Tim the Lawyer's reading list


Author: Timothy Sandefur

Armstrong & Getty this morning asked me to list recommended books, and I gave them a handful before leaving the studio, but here is a better list of great books I would recommend to anyone interested in learning more about the American legal tradition of economic liberty and private property rights. Pick up a couple of these for your holiday shopping list today!

The Constitution

1. Restoring The Lost Constitution by Randy Barnett
 The best single-volume introduction to the libertarian interpretation of the Constitution.

2. America’s Constitution: A Biography by Akhil Reed Amar
 The best single book written on the Constitution since The Federalist Papers.

3. Plain, Honest Men by Richard Beeman
 A new book about the Constitutional Convention, that addresses many of the controversies and personalities of the time. Particularly good is the discussion of the ratification campaign.

4. The Return of George Sutherland by Hadley Arkes
 A brilliant book on natural rights and the Constitution, all in the form of a brief biography of a little-remembered Supreme Court Justice.

5. How Progressives Rewrote The Constitution by Richard Epstein
 Very short—easy to get through in a day—but brilliantly summarizes how the Progressive era wrought havoc on the Constitution.

Philosophy and General Freedom

1. Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand
 A priceless book. Sometimes a bit extreme in its rhetoric, but for the most part it’s spot-on.

2.  The Future and Its Enemies by Virginia Postrel
 A brilliant, easy to read, book that explains not only liberty, but also conservatism and liberalism—and has very interesting real world examples.

3. Realizing Freedom by Tom G. Palmer
 A collection of fantastic essays on a variety of different topics from the best living libertarian scholar.

4. The Discovery of Freedom by Rose Wilder Lane
 The best brief introduction to libertarianism I know; written by the daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

5. Justice And Its Surroundings by Anthony de Jasay
 This is a hard book on philosophy, but brilliant.


1. Economics In One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt
 It really does teach you economics in one lesson—and very well written, with no technical terminology or graphs.

2. Free to Choose by Milton Friedman
 Some things are a bit dated about this book, but it’s still beautifully written, especially the chapter on “who protects the consumer”?

3. The Law by Frederic Bastiat
 You can read this book in a couple hours. Eloquent, insightful, rightly a classic.

4. How The West Grew Rich by Nathan Rosenberg, LE. Birdzell Jr.
 Not so much an economics book as an explanation of how free markets and secure property rights made the difference between the prosperous west and the not-so-prosperous East.

5. Property And Freedom by Richard Pipes
 The best book on private property rights ever written…which isn’t a long list.

(also, 6. The Calculus of Consent by James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock—This is a technical and complicated book of serious economics, but it brilliantly explains the phenomenon of lobbying.)

History and biography

1. Patriots by A.J. Langguth
 The best history of the American Revolution I know.

2. Thomas Jefferson: A Strange Case of Mistaken Identity and Thomas Jefferson: Passionate Pilgrim by Alf Mapp
 The best biography of Thomas Jefferson available (except the extremely long Dumas Malone 6-volume masterpiece)

3. Arguing About Slavery by William Lee Miller
 A brilliant exploration of the national debate over slavery before the Dred Scott decision or the Civil War were even heard of. One of the best books of all time.

4. New Deal or Raw Deal? by Burton Folsom
 One of a number of recent books reassessing what actually happened in the 1930s and showing how the New Deal actually delayed recovery and worsened unemployment

5. The Noblest Triumph by Tom Bethell
 A brief history of the world, told in the form of short chapters about how private property and free markets were important historically.