Summer is here. It’s time for flip-flops, beach week, road trips, fireflies, fireworks, and pretty much anything other than school. But just because school is out doesn’t mean you should let your mind go to waste. One way to stay sharp over the summer months is to create and stick to a summer reading list.
Now, you can find all different types of curated lists out there with varying emphases, such as history, religion, fiction, you name it. But what I want to propose for you is a little bit outside of the box — a “red pill” reading list.
What do I mean? As you might recall, the “red pill” was one of two pills offered to Neo by Morpheus in the movie “The Matrix.” As he holds his hands out, Morpheus says, “You take the blue pill, the story ends — you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Neo takes the red pill, which allows him to “wake up” to the reality that he is actually living in a computer simulation, as a slave to the machines.
In other words, red pills show us reality for how it really is — even when it’s ugly. And well-researched, accessible books that boldly take on the established (but faulty) social dogmas of our current era can function as mentally digestible red pills for us today.
So, this summer, I recommend six books that you should read in order to better understand the world we currently live in: your own “red pill” summer reading list. I’ll cover three books in Part 1 and the other three in Part 2. Here we go!
1. The Age of Entitlement: America Since the Sixties, by Christopher Caldwell
In The Age of Entitlement, journalist Christopher Caldwell makes some shocking claims — and then backs them up. He argues,
“Much of what we have called “polarization” or “incivility” in recent years is something more grave—it is the disagreement over which of the two constitutions shall prevail: the de jure constitution of 1788, with all the traditional forms of jurisprudential legitimacy and centuries of American culture behind it; or the de facto constitution of 1964, which lacks this traditional kind of legitimacy but commands the near-unanimous endorsement of judicial elites and civic educators and the passionate allegiance of those who received it as a liberation. The increasing necessity that citizens choose between these two orders, and the poisonous conflict into which it ultimately drove the country, is what this book describes.”
If you’ve ever asked, “What’s wrong with America today?” then this book is for you. Agree with him or not, Caldwell certainly has an answer.
2. That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis
While this book is technically the third entry in C.S. Lewis’s “Ransom (or Space) Trilogy,” it can be read on its own and should be. In That Hideous Strength, Lewis imagines a world where unspeakable horrors hide right beneath a layer of sanitized and civilized bureaucracy, as embodied by The National Institute for Co-Ordinated Experiments (NICE).
The plot pits the NICE and its attempt to scientifically produce a new, grotesque, immortal version of man against God and his earthly representatives, who must stop the advent of re-engineered humanity. It’s a titanic clash of good vs. evil, with nothing less than the future of mankind hanging in the balance.
This book can be understood as equal parts extrapolation of two of Lewis’ other works: his short book, The Abolition of Man, and his essay, “The Inner Ring.” In That Hideous Strength, he considers what it would actually look like to “make men without chests” — without their entire bodies, in fact. And, through the character of Mark Studdock, he explores the deep-seated and disastrous desire we all have to fit in, to feel important, to be welcomed into the club.
That Hideous Strength is one of the most prescient books of the 20th century. As one blogger put it,
“With the modern world entertaining more and more the idea of ‘transhumanism’, that we can not only determine for ourselves the course of our evolution, but that that evolution will move us somehow beyond the body…Lewis’ emphatic reply, written over seven decades ago, seems hardly old-fashioned at all.”
3. The Virtue of Nationalism, by Yoram Hazony
There is little doubt that the word “nationalism” has fallen on some hard times. But is it really as scary as it sounds? Or is it actually one of the most historical and reasonable political ideologies that has ever existed?
In this brilliant book, Israeli philosopher, biblical scholar, and political theorist Yoram Hazony convincingly argues that there are effectively only two choices for government: nationalism or globalism (which he calls a new “imperialism”). Hazony explains:
“For centuries, the politics of Western nations have been characterized by a struggle between two antithetical visions of world order: an order of free and independent nations, each pursuing the political good in accordance with its own traditions and understanding; and an order of peoples united under a single regime of law, promulgated and maintained by a single supranational authority.”
With respect to these two competing systems, Hazony is unapologetic in his defense of, and advocacy for, nationalism as the superior option. If we want to stand a chance against stopping the World Economic Forum and its global, Marxist agenda, then we need to embrace a renewed American nationalism. This book explains why — and why no one should be afraid to be a nationalist.
In Part 2 of this series, found here, we’ll cover the next three entries on your “red pill” summer reading list.
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Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.