Reading these books will help you become a well-rounded thinker able to discuss many diverse topics. They will also provide you a basis of knowledge so you can evaluate the torrent of daily information presented to you and form your own judgments and opinions.
The Road to Serfdom, F.A. Hayek
He wrote it in the 1940's and you'll be amazed how prescient Hayek was. He's a brilliant man who explains things so we all can understand them. He makes an ironclad case for how free markets will always outdo centrally planned ones. He also shows how economic planning inevitably leads to totalitarianism. If the progressives can't cajole and nudge you, they will eventually be forced to threaten and force you to go along with their plans. Get the Bruce Caldwell edition.
Love, hate, lust, greed, poetry, heroics, salvation. The Bible plays every note on the scale of human existence. Full of timeless wisdom and practical guidance. Oh, and it's the inerrant word of our Lord and creator.
Perennial Philosophy, Aldous Huxley
Brilliant resume of the world's faiths
Penguin History of Latin America, Edwin Williamson
Everything you need to know about our neighbors to the south
Art of War, Sun-Tzu
Wisdom from the East
Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer
Written back in the 1300's, this book proves that the human condition is timeless
Story of Philosophy, Will Durant
An easy to understand window into Western philosophy for us non-philosophers. Dr Durant knows how to explain the complex
Ariel, Jose Enrique Rodo
A metaphor for US-Latin American relations
5000 Year Leap, W. Cleon Skousen
Great guide on the US Constitution, our founding fathers, and the timeless principles that guided them
Book of Virtues, William Bennett
A veritable Cliff's Notes of classic literature
America, The last best hope, William Bennett
Well-written, highly readable history of the US, warts and all
The Constitution of the the United States of America
The Declaration of Independence
This is not a book, Michael Picard
Another good philosophy book for non-philosophers
Great Heresies, Hillaire Belloc
From a Catholic Perspective, provides a concise history of Christianity, why and how the great splits happened
Documents of the Christian Church, Henry Bettenson
From an Anglican perspective, but really non-denominational
Shadowlands of C.S. Lewis, Peter Kreeft
An easy intro to C.S. Lewis for the uninitiated. Good thought material
Character is Destiny, John McCain
Real stories from real life that highlight positive character traits. A book for kids and adults
Story of English, McCrum, Cran, MacNeil
7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Franklin Covey
Need to get your collective stuff together? This is the book
Vanishing Hitchhiker, Jan Brunvard
She wrote books on urban legends before the internet existed!
The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkein
Lord of the Rings Trilogy, J.R.R. Tolkein
Don't like the bible and religion? I got news for you, good and evil still exist, and these books do a superb job of exposing the battles between the two.
Jihad vs. McWorld, Benjamin Barber
Excellent book on globalism and it's clash with local cultures
Clash of Civilizations, Samuel Huntington
Coming Anarchy, Robert Kaplan
Scary book from an educated man who's been to the edge of civilization and beyond
Warrior Politics: Why Leadership Demands a Pagan Ethos, Robert Kaplan
Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
Yes, there was a time when people really were poor and starving in the US, and Steinbeck writes about them with skill and poignancy
Forgotten Man, Amity Shlaes
New history of the Great Depression. Debunks many of the myths we've come to accept as fact.
Churchill's History of the English Speaking Peoples, Henry Steele Commager
A must read. Churchill was a brilliant man and a gifted writer. He makes history interesting. Henry Commager, his personal biographer, condensed down his work to one volume.
Player Piano, Kurt Vonnegut
Are you willing to give up everything to make a stand for your principles? Could you rebel against a system that has pampered you and given you a privileged place within it?
Life on the Mississippi, Mark Twain
If you've ever embarked on learning some skill or occupation that seemed impossible, you will sympathize with this funny, entertaining book
Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl
What is the meaning of life? Do you control your own life? If there were one book I would make mandatory for everyone to read, this is it. Conceived in a Nazi concentration camp, it is ultimately about the human soul. An Existentialist who believes in God!
Time must have a stop, Aldous Huxley
If you can get over the very Victorian setting and language, this is a thought provoking book. It's an interesting story, but the existential brain-grabbers come hot and heavy at the end. You'll find yourself putting the book down to think quite often.
Brave New World, Aldous Huxley
Less famous but more prescient than Orwell's 1984. Totalitarianism doesn't have to be unpleasant.
Arabian Nights, Vol 1 & 2, Jack Zipes
Folk tales can tell a lot about a culture. You can learn a lot from these two books, and keep yourself entertained in the process.
Econ 101 1/2, Elaine Schwartz
She breaks down the dismal science so normal people can understand it
Children of the Universe, Hoimar Von Ditfurth
We are made of the same stuff as the stars. A highly readable, thought proving book by a respected German scholar.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown
Just because the hippies rolled it up and beat Western Civilization over the head with it is no reason not to read it. The other side of Manifest Destiny.
1984, George Orwell
Totalitarianism. Resist it.
Animal Farm, George Orwell
Totalitarianism. Recognize it. Resist it.
Homage to Catalonia, George Orwell
Orwell was a communist, but the scales fell from his eyes when he went to fight the Fascists in Spain. He remained a Socialist, but was through with Soviet Communism. An object lesson in how larger movements use the true believers as useful idiots.
The Seekers, Daniel Boorstin
Camp of the Saints, Jean Raspail
Branded a racist book, but it makes a point about defending ones culture. What would happen if millions of third-world poor overwhelmed Europe? Could European governments morally stop the invasion? What would the outcome be?
For Whom the bell tolls, Ernest Hemingway
Can you imagine believing in a cause so deeply you would give your life for it?
The Jungle, Upton Sinclair
Yes, the meat packing plants really were that bad. This book gave a major push to the US labor movement and to the establishment of federal work safety, food safety, and labor laws.
Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon
I cheated. I read the condensed version (only around 1200 pages). Learn who the Goths and the Vandals were. Learn why Rome fell.
The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Dostoevsky
Moralistic, humanistic story that plumbs the depths of humanity. The Inquisitor, laceration, the ant heap, and great quotes: "A beast can never be so cruel as a man, so artistically cruel."
Morality and Moral Controversies, John Arthur
More of a textbook really. Explores many themes of moral philosophy.
Anything by Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Robert Kaplan, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell