Wally Conger's Recommended Books

 I refuse to recommend the obvious libertarian “classics.” You already know about them. So . . . .

Read everything by the late Edward Abbey. And I mean everything. All of his stuff is great. Abbey, who died in 1989, was the so-called "Thoreau of the American West." He called himself an "agrarian anarchist," a conservationist who thought wilderness deserved preservation primarily because it offers the best places to hide from federal agents. His solution to “illegal” immigration was to “stop every campesino at our southern border, give him a handgun, a good rifle, and a case of ammunition, and send him home. He will know what to do with our gifts and good wishes. The people know who their enemies are.” There are many collections of Abbey's curmudgeonly essays — Down the River, The Journey Home, Abbey’s Road, to name a few — and each is a treasure. His most famous and influential novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang, brims with merry rebels, but my all-time favorite is his least critically acclaimed, Good News. In this post-apocalyptic Western, the paramilitary vestiges of the power elite try to rebuild the Old Order among the ruins and tumbleweeds of the Southwest. Their only opposition: a small band of desert anarchists. As Abbey once wrote: “Down with Empire! Up with Spring!”

There’s often more truth in fiction than there is in history. And some of the best “revisionist history” now comes from crime novelist James Ellroy. Both American Tabloid and its sequel, The Cold Six Thousand, reveal more about late 20th century American history than anything written by today’s official court historians. These novels are filled with mobsters, the CIA, Jimmy Hoffa, Howard Hughes, Cuban exiles, and J. Edgar Hoover. If you want to learn something about the Kennedy assassinations and the war in Vietnam, skip Stephen Ambrose and Doris Kearns Goodwin and read these two Ellroy “novels.”

When I'm tired of boo-hoo-hooing about the day’s news and need an attitude adjustment, I read a chapter or two from Up From Slavery, by Booker T. Washington. This great autobiography, written in 1901, always puts my day-to-day problems in proper perspective. Born a slave, Washington taught himself to read, fought discriminatory laws, and preached personal responsibility and the spirit of enterprise. Washington wasn’t a libertarian, but unlike most contemporary black leaders, he advocated self-help and shunned government handouts. Up From Slavery inspires and re-inspires, and I’ve had a copy on my bedside table for several years.


Your rating: None
Wally Conger's picture
Columns on STR: 8

Wally Conger is a marketing consultant and writer living on California ’s central coast. He has been a non-political, anti-party activist in the libertarian movement since 1970. His blog of unfinished essays and spontaneous eruptions can be found at wconger.blogspot.com.