If you gave me one book to read, which would it be?

I never learn… When you lend someone a book you’re pretty much guaranteed never to get it back. I’ve lent (or should I say ‘reluctantly given away’) more great books than I can keep track of.

And the worse thing is that those who don’t return your books are the ones who didn’t even like the books. How do I know this? Because if you liked the first book of liberty that you read you find yourself in a never-ending quest for more. The ones who liked the books I gave them are the ones who came back to me wanting further book recommendations.

How do you go about giving people books in the first place? You have a perfectly innocent discussion, one thing leads to the next, and soon you find yourself talking with great passion (and outlandish arm gestures) about the morality behind the non-aggression principle and the immorality of those who systematically violate it. I am then asked the following question:

‘Okay, fine… If you gave me one book to read, which would it be?’

Oh my… what a question! I know that the right answer is “Who in their right mind would only read one book?!” but at the same time I’m given an opportunity to introduce someone to one book they would otherwise not have read.

I have failed in the past because I didn’t recognize how important context is. Who is the person you’re talking to? What common ground do you share? What common ‘enemies’ do you have? (Unfortunately for the human condition, that is a relevant question to consider.) Are they already inclined to agree with you a particular topic? Are they annoyed at some current event or government policy? How academic are they in the approach to new ideas? How much does emotion drive their thinking versus logic?

Answers to these and many other questions will dictate whether you point them in the direction of Atlas Shrugged, For a New Liberty, Economics in One Lesson, or Markets Not Capitalism, to name a few, each with their own bent or focus.

These and other questions will even dictate whether you go with a book about some flavor of anarchy or whether you take a step back and opt for a book about critical thinking like Thinking as a Science or Elementary Lessons in Logic. Conceivably, this will make them start questioning the status quo, eventually getting round to wanting to find out more.

Perhaps you go for a self-help book about how to make an empathic connection and trust that, in time, this dialogue you are having will result in a meeting of the minds on topics over which you are passionate. Nonviolent Communication might be the quintessential example.

Having more experience (and fewer books), I can say with certainty that there is no correct answer to that question. It’s one of the reasons why I created Books of Liberty. If you ever find yourself wondering what you can recommend to someone, you’ll discover the answer within our pages. And as always, thank you for reading!

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