A party in the minority often finds itself in need of a refreshed identity, and the Republican Party in the United States is just such a party. After serious damage done to the party's reputation for fiscal responsibility under President George W. Bush, and increasingly bizarre behavior by people like Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin who hope to lead the "Tea Party" movement (which self-identifies as conservative), a review of the essential books in conservative thought is in order.
"The Conscience of a Conservative", by Barry GoldwaterWritten at a time when the Democratic Party was firmly in control of the Congress, the book is a thoughtful appeal to conservative intellectuals.
"The Road to Serfdom", by Friedrich HayekHayek's book was a reaction to 20th Century totalitarianism, in the forms of both Nazi fascism and Soviet Communism. Though it may seem a little bit alarmist to today's reader living in the free world, its condemnation of government that over-reaches bit by bit is a stark warning against sacrificing one's liberties for any reason at all.
"Free to Choose", by Milton and Rose FriedmanMilton Friedman was the father of the Chicago school of economics, and his approach to economic issues enhances one's appreciation for the complexity that results from many unique and independent interactions in the commercial marketplace. The accumulation of those interactions is the technology that liberates us from material want.
"Atlas Shrugged", by Ayn RandAlmost insufferably long, to be sure, but it's so influential on modern libertarian thought that one really should try to read all 1200 pages. If that's simply unthinkable, Rand's "Anthem" is a worthy alternative.
The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James MadisonWhile everyone should be familiar with the Constitution of the United States, many people who claim to be "Constitutionalists" are painfully ill-informed about what the Constitution means. Hamilton, Jay, and Madison were the original Federalists: The people who created the Constitution in the first place. Their papers are the "why" behind the Constitution's "what".
"The Ant and the Grasshopper", by AesopNot really a full book unto itself, but the best 30-second summary of material conservatism ever written.