Aaron Mclean Comments on Newell's 'The Next Best Books: Resisting the war on history'
April 27, 2018
Over the long Independence Day weekend, the Washington Free Beacon published an essay by Waller Newell calling for renewed attention for what he calls the Next Best Books. These are works of history or literature that, while you wouldn’t file them away in the canon with books by Plato or Shakespeare or Hegel, nevertheless ought to have some claim on our lasting attention. Books by authors like Solzhenitsyn or Tuchman or Ortega y Gasset can help readers, especially younger readers, develop their political and psychological instincts, educating them about human nature, about greatness and great evil, and about what is required for a free society to endure.
Concluding that the universities have fallen down on this job, among so many others, Newell provided a provocative list of 15 history books "to get the ball rolling." The earliest among them, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall, was published beginning in 1776; the most recent, Bernard Lewis’s Crisis of Islam, appeared in 2003. Most of the volumes are products of the mid-twentieth century, with books by Churchill, Robert Conquest, and Karl Polyani among them.