Take-Home Message: Do not simply read books that reaffirm your beliefs. Expose yourself to things that challenge your way of thinking.
Writer’s Note: Each of these texts made me scratch my head and think. They each provided me the service of tackling many notions I had about the world, thus forcing me to devise my own conclusions. Each of these challenged me to look beyond my purview for answers of my own.
Life Without Principle, Henry David Thoreau (Published in 1862)
Thoreau advances an argument for withdrawing from the norms of society. He suggests to live a life of fulfillment we must find a way to abolish our slavery to the dollar and rather seek to live life according to the value we find in our own labor.
This essay made me contemplate my purpose in life, and what living for it would look like as opposed to not.
Resist Not Evil, Clarence Darrow (Published in 1902)
Darrow, an early-1900s attorney most famous for his defense of John T. Scopes in the “Monkey Trial, eloquently outlines the role of the state in administering justice in the United States. He provides a compelling argument against the death penalty and imprisonment. Darrow, sounding much like Ghandi, describes through analysis of the courts’ operations that an eye for an eye does society at large more harm than good. The book gains its title from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 5, verse 39: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”
This book motivated me to explore my own thoughts and stance on the nature of justice and how best to seek it.
The Law, Frederic Bastiat (Published in 1850)
This seminal text of Bastiat’s profoundly influenced my understanding of what it means to live freely. Though written over 160 years ago, Bastiat’s words sound truer than ever today. This book challenges many of the ideas about the roles of both the government and society at large in relation to the individual. Bastiat praises America for the experiment of liberty it has begun, cautioning about its appetite for slavery and protectionist tariffs. I highly recommend this prophetic text to anyone interest in restoring individual liberty to the world.
This book stoked an intellectual fire in me to seek out answers about many of the problems plaguing the world today.