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by Anthony Williams

St. Augustine’s Confessions: teaches us that man’s struggle to find God is hardly new. I especially enjoyed his reference to the “hound of God”: what an apt description of the Spirit!

Antigone: I don’t remember much about this one, to be frank, but I do remember that it’s a powerful story of a girl’s love for her brothers. That I should remember that more than ten years after reading it means that it really is a powerful story.

An Ecclesiastical History of the English-Speaking People: because the history of the English-speaking people is critical to understanding the West, especially the British-American perspective. And knowing how the Anglo-Saxons became Christian is the beginning. 

Second Treatise on Government by Locke: some think that people are naturally brutish, and others think that people naturally cooperate. While both have elements of truth to them, the latter societies are generally more successful, and Locke is the great champion of that idea.

Huckleberry Finn: I credit Mickey Craig for showing me that Huckleberry Finn is a Hobbesian story that becomes Lockean (when Huck finds Jim, he reacts in fear, but once he meets him they learn to cooperate).

Federalist 51: Madison’s insight that, “If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

A Journey: My Political Life by Tony Blair, This will not be interesting to people who are not students of politics or statescraft, but Blair’s insight into politics and the way to make a party fit its time is well-worth reading. And it’s extremely readable!

The Bible: well, duh! Even non-Christians should read a Gospel or two. Like it or not, the western world is historically Christian.

The Illiad: not the whole thing! But the Patrocles/Achilles story is powerful and illuminating (is there any more flawed hero than Achilles?) and the Hector/Andromache interchange is always a tear-jerker, as is the Achilles/Priam meeting at the end.

Anthony Williams (who happens to share a great name with another Imaginative Conservative contributor, Tony Williams) is a friend and former student. A father and a husband, Anthony is also a master Lego Builder and Civil War re-enactor. He understands all things Mac and PC and networking and if I keep going I will be utterly out of my depth when describing exactly what Anthony does. When something doesn’t work in the computer world, Anthony makes it much better. Phew. To sum up, Anthony is a great guy, and we’re honored to have his thoughts.

For more of the Great Books and Liberal Learning Books visit The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.

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3 replies to this post
  1. Bede's book is wonderful. I've read it through many times. You're honest about the Iliad. Some of the repetitive and formulaic passages can be skimmed over. But it remains the foundational work of Western Lit. Thank you for your interesting notes! – Matt Anger

  2. Many thanks to Mr. Williams for his list, although reading an entire book by Tony Blair will require steeling myself considerably: in England we have heard quite a lot from him already.

    Poor Bede may be somewhat neglected nowadays. A friend had an aunt who worked in a town library when an elderly lady inquired if they had any books by "The Venereal Bede." Puckishly, the librarian replied no, but they had some volumes on "the venerable diseases." The visitor sighed, said that would not do, and toddled away.

  3. Thanks for the note, Matt. For something written so long ago, and which I must read in translation, Bede is easy to read and to re-read. It's one thing to slog through a book on someone's Must Read list, and another to be able to come back to it with pleasure.

    As for the Illiad, you should certainly read some of the battle scenes, but the rest can be skipped: probably they were fascinating to the Greek warriors listening, but not so much to us.

    Stephen, as an American I have the advantage over you regarding Blair: though I am aware of British politics, I hardly follow it closely and thus was able to read without much prejudice. The best part, in my opinion, was in the early part where he described his vision for remaking Labour, and the effort to keep the old guard on board while modernizing the party into something that appealed to the rest of the people. That should be instructive to any aspiring statesman, of any persuasion.

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