Thomas Sowell Recommended Reading List

Reading list as recommended by Thomas Sowell, with a short précis of each book.

Here’s a brief précis of each book listed, with a link to a more detailed critical analysis. The list is taken from the Thomas Sowell website article “Suggested Readings”.

  1. The Americans by Daniel Boorstin (1958, Vintage Books)
    • This book provides a comprehensive look at the socio-economic trajectory of the U.S. While it’s praised for its readability, some critics feel it lacks the depth and nuance required for such a broad topic. Some may argue that its approach is too generalistic and overlooks the significance of certain events or trends.
  2. Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell (2000, Basic Books)
    • Sowell’s attempt to simplify economics is commendable. However, critics argue that simplifying such a vast subject can sometimes lead to oversimplifications, which may inadvertently present a biased or limited perspective.
  3. Black Rednecks and White Liberals by Thomas Sowell (2005, Encounter Books)
    • While Sowell’s essays are provocative and challenge mainstream beliefs, some believe that he occasionally relies on anecdotal evidence or over-generalizes. Nevertheless, the book stimulates thought and encourages readers to challenge preconceived notions.
  4. Choosing the Right College by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (varies by edition, ISI Books)
    • While it is celebrated as an informative guide to colleges, critics argue that its emphasis on “political correctness” may come across as biased. The presentation may lead readers to make decisions based on ideological grounds rather than academic excellence.
  5. City Economics by Brendan O’Flaherty (2005, Harvard University Press)
    • This work makes economic theories applicable to real-world urban issues. Though it’s mostly accessible, some sections might prove challenging for readers with no prior knowledge of economics.
  6. Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies by Gregory Jackson (2006, JAJ Publishing)
    • The title itself suggests a confrontational stance, which might be off-putting for some readers. While it presents compelling facts, its overtly partisan approach can sometimes overshadow its academic merit.
  7. Equality, Delusion, and the Third World by Peter Bauer (1981, Harvard University Press)
    • Bauer’s insights and firsthand experience offer a fresh perspective. However, some critics feel that his views sometimes lean towards a Western-centric perspective, occasionally oversimplifying complex issues.
  8. FDR’s Folly by Jim Powell (2003, Crown Forum)
    • While the book offers an alternative view on New Deal policies, its sometimes singular focus on the negative outcomes might present a skewed understanding of a multifaceted period in American history.
  9. The Federalist by Madison, Hamilton, and Jay (1788, Multiple publishers over the years as it’s a historic text)
    • An invaluable resource for understanding the U.S. Constitution. However, contemporary readers might find its 18th-century prose challenging.
  10. The Gathering Storm by Winston Churchill (1948, Houghton Mifflin)
    • Churchill’s perspective is invaluable, but his proximity to the events he describes can sometimes make his narrative seem less like an objective history and more like a memoir.
  11. History of the American People by Paul Johnson (1997, HarperCollins)
    • Johnson’s narrative is engaging, but it’s worth noting his conservative-leaning, which might influence his interpretations.
  12. Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple (2001, Ivan R. Dee)
    • A poignant account that sometimes paints with a broad brush, potentially leading to oversimplified conclusions about complex socio-economic issues.
  13. Mexifornia by Victor Davis Hanson (2003, Encounter Books)
    • Hanson provides a frank, compassionate examination of Mexican immigration policies. However, critics argue that he sometimes blurs the lines between objective analysis and personal opinion.
  14. Modern Times by Paul Johnson (1983, Harper & Row)
    • Johnson provides a sweeping overview of two centuries. However, his perspective is often rooted in a Western-centric viewpoint, which might overshadow global intricacies.
  15. The Rise of the West by William H. McNeill (1963, University of Chicago Press)
    • While comprehensive and insightful, some critics argue that McNeill’s Western emphasis sometimes neglects the nuances and independent developments of non-Western civilizations.
  16. They Made America by Harold Evans (2004, Little, Brown and Company)
    • Evans’ book is visually captivating and celebrates American innovation. However, some feel that by focusing primarily on successes, it might overlook the challenges or controversies behind some inventions.
  17. Underdevelopment Is a State of Mind by Lawrence E. Harrison (1985, Madison Books)
    • Harrison’s change in perspective is refreshing. Still, his conclusions sometimes run the risk of being perceived as ethnocentric or oversimplifying a continent’s worth of diverse experiences.
  18. What Went Wrong by Bernard Lewis (2002, Oxford University Press)
    • Lewis’ compact account offers an engaging look into Islamic history. However, the book’s title suggests a deterministic view, which may not cater to the nuances of a diverse and complex history.

In sum, each book offers valuable insights and perspectives, though, like all works, they are not without their criticisms. It’s essential to approach each with an open mind, considering their strengths and limitations.