Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What Every American Should Read

Adam C. Zern sounds off on a book that every American should read at least once:

"America is the most powerful nation on earth.  Its economy, its military, its constitution, its government, and its people are a force to be reckoned with around the globe.  So what makes it tick?  And which book would give an insight into America that every American should have?  I've read a fair share of books dealing with American history, especially the revolutionary and constitutional debate epochs, but I think I've settled on one book, a political tract really, that every American should read to understand a little bit better the country they live in.

Thomas Paine's Common Sense is short, blunt, and focused.  Whereas other books, something like Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, are incredibly detailed—nearing the realm of exhaustive—in their efforts to explain American life, Common Sense delineates the beating heart of American longing and desire through the wonderful art of brevity.  Paine boils it all down and makes a compelling case for why the early Americans did what they did. 

I think reading such a book is worthwhile because I think many of the reasons Paine details are still present in our American legacy.  Americans, generally speaking, still have a distrust of government; they still respond to the call for liberty, even if they disagree as to the degrees in which it should be enjoyed; they still feel a certain unity in a common cause.  Although, I think some of these unifying features are dissipating and we are indeed becoming more fragmented.  Perhaps that's another valuable reason to read Common Sense to remind ourselves of a legacy that doesn't necessarily have to become only history.

It doesn't really matter if you agree with Thomas Paine's ideological or historical outlook.  Common Sense is a must-read for every American.  The United States of America has gone through several transitions and societal iterations and could arguably be farther away from Paine's ideals than ever before, but understanding the foundational ideas of the American experience are important to know. I think Common Sense by Thomas Paine is just the book to provide an indispensable insight into a few of those foundational ideas."

Other Topics of Interest:
What Every High School Student Should Read but Probably Doesn't
Reflections: Democracy in America
Reflections: Revolutionary Brothers

1 comment:

  1. I read a lot of books, however at times I raise my head and look around at the current issues at hand, I become perplexed and discouraged. I return to read again my favorite, "The Conservative Mind" from Burke to Eliot (Seventh Revised Edition) and I become more realized at why things are the way they are.