ABCs of conservatismAuthor Offers Compilation of Right-Leaning Works

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Byline: Robert Stacy McCain, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

When Chilton Williamson Jr. was asked to compile a book about the 50 greatest conservative books of all time, he began with the Bible and ended with Ann Coulter.

"The Conservative Bookshelf: Essential Works That Impact Today's Conservative Thinkers" is a series of essays about books, including many titles familiar to right-leaning readers: Edmund Burke's "Reflections on the Revolution in France," Richard Weaver's "Ideas Have Consequences," Friedrich Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom" and William F. Buckley Jr.'s "God and Man at Yale."

But "The Conservative Bookshelf" also features a section on literature that includes Ernest Hemingway and French novelist Jean Raspail, as well as a section on contemporary conservatism that overlooks some famous names in favor of such thinkers as South Carolina history professor Clyde Wilson and journalist Joseph Scotchie.

The following are excerpts of a telephone interview with Mr. Williamson, a senior editor at Chronicles magazine, from his home in Laramie, Wyo.

Question: What was the inspiration for your book?

Answer: Actually, the book was not my idea. It was the idea of a guy named Bob Shuman. He's an editor at Kensington [Publishing Corp.]. They had published a book several years ago called the "Civil War Bookshelf," and Bob Shuman had the idea to have a book called "The Conservative Bookshelf." ...

I almost didn't do it. I was in the middle of a novel, and [my agent] persuaded me that it was a good thing to do. And also my wife, who used to be in the conservative publishing business. ... She strongly pushed me to do the book. I made sure I had full discretion about which of the books would be chosen.

Q: How did you go about choosing the books to include?

A: That was a tough thing to do. It was almost cause for me to back out. They wanted the books ranked in order of importance. ... What I decided to do was to break the subject down into categories - religion, politics, society, economics. ... I chose books within those categories and ranked the books within those categories.

Q: Have you received much argument about your choices?

A: Some have questioned the inclusion of Ann Coulter [for her 2003 book, "Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism"]. ... I have no bone to pick with Ann. ...

One or two people expressed incredulity that I was including Ernest Hemingway. I'm not in the business of handing out awards to accredited conservatives. ... Many of these books are by people who would not call themselves conservatives, but who nevertheless wrote a book that was profoundly conservative in its implications. Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" is such a book. ... It was partly intended as a pastiche of [T.S.] Eliot's "The Wasteland" ... corroborating Eliot's view of the West as a wasteland culture. ...

Q: What titles did you leave out that some conservatives might like to see on the bookshelf?

A: Chronicles is having a symposium devoted to that exact question. ... I already had my 50 and then thought of Frederic Bastiat's "The Law." . …