The Best Books for the Best Life
Because I am a voracious reader, my friends and acquaintances who have children will sometimes ask me what books I would recommend to a teenager or young adult in order to encourage them to find the right path in life. In my experience, these books can be grouped into several categories: philosophy, economics, time management, etc. Within each category, there are a couple classics that stand out as the finest choices.
In this current age of social media, peer pressure, and group consensus, it is easy to forget that one's philosophy is – or at least should be – a key guide to making decisions in life, particularly ethical choices. One needs a philosophy that will maximize the chances for moral confidence and long-term contentment.
The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca, edited by Moses Hadas, speaks to the reader not in the turgid language of academic philosophy, but instead explains clearly how to live well, maintaining a detached attitude that can help insulate one from the vicissitudes of life – especially helpful for young readers who tend to over-dramatize the difficulties they are facing now and in the future.
Ayn Rand's remarkable novel The Fountainhead challenges the flawed collectivistic thinking undergirding so much of ancient religions and popular culture.
Given how almost all universities are infected with the interventionist attitudes of Keynesian economics and outright socialism, any student venturing into such trap-laden environments can easily fall prey to persuasive professors and other purveyors of conventional economics. Thus it is important to arm your favorite student ahead of time with a solid fundamental understanding of true economics, i.e., the Austrian school.
Economics in One Lesson, by the excellent Henry Hazlitt, is a must read for people of any age, and should be made mandatory reading for anyone entering the halls of Congress.
How an Economy Grows and Why It Crashes, by Peter Schiff, may appear overly simplistic at first glance, but don't let the cartoon drawings fool you, because it effectively builds upon the most basic ideas of exchange and value, showing how all the elements of an economy emerge from human needs.
If you want to understand the present world and maximize your chances of seeing where it will go in the future, then the most valuable tool for doing so is a true understanding of history.
There is no single book that can possibly encompass all of human history, but when choosing historical books to read, it can be best to focus on those often categorized as "revisionist" in that they are challenging conventional wisdom. For instance, Thaddeus Russell's A Renegade History of the United States could be a fine starting point for understanding US history beyond the state-worshiping narrative found in the history and social studies books used by the union teachers in our pathetic government-run public school system.
Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything is a delightful entry. Other authors to look for include Tom Woods, Thomas J. DiLorenzo, and Brion McClanahan.
Students, especially those who also work at jobs, can find it especially difficult to juggle all of the tasks and other responsibilities of their academic and professional worlds. Time management skills can be essential, and, once learned, can make a huge difference in the student's performance and overall stress level.
My favorite in this category is an old classic, How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life, by Alan Lakein. It may have been written in the 1980s, but the excellent advice is timeless, and far better than the productivity programs now touted by the likes of David Allen.
I hope these recommendations are valuable to you and anyone else you know.