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Politics and Social Commentary

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

The story is set in a society where censorship is prevalent and moronic citizens learn only from television. Most books are banned and critical thought is suppressed; the central character, Guy Montag, is employed as a "fireman". Firemen burn books; they dont put out fires. 451 degrees Fahrenheit is the temperature at which book-paper catches fire.

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Democracy in America

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville

In 1831, de Tocqueville was sent by the French government to study the U.S. prison system. He spent nine months traveling around the United States, taking notes not only on prisons, but on all aspects of American society, including the nation's economy and its political system. This book is an analysis of why republican representative democracy has succeeded in the United States when it failed in so many other places. It is a European view of our society and culture by an extraordinary and gifted observer.

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The Souls of Black Folk

The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. DuBois

A series of essays on the experience of being black in America by one of the major intellects of the 20th century. This book had a major impact on the self-image of black Americans and even though it was written in 1903, still resonates today.

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The Communist Manifesto

The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedich Engels

Published in German in 1848, the Manifesto is one of the world's most influential political tracts. It sets forth the philosophical basis for the communist movement, and during the ascendancy of communism it was tantamount to holy scripture for communists. The Manifesto suggested a course of action for a proletarian (working class) revolution to overthrow the bourgeoisie (capitalist middle class) and to eventually bring about a classless society.

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Animal Farm

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm is a novel by George Orwell, and is regarded in the literary field as one of the most famous satirical allegories of Soviet totalitarianism. Orwell based major events in the book on ones from the Soviet Union during the Stalin era. One day the animals drive the humans off the farm and put two pigs in charge. In the course of establishing an animal utopia, the pigs grow more and more despotic.

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Nineteen Eighty-Four

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

In a dystopian future society, a nation called "Oceania" is ruled by a totalitarian government headed by a dictator referred to as "Big Brother". This is the story of how an individual, Winston Smith, is degraded by the totalitarian state in which he lives.

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Collected Writings by Thomas Paine

Collected Writings by Thomas Paine

Paine was a British-born revolutionary intellectual who emigated to America just before the Revolution because his radical ideas were being characterized as treason. His fiery and eloquent rhetoric appeared in pamphlets and was one of the strongest driving forces behind the split with Great Britain. He espoused his ideas of personal liberty and limited government in stirring and unmistakeable terms.

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Atlas Shrugged

Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

According to a 1991 survey by the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club, Atlas Shrugged was the book that made most difference in readers' lives after the Bible. It is the story of a man who said that he would stop the motor of the world — and did. Was he a destroyer or the greatest of liberators? Why did he have to fight his battle, not against his enemies but against those who needed him most—and his hardest battle against the woman he loved? What is the world's motor—and the motive power of every man?

Tremendous in its scope, this novel presents an astounding panorama of human life—from the productive genius who becomes a worthless playboy to the great steel industrialist who does not know that he is working for his own destruction to the philosopher who becomes a pirate to the composer who gives up his career on the night of his triumph to the woman who runs a transcontinental railroad to the lowest track worker in her Terminal tunnels.

Peopled by larger-than-life heroes and villains, charged with towering questions of good and evil, Atlas Shrugged is Ayn Rand's masterpiece. It is a philosophical revolution told in the form of an action thriller.

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The Social Contract

The Social Contract by Jean Jacques Rousseau

Perhaps Rousseau's most important work is The Social Contract, which outlines the basis for a legitimate political order. Published in 1762 it became one of the most influential works of political philosophy in the Western tradition. According to Rousseau, by joining together through the social contract and abandoning their claims of natural right, individuals can both preserve themselves and remain free. This is because submission to the authority of the general will of the people as a whole guarantees individuals against being subordinated to the wills of others and also ensures that they obey themselves because they are, collectively, the authors of the law.

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The Wealth of Nations

The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

The magnum opus of the Scottish economist Adam Smith, published in 1776 during the Scottish Enlightenment. It is a clearly written account of political economy at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, and is widely considered to be the first modern work in the field of economics. The work is also the first comprehensive defense of free market policies. The Wealth of Nations was written for the average educated individual of the 18th century rather than for specialists and mathematicians. Thus, the book remains relatively accessible, even to the modern reader.

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Up From Slavery

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

The 1901 autobiography of Booker T. Washington detailing his slow and steady rise from a slave child during the Civil War, to the difficulties and obstacles he overcame to get an education, to his work establishing vocational schools (most notably the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama) to helping black people and other disadvantaged minorities learn useful, marketable skills and work to pull themselves, as a race, up by the bootstraps.

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