The best books on conservatism

3 authors have picked their favorite books about conservatism and why they recommend each book.

Soon, you will be able to filter by genre, age group, and more. Sign up here to follow our story as we build a better way to explore books.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission (learn more).

Who Really Cares

By Arthur C. Brooks,

Book cover of Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism

It is personally rewarding to donate your time as a volunteer, no matter what your financial wealth is. But money certainly helps to fund causes in this material world. Brooks’ book shows that compassionate conservatism is an important driving force in America. He shows through extensive survey work that giving money to charity speaks louder than just talking about caring. He argues successfully, that those who are charitable improve life for all of us, and the selfish make us all worse off. Clearly, money can help you achieve true prosperity by helping others with it.


Who am I?

William D. Danko, Ph.D. has studied wealth formation since 1973. He is the co-author of The Millionaire Next Door, a research-based book about wealth in America that has been ranked as a bestseller by The New York Times for more than three years. More recently, he co-authored Richer Than A Millionaire ~ A Pathway To True Prosperity, a book that shows how to build wealth with a greater purpose in mind. Dr. Danko resides in upstate New York with his wife, and is the father of three, and the grandfather of five.


I wrote...

Richer Than A Millionaire: A Pathway to True Prosperity

By William D. Danko,

Book cover of Richer Than A Millionaire: A Pathway to True Prosperity

What is my book about?

Richer Than a Millionaire: A Pathway to True Prosperity was inspired by the thousands of students we taught over our careers. We found that many young people are clueless about their direction in life. Yes, they want a career, and yes, they want a good life, but knowing what to do is to many quite a challenge. Some say they want to be rich, but they really don't know what that means. In a sense, to paraphrase the Italian Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci, many are like ships on the high seas of life without rudders! They have tremendous potential but no direction.

In our book, we hope to inspire and to point all people (but especially young adults and concerned parents and grandparents who want sound advice for the next generation) in what we believe is the right direction. This direction has been reinforced by over forty years of academic and consulting research on what it really means to be rich. We show that it is possible to be modestly wealthy and happy, which is far better than being rich and miserable.

Why the Right Went Wrong

By E.J. Dionne,

Book cover of Why the Right Went Wrong: Conservatism--From Goldwater to Trump and Beyond

Why The Right Went Wrong is a wicked, detailed, and easily digestible account of how the Right was overtaken by power-hungry ideologues bent on destroying government. This is not hyperbole. Dionne painstakingly documents the ascendancy of those radicals in the Republican Party, and how our present moment – of chaos and near-civil war – is in large part due to this movement outlined in his book. A must-read for anyone seeking to understand how we got “here.”


Who am I?

I write about politics. I grew up in a political household. My mother was a key fundraiser for the Democratic Party and my stepfather served as a White House counsel to President Clinton. Politics and the Washington experience were the air I breathed during my formative years. I followed in their footsteps and co-founded Fight for a Better America, an organization that invests in key battleground districts and states throughout the US, with the goal of either flipping them blue or maintaining a Democratic incumbent. Through my travels with the organization, I have made hundreds of contacts with folks in local civic clubs and organized hundreds of volunteers on the ground. 


I wrote...

Facts & Fury: An Unapologetic Primer on How the GOP Has Destroyed American Democracy

By Bill Kuhn,

Book cover of Facts & Fury: An Unapologetic Primer on How the GOP Has Destroyed American Democracy

What is my book about?

Written in smart and easily digestible chapters, you will discover how Trump became the logical consequence of decades worth of corruption, fear-mongering, and destructive policies. Kuhn uncovers the blatantly racist style of politics inherent in the GOP from Goldwater’s opposition to the Civil Rights Movement to Reagan’s aversion to public welfare. Each chapter is poignant and a well-researched entry contributing to the national conversation and debate on how we got to where we are today.

Facts & Fury is a revelatory work of scholarship and a laceration of the Republication Party that will energize the country and encourage discussion. Much more, it is a call to arms to halt the GOP’s efforts, engage our neighbors, and ultimately strengthen American democracy.

Blue-Collar Conservatism

By Timothy J. Lombardo,

Book cover of Blue-Collar Conservatism: Frank Rizzo's Philadelphia and Populist Politics

As the modern conservative movement gained ground, many working-class white, ethnic voters, especially in struggling Northern and Midwestern cities joined its ranks, even as they continued to vote for Democrats in local elections. Blue-Collar Conservatism explores how that happened by focusing on the divisive tenure of Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo.

Elected as a Democrat in 1971, Rizzo was the first former police commissioner to serve as Philly's mayor, and he gained election by harping on “law and order” issues and opposing civil rights reforms in schools, housing, and workplaces, harnessing white claims that such policies were unearned and unfair. In this cauldron of resentment and resistance, historian Tim Lombardo shows, blue-collar whites began to reject the promises of liberalism.


Who am I?

I’m a professor of modern US and global history at Hartwick College in upstate New York. I have been reading and researching the history of conservative and right-wing movements in the United States and the wider world for almost two decades. My first book, Revolutionaries for the Right: Anticommunist Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare in the Cold War, was published by University of North Carolina Press in 2018. My articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in Jacobin, Diplomatic History, Terrorism and Political Science, H-War, and H-Diplo. I’m currently at work on two projects: a history of the transatlantic white power movement and a film documentary about the short-lived white supremacist nation of Rhodesia and its contemporary legacies.


I wrote...

Revolutionaries for the Right: Anticommunist Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare in the Cold War

By Kyle Burke,

Book cover of Revolutionaries for the Right: Anticommunist Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare in the Cold War

What is my book about?

My book, Revolutionaries for the Right, chronicles the rise and fall of what I call the anticommunist international—a global right-wing movement that sought paramilitary action against communism worldwide. Seeking revolution against leftist governments and movements, the anticommunist international ran propaganda campaigns, smuggled weapons, and organized mercenary missions in Rhodesia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and many other countries. Utilizing previously untapped archival sources from four continents, Revolutionaries for the Right shows that the circulation of violence—both actual and imagined—between the United States and these overseas battlegrounds in the late Cold War helped radicalize right-wing paramilitary groups at home while also generating new forms of privatized warfare abroad. Those consequences reverberate today.

The Triumph of Conservatism

By Gabriel Kolko,

Book cover of The Triumph of Conservatism: A Reinterpretation of American History, 1900-1916

Readers looking to the past for inspiration about the possibilities of antitrust and progressive movements right now are being served a very weak and distorted account of what the most successful trust busters like Teddy Roosevelt or Woodrow Wilson were actually trying to do and what they really accomplished. Kolko was a leader in exploiting primary sources that upended traditional accounts of who did what to whom.

So-called “New Brandeis” antitrust champions in particular overlook the realities of trust busting in American history and have much to learn from this masterpiece. 


Who am I?

The heart of Golden Rule is its presentation of the investment theory of party competition. This developed out of a crucial formative experience of mine as a graduate student at Princeton University in the mid-seventies. An adviser remarked to me that Ivy Lee’s papers were over at Seeley Mudd Library. I knew Lee’s history, as a co-founder (with Edward L. Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud) of public relations in America. I had never consulted an archive – but with an eye to finding some inspiration for my Ph.D. thesis, I decided to go take a look. What I found there changed my whole approach to understanding politics.


I wrote...

Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems

By Thomas Ferguson,

Book cover of Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party Competition and the Logic of Money-Driven Political Systems

What is my book about?

"Golden Rule is work of fundamental importance to political specialists, generalists, and theorists. No theory of democracy would ever be complete without the pieces of the political puzzle provided by Ferguson’s research…” — Theodore J. Lowi

“Thomas Ferguson’s work on elections—the gold standard in the field—points out that from the late 19th century until the present you can predict the outcome of presidential and congressional elections with remarkable precision just by looking at campaign spending—which means the corporate sector and the wealthy are dictating our elections.” — Noam Chomsky 

Where Ghosts Walked

By David Clay Large,

Book cover of Where Ghosts Walked: Munich's Road to the Third Reich

For an understanding of how Munich became the birthplace of the Nazi movement, I highly recommend David Clay Large’s narrative nonfiction work Where Ghosts Walked: Munich’s Road To The Third Reich. At center stage in Large’s book is Munich itself, a beautiful city that before World War I was known as “Athens On The Isar” because of all of the writers, musicians, and artists it attracted. Large tells of the 1918 revolution that toppled Bavaria’s monarchy, of the Munich Soviet Republic that briefly took its place, of Bavarians’ embrace of right-wing extremism that followed the communists’ bloody ouster, and the giddy enthusiasm showered upon a mustered-out World War I corporal named Adolf Hitler as he spewed anti-Semitic and anti-democratic venom at rallies. 


Who am I?

While growing up in a Vermont town in the lower Champlain Valley, I became fascinated with the wealth of nearby historic sites dating from the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Within easy reach of our family station wagon were Fort Ticonderoga and more. I became especially intrigued by German mercenaries hired by the British to fight the American colonists. My interest led me to become a history major at the University of Vermont, and eventually to Germany as a correspondent for The Associated Press. I worked and lived in Germany from 1987-1997, covering the toppling of Communism, the birth of a new Germany, the rise of neo-Nazi violence, and other themes.


I wrote...

Enemy of the People: The Munich Post and the Journalists Who Opposed Hitler

By Terrence Petty,

Book cover of Enemy of the People: The Munich Post and the Journalists Who Opposed Hitler

What is my book about?

The staff of the Münchener Post (Munich Post) were the Woodwards and Bernsteins of their time. During the 1920s and until it was violently shut down in 1933, the Post employed investigative journalism to try to thwart Adolf Hitler. Secrets whispered to the Post by Nazi malcontents, documents leaked by party members—the Munich Post made use of all these sources. The Nazis reacted with lawsuits against the paper and physical assaults on its editors and office. After the paper was suspended for four days in late February 1933, the Post resumed publication with this defiant banner headline: “We Will Not Be Intimidated!” Enemy Of The People is not just a story about the gutsiness of this German newspaper. It is also a story about how easily democracy can be lost.

Suburban Warriors

By Lisa McGirr,

Book cover of Suburban Warriors: The Origins of the New American Right

This is a field-defining work. First published in 2001, McGirr’s book prompted a generation of historians to reexamine the rise and evolution of modern American conservatism. Focused on the suburbs of Orange County, California, Suburban Warriors explored how grassroots conservative activists mobilized to reshape the politics of the nation. Through the stories of ordinary people--housewives and defense workers, evangelical worshippers, and anti-communist activists--we learn how the modern American right evolved from a fringe movement into arguably the most powerful political force in the United States.


Who am I?

I’m a professor of modern US and global history at Hartwick College in upstate New York. I have been reading and researching the history of conservative and right-wing movements in the United States and the wider world for almost two decades. My first book, Revolutionaries for the Right: Anticommunist Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare in the Cold War, was published by University of North Carolina Press in 2018. My articles, essays, and reviews have appeared in Jacobin, Diplomatic History, Terrorism and Political Science, H-War, and H-Diplo. I’m currently at work on two projects: a history of the transatlantic white power movement and a film documentary about the short-lived white supremacist nation of Rhodesia and its contemporary legacies.


I wrote...

Revolutionaries for the Right: Anticommunist Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare in the Cold War

By Kyle Burke,

Book cover of Revolutionaries for the Right: Anticommunist Internationalism and Paramilitary Warfare in the Cold War

What is my book about?

My book, Revolutionaries for the Right, chronicles the rise and fall of what I call the anticommunist international—a global right-wing movement that sought paramilitary action against communism worldwide. Seeking revolution against leftist governments and movements, the anticommunist international ran propaganda campaigns, smuggled weapons, and organized mercenary missions in Rhodesia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and many other countries. Utilizing previously untapped archival sources from four continents, Revolutionaries for the Right shows that the circulation of violence—both actual and imagined—between the United States and these overseas battlegrounds in the late Cold War helped radicalize right-wing paramilitary groups at home while also generating new forms of privatized warfare abroad. Those consequences reverberate today.

Securing Sex

By Benjamin A. Cowan,

Book cover of Securing Sex: Morality and Repression in the Making of Cold War Brazil

This book contributes greatly to the global history of the Cold War by showing that “moral technocrats” during the military dictatorship in Brazil equated political subversion with sexual subversion: Anticommunist countersubversion included anxieties about gender, sex, and youth. South American Cold War dictatorships have been traditionally understood as modernizing projects but Cowan complicates the definition by exploring the moral panic, and consequent calls and attempts at repression, related to the sexual revolution, new forms of female sexual expression, and pornography. 


Who am I?

I am a historian of twentieth-century Argentina and a professor of modern Latin American history currently teaching at the University of Houston. Born and raised in Argentina, I completed my undergraduate studies at the National University of Rosario and moved to the United States in 2000 to continue my education. I received my M.A. in history from New York University and my Ph.D. in history from Indiana University, Bloomington. I have written extensively about gender, working-class history, consumer culture, and sexuality in Argentina. I am the author of Workers Go Shopping in Argentina: The Rise of Popular Consumer Culture and Destape! Sex, Democracy, and Freedom in Postdictatorial Argentina.


I wrote...

Destape: Sex, Democracy, and Freedom in Postdictatorial Argentina

By Natalia Milanesio,

Book cover of Destape: Sex, Democracy, and Freedom in Postdictatorial Argentina

What is my book about?

Under dictatorship in Argentina, sex and sexuality were regulated to the point where sex education, explicit images, and even suggestive material were prohibited. With the return to democracy in 1983, Argentines experienced new freedoms, including sexual freedoms. The new availability and ubiquity of sexual material became known as the destape, and it uncovered sexuality in provocative ways. This was a mass-media phenomenon, but it went beyond this. It was, in effect, a deeper process of change in sexual ideologies and practices.

By exploring the boom of sex therapy and sexology; the fight for the implementation of sex education in schools; the expansion of family planning services and of organizations dedicated to sexual health care; and the centrality of discussions on sexuality in feminist and gay organizations, my book shows that the destape was a profound transformation of the way Argentines talked, understood, and experienced sexuality, a change in manners, morals, and personal freedoms.

Family Values

By Melinda Cooper,

Book cover of Family Values: Between Neoliberalism and the New Social Conservatism

Most commentators see neoliberalism as primarily an economic project that tries to overcome old cultural prejudices and divisions. Cooper shows us that beneath this cosmopolitan façade, neoliberalism has always been about reinforcing traditional hierarchies of race, gender, and sexuality. Through a painstaking review of the actual roll-out of neoliberal policy from Reagan to Obama, she shows that racism, sexism, homophobia, and nationalism are not outdated “leftovers” from a previous era but an essential part of the neoliberal order.


Who am I?

I grew up outside of Flint, Michigan, which during my lifetime went from being a pretty nice place to live to being a perpetual basket case that still doesn’t have clean water. I’ve always been very concerned with the question of what went wrong, and very early in my graduate education, it became clear to me that the neoliberal agenda that started under Reagan has been at the root of the economic rot and destruction that has afflicted Flint and so many other places. That personal connection, combined with my background in theology, makes me well-suited to talk about how political belief systems “hook” us, even when they hurt us.


I wrote...

Neoliberalism's Demons: On the Political Theology of Late Capital

By Adam Kotsko,

Book cover of Neoliberalism's Demons: On the Political Theology of Late Capital

What is my book about?

Most books on neoliberalism focus on public policy and economic statistics, without really addressing the core question: if neoliberalism has failed so spectacularly to deliver economic stability and shared prosperity, why do we keep going along with it? My answer is that neoliberalism is not just a political or economic system, but a moral one based on the value of free choice. But the freedom it offers is a trap – the system gives us just enough freedom to take the blame for bad outcomes, but not enough to really change our circumstances.

Lessons on Seduction

By Estelle Pettersen,

Book cover of Lessons on Seduction

I definitely recommend Lessons On Seduction because not only is main character Julian Richland a perfect book boyfriend, but main character Sapphire Blake is confident, sexy, and whip-smart. She’s not your typical “church mouse” but so relatable to those who have grown up in a sheltered world. She can be both spicy and sweet, unleashing her vulnerability while being dominant in the bedroom. She’s everything you want your heroine to be!


Who am I?

I definitely wouldn’t say I’m an expert…but I definitely have a passion for the topic of dominant, strong women! Especially when it comes to kink and BDSM, but in all aspects of life. I think most readers would agree, we are sick of seeing the Damsel in Distress and want someone who can kick some serious butt. I connect strongly with those stronger, sassier characters, and aim to write the same for other readers to connect with.


I wrote...

Edgeplay

By Annabel Allan,

Book cover of Edgeplay

What is my book about?

Ava Goode leads a double life, working in insurance during the day and dominating her clients at night. Then she starts getting strange phone calls, a bouquet of white roses, unsigned notes…she doesn’t have time for some secret admirer, especially when she meets her father’s employee, Gabriel Burton…will he resist Ava’s dominance or kneel before her, like a good boy?

What's the Matter with Kansas?

By Frank Thomas,

Book cover of What's the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America

The fact that the capitalist class organizations, with their use of capital strike and flight, lobbying, funding right-wing “grassroots” organizations, think tanks, media, and Chicago school intellectuals, wanted to drive economic policy in a certain direction does not inevitably lead to the conclusion that they would have succeeded in achieving these goals. Neoliberal policies could not have been implemented in even a nominal democracy without at least a modicum of support from its victims. Remarkably, large sections of the American electorate vote for and support policies that favor the very business class that has profited from their economic decline. This is the first book to describe the abandonment of the Democratic Party by less-educated Whites which had a significant effect on the American shift to the right from the 1970s onward. My co-authors and I explore this shift in up-to-date detail in our book.


Who am I?

Neoliberalism and I have grown up in opposition to one another over the past four decades. As a professor of economics, union, and political activist I have observed, wrote about, and resisted its effects on the life chances of the great majority of its citizens with particular focus on the United States as its primary protagonist and gatekeeper. The opposition to this transformative epoch included writing about the significant contributions of my profession to Neoliberal economics in two previous books; The Profit Doctrine: The Economists of the Neoliberal Era and Economics in the 21st Century: A Critical Perspective.


I wrote...

Neoliberal Lives: Work, Politics, Nature, and Health in the Contemporary United States

By Robert Chernomas, Ian Hudson, Mark Hudson

Book cover of Neoliberal Lives: Work, Politics, Nature, and Health in the Contemporary United States

What is my book about?

In Neoliberal Lives we decided to write a different kind of book one which not only contained an overview of Neoliberalism but the changes that took place in the lives of Americans at work, their income and wealth share, debt levels, schools, hospitals, environment, political capacity, and perspective. After all the Business Roundtable established in the 1970s representing what some would call a more organized American oligarchy set out to change the rules the rest of us live by and were remarkably successful in what alternatively has been called the new Gilded Age. As Warren Buffet made clear “it’s class warfare and my side is winning.” We set out to examine the interconnected results.

Or, view all 19 books about conservatism

New book lists related to conservatism

All book lists related to conservatism

Bookshelves related to conservatism