Sometimes you want to read a fiction book that reflects your values and isn’t an economics textbook. Or maybe you’re looking for a gift to send that staunch individualist in your life, but you’ve already given them more pocket-sized constitutions than a person could ever reasonably need. These books are great candidates for you, your loved ones, or maybe a friend who you think might be open to the free market message.
You knew this was coming. Ayn Rand’s final novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” is a classic for a reason, and many of us were required to read it at some point in our education. Set in a dystopian United States, the novel explores themes of individual liberty, the shortfalls of centralized planning, and the philosophy of Objectivism. The book has garnered intense criticism and praise, but at more than 9 million copies sold, nobody can deny its broad influence.
If “Atlas Shrugged” has passed you by so far, or if you read it in school and didn’t pay quite as much attention as you should have, now is a great time to pick it up.
This book is fiction and a personal finance class rolled into one. Written in 1926 by George Clason, “The Richest Man in Babylon,” is a sort of Aesop’s fables of handling money and growing wealth. The stories are set in ancient Babylon, told through the lives of merchants, craftsmen and kings. The main character, Arkad, is the titular richest man in Babylon, and he relays his life to those who wish to learn his secrets.
Even if you are fully comfortable with personal finance, this book would make a perfect gift for a younger person in your life still learning the ropes. Arkad tells his story warts and all, successes and failures. Far from dry moralistic tales, the narrative is genuinely entertaining and the lessons are timeless.
George Orwell wrote “Animal Farm” as a scathing satire of the Soviet Union, and Stalinism in particular. He struggled to get the book published, as Stalin was thought of quite highly by English academics at the time. One publisher accepted his manuscript but was scared off the deal by the British Ministry of Information! Despite initial resistance, “Animal Farm” finally made its way to shelves in 1945, where it has been challenged by censors many times over the years, but never silenced.
Fun fact about “Animal Farm:” in 1952 the CIA sent millions of copies by balloon into Poland, Czechoslovakia, and Hungary! To complete the cartoonish story, the Soviet bloc air-forces actually tried to shoot them down!
Ayn Rand wrote more than just “Atlas Shrugged.” “The Fountainhead” was the book that really kicked off her literary career. The story follows Howard Roark, an architect fighting an uphill battle against conformity. Roark values innovation and individualism, which makes him unpopular within his own industry. Rand knew nothing about architecture when she set out to write the novel, but she was inspired by the Manhattan skyline as a symbol of American freedom.
Like many books with something important to say, “The Fountainhead” has received mixed reception since its publication. Intended as a powerful argument for individualism as a mode of thought, it was bound to be panned by critics in certain circles. At 6.5 million copies sold and counting, it’s safe to say that the critical reception hasn’t hurt sales too badly.
“1984” is George Orwell’s warning against the dangers of totalitarianism and state propaganda. Little wonder that he feared state control of information after his experience trying to publish “Animal Farm!” The story follows Winston Smith as he navigates dystopian London as an employee of the ironically named, “Ministry of Truth,” where he is assigned to modifying historical documents to fit the party narrative.
The narrative is particularly chilling in an age when free speech is again being undermined by political radicals. The world of “1984” will show you how easily our values can be eroded by the state-controlled media and speech. The term “double-speak” actually originated with this novel. Winston’s struggle is not a lighthearted tale, but the message is essential.
Read any of these books, and you’ll not only appreciate capitalism even more, but you’ll be armed with cultural references to help you dismantle any argument for leftism that you encounter.