manifesto formed the basis of modern Communism, socialism, and Progressivism in the sense that it was written as a seriously flawed effort to address the problems associated with the Industrial Revolution. Their understanding of the nature of capital and of human nature were both sadly lacking.
I am not sure that any scheme has been put forth to adequately deal with the plight of man in industrialized society that functions within the confines of the Constitution. This is one reason why I fear a Convention of States.
67. James Ostrowski’s book Progressivism: A Primer on the Idea destroying America is also a “Problem” book because he dispassionately relates many of the ways Progressivism has taken over and is doing great harm to America. His proposed antidotes are not particularly well thought out nor, perhaps, very effective .
68. Saul Alinsky’s book Rules for Radicals is the only one I ever read that was dedicated in part to Lucifer. This book is not about Progressivism; it is about Radicalism and talks about how to disrupt society through imaginative tactics. It was written to help community organizers unite low-income communities to gain social, legal, and political power.
69. This important pamphlet from David Horowitz is an essential add-on to Alinsky’s book. In a few brief pages Barack Obama’s Rules for Revolution demonstrates that the Progressives have no plan except to gain power by whatever means possible. What the world becomes is no concern of theirs; they just want to find problems (or create them if necessary) so that they may seize the power through government to “solve” them.
Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are both ardent followers of Saul Alinsky.
70. Walter Nugent wrote the Progressivism book in the usually excellent Very Short Introduction series. This may be an exception, for Mr. Nugent does not explain Progressivism’s two primary tenets, which you would think would be essential to an understanding of what Ostrowski warned us about.
71. My most recent political book Will You Help Save Your Country? expands on Matthew Spalding’s comments on Progressivism and proposes a new organization to combat it. This is a “solution” book first and a brief history of Progressivism second.
72. In Toward Soviet America William Z. Foster lays out the Communist conspiracy in America. Written in 1932, this book contrasted the remarkable progress being achieved in the USSR under Communism while at the same time the US was mired in the Great Depression.
What Foster says about Communism also applies to Progressivism, except that the latter is couched in more genteel language, so to speak. Progressivism is offered to Americans as a velvet glove, and no one mentions that the glove is on a steel fist. Read this book carefully (but you can skip over some of the dreary statistics.)
73. My earliest political book, The Patriot’s Guide to Taking America Back, deals with violations of the Constitution and proposes ways to strengthen the Constitution Party and other groups working to restore our freedoms.
Education / Unclassifiable
This recent volume from The Heritage Foundation, The Not So Great Society, is a “just the facts” about the abject failure of Head Start, No Child Left Behind, government-subsidized day care, and other public education boondoggles signed into law by LBJ and his successors. As with the War on Poverty, billions of dollars have been wasted on education with no positive results after third grade.
This is a quick read and it is well documented.
75. Jessamyn Conrad’s 2012 edition of What You Should Know about Politics – but don’t was praised by both Barack Obama and Bob Dole – which may tell you something about its contents. It is a very good source book for would-be politicians and candidates for public office, as well as those who speak for them and their parties.
76. David Horowitz is a good writer, but this book is difficult to categorize. It discusses the problems and then talks about what Horowitz believes Trump’s strategy to be – or, at least, what he thinks it should be. In this respect, Big Agenda: President Trump’s Plan to Save America is similar to David Stockman’s Trumped (see Economics, #41).
77. This was a “breakthrough” book for me. In The Politics of Bad Faith David Horowitz explains why Progressives cling to Marxist doctrine despite the constant failure and destruction experienced by Socialist and Communist governments throughout the world. This is a very important book for those who want to understand why Progressives are trying so hard to destroy America – and think they are actually saving it from the evils of capitalism.
And now, for something completely different . . .
- The Specter of Communism is Ruling our World is a book (actually, a set of three books) I will not write – but I’m glad the people at The Epoch Times did. In my writings I strictly avoid references to Deity to avoid offending those who might be Progressives, liberals, or Democrats. I want my writings to touch the hearts and capture the imagination of people of all political leanings. If you look at Links on this website you will find The Epoch Times and who founded their excellent organization.
That said, if you want an outstanding account of Progressivism in the context of global Communism, this is the book. It says many things I have said – and, in quite a few instances, better than I have done.
- How Not to be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking is a readable book on how much of what happens in mathematics, and particularly in statistics, is not necessarily well-founded. For Constitutionists and anyone interested in changing or “improving” the way in which we structure our elections, Chapter 17, There is no such thing as Public Opinion, is vital. In this chapter, beginning on Page 376, we find an important discussion of how some of the recently proposed election systems actuall work when we “do the math.” Methods discussed include “instant runoff” voting, head-to-head matchups, and Condorcet’s “jury theorem.” This chapter will probably change your mind about how 3-candidate elections work and how they ought to work.