Book Nerd :: Where someone asks me to recommend books…

Someone writes:

I am enjoying reading your ‘Iron Youth Reader’ Vol 1.    Approve of your ‘self-directed study’ emphasis.  Further to this, which top ten books would you recommend or which had the profoundest positive effect on you?  Am always looking out for books that come with the highest recommendation from people with a similar outlook.

Thanks for writing, and that’s awesome that you’re enjoying the collection. I’m outrageously tardy in putting a second volume out, but I have released some pretty interesting titles in the meantime. It’s pretty much just me here punching away, trying to get some eyeballs on this stuff.

I like your question, but as a bibliophile the task of a Top 10 is daunting. It’s so easy to rank the most recent books higher, or forgetting ones that lead me to other great ideas, so putting an honest list together is going to take a bit of time.

I will say that the one book I’ve recommended most over the past few years has been Steven Pinker’s “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature”. It has the advantage of being a fun read and not so “kooky” that I’d be hesitant to tell someone more… ahem… “normal” about it.

Then there’d be a book like “The Satanic Bible” and “The Devil’s Notebook”. It was my gateway drug in my youth to some really great thinkers, but did it with an appreciation for style, sleaziness and fun. LaVey was a deeply flawed anti-hero, and I mean that in the absolutely best way.

“Atheism: The Case Against God” was my first introduction to critical thinking about religion, my first Atheism book proper. I was godless before I read it, but I had good arguments afterwards.

The two books on groups psychology “The True Believer” by Hoffer and “The Crowd” by LeBon were important in dissuading me from ever really falling for populist rhetoric. Years later (for me) Stirner’s “The Ego and It’s Own” worked well in  those prior two, a smashing assault on statism, populism, socialism, anything outside of MEism… heh. Just now I’m reminded of the quote on my website from Norman Mailer’s “The Naked and the Dead”: “I hate everything which is not in myself.”

HL Mencken’s “Chrestomathy” would have to be on the list. I can’t get enough of his writing. From his own translation of “The Anti-Christ” to his three volumes of “The American Language”, it’s all fascinating and inspiring.

There’s also a slew of more “cultural” books that had a major influence on me that I don’t think are going to be important for others. From RE/Search’s “Industrial Culture Handbook” to Feral House’s “Apocalypse Culture”. Moynihan and Soderlind’s “Lords of Chaos”, Jim Goad’s “ANSWER Me!” and then later “The Redneck Manifesto” (it’s been over a decade since I’ve read that… I just checked and I couldn’t believe it. I bet it’s still good.)

Similar to what I find in Mencken, I’ve recently discovered Theodore Dalryple. First recommended to me by the co-author of the aformentioned “Lords of Chaos”, his “Life at the Bottom” should be read sometime after Luc Sante’s “Low Life”. A more fun book that I mentally connect with the two is “Tales of Times Square” by Josh Allen Friedman.

I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend Peter H. Gilmore’s “The Satanic Scriptures”, a book I was heavily involved with from nudging the author to finally publish, to overlooking every stage of production to promotion once it was released. In a way I feel the book is partly my own.

But that’s not an exhaustive consideration, just my struggling to scrape something together to serve as a rough list. I may try to do something better, but that could take a while, if the time it took me to just slap this together is any gauge. I would post it on my personal blog:

Thanks again for writing, hope this at least gives you a few leads for further reading.
Kevin I. Slaughter