I went through a phase in which I read the best books of conservatism and then I moved on to the Old Right. If you were taking a history class at a public school and the class actually taught anything about conservatism, it would tell you that the Old Right was organized around opposition to the New Deal, while modern conservatism was organized around opposition to the Soviet takeover of the US government. (Fine, they wouldn’t say "Soviet takeover of the US government" but that’s what happened).
These are the books that I found most interesting from modern conservative movement:
Witness by Whittaker Chambers – Truly a great book. It’s Chamber’s autobiography. Chambers was a Soviet spy who eventually switched sides.
Suicide of the West by James Burnham – In short, Burnham believes that liberalism is a religion designed to make Westerners feel less bad about the decline of the West. If nothing else, it’s a very solid analysis of what liberalism is (see the 19 points).
In Defense of Freedom by Frank Meyer – This is the classic text arguing that libertarians need conservatives and conservatives need libertarians.
The Conservative Mind by Russell Kirk – Traces a particular strand of conservatism through time.
The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America by George Nash – Basically the bible of post-war conservatism.
I came to the conclusion that modern conservative movement was basically bankrupt. I had no problems with the movement but was continually struck by its inability to actually accomplish anything of meaning. Any victories that the movement might achieve would be temporally limited, at best. In the end, I concluded that the movement was destroyed by its turn away from the Old Right. In other words, conservatism failed because it compromised with the New Deal. It became an apologist for the welfare state.
These books will convince any honest reader that the movement comes from a more noble background, but went astray to maintain electoral relevance. The result is a movement that can have no non-contradictory goals and no chance of success. Conservatism with the New Deal is meaningless, so I turned to the Old Right.
When I choose to defend conservatism, it is the Old Right that I am defending. To me, "conservatism" means opposition to the FDR Revolution – and there is no pursuit that is more noble. Unfortunately, in this sense, there are about 12 actual conservatives in the US.
Think you have interesting ideas about relationships between the sexes? Mencken beat you to it.
Think you have interesting ideas about the failings of the US educational system? Nock beat you to it.
I could continue this list all day. The point is: they all saw it coming. They were correct. They thought it first. No one remembers them for it.