Prof. Jenkins’ Summer Reading List for Young Conservatives, Part 2

Campus Reform higher ed fellow Rob Jenkins put together a short list of five great summer reads.

Selections from this second installment include 'Enemies of the Permanent Things' and 'That Hideous Strength.'

Rob Jenkins is a Higher Education Fellow with Campus Reform and a tenured associate professor of English at Georgia State University - Perimeter College. In a career spanning more than three decades at five different institutions, he has served as a head men’s basketball coach, an athletic director, a department chair, and an academic dean, as well as a faculty member. Jenkins’ opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer.    

In my first installment, I recommended a couple of brand-new contributions to the conservative resistance literature, Stanley Ridgley’s Brutal Minds and When Race Trumps Merit by Heather Mac Donald. 

Now that you’ve finished those (ahem!), I have three more selections: a conservative classic and a pair of sci-fi novels. 

Enemies of the Permanent Things, by Russell Kirk. 

Widely recognized as one of the founders of the modern conservative movement in America, Kirk penned this tome in 1969 to address the Left’s ongoing attacks on what he called “norms.”

A norm, he writes, “means an enduring standard. It is a law of nature, which we ignore at our peril. It is a rule of human conduct and a measure of public virtue … A norm has value but has more than value. A norm endures in its own right, whether or not it gives pleasure to particular individuals. A norm is a standard by which any alleged value must be measured objectively.”     

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Kirk argues that norms are perpetuated in two ways: through literature and through politics, and he explores both in meticulous detail. Norms can also be attacked and displaced by the same two means—although the “new norms” foisted upon us by the Left, the “enemies of the permanent things,” are not truly norms because they are not enduring and have no value.  

In times like these, when all our societal norms are manifestly under assault and Kirk’s words ring prophetic, it’s helpful to be reminded what those norms actually are—what enduring standards we conservatives are fighting to conserve.

That Hideous Strength, by C.S. Lewis. 

The third entry in Lewis’s “space trilogy,” which begins with Out of the Silent Planet and continues in Perelandra, That Hideous Strength is nevertheless a novel that can be enjoyed entirely on its own. 

Set in post-World War II England, it is science fiction only in the sense that it’s fiction and about science—ostensibly. It’s really about the rise of “Progressivism” and the way pseudo-science is used to mask what is essentially a pagan cult. 

It’s also about the hubris of the self-styled “intellectual elites” and the depths to which a man may be dragged down, to his inevitable shock and dismay, by his own fragile ego.   

Any of this sound familiar? If so, you’ll enjoy That Hideous Strength, which is also, incidentally, a compelling story of love, betrayal, mysticism, and redemption.

State of Fear, by Michael Crichton. 

Crichton, of course, is the Harvard-trained M.D. who became one of the most popular novelists of the late 20th and early 21st centuries, before his untimely passing in 2008. Many of his books have been made into blockbuster movies, most notably Jurassic Park. 

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As much we all love seeing people savaged by dinosaurs—or gorillas (Congo) or a space viruses (The Andromeda Strain) or nanobots (Prey)—the real theme of Crichton’s novels is the danger to humanity posed by the politicization of science. A scientist himself, he argues that science is a tool. We must never let it be our master. 

The specific subject of State of Fear is the weaponization of global warming. That alone makes it a worthwhile read. But it could just as easily be about the politicization of COVID-19 that we have all witnessed in real time these past three years. 

This one is a page-turner, which is why I saved it for last. After you’ve worked your way through the other four—broadening your mind, expanding your vocabulary, and fortifying your conservative principles—you deserve to go lie on a beach for a few days and get lost in a good thriller.

Editorials and op-eds reflect the opinion of the authors and not necessarily that of Campus Reform or the Leadership Institute.