Just Finished Reading “The Vanishing American Adult”

Ben Sasse’s book The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-Of-Age Crisis—And How to Rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance recently came out and I just finished reading it yesterday. Because my reading list isn’t huge (50+ books a year), I try to pick good, impactful books to read. This isn’t always easy so I’m constantly looking for sources to help me populate my reading list.

That’s one reason I wanted to read this book but it unexpectedly delivered more than a source for great literature. He went into the mechanics and techniques of making great readers. Whereas I did have some moments of pause and reflection (I’ll need to read other books to weigh his points), reading this book didn’t cause me to outright disagree at any point; that’s very rare for me.

Something I found very reassuring was that I’d read so many of the books he refers to or suggests. The shear number of books he referred to impressed me so much that I collected them in a rough bibliography. Here it is:

Bibliography for The Vanishing American Adult by Ben Sasse

  • Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz (retired Yale professor)
  • Lost in Transition: The Dark Side of Emerging Adulthood by Christian Smith (a Notre Dame sociologist)
  • The Great Disruption by Francis Fukuyama
  • The Lonely Crowd by David Riesman
  • The Affluent Society by C. Wright Mills
  • Growing Up Absurd by Paul Goodman
  • The Waste Makers by Vance Packard
  • Outside Lies Magic by John R. Stilgoe
  • Cultural Literacy by E. D. Hirsch
  • The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom (philosopher and classicist)
  • Agamemnon by Aeschylus
  • Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • On Old Age by Marcus Tullius Cicero
  • Shop Class for Soulcraft by Matthew Crawford
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  • Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  • John Dewey (Sasse disagrees with atheist Dewey and mentions these books, in particular, as to why he disagrees with him):
    • Democracy in Education
    • Self-Realization as the Moral Ideal
    • The Primary Education Fetich [sic]
    • The School and Society
    • My Pedagogic Creed
    • The Humanist Manifesto
  • Dumbing us Down by John Taylor Gatto
  • Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes
  • The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
  • Escape from Camp Fourteen by Blaine Harden
  • Children of Dictators by Jay Nordlinger
  • White Collar by C. Wright Mills
  • Common Sense by Thomas Paine
  • Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman
  • Disappearance of Childhood by Neil Postman
  • Autobiography by Theodore Roosevelt
  • Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
  • Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
  • The Theory of the Leisure Class by Thorstein Veblen
  • Being Digital by Nicholas Negroponte
  • Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  • Religion
    • Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis
    • Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton
    • Christianity and Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen (Sasse disagrees with this book but it’s a great book to read)
    • Book of Genesis in The Bible
    • Book of Matthew in The Bible (especially Sermon on the Mount)
    • Commentary on Galatians by Martin Luther
    • The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
  • Greek Roots
    • Ethics by Aristotle (starter book)
    • Crito by Plato (starter book)
    • Odyssey by Homer
    • History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
    • Three Theban Plays by Sophocles
  • Homesick Souls (or, Fundamental Anthropology)
    • Confessions by Augustine
    • Why God Became Man by Anselm of Canterbury
    • Bondage of Will by Martin Luther
    • Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas
    • Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
    • Emile by Jean-Jacques Rousseau (Sasse has a long struggle with this book; he ultimately sees Rousseau as wrong)
  • Shakespeare
    • Romeo and Juliet
    • Hamlet
    • King Lear
    • Julius Caesar
    • Macbeth
    • Sonnets
  • The American Idea
    • Declaration of Independence
    • U. S. Constitution
    • The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay
    • Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville
    • Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an America Slave by Frederick Douglass
  • Markets
    • Politics by Aristotle
    • Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
    • The Market Revolution: Jacksonian America, 1815–1846 by Charles Sellers
    • Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman
    • Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond
  • Tyrants
    • Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels (laid the intellectual foundation for communism and, hence, the murder of more than 100 million people)
    • Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt (the best analysis of the rise of scientific racism and anti-Semitism in nineteenth-century Europe, which led directly to the Holocaust)
    • The Road to Serfdom by F. A. Hayek (explains the close relationship between fascism and communism)
    • Animal Farm by George Orwell
    • 1984 by George Orwell
    • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • The Nature of Things (or, a Humanistic Perspective on Science)
    • On the Nature of Things by Lucretius
    • Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn
    • Elements of Geometry by Euclid
  • American Fiction
    • Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    • Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
    • O, Pioneers by Willa Cather (a Cornhusker substitute for Death Comes for the Archbishop)
    • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    • Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin (about his alienation as a black and gay man growing up in Harlem with an abusive Baptist minister as his stepfather. This is a disturbing book in many aspects. It illustrates the ways in which religious life can turn hypocritical and repressive.)
    • Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

This a great list to dig through and start reading which, in itself, is an exciting prospect.

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