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Good Libertarian Fiction for 12-Year-Olds:

A reader asks:

I'm interested in finding some good libertarian fiction for my (almost) twelve year-old -- "libertarian" because I'd like her to get some exposure to those ideas, and "fiction" because that's what interests her. The problem is that I haven't read a lot of libertarian fiction, and I started when I was much older. Most of the stuff I'm familiar with has some fairly adult content.

Naturally, different people have different views about what's suitable for 12-year-olds, or for that matter what 12-year-olds are likely to find interesting. But even given this, I expect that many readers would like to hear suggestions on this score. Please post your recommendations in the comments, with whatever details you might like.

NickM (mail) (www):
Heinlein's A Future History of the World might be a good choice - even for a girl.

Nick
1.24.2008 7:25pm
DG:
Starship Troopers? Might be a little young. Is Ender's Game considered Libertarian?
1.24.2008 7:29pm
George Weiss (mail):
uglies and pretties
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pretties

historical fiction about communist china
1.24.2008 7:31pm
George Weiss (mail):
i think enders game qualifies
1.24.2008 7:31pm
Some_3L (mail):
I liked Anthem by Ayn Rand. I read it in high school.

From Wikipedia:


Anthem is a dystopian, science-fiction novella....It takes place at some unspecified future date when mankind has entered another dark age as a result of what Rand saw as the evils of irrationality and collectivism and the weaknesses of socialistic thinking and economics....As is common in her work, Rand draws a clear distinction between the "socialist/communal" values of equality and brotherhood and the "productive/capitalist" values of achievement and individuality.



I do recall it has some mature content probably unsuitable for most 12 year olds (the subject matter involved compulsory reproductive practices).
1.24.2008 7:35pm
psychdoc (mail):
Much of Heinlein's work. How about The Moon is a Harsh Mistress?
1.24.2008 7:36pm
another anonVCfan:
That's funny, I popped in specifically to note that Heinlein is popular but probably wouldn't appeal to a young girl. I would also say that Heinlein's future-history books are NOT the way to introduce someone to Heinlein. Even as a Heinlein fan, there's a couple of those that I just had to put down. And, frankly, a lot of his stuff comes across as quite sexist to modern readers.

My suggestions would be Orwell's "Animal Farm" and Rand's "Anthem". Both are relatively short, and both are age-appropriate both in content and in the sophistication with which the ideas are presented. If she digs those and enjoys the dystopian genre, she could move on to Brave New World or 1984. While none of these explicitly address libertarianism, they're good at showing the dangers of statism, and that's a good base to build on.
1.24.2008 7:36pm
KG2V:
Any of the Heinlein "juveniles" -
http://members.iglou.com/jtmajor/HeinJuvs.htm

is a good list, - Starship Troopers is a TAD more mature. I LIKE Citizen of the Galaxy, The Rolling Stones is similar to "the trouble with Tribbles" - Space Cadet, Farmer in the Sky, Starman Jones - nothing there that even a 10 year old can't read
1.24.2008 7:39pm
another anonVCfan:
"(the subject matter involved compulsory reproductive practices)"

Yikes, I didn't remember that in Anthem, so temper my recommendation accordingly. It couldn't have been anything too salacious, though, or it would almost certainly have locked itself in my then-adolescent brain.
1.24.2008 7:39pm
Arvin (mail) (www):
I loved Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, but I found Anthem to be really, really bad. Maybe I'm the only one, since it's gotten two recs so far.

This is not a book, but the Firefly / Serenity series had libertarian themes in it. Had a bunch of other stuff too, but I think a big premise was "big government bad".
1.24.2008 7:45pm
Fub:
Surprised nobody's mentioned A.E. Van Vogt's sci-fi. I read his Slan at about that age. The protagonist is a child about that age, but a boy.

His early works are best. Unfortunately, he later flirted with LRon.
1.24.2008 7:48pm
Some_3L (mail):

Yikes, I didn't remember that in Anthem, so temper my recommendation accordingly. It couldn't have been anything too salacious, though, or it would almost certainly have locked itself in my then-adolescent brain.


Well, looks like it wasn't so salacious after all. Turns out Anthem, according to Wikipedia, is in the public domain now. Here is the pertinent passage.

Here the protagonist describes it:


And we take no heed of the law which says that men may not think of women, save at the Time of Mating. This is the time each spring when all the men older than twenty and all the women older than eighteen are sent for one night to the City Palace of Mating. And each of the men have one of the women assigned to them by the Council of Eugenics. Children are born each winter, but women never see their children and children never know their parents. Twice have we been sent to the Palace of Mating, but it is an ugly and shameful matter, of which we do not like to think.


http://www.noblesoul.com/orc/texts/anthem/complete.html
1.24.2008 7:54pm
Bender (mail):
Heinlein's Podkayne of Mars (??) is probably good for girls . Neil Gayman's Coraline has some very subtly libertarian elements as do some of his other novels, e.g. Stardust. They also have strong female characters. It's interesting how all the books mentioned so far are scifi and fantasy. Is libertarianism that much of a pie in the sky political philosophy?
1.24.2008 7:55pm
Eh:
Anthem is a terrible idea. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is a good one. The fact that it's a "young boy's" book, not a "young girl's", probably isn't a big deal given that I suspect the reader who wrote to EV probably wants to encourage his daughter to think more like a "boy" in these regards anyway. (The qualities I'm thinking of, by the way, would be things like interest in science, willingness to confront problems oneself rather than waiting to be rescued, willingness to employ force if necessary, etc.)
1.24.2008 7:56pm
gj:
A few SF titles that I enjoyed as a teenager:

L. Neil Smith - "The Probability Broach", "Tom Paine Maru"
F. Paul Wilson - "An Enemy of the State"
1.24.2008 8:01pm
DavidBernstein (mail):
I read 1984 when I was in either 7th or 8th grade, and enjoyed it. Brave New World is another possibility.
1.24.2008 8:01pm
Cheburashka (mail):
Most of Hayek's later work qualifies as fiction.
1.24.2008 8:02pm
liberty (mail) (www):
I haven't read Anthem, but We The Living was very short and readable. I don't see why it couldn't be read by a 12 year old, but I'm no expert just having lived it once and not having any children of my own.
1.24.2008 8:03pm
Brett Bellmore:
Eric Frank Russell wrote some very libertarian SF which is suited for young readers; In particular I found "And Then There Were None" a great read as a child. (Expanded into book length as "The Great Explosion".

Some of Heinlein's juveniles would be suitable, especially "Podykane of Mars" and "The Rolling Stones". The former even had a young female protagonist, though as a guy I can't really say how well he does at writing from a female viewpoint. (It was years later that I finally learned why all of 'Andre' Nortons' guys were so "off".)

Maybe a few of L Neil Smith's books, such as "Brightsuit McBear"?
1.24.2008 8:04pm
Maureen001 (mail):
Animal Farm is the best suggestion I've seen here. I find it alarming that pretty much all the suggestions have been sci-fi.(!)

In that same vein, what about Madaleine L'Engle's "A Wrinkle In Time" series? It's specific to children of that age.
1.24.2008 8:04pm
Aeon J. Skoble (mail):
Second for "The Probability Broach." Rand and Heinlein might need to wait til she's a bit older, but I don't know the kid in question, maybe she's mature.
1.24.2008 8:07pm
Stormy Dragon (mail) (www):
I thought there were quite a lot of libertarian themes in the Harry Potter books, especially Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
1.24.2008 8:10pm
anne:
harry turtledove's Cross time Traffic series are alt-history aimed at the young adults with (subtle) libertarian bend and generally anti-statist message in particular the Gladiator (great defense of the free market)
1.24.2008 8:12pm
Vova (mail):
The Trial, by Kafka.

Assuming the child in question reads the whole thing, she may or may not appreciate all of it, but with any luck government bureaucracy will forever be, at best, Kafkaesque in her mind.

DG and KG2V, can you explain your Starship Troopers recommendations? What is libertarian about joining the marines and fighting aliens?
1.24.2008 8:17pm
MarkField (mail):
I have to say I find this request (and the responses) odd, possibly even frightening. I NEVER tried to guide my childrens' reading habits for political reasons. The thought of doing so strikes me as Orwellian; certainly contrary to the whole libertarian ideal. What's wrong with finding well-written books for her reading level and letting her make her own judgments?
1.24.2008 8:18pm
Maureen001 (mail):
MarkField, if you leave the selection of your child's literary choices to just the school and peers' recommendations, you limit your child's exposure to a broad base of ideas. A parent's role is to make sure his/her child is exposed to as many ideas and ideologies as possible and to discuss them. Merely asking for suggestions for libertarian-themed age-appropriate literature does not mean this parent is looking solely for that style of literature, nor that this parent is aiming for indoctrination. Orwellian? I think you've jumped to some conclusions.
1.24.2008 8:30pm
Waldensian (mail):

I have to say I find this request (and the responses) odd, possibly even frightening. I NEVER tried to guide my childrens' reading habits for political reasons.

Don't worry, I have never met a parent capable of reliably guiding his or her child's reading habits for political reasons. Much to the distress of such parents, the kids have this delightful tendency to think for themselves.

Most parents MASSIVELY overestimate their ability to control how their kids will think or act.

But I don't think that's the game afoot here, really. After all, we're just talking about exposing a kid to libertarianism and other interesting philosophies! Nothing wrong with that. It's a long way from creating the next David Bernstein.

Animal Farm and 1984 are obvious standout picks. With every additional year and smidgen of wisdom I can gather, I find new reasons to admire Orwell's genius.
1.24.2008 8:35pm
Vova (mail):
Mark, that's a valid concern but it's empty without specific complaints. Should the daughter be dropped off at the library for a couple hours each day so she can make up her mind? Why is it presumably okay to suggest books as long as we say the reason is good plot development, and not politics? Assuming most of the readers of this website will have a bias toward reading libertarian-friendly books, wouldn't our recommendations end up about the same anyway?

You might never have had overt political reasons for guiding your childrens' education, but to suggest it never happened is absurd, unless you're trying to juxtapose yourself against a parent going to A Clockwork Orange level indoctrination. As far as I can tell, nobody in this thread is trying to do that.
1.24.2008 8:40pm
DG:
Vova: DG and KG2V, can you explain your Starship Troopers recommendations? What is libertarian about joining the marines and fighting aliens?

I'm assuming from the question, that you have only seen the movie. The fighting of aliens takes up only a few pages of the book - its not exactly action packed. The training and philosophy sequences are far long and describe a coming of age that encompasses an ethos of individual responsibility. The movie was a parody of imagined fascism in the book, written and directed by people who (gleefully) never read or understood it. The only redeeming part of the movie is Doogie Howser doing Heinrich Himler. Comic Genius, that.
1.24.2008 8:44pm
Hoosier:
"Darkness at Noon." Then, when she's older, Nabokov's "Bend Sinister."

Both illustrate the corrupting influence that participating, or even living, in an authoritarian system can exert. Nabokov's novel is much better. But "Darkness" is a much easier book.
1.24.2008 8:47pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Alice in Wonderland

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (may be a little young for her). Willie Wonka, in many ways, is the ultimate libertarian.

Jane Eyre
1.24.2008 8:48pm
john w. (mail):
FWIW: I bought several of the Heinlein juvenile books for my kids (12 yo boy and 14 yo girl) last year, and neither kid. was the least bit interested in them. Not quite sure why; maybe they're too dated by now.

I definitely agree with other posters that "Animal Farm" is a must-read and OK for 12 year olds.

I liked "Starship Troopers" but I'm not sure if it's age-appropriate for 12 yo's. I read it a long time ago, and my memory is hazy, but doesn't it have some references to casual sex that some folks might think inappropriate for young teenagers. And besides, the 'libertarian' messages are kind of subtle in that one -- likely to go over kids' heads .... "Harsh Mistress" might be a better choice, but even there, the 'line marriage' thing might take some explaining!!

I would second the recommendation for "Anthem."
1.24.2008 8:48pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
1984 is an awful idea for a 12-year-old. When I was in sixth grade, we read 1984 -- normally the sixth-grade reading was Animal Farm, but I had the fortune of being in sixth-grade in the year 1984. Most of the class hated it -- it was definitely at an older person's level; you had to understand something about totalitarianism already; there was some sex which at that age just made people giggle. Animal Farm would have been a much better choice.

Also, anything by Ayn Rand other than Anthem is likewise appropriate at a later age, probably high school. But I think Anthem is a good choice.

Aren't the Little House on the Prairie books supposed to be all libertarian, since some of them were written by Rose Wilder Lane, libertarian foundress, and all? Hanah tells me, though, that those books are aimed at much younger readers.

Also, Beggars in Spain is good (Harrison Bergeron-type themes). Hanah likes the His Dark Materials series (as in Golden Compass) (atheism + fighting oppressive theocratic state), which is aimed at the same age ground as the Narnia books.

Also, see Stuart Anderson's Reason article about libertarianism in children's fiction. I also found this list on the internet by Googling "libertarian children's books".
1.24.2008 8:50pm
thatgirltasha (mail) (www):
RebelFire: Out of the Gray Zone
by Claire Wolfe; Aaron Zelman

It's a libertarian, science fiction novel, written for young teens. My ten year old son read it and loved it.

It is science fiction only in that it is set in the future-sort of a kid's Brave New World with a better ending.

From Amazon;
Product Description
Jeremy has a dream: To be the greatest lightmaker for the greatest west coast rock band, RebelFire. But what can he do? He's just a kid. A kid trapped in a prison-like school. Trapped in a world where dreams are "treated" with drugs -- and roving patrols make sure you take your dose. Trapped in the Zone, where travel without a permit is impossible. Trapped under the all-controlling eye of spycams, sensors, and monitors. Trapped by the chip in his wrist that regulates everything Jeremy can -- or can't -- do. Trapped in a world where some far-off control freak can even decide what music he's allowed -- or forbidden -- to hear. Jeremy's only choice is to shut up and do as he's ordered. But some people were never meant to be controlled ... Enter the world of "RebelFire: Out of the Gray Zone". Experience the book. Hear the music. The first four chapters can be read online at Rebelfire
1.24.2008 8:51pm
MarkField (mail):

But I don't think that's the game afoot here, really. After all, we're just talking about exposing a kid to libertarianism and other interesting philosophies!


Fair enough, I guess, if that's the only intent (and I did jump to a conclusion). Still, I never even tried the "exposure" tactic for political reasons and I'm surprised anyone would.


Mark, that's a valid concern but it's empty without specific complaints. Should the daughter be dropped off at the library for a couple hours each day so she can make up her mind? Why is it presumably okay to suggest books as long as we say the reason is good plot development, and not politics? Assuming most of the readers of this website will have a bias toward reading libertarian-friendly books, wouldn't our recommendations end up about the same anyway?


Well, dropping me off at the library and letting me choose is exactly what my parents did. For my own kids -- books being cheaper these days -- I took them to the bookstore and let them choose. The only thing I tried to do was make it reading level appropriate. I ground my teeth sometimes when they chose 12 year old equivalents to junk novels, but that's what choice involves.

I don't think politics are unimportant, and at some level I might have intervened (a pro-Nazi book, I guess, just to Godwin the thread). But yeah, literary quality was pretty much my only criterion.

BTW, I think some of the recommendations in this thread are good ones. I'm a huge Heinlein fan, and of course Orwell is always good (my kids read Orwell in school anyway). I just wouldn't push my kids to read either one for political reasons.
1.24.2008 8:52pm
john w. (mail):
P.S.: What about "Mila-18" and also "Maus-I and II." It's been quite a while since I read them, and I can't remember if they are appropriate for young teenagers, but they certainly give one a good idea of what "Big Government" statism is capable of turning into when carried to its logical extreme.
1.24.2008 8:56pm
gruest:
If she's smart (enough to skip the hundred-page ramblefest towards the end): Atlas Shrugged.
If she's average: The Trial.
If she's dumb: Animal Farm.
1.24.2008 8:56pm
phants (mail):
Much of Heinlein's work was written for, and published as, juvenile (science) fiction. The first I read was "Red Planet." It is about the original human colony on Mars and the relations with the Martian culture. Another that has not yet been mentioned is "Citizen of the Galaxy" which deals with the abolition of slavery.

It should be mentioned that the science is always reasonably presented, and all of the mathematics is accurate. Heinlein is a master of, and for, all juvenile reading books.
1.24.2008 8:56pm
Mr. Liberal:

I have to say I find this request (and the responses) odd, possibly even frightening. I NEVER tried to guide my childrens' reading habits for political reasons. The thought of doing so strikes me as Orwellian; certainly contrary to the whole libertarian ideal. What's wrong with finding well-written books for her reading level and letting her make her own judgments?


Would you pat your child on the head for saying 2 + 2 = 762, all for the sake of letting them think for themselves?

It seems that this attitude of yours stems from the belief that libertarianism is not the truth, the light, and the way.

Actually, I would prefer libertarian parents to be as ham-handed as possible in indoctrinating their children. I can't think of a better way to make them into liberals. =)
1.24.2008 8:58pm
Jam:
Probability Broach
Warning: There just one little blim of sex. OK for mature 12 yr.

On a mostly apolitical science fiction that I really liked (I am not really a fiction reader):
The Mote in God's Eye
The Gripping Hand (sequel to mote)
1.24.2008 9:02pm
eeyn524:
DG: I agree with Vova - Starship Troopers is a fine book but doesn't seem particularly libertarian. Yes, there's plenty of individual responsibility but no particular mention of corresponding individual autonomy. The primary themes in the non-action parts are (a) voting rights should be tied to government service, and (b) the benefits of generally harsher punishments. Not anti-libertarian, but not pro either.

Better Heinlein choices, IMO, and more suitable for a 12 year old: Red Planet and Citizen of the Galaxy (rebellion against overbearing authority), Tunnel in the Sky (what makes authority legitimate).
1.24.2008 9:04pm
Jam:
CS Lewis' space trillogy:
Out of the Silent Planet
Perelandra
That Hideous Strength

Yes, I do think that they are libertarian but that is definitely not the emphasis; they deal with personal responsibility.
1.24.2008 9:04pm
Buckland (mail):
I'd recommend any of the Little House series. May be a little young for a 12 year old, but the libertarian themes of self reliance are a constant throughout the series.
1.24.2008 9:10pm
subpatre (mail):
Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House series are not so much libertarian as independent-minded.

Jane Austen's 'Emma' (leading to the excellent movie 'Clueless') isn't libertarian per se, but promotes female independence.
1.24.2008 9:10pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Oh yes, and I should say, since two people have recommended this already: Kafka's The Trial is a bad choice. I read it at 15, and I was already very interested in it and favorably disposed toward it, and I found it dull. I'd recommend that for a later age. I'm the biggest fan of Kafka, but I can't think of anything by him that I'd recommend to someone before college or late high school, except perhaps for some parables, like for instance "The Parable of the Law" (ripped out of its context in the Trial), "An Old Manuscript," "Give It Up," "The Trees," etc.
1.24.2008 9:10pm
stombs (mail):
They're a little hard to find, but three SF novels by Melinda Snodgrass -- Circuit, Circuit Breaker, and Final Circuit -- are very good and very libertarian. (Not heavy-handed and preachy, as, for example, L. Neil Smith often is.) And the hero is a lawyer/judge!
1.24.2008 9:14pm
Mike M. (mail):
I'll second the recommendations for Heinlein, but Starship Troopers is really for a more mature reader. Anything he wrote in the early and mid 1950s will be fine.

That being said, I might let her tackle Lord of the Rings, if her reading skills are up to it.
1.24.2008 9:15pm
Teh Anonymous:
Oh, jeez. I wish I could remember what I was reading when I was 12 that hasn't already been suggested.

This doesn't fall into that category but it is libetarian: John Barnes, The Sky So Big and Black. That may be a little complex for a 12-year-old, depending on intelligence and reading comprehension. Orbital Resonance has similar ideas and takes place in the same universe. It's not as well written as The Sky So Big and Black, though, IIRC. Explicit disrecommendation for the series featuring Giraut Leones, though. I don't think a 12-year-old would be into it very much.

Interestingly, it seems like a lot of the recommendations are not libertarian per se, but they aren't antithetical to libertarianism. I am confused about what is libertarian about Ender's Game, though.
1.24.2008 9:19pm
emsl (mail):
Animal Farm is not a libertarian book. It is anti-Communist, but that is all. 1984 is the same. As to Heinlein, Moon is a good book, but not his most libertarian. Farnham's Freehold or Stranger in a Strange Land are both good and more libertarian. Anyone who is really interested in libertarianism has to read Ayn Rand, but 12 is a bit young.
1.24.2008 9:21pm
Q the Enchanter (mail) (www):
"Brave New World" libertarian? I would've thought it was liberal-fascist.
1.24.2008 9:21pm
Kevin Murphy:
Second "Tunnel in the Sky" where kids stranded on a wild planet have to sort all this out for themselves, while trying not to die.

Nearly any of Heinlein's juveniles, picked at random, would be a good choice.

Some of John Varley's short stories in his Nine Worlds series could work, especially for a teenager. Collections such as Blue Champagne and Picnic on Nearside, for example.
1.24.2008 9:21pm
Pine_Tree:
Definitely Lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia.

All of the clearly undesireable characters (Jadis, Uncle Andrew, Gumpas, Miraz, Edmund in his treachery, etc.) display or verbalize plainly authoritarian mannerisms.

The good rulers are uniformly hands-off and freedom-loving.

Lots on responsibility, etc.
1.24.2008 9:27pm
Amber (www):
The Girl Who Owned A City.
1.24.2008 9:28pm
Brett Gardner (mail):
Am I the only one who was never once "guided" by my parents as it relates to reading? I've somehow managed to read quite a few books without ever having one "suggested" or forced upon me for my parents' selfish reasons.
1.24.2008 9:31pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
I'd certainly recommend the Heinlein junveniles, all of them, but perhaps starting with <i>Podkayne of Mars</i>, just to set the hook, so to speak.

A must-read short story is Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations".

The <i>Ender</i> series is also very good in grabbing attention through identification.

C.S. Lewis and Tolkien are good for getting one's teeth into, though the politics aren't exactly 'libertarian'.

If the girl is bright, then H.G. Wells stands as good fiction, but horrible politics.
1.24.2008 9:36pm
jim47:
I am surprised no one has mentioned Asimov's Foundation books. Asimov himself was not a libertarian, but his books certainly advance the idea that history is largely the result of impersonal forces and spontaneous order, whereas imposing order from above is very difficult. I think that's an idea that goes to the heart of a lot of libertarian work.

On a broader note, I think perhaps that simply exposing your children to good literature regardless of political bent, is the best way to instill the sort of moral values like freedom and tolerance, upon which rest the foundations of libertarianism. Not very helpful advice in narrowing things down, I know, but I think that all fiction that really delves into the human condition (i.e. non-trash) helps a child develop positive ideas.
1.24.2008 9:37pm
john w. (mail):
Animal Farm is not a libertarian book. It is anti-Communist, but that is all. 1984 is the same. As to Heinlein, Moon is a good book, but not his most libertarian. Farnham's Freehold or Stranger in a Strange Land are both good and more libertarian.

I'm having a little trouble understanding why "anti-communist" isn't more-or-less synonymous with "pro-libertarian."

Personally, I thought that "Stranger in a Strange Land" was underwhelming, to say the least -- and not especially libertarian unless one equates libertarianism with sexual promiscuity. For me, it was the most disappointing Heinlein work I've ever read.

++++++++++++++++++++++

Changing the subject: What about "Too Late the Phalarope" ? It's not explicitly pro-libertarian, but it beautifully demonstrates the consequences of living in an un-free society.
1.24.2008 9:38pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Comics: V for vendetta, Ditko's Mr. A.
Varley's recent Red Thunder and Red Lightening are written in the style of Heinlein's juveniles. Brightsuit McBear has been mentioned. Spider Robinson? Ursala LeGuin is no libertarian - I've heard her say so, but good books accessible to kids, some with anti-authoritarian themes. Leonard Wibberley's historical novels about the American Revolution were my favorites at 10, titles something like Peter Tregate's Musket. Mark Twain.
1.24.2008 9:41pm
jim47:
Oh, and what about "The Giver" for simple anti-statist book?
1.24.2008 9:44pm
Syd Henderson (mail):
I'd second The Golden Compass which has a female protagonist about the right age who learns to question authority and think for herself.

What about novels which are not science fiction or fantasy?
1.24.2008 9:48pm
gregh (mail):
My daughter read Anthem at 13 and fell in love with Rand. Now at fourteen she loves going through Fountainhead over and again.
1.24.2008 9:56pm
Helen:
Glenn Reynolds' mother (The InstaMom?) is a retired children's librarian, and she has a cildren's literature blog. If her political philosophy is sililar to her son's, she'd be a good person to ask.
1.24.2008 9:58pm
Vova (mail):
Brett Gardner, your parents never recommended a book to you? That's tragic.
1.24.2008 9:59pm
Hoya:
Amber mentions The Girl Who Owned a City, which is a clear case. I remember reading it at about ten, and I read it with my daughter when she was ten. It is not of the highest literary merit, and it is not just libertarian but Randian, if you want that sort of thing.
1.24.2008 9:59pm
roy (mail) (www):
Heinlein's "Have Space Suit — Will Travel" isn't quite as liberterian as many of the above, but the characters are young and it's a fun, kid-friendly read. It's big on self reliance, not so much on politics.
1.24.2008 10:30pm
Reader64:
The Giver - I read this as an adult; deals with themes of community, conformity, and social control.

The Girl Who Owned a City - I read this around age 12; It made a lasting impression; strong female protagonist.
1.24.2008 10:32pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Thinking back to my youth (in the 50s and into the 60s), it was definitely Heinlein and his earlier work. Asimov was a bit later, maybe my later teens. I was somewhat surprised how different Stranger in a Strange Land was, compared to the juvenile stuff I had read earlier. I have reread Starship Trooper a number of times, and would have to suggest that its real meaning isn't apparent until a bit later. Stranger seemed to be more involved with the question of a Messiah, than libertarian, which is why my generation liked it so much while we were in college.

I can see why The Golden Compass might be considered libertarian. But the whole series is fairly dark, esp. as you go on. The first book isn't that bad that way, but I had a hard time finishing it for that reason (in my 50s).

Having lived through getting a kid to love sci fi/fantasy, my view is that you hook them on the juvenile stuff that doesn't have much of a message, and then, when they are in HS or so, start pushing towards the libertarian stuff. I may have an advantage here though, since I have thousands of titles of this genera, and could use that as a hook to entice readership, since it was much cheaper to read my stuff than buy it in the bookstore, and I have a much better selection than most libraries do. A library may have a couple titles by an author, and I might have 20 (or in a couple of cases, 50) by that author.
1.24.2008 10:34pm
MarkField (mail):

I'm having a little trouble understanding why "anti-communist" isn't more-or-less synonymous with "pro-libertarian."


You think John Foster Dulles was libertarian? Eisenhower? Nixon?
1.24.2008 10:38pm
MarkField (mail):
It's interesting to me that this thread is mostly devoted to science fiction. You'd think that was the only source of libertarianism in literature. Does anyone even know if this child (male? female?) likes sci-fi?
1.24.2008 10:41pm
Sarah (mail) (www):
My mom had me reading Atlas Shrugged at 9 (not kidding, it was appropriate from a reading-level standpoint, and to be fair, later that year a stray comment from a teacher had my entire class reading Flowers in the Attic of all things.) At the time I much preferred Anthem. I still don't have a strong enough constitution for The Fountainhead.

I'd recommend Ender's Game (not so much the rest of the series.) The Harry Potter series has a recurring theme of "suspicion of authority and the abuse thereof," but Rowling is dreadful about turning that into anything.

The original writer might want to look into Russian literature in general. Though the writers of the last half of the 19th century and the whole of the 20th century didn't do anything precisely "libertarian," I always felt, in my Russian lit classes, like we were being whacked on the head with "why big government and centralization are bad."

Also, I wouldn't put too strong an emphasis on this stuff: I read plenty of the Babysitter's Club books, and yes, the entire Flowers in the Attic saga (I was young, okay?) It didn't hurt my intellectual abilities or interest in libertarian ideals. It's more important to have serious discussions (and not so serious discussions) about what you believe and why.

Note to the questioners asking about "what about the stuff that's not sci-fi/fantasy": literary fiction doesn't tend toward libertarianism, and really doesn't appeal to pre-teens. Most YA fiction is either fantasy or total dreck (or, in a few cases, semi-dreck hiding as "moral improvement.") Much of the total dreck is also fantasy, but so is almost all of the good stuff. Once you hit a fifth-grade reading level, enjoyable mainstream fiction dries up: even the mysteries and ghost stories are targeted for relatively entry-level readers. I'm trying to remember a non-fantasy/science fiction series that challenged me intellectually, but was written at that reading level, and coming up totally blank.

Also, science fiction and fantasy has a greater genre obligation to deal with Big Themes: everyone agrees that murder is evil and bad guys should be caught and being in love is preferable to being (miserably) alone, and so romance and mystery turn their attention to the question of how to find that murderer or get that pirate to fall in love with you. And political thrillers are both rare and tend to have to rely on all kinds of difficult research and alternative genre tropes (the mystery, the quest, the romance) to move the action along, just to keep the reader's attention. But you can address totalitarianism and personal agency and the rest of it quickly and easily (and interestingly/amusingly) when you put stuff into the far-advanced dystopian future or cast pigs and horses as your leads.
1.24.2008 10:45pm
Eric Jablow (mail):
I prefer "The Star Beast" as the best of Heinlein's juveniles. You might want to consider "Rite of Passage" by Alexei Panshin, once called "the best Heinlein novel not written by Heinlein". On the other hand, you should really read the book yourself before you give it to your child, for many reasons. This makes "Orbital Resonance" by John Barnes "the best Panshin novel not written by Panshin". Consider that a cautionary tale of the problems of collectivism.

Perhaps you could give her the James Schmitz Hub books. Start with the various Telzey Amberdon stories. Try to pick up the older editions, not edited by Eric Flint.
1.24.2008 10:51pm
Jam:
Speaking of Kafka, how about: The Castle.

For a mature 12r old, maybe Lord of the Flies. It may not be libertarian but it attempts to explore human nature from a perspective that libertarians must confront.
1.24.2008 10:57pm
Sean O'Hara (mail) (www):
If she's a Star Wars fan, L. Neil Smith wrote a series of books about Lando Calrissian having adventures in a free trade zone that's being encroached upon by the Empire. I think you can find them in a single omnibus.
1.24.2008 11:01pm
H Bowman, MD:
Pallas, by L. Neil Smith (or almost anything else by L. Neil Smith, especially Bretta Martin).
1.24.2008 11:07pm
pgepps (www):
How about the Sherlock Holmes milieu? Perhaps a bit "boyish" for some, but I know plenty of exceptions.

Jane Eyre surprised me at first, but is a good suggestion. How about Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, for anyone ready to reade Bronte? And actually Jane Austen's works, and possibly even Dorothy Sayers--these are not precisely libertarian, but do feature strong, nonconventional, rational-minded women.
1.24.2008 11:45pm
Passing By:
Surely you libertarians can do better than this. From what you've posted so far, one could infer that the only place a libertarian government can actually exist and function is within the world of science fiction.
1.25.2008 12:05am
Kim Scarborough (mail) (www):
If she likes comic books, you can download Steve Ditko's Avenging World from here.
1.25.2008 12:09am
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Passing By: Remember we're talking about what's both good ideologically and appropriate for a 12-year-old. How many books can you say that about, regardless of the political orientation?

Suppose we tried to round up conservative, or environmentalist, or socialist books for a 12-year-old. I suspect that when you put the ideological litmus test (that is, a requirement that the book really be an effective vehicle for serious thought about some social or political worldview) together with acceptability for a 12-year-old, there, too, you'd have a highly biased sample of Literature As A Whole. Maybe even these would be biased toward science fiction?

You'd definitely have a bias toward utopian or dystopian literature -- because that's a strand of literature that explicitly deals with social policy in a literary way. And how do you write utopian literature today? The easiest and most natural way (though not the only way) is to set it in an alien world or a future world, which naturally overlaps substantially with science fiction.

(And often, books get lumped into "science fiction" for no reason other than that they take place in a future world, even if the "science" component isn't that important. Why, even 1984 and The Handmaid's Tale are sometimes called science fiction!)
1.25.2008 12:22am
Steve P. (mail):
I have to throw in a vote for Ender's Game as well. I read it when I was a little younger than twelve, but have read it well over 25 times since.

Don't do the traditional Ender's series, though. After Ender's Game, read the political series, which starts with Ender's Shadow and culminates with Shadow of a Giant. A marked distrust of authority, especially if that authority is based on things other than ability, is prevalent in all of the novels.

I suppose the most revealing bit of the first book, from a libertarian aspect, was Ender's relation to Mazer Rackham. Once Mazer showed that he was more capable than Ender, both mentally and physically, then Ender dives in head-first to learn. It's not a bad lesson.
1.25.2008 12:56am
courtwatcher:
I'm astonished that Orwell's work, or Brave New World, or the Little House series, is considered "libertarian" by so many commenters. One can favor government regulation to address market failures, or taxation to create public goods, and still be deeply anti-authoritarian in the sense addressed by Orwell or Huxley. And likewise one can favor self reliance and still believe that government intervention is necessary to solve some societal problems. Some would even argue that the incentives produced by a "free market" lead societies away from the type of self-reliance celebrated in the Little House books.
1.25.2008 1:02am
Steve P. (mail):
Addendum regarding Ender's Game:

I got the book as a random present from my brother when I was young. I used to read fantasy at that time, but sci fi was not my thing, so I said "Thank you" and put it on my shelf.

Some months (maybe a year? or more?) later, I was bored, at home, and none of my books looked good. So, I picked up Ender's Game and have been enthralled ever since.

Once your child starts getting into it, I can't imagine him or her putting it down.
1.25.2008 1:05am
DrObviousSo (mail):
How has only 1 person mentioned "A Wrinkle In Time"? Clearly, that is the answer you are looking for.
1.25.2008 1:11am
jim47:
How about Watership Down? That has parts that are anti-authoritarian at least.
1.25.2008 1:28am
Laissezfairebooks (mail):
I would most strongly recommend The Girl Who Owned a City. I first read the novel as an adult but have read it two or three times since. It is perfect for that age group.
1.25.2008 1:46am
Cal (mail) (www):
Wasn't the question about libertarian fiction? A lot of people are just proposing good science fiction.

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is, without question, the class of the field mentioned so far (that also qualifies for libertarian).

Another terrific book that isn't libertarian per se but has Ayn Rand as a tiny figurine espousing her views is Sewer, Gas, and Electric. Great stuff, and a shark named Meisterbrau.

The Cold Equations isn't libertarian and isn't well-written, but the central dilemma will fascinate a well-read 12 year old.
1.25.2008 2:07am
Amarsir:

I loved Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, but I found Anthem to be really, really bad. Maybe I'm the only one, since it's gotten two recs so far.

I'll agree there. Admittedly, I haven't read Anthem in over 15 years now, but as I recall there wasn't too much to recommend it other than its brevity. The essential message is "don't be afraid to think of yourself" and honestly, I really don't think that's a problem any adolescent has ever had. The non-conformist part of the message is good, but I think there are better sources (see below).

Of the two main Ayn Rand books, Atlas Shrugged is the better choice, especially for a girl reader. There is a very strong heroine character who truly demonstrates not just libertarian values but the affiliated virtues of risk-taking, drive, and leadership. However, it can be a bit dense for age 12, and the 20-page implanted essays masquerading as speeches could actually turn her off.

Regarding other classic dystopia novels, I would specifically advise against 1984 and Animal Farm, at least without external context. They are more anti-totalitarian than anti-government, and Orwell himself was a staunch Socialist. And Brave New World has subject matter I would call inappropriate for that age.

I'm going to stay away from SciFi suggestions, both because they'e been listed to death already and because I'm not sure that's an average girl's wheelhouse. Instead, I'd suggest one of these:
Howard's End - A beloved story about love and relationiships, it deals with early 20th century rich vs poor and how problems are solved by individual effort, not collectivism. Forster also values individualism over conformity, and does so in a less blunt fashion than Anthem.

Persuasion - Like most Jane Austin novels, it's a love story on the surface, but beneath it are undercurrents of traditional feminism (by 19th century standards) and the very libertarian notion of a self-made man. As well as the moral of following morals more than seeking an easy answer.
1.25.2008 3:03am
David Friedman (mail) (www):
As one datum, my son, who is fourteen, just read _The Moon is a Harsh Mistress_ and loved it. He tried it two or three years ago and didn't like it.

My wife suggests the Arthur Ransome books—_Swallows and Amazons_ and its sequels. They aren't politically libertarian but they are very strong on self-reliance, letting children take risks, and the like. One of the more memorable lines in the first book is the father's telegram answering the mother's question as to whether the children should be allowed to take a sailing dinghy out by themselves:'

"If not duffers won't drown. Better drowned than duffers."
1.25.2008 3:23am
Thoughtful (mail):
First, V for Vendetta is an excellent choice if the 12 year old in question likes graphic novels. It's much better, and more libertarian, than the movie. It's actually fairly sophisticated, and the child in question should, if she likes it at 12, re-read it at 18.

Second, how can anyone think Asimov's Foundation trilogy is libertarian? I enjoyed reading the series as a kid, but when I thought back on it a decade later realized it was the sci-fi equivalent of trying to set up Plato's Republic, for goodness sake! Rule by the enlightened scientists.

Third, I'm shocked, given the numerous mentions of 1984 and Brave New World, that no one has mentioned the other dystopian totalitarian future novel that is much more explicitly libertarian and also much more fun to read: Ira Levin's This Perfect Day. It was written by Levin (who died recently) soon after he attended a series of seminars by Ayn Rand. Although much less well known than his other books (Rosemary's Baby, The Boys from Brazil, The Stepford Wives, etc) it is a GREAT story and VERY libertarian, and probably appropriate for an intelligent 12 year old.
1.25.2008 4:05am
Hoosier:
Re: "The Trial"--I can see why some have suggested it, and why Sasha liked it. But I can't think that its message is libertarian. Kafka does not strike me as suggesting that government is always oppresive and inherently dangerous to our freedoms (and, in the end, our lives). This book is classic Kafka in the sense that it presents one of his recurring themes, namely, the public institution that /could/ help the individual, but does not.

The "Door Guard" at the entrance to Justice is probably the most often-excerpted story from "The Trial." (And if you learned German in college , you probably read "Der Tu Hu:tter" in your third or fourth semester.) In this part of the book, the supplicant /needs/ what the government has to offer. But government institutions are structured, and bureaucrats are incentivised, in such a way that he will never even get close.

Now, with Ron Paul attracting so many conspiracy fabulists these days (not a criticism of the man, just an empirical observation), I strongly recommend the "Illuminatus!" Trilogy. Twevle years old is not too young to decide that everything is causally linked, and everyone is out to get you. Plus it's funny: "If you can't see the fnords, they can't eat you." "Never whistle while you're pissing!"

"It was as he suspected: in a rigid hierarchy, nobody questions orders that seem to come from above, and those at the very top are so isolated from the actual work situation that they never see what is going on below. It was the chains of communication, not the means of production, that determined a social process.. Nothing signed "THE MGT." would ever be challenged; the Midget could always pass himself off as the Management."

Ehh . . . on second thought, ignore that suggestion. (Or, to put it another way, the above is a "FNORD".)
1.25.2008 5:43am
hawkins:
I agree with Mark Field. I think such a blatant attempt to guide your child's political thought is a scary proposition. Let her reach her own conclusions, rather than be indoctrinated by her parents.
1.25.2008 7:33am
Arkady:
Well, of course, Peter Pan is the ultimate libertarian tome for the young mind.
1.25.2008 8:05am
KG2V:
Someone asked me to explain Starship troopers - you'll notice I basically said that was for "later" - my starting point for a young Girl would probably be Pokydine of Mars, or the Rolling Stones. Someone else mentioned AE Van Vogt - in particular Slan - I'd say "The Weapon Shops of Isher"
1.25.2008 8:09am
atticus finch (mail):
Watership Down. Very, very libertarian, and it has bunny rabbits.
1.25.2008 8:29am
PersonFromPorlock:
Second the vote for Panshin's "Rite of Passage". Also, while I'm not sure Pratchett's "Discworld" series can be described as libertarian, it's certainly skeptical about government, marvelously readable and says things you'd want a young person to hear about responsibility and the importance of acting decently.
1.25.2008 8:41am
MPCampbell (mail):
FWIW, I read Heinlein as a 12-yr-old girl. Haven't read it much lately, but he was a fave author in my teen years, along with Niven, Asimov, and Card.
1.25.2008 8:41am
another anonVCfan:
Third, I'm shocked, given the numerous mentions of 1984 and Brave New World, that no one has mentioned the other dystopian totalitarian future novel that is much more explicitly libertarian and also much more fun to read: Ira Levin's This Perfect Day. It was written by Levin (who died recently) soon after he attended a series of seminars by Ayn Rand. Although much less well known than his other books (Rosemary's Baby, The Boys from Brazil, The Stepford Wives, etc) it is a GREAT story and VERY libertarian, and probably appropriate for an intelligent 12 year old

I thought about recommending this (I read it for the first time shortly after Levin's death), and it's probably at her reading level, but there's a fair amount of sex that's a little more explicit than might be appropriate.
1.25.2008 9:08am
Lou Wainwright (mail):
One that hasn't been mentioned is James Hogan's A Voyage to Yesteryear. The first book to introduce me to libertarianism - in fact it took me about 5 years to figure out that he hadn't invented the idea.

I also find it interesting that Sasha recommended Beggars in Spain in this thread. Because, although I really like it, I find it to be the anti-Atlas Shrugged. It's Atlas Shrugged where the people who are just smarter and better withdraw from society...and that's a bad thing.
1.25.2008 9:46am
Arr-squared (mail):
While they might not be the median 12-year old girl's cup of tea, I'm surprised nobody's mentioned Terry Goodkind's _Sword of Truth_ series. The first 3 or 4 are reptty well-executed and have an increasing amount of libertarian/objectivist ideas, the latter ones (IMO) become pretty Randriod and ham-handed, not to mention the same plot again and again.
1.25.2008 9:52am
Truth Seeker:
Some people have indicated that a child wouldn't have any interest in what a parent suggests he or she should read.

How about put the books in an unsealed brown envelope and write PRIVATE on it and leave it somewhere you know they'll find it when you're not home? Or give them the books and say "These will be good when you're 18 but now you're too young to understand them."

I only have a 3 year old and he's still fascinated by anything I read to him.
1.25.2008 10:07am
ClosetLibertarian (mail):
I enjoyed books about individualism (compatible with libertarianism) like Hatchet and Johnathan Livingston Seagull

I also read Utopia about that age (this is a good reference to discuss political philosophy)

As far a trying to influence the childs political philosophy, trying to do so intentionally and subversively is a mistake but recommending books and talking politics hardly counts.
1.25.2008 10:07am
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
Lou Wainwright: Note that I'm not an Objectivist. Does that make my recommendation of Beggars in Spain less surprising?
1.25.2008 10:12am
Truth Seeker:
hawkins: I agree with Mark Field. I think such a blatant attempt to guide your child's political thought is a scary proposition. Let her reach her own conclusions, rather than be indoctrinated by her parents.

Yeah, and don't bother talking about sex or drugs either. Let her experiment and find out what she likes best. [Liberals! They don't even know what the word parent means!]
1.25.2008 10:15am
Gramarye:
I think this thread demonstrates the need for better libertarian writers more than anything else. Heinlein, Rand, and Kafka as macronutrients with a smattering of other trace elements don't exactly make for an impressive corpus. Orwell, as mentioned, wasn't libertarian so much as anti-communist. The two are not synonymous. Traditional conservatism was anti-communist as well but harbored its own counter-individualist strains of thought.

When I was twelve, I was reading pop fantasy novels by David Eddings, Terry Brooks, Steven R. Donaldson (a bit mature for most 12-year-olds, admittedly), and Robert Jordan, in addition to Tolkien. I don't think it hurt my intellectual development in any meaningful sense.
1.25.2008 10:19am
Freedom, Soar! (mail):
Nobody ever mentions, or presumably, reads Victor Hugo anymore, not even kids, even though Rand proclaimed him the greatest novelist in world literature in her introduction to "The Romantic Manifesto." No, he wasn't an explicit libertarian; in fact, he was socialist in his elective politics. But what's fascinating is the libertarian spirit in him—Rand's "sense of life"—that emerges from his epic novels. To the extent he is explicit, he fails to rise to the levels that others have achieved. But he's no louse in this department, either, to wit:

A Storm Always Knows What It's Doing

The following excerpt is from Victor Hugo's "Ninety-Three," the great Romanticist's ("Les Miserables," "The Hunchback of Notre Dame") last novel, published in 1874, nearly a century after the French Revolution, which served as the background for the book.
It is not, strictly speaking, a historical novel, one that attempts to take the reader back into a moment in history. Rather, Hugo uses that specific conflagration to develop characters and a plot in the interest of a universal theme, one that applies not only to the French Revolution but to subsequent wars, including the present.
The excerpt is a conversation between two leaders. Although Cimourdain, an ex-priest, and Gauvain, whom he had tutored, both fought to overthrow the monarchy and establish a republic, their visions for that republic were vastly different. Their discussion represents two different aspects of the revolutionary spirit and echoes themes heard in modern political debate—now being played out with the background of the war in Iraq. Editor

During that supper, Gauvain ate and Cimourdain drank, a sign of calm in the former and of agitation in the latter.
There was a kind of terrible serenity in the cell. The two men talked.
"Great things are beginning to take shape," said Gauvain. "What the Revolution is doing now is mysterious. Behind the visible work there's the invisible work. The visible work is fierce, the invisible work is sublime. I can see everything very clearly now. It's strange and beautiful. It has been necessary to use the materials of the past. Hence this extraordinary '93. Beneath a scaffolding of barbarism, a temple of civilization is being built."
"Yes," replied Cimourdain, "from this provisional situation will come the definitive one. By the definitive one I mean parallel rights and duties, proportional and progressive taxes, obligatory military service, a leveling process without deviations, and above everyone and everything, that straight line, the law. The republic of the absolute."
"I prefer the republic of the ideal," said Gauvain. He paused, then continued: "O my master, in everything you've just said, where do you place devotion, self-sacrifice, abnegation, the magnanimous interlacing of benevolences, love? To put everything in balance is good, to put everything in harmony is better. Above the scales there's the lyre. Your republic weighs, measures and regulates man; mine sweeps him up into the blue sky; it's the difference between a theorem and an angel."
"You've become lost in the clouds."
"And you in calculations."
"There's a certain amount of dreaming in harmony."
"And also in algebra."
"I wish man had been made by Euclid."
"And I'd like him better if he'd been made by Homer," said Gauvain.
Cimourdain's stern smile came to rest on Gauvain, as though to hold his soul fast.
"Poetry. Beware of poets."
"Yes, I know the saying. Beware of breezes, beware of sunbeams, beware of fragrances, beware of flowers, beware of the constellations."
"None of those things can feed anyone."
"How do you know? Ideas are food too. To think is to eat."
"No abstractions. The Republic is two and two make four. When I've given everyone what's coming to him…"
"You'll still have to give everyone what's not coming to him."
"What do you mean by that?"
"I'm referring to the immense reciprocal concessions which each owes to all, which all owe to each, and which are the whole of social life."
"Outside of strict law, there's nothing."
"There's everything."
"I see only justice."
"I look higher."
"What is there above justice?"
"Equity."
Now and then they stopped, as those gleams were passing by.
Cimourdain resumed:
"I challenge you to be specific."
"Very well. You want obligatory military service. Against whom? Against other men? I don't want any military service. I want peace. You want to help the poor, I want to eliminate poverty. You want proportional taxes, I don't want any taxes at all. I want common expenditures reduced to their simplest expression and paid by the social surplus."
"What do you mean?"
"This: first eliminate parasitisms—the parasitism of the priest, of the judge, of the soldier. Then make use of your riches. You throw manure into the sewer; throw it into the fields instead. Three-quarters of the land is lying fallow. Cultivate the soil of France, do away with useless pastures, divide the communal lands. Let each man have a piece of land, and let each piece of land have a man. You'll increase the social product a hundredfold. France now gives her peasants meat only four times a year; well cultivated, she could feed three hundred million people, all of Europe. Utilize nature, that immense neglected helper. Make every wind work for you, every waterfall, every magnetic emanation. The earth has an underground network of veins; in that network there's a prodigious circulation of water, oil and fire; tap the veins of the earth and bring forth that water for your fountains, that oil for your lamps, that fire for your hearths. Consider the movement of the waves, the ebb and flow of the tides. What is an ocean? An enormous wasted force. How foolish the earth is, not to use the oceans!"
"You're in the midst of a dream!"
"In other words, in the midst of reality …And woman? What will you do with her?"
Cimourdain answered, "I'll leave her what she is: man's servant."
"Yes, on one condition."
"What is it?"
"That man also be woman's servant."
"Are you serious?" cried Cimourdain. "Man a servant? Never! Man is the master. I acknowledge only one kind of royalty: that of the home. A man is king in his own home."
"Yes, on one condition."
"What is it?"
"That woman be queen there."
"In short, between men and women you want…"
"Equality."
"Equality! You can't mean it. Man and woman are two different creatures."
"I said equality. I didn't say identity."…
Gauvain spoke with the composure of a prophet. Cimourdain listened. The roles were reversed; it now seemed that the pupil was now the master. …
Cimourdain looked at the floor of the cell and said, "And in the meantime what do you want?"
"What is."
"You absolve the present time?"
"Yes."
"Why?"
"Because it's a storm. A storm always knows what it's doing. For every oak struck by lightning, how many forests are made healthy! Civilization was in the grip of a pestilence and this great wind is curing it. The wind may not be selective enough, but could it do otherwise? It has such hard work to do! Before the horror of the miasma, I understand the fury of the wind. Furthermore, what does the storm mean to me if I have a compass, and what do events matter to me if I have my conscience!…
"If you add something to nature, you will necessarily be greater than nature; to add is to increase, and to increase is to grow. Society is nature made sublime. I want everything that's lacking in beehives and anthills: mountains, art, poetry, heroes, geniuses. To bear eternal burdens is not the law of man. No, no, no more pariahs, no more slaves, no more convicts, no more damned! I want each attribute of man to be a symbol of civilization and a pattern of progress; I want liberty in front of the mind, equality in front of the heart, fraternity in front of the soul. No, no more yokes! Man is made not to drag chains, but to spread his wings. No more of man as a reptile! I want the transfiguration of the larva into the butterfly; I want the earthworm to change into a living flower and fly away; I want…"
He stopped. His eyes flashed.
His lips moved. He ceased talking. …
Cimourdain, pale, listened. Gauvain did not hear.
His reverie was becoming deeper and deeper. He was so attentive to what he saw beneath the visionary vault of his brain that he seemed to have stopped breathing. He occasionally started slightly. The gleam of dawn in his eyes grew brighter.
1.25.2008 10:24am
Carolina:
You folks must have been, or have had, some really smart kids. I consider myself to have been a well-read 12 year old, but there's no way I could have made it through either Atlas Shrugged or The Trial as a twelve year old. Not only is the writing tough, but I think you just need a bit of life experience to make these works meaningful.

Also, as to the Golden Compass, these books are insanely hostile to the Christianity and the Catholic Church particular. That may not bother some people, and sadly might even be a plus for some, but you should know that before buying it for a child.
1.25.2008 10:28am
Steve Burton (mail) (www):
T. H. White's *The Once and Future King* has a libertarianish subtext, though it only becomes fully explicit in the posthumously published sequel, *The Book of Merlyn*. It's also beautifully written - a genuine classic.
1.25.2008 10:57am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
For all of you people laboring under the misapprehension that anything by George Orwell is remotely libertarian, you are aware he was a communist, aren't you? Just because he hated the way Stalin and Soviet Russia, in his view, had perverted Marxism, doesn't change that fact that Orwell was a communist.

T. H. White's *The Once and Future King* has a libertarianish subtext

Since when does the market depend on "watery tarts distributing swords at random" (to quote Monty Python).
1.25.2008 11:18am
Tipton (mail):
Too far down the chain, but my suggestion is to read Heinlein juveniles to your daughter. It worked great for me. My daughter is in mechanical engineering, independent and recommends Moon to all of her friends.
1.25.2008 11:23am
Curious Passerby (mail):
hawkins: I agree with Mark Field. I think such a blatant attempt to guide your child's political thought is a scary proposition. Let her reach her own conclusions, rather than be indoctrinated by her parents.

No wonder so many children are so screwed up. Do Leftists really believe that parents have no right ot duty to guide a child's development? People aren't fish, you know. You don't just spit them out and go on your merry way. I'm agahst!

[Maybe it's only indoctrination if it's Libertarian. I suppose anti-war and gay literature is always laying around the house and is not considered indoctrination.]
1.25.2008 11:24am
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Arr-Squared:

Goodkind would be perfect if you want to introduce the 12 year old girl to libertarianism that is fixated on torture, and S&M fantasies with evil checks fully clad in red leather. I would have suggested it, because I actually like the series, and I'm basically a little dumb when it comes to what is "age appropriate," but even I think Sword of Truth is a bit over the top for most twelve year olds. I'd hold off until 13 or 14 at least.
1.25.2008 11:34am
another anonVCfan:
For all of you people laboring under the misapprehension that anything by George Orwell is remotely libertarian, you are aware he was a communist, aren't you? Just because he hated the way Stalin and Soviet Russia, in his view, had perverted Marxism, doesn't change that fact that Orwell was a communist.

Who cares? Orwell need not have been a libertarian for his work to resonate with libertarians (as should be obvious from all of the Orwell recommendations in this thread). Nor does a book have to make an affirmative case for libertarianism in order to illustrate important libertarian themes; the negative case for statism can do so just as effectively.
1.25.2008 11:40am
Mark Field (mail):

Yeah, and don't bother talking about sex or drugs either. Let her experiment and find out what she likes best


I'm curious how you got from "don't indoctrinate your child with politics" to "don't teach your child anything". I'd call that a radical interpretation of the text.


Do Leftists really believe that parents have no right ot duty to guide a child's development? People aren't fish, you know. You don't just spit them out and go on your merry way. I'm agahst!


We do believe in teaching them how to spell.
1.25.2008 11:52am
S.C. Ruffey (www):
Michael Z. Williamson's "Freehold" has very strong and blatant libertarian themes. I think the premise (of a colony planet that is a libertarian utopia) is absurd, but the writing is solid and the story is enjoyable.

It is military SF, and maybe not age-appropriate because of sex and violence, but that depends on the parents and on how precocious the young reader is.
1.25.2008 11:57am
Arr-squared (mail):
Duffy Pratt:

Points well taken. Goodkind may well be too much for many 12 year olds, at least for them to be explosed to deliberately, rather than discovered accidentally.
1.25.2008 11:58am
Northeastern2L:

Also, as to the Golden Compass, these books are insanely hostile to the Christianity and the Catholic Church particular. That may not bother some people, and sadly might even be a plus for some, but you should know that before buying it for a child.

Interesting how so far we've had dozens of books mentioned, and often praised, because they are "anti-authoritarian," yet it appears that when the authority is some flavor or other of Christianity then it becomes a problem.
1.25.2008 12:01pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Who cares?

I would think libertarians would, as practically everything he believed in was an anathema to libertarians.
1.25.2008 12:16pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Doesn't it bother any of you in the least that the so-called libertarian utopias depicted in the sci-fi and fantasy novels you all cite almost universally are heavily militaristic or feudalistic societies where power is derived through force of arms, heredity, or magical powers?

What kind of libertarian message is that?
1.25.2008 12:21pm
Andrew Janssen (mail):
Chiming to second the recommendations upthread about Terry Pratchett and Eric Frank Russell. A common thread through Pratchett's work is the idea that "the government which governs best, governs least," and his writing delights in taking traditional tropes and subverting them to make a point.

Russell's work is also informed by a distrust of massive, centralized, authoritarian governments. In addition to "And Then There Were None", from his short stories I'd recommend "Allamagoosa", "Basic Right", "Diabologic", "Metamorphosite", "Now Inhale", "Nuisance Value", "Study in Still Life", and "The Ultimate Invader".

As far as L. Neil Smith goes, I'd only whole-heartedly recommend his short novel "Their Majesties' Bucketeers", if you can find a copy. For a 12-year-old, I'd specifically disrecommend his novel "Henry Martyn" unless she's an extremely intellectually and emotionally mature 12-year-old.
1.25.2008 1:02pm
Gramarye:
I'll second J.F. Thomas' point on that score, with the caveat that I think the setting of a feudal court or a militaristic, technologically advanced future empire is simply better literary material than a small business owner in the burgeoning megalopolis of Boise in 2149 A.D.

One of my biggest pet peeves with libertarianism is its penchant for hero-worship. In real life, that comes out in obsequious tracts on the wisdom, genius, and foresight of CEO's and investors. In science fiction and fantasy, however, it's a lot easier for an author to build up a larger-than-life figure as a military leader, warrior, or scholar (including, if the milieu allows it, one with supernatural abilities, such as a wizard or esper). Libertarian sympathies transferring to such nominally un-libertarian characters isn't too difficult an elision to envision: it's just a slight variation on that same recurring meme of hero-worship, of unqualified approval of someone who distinguishes himself (or is perceived to distinguish himself) as singularly, even superhumanly, capable.
1.25.2008 1:13pm
Gadzookie:
What puzzles me about this discussion is the absence of any real thought as to (a) not turning the girl off to reading in general (Howard's End at 12?!?!) or (b) what kind of person you actually want to teach her to be. I understand that there's a hard strain of libertarianism tied in with Rand that just hates humanity. But it seems to me that giving her books telling her that the only way to be happy is to leave behind the droves of commonfolk (Rand), or that you should live a life of spoiled decadence (Stranger in a Strange Land), or that the government is going to make rats eat off your face (1984) is somewhat ill-advised. The virtue of Wrinkle in Time or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is that they aren't so endlessly negative about the possibilities for happiness in the world we have.
1.25.2008 1:13pm
Happyshooter:
Any Robert A. Heinlein from this list fits your needs. Do not give a 12-year old any other Heinlein books without reading them first.

Rocket Ship Galileo
The Man Who Sold the Moon
Farmer in The Sky
Starman Jones
Tunnel in the Sky
The Door Into Summer (I like this and read it as a child, there is a romance thread in it that should be pre-read by you)
Citizen Of The Galaxy
Red Planet
Starship Troopers
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (I like this and read it as a child, the family relationship system in the book should be pre-read by you)
1.25.2008 1:17pm
Seamus (mail):
I loved Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, but I found Anthem to be really, really bad. Maybe I'm the only one, since it's gotten two recs so far.

You're not the only one. Anthem really bit. Ayn Rand's only tolerable novel was her first one, "We the Living," where she draws characters with two dimensions instead of one (as in Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead) or none (as in Anthem).

Oh, and That Hideous Strength is the only one of C.S. Lewis's Space Trilogy that is even arguably libertarian.
1.25.2008 1:17pm
Happyshooter:
Stranger in a Strange Land Under no circumstances should a child be given that book, no matter how advanced in thinking. RAH was a good writer for children and teens, but he also had odd ideas about sexuality. He had the ability to combine the two into a seemless whole.
1.25.2008 1:20pm
Fub:
Sasha Volokh wrote at 1.25.2008 12:22am:
Passing By: Remember we're talking about what's both good ideologically and appropriate for a 12-year-old. How many books can you say that about, regardless of the political orientation?
I'd suggest Jack London (an avowed socialist), for excellent writing as well as material understandable by 12 year old children. Whatever socialism one finds, one also discovers both superb evocation of the human condition and a strong emphasis on individualism and responsibility.

London's short stories in the collection When God Laughs are an excellent place to start. They are very readable by youngsters, and they are poignant page turners. His better known classic novels are established fare for children and adolescents as well. He even wrote some more overtly political novels and stories, not very gripping but incisive (in the common, and not very pretty, political beliefs of his day).

And that nobody has suggested Mark Twain for children and young adolescents seems odd to me. Twain was certainly acceptable fare for many generations of children, and his classic novels are what we would call these days "politically incorrect".

For satirical sci-fi that kids can enjoy, with a strong political underlay, try Karel Čapek's War with the Newts, in English translation of course.

For just plain well written sci-fi for young people, anything by Andre Norton.
1.25.2008 1:29pm
samuelmiller (mail):
INHERIT THE WIND strikes me as a play that illuminates a primary libertarian theme - anti-government regulation - by attacking a dominant libertarian issue - public education - all the while being readable.

When I was a pre-teen, I read a lot of biographies. I would think an age-appropriate biography of Susan B Anthony or any number of women suffragists would be truly inspiring as well as morally libertarian.
1.25.2008 1:40pm
hawkins:

No wonder so many children are so screwed up. Do Leftists really believe that parents have no right ot duty to guide a child's development? People aren't fish, you know. You don't just spit them out and go on your merry way. I'm agahst!

[Maybe it's only indoctrination if it's Libertarian. I suppose anti-war and gay literature is always laying around the house and is not considered indoctrination.]


In no way am I against parents educating their children. I fully support exposing children to Libertarian ideas (which I share, by the way). However, parents should also expose their children to competing views. Political philosophies are different than religion. They arent to be supported on blind faith. Parents training their children to hold the same political beliefs as themselves is one major reason why our country is so bitterly divided along partisan lines. Blindly supporting a political philosophy - without questioning its merits, the merits of competing philosophies, and arriving out your own personal conclusion - contributes to the "us against them" mind set and results in close minded adults who are unable truly evaluate or respect the views of others.
1.25.2008 1:54pm
emsl (mail):
A couple of points to anyone who gets this far. First, I agree with courtwatcher that one can be anti-communist without being pro-libertarian. Both are generally hostile to liberal democracies such as the US, Australia, and Europe. All of those feature substantial government interference and regulation. And, by the way, Orwell was a communist and then became an ex-communist. Second, the reason that SF (or fantasy) is the place to go is that almost no other genre can play with re-imagining fundamental societal structure. For example, how could one write a libertarian mystery?
1.25.2008 1:57pm
DiverDan (mail):
I have to say, I question the utility of trying to guide a 12-year old's reading habits on matters such as political philosophy. I am reminded of Winston Churchill's line, "if a man isn't a liberal at 20, he has no heart; if he isn't conservative at 40, he has no brain." I loved a lot of fiction at 12, but most of it (even if you classified it as "libertarian", like Ray Bradbury's "Farenheit 451") I liked for the adventure. I don't recall even thinking much about "libertarian" ideas, or other political views for that matter, until reading John Stuart Mills' "On Liberty", and that was late in High School. Even then, my political ideas were still pretty much in flux, even through Law School. Even reading socialist literature is not necessarily bad - reading Marx's "Communist Manifesto" and "Das Kapital" didn't turn me into a communist, it simply convinced me that his "labor theory of value" ceased to be valid once you introduce any tools at all into the equation. I would recommend anything: (1) that she enjoys -- that's the primary objective, develop a love of reading first; and (2) that makes her think; and (3) that helps her develop a healthy skepticism. Even if she is very advanced for 12, encouraging her to read things that are way beyond what her peer group is reading will likely just help to isolate her from her peers &retard her social development, which, at 12, is as important (if not more so) as her intellectual development.
1.25.2008 2:02pm
another anonVCfan:
Who cares?

I would think libertarians would, as practically everything [Orwell] believed in was an anathema to libertarians.

And if Orwell wrote essays about those things, I wouldn't recommend those essays to this guy's kid. I still don't understand why this makes 1984 a bad recommendation. If the book compellingly demonstrates the dangers of state power (it does), and doesn't argue in favor of Marxism (it doesn't), then why should libertarian readers care if Orwell was a Marxist? It's not like he's using the profits from the book to fund a communist uprising.
1.25.2008 2:06pm
Stevethepatentguy (mail) (www):
Here is my list:

I am David (the best children's book I have ever read)
Enders Game
Harry Potter (All of them)
Tom Sawyer
Huckleberry Finn

Interesting that I equate stories of independent children to libertarianism.
1.25.2008 2:32pm
Smokey:
One of the best books by far on Libertarian thought is The Incredible Bread Machine [by Brown, Keating, Mellinger, Post, Smith & Tudor; Library of Congress #74-80968, published by World Research of San Diego, distributed by Ward Ritchie Press].

It's very readable for a 12-year old; it's not science-fiction [or fiction, for that matter], and it clearly explains - in only about 170 pages - the whole Libertarian philosophy in a very straightforward and easy to understand manner.

It's out of print, but there are several used book sites like Fetchbook that can probably find it [...in fact, I just checked - the cheapest copy is under a dollar].
1.25.2008 2:47pm
Crunchy Frog:
+1 on the Harry Potter suggestions, especially Order of the Phoenix. The part where Hermione tries to organize the house elves is classic.

Going back to when I was a kid (many many moons ago), I was an avid reader of all things Heinlein, although his juvenile stuff struck me as well, juvenile.

Also good: Ender's Game, and its sequels. The Foundation books. A Voyage To Yesteryear. The Giants trilogy, also by James Hogan (starts with Inherit The Earth). The Belgariad. The Riftwar Saga. And, for lighter fare, Robert Asprin's Myth-Adventures Of Aahz &Skeeve.
1.25.2008 3:20pm
the proponent:
Thanks for all the recommendations. A few of these she's already read, some are familiar to me but had slipped my mind, and others are entirely new to me. I may benefit from this list more than she does.

Just for the record, this isn't intended as a brainwashing exercise. In fact it's the opposite. And no, I don't feel obliged to explain further.
1.25.2008 3:50pm
anonthu:
I'm curious how you got from "don't indoctrinate your child with politics" to "don't teach your child anything". I'd call that a radical interpretation of the text.

I'm curious how you got from I'm interested in finding some good libertarian fiction for my (almost) twelve year-old -- "libertarian" because I'd like her to get some exposure to those ideas, and "fiction" because that's what interests her. to "indoctrinate your child with politics". I'd call that a radical interpretation of the text.
1.25.2008 5:00pm
JNS405:
FYI - there are follow up books to Ender's Game, which I would also recommend. The names of all of them escape me now, but off the top of my head, there is Speaker for the Dead, Xenophobia, Children of the Mind, and Ender's Shadow.
1.25.2008 5:42pm
PersonFromPorlock:
Also: L. Sprague de Camp's picaresque "The Reluctant King" trilogy, wherein the hero, who was made 'King for five years' willy-nilly, has since his term expired been dodging his scheduled beheading and trying to rescue his lady-love. He roams around the world of Novaria encountering odd people, governments and adventures... and every so often the action stops while somebody tells a shaggy-dog story.

Most of de Camp's books are dry, droll, irreverent and have intelligent heros; they should appeal to bright teens.
1.25.2008 6:35pm
Boulderlaw (mail):
Second (or third, or fourth ...) "The Giver" and "Anthem." "Fountainhead" and "Atlas" if she is an voracious reader.
1.25.2008 6:37pm
liberty (mail) (www):

Also, anything by Ayn Rand other than Anthem is likewise appropriate at a later age, probably high school. But I think Anthem is a good choice.
- Sasha

What is wrong with We The Living for that age, btw?
1.25.2008 7:27pm
MarkField (mail):

I'm curious how you got from I'm interested in finding some good libertarian fiction for my (almost) twelve year-old -- "libertarian" because I'd like her to get some exposure to those ideas, and "fiction" because that's what interests her. to "indoctrinate your child with politics". I'd call that a radical interpretation of the text.


I've already agreed that I jumped to a conclusion. Haven't seen that acknowledgement yet from anyone else.
1.25.2008 7:44pm
john w. (mail):

The conclusion that I have come to after browsing through the ~138 posts that this thread generated in 24 hours is that there is a *HUGE* unfilled market niche out there in the area of libertarian fiction for young adults.

So, c'mon, fellow Libertarians! Quit wasting your time reading/writing blogs, and start writing Y.A. novels instead!
1.25.2008 7:46pm
Brett Gardner (mail):
No, Vova. Why would they need to? I have a brain and an interest to read myself. I suppose this is besides the point, but who reads fiction for political ideas or ideals? That's maybe the weirdest thing to me.
1.25.2008 8:31pm
Li:
Most of suggestions have already been said, but to make sure they don't get lost in the Heinlein:

The Giver
Uglies, Pretties, and Specials
His Dark Materials Trilogy (which, to be fair, is sitting on my shelf unread because I'm a grown-up who can only take so many children's books in a row. And the warnings about the anti-Christian message are absolutely true)
Everlost, by Neal Shusterman (a very good book that's mildly pro-self determination but not so on-message as some of these)
V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore. Anarchist, may be a bit too advanced

You probably have already considered this, but you might want to mix in some unrelated books to avoid overwhelming her. I suggest:

Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson. This is about a girl's recovery after she was raped, which sounds movie-of-the-week but is wonderfully done
Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Not libertarian at all- monarchs and dictators are good guys, if not heroes- but it will give her a lot of confidence in your literary taste
1.25.2008 8:47pm
Duffy Pratt (mail):
Another little known book that might appeal to her is The Queen's Gambit by Walter Tevis. It's about an orphaned girl who becomes a chess prodigy. It's been a while since I've read it, and there may be too much sex and drugs in it for a twelve year old, but it was a compelling book. Tevis also wrote The Hustler, The Color of Money, and The Man Who Fell to Earth.
1.25.2008 9:14pm
David W. Hess (mail):
Glory Road by Heinlein comes to mind but it has been long enough since I read it that I do not remember how libertarian it is.

Kings of the High Frontier by Victor Koman is certainly a book I would have enjoyed at age 12. It echoes The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged both in execution and in length.
1.25.2008 10:12pm
Ithaqua:

I have to agree with, er, someone above, I forget who and I'm not going back to check, that some of these recommendations are good books but not good *libertarian* books. For example, David Edding's Belgariad; it's great adventure, I loved it at twelve, but it's not remotely libertarian - much too much 'shut up and do what the mysterious old wizard tells you; authority knows best' for that. If you insist on Eddings, I'd recommend the Elenium, which is nicely cynical about government and religion. Similarly, Pratchett is wonderful, but the books featuring Lord Vetinari are unlikely to have much of a libertarian slant; the witch stories are better for that, even tho they're inferior in quality, IMHO, to the ones set in Ankh-Morphok...

Heinlein's juveniles are good; I enthusiastically second The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, etc. But steer clear of his later works, especially Time Enough For Love and To Sail Beyond the Sunset. Not recommended for children :P

No Rand. Please, no. For every teenager who picks up Atlas Shrugged, devours it and becomes a devoted libertarian/Rush fan, there's a dozen more who get a few chapters into it, throw it out the window, and shudder reflexively for the rest of their life whenever the topic comes up. Besides, Objectivism isn't exactly libertarianism anyway...

If she's smart for a twelve-year-old, The Golden Age, by John C. Wright, and its sequels.

The Baen Free Library - http://www.baen.com/library/ - first of all, by its very existence, it teaches an important libertarian lesson about copyright :P And secondly, the fiction Baen prints is, if not great literature, pretty right-wing/libertarian in general. They've also reprinted a lot of older science fiction, which tends individualist if not libertarian.
1.25.2008 10:59pm
Jam:
I second the suggestion of the book: I Am David
It is not libertarian but it sure is a good one.

I read A Wrinkle In Time. I did not like it. It uses Bible passages and concepts in a way that completely changes/twists their biblical meaning.
1.25.2008 11:28pm
Eluchil:
I'd like to mention Elizabeth Moon who is an excellent writer with something of a libertarian bent. The Vatta's War series is probably a good bet, but some of her other works are not age appropriate. Note that like alot of the stuff recommend above it's military science fiction.
1.26.2008 1:02am
Arr-squared (mail):
"For every teenager who picks up Atlas Shrugged, devours it and becomes a devoted libertarian/Rush fan..."

Are these two things really anywhere near the same?
1.26.2008 9:28am
Stamper (mail):
I'm surprised nobody has suggested any of Ken Kesey's books. Although Kesey was clearly not a libertarian, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and (especially) Sometimes a Great Notion explore themes of individuality. The latter featuring a family battling against a union. They might not be age appropriate as cursing and some brief sexual situations occur in both, but any person who is interested in Libertarian literature is probably mature enough to handle these books.
1.26.2008 12:07pm
R. G. Newbury (mail):
Someone mentioned Farnams Freehold. Definitely *NOT* age appropriate for a 12 year old, even a boy. Contains explicit sexual themes, weird sexual practices and cannibalism of slaves by a despotic overlordship, which is black. Talk about politically incorrect...

If you can find them, long ago Andre Norton wrote a number of adventure stories which were more alt-history than sci-fi. And very light on the magic and sorcery. But all *depended* upon concepts of independence and resilience.

I second the mention of Arthur Ransome's works. There is ample example (sorry could not resist!) of difficulties which are overcome by group effort and courage in the face of adversity. Stirling Moss said "Courage is the ability to overcome your fear of what you think might happen". And that is what Ransome's kids do. One of the best entries for a 12 yr old would be 'We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea'.

No-one has mentioned 'Time Enough for Love'..which is probably 15yr old material, because of the sexual bits, but on theme, for independence.

I am not sure it is actually age appropriate in this case, but I read The Red Badge of Courage abt about 12 and I was very impressed. That story is all about growing up and courage.
1.26.2008 12:51pm
AnandaG:
I'm a little late to this thread, but as libertarian fiction suitable for a 12 year old I recommend the novels of Gordon Korman, especially the following: "Son of Interflux", "Don't Care High", "A Semester in the Life of a Garbage Bag", "Who Is Bugs Potter", "I Want to Go Home", and any of the Bruno &Boots series, starting with "This Can't be Happening at MacDonald Hall", "Go Jump In The Pool", and "The War with Mr. Wizzle". They are all fun books for kids and they are all libertarian, although quite subtly so. Most are out of print so you will have to look on Amazon Stores or abebooks.com.
1.26.2008 1:24pm
Mike Porter (mail):
Instead of promoting a specific political outlook, why not recommend books with characters worthy of emulation? Character education must come before political education. The following books are highly recommended for young teens because they offer characters who are good role models:

A Little Princess Francies H. Burnett (Probably the best book for young people for character development!)
The Secret Garden Frances H. Burnett
Roll of Thunder, Here My Cry Mildred Taylor
To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
Cry, The Beloved Country Alan Paton
Exodus Leon Uris
The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
A Dry White Season Andre Brink
Quo Vadis Henryk Sienkiewicz
As the reader gets older, 1984, anything by Hugo and Dostoyevski.
1.26.2008 2:00pm
MarkField (mail):

Instead of promoting a specific political outlook, why not recommend books with characters worthy of emulation? Character education must come before political education.


Exactly.
1.26.2008 2:26pm
Jam:
hear, hear.

Therefore I also recommend The Count of Monte Cristo and The Man Behind the Mask.
1.26.2008 6:10pm
Jam:
Ah, what was I thinking. Man in the Iron Mask, by Alejandro Dumas.

duh
1.26.2008 6:12pm
RogerZ:
Hooray for the late comers! There is no need for any explicit promotion of "libertarian" political ideas at age 12. I would think that few in our infantilizing society are ready to arrive at a consciously held philosophy, never mind political philosophy, prior to college. Children should be exposed to books that present brave characters overcoming adversity by thinking for themselves. More importantly, they should be raised to think - critically - for themselves, with careful parental judgment exercised as the leash is slowly let out.

The Harry Potter series, while authored by someone who is probably mildly leftist, is an excellent specimen of this kind of literature, and it has the additional virtue of being enormously popular - your children will very likely _ask_ you for it without prompting. Mine did.
1.26.2008 8:52pm
GatoRat:
I'm quite puzzled as to how Ender's Game is remotely libertarian.
1.26.2008 11:07pm
Bowman:
Spirit of the Wind by Chris Pierson
http://tinyurl.com/35cg3c

Its a fantasy set in the only democracy in the fantasy world of Krynn: Kendermore. Its government is disorganizaed and powerless enough to fulfill the secret fantasies of even the most ardent libertarian.
1.27.2008 1:28am
fishbane (mail):
For a Sci Fi pick again, I'm surprised nobody mentioned Vinge. The Bobble Wars trilogy is classic anarchocapitalist fiction, and a bright 12 year old who likes science fiction could handle it. Deepness in the Sky might be a tough slog at that age.

I'm surprised at the recommendations of Ender's Game. Maybe I need to reread it, but I recall it as a story about the state cynically manipulating a child in order to win a war. Not too libertarian, in my book.
1.27.2008 3:57am