Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman (Univ. of Chicago, $17.50). Republicans of late have confused corporate favoritism and special earmarks with pro-market policy. That's called crony capitalism. Friedman schools us on a better way to unleash the power of free markets: Be pro-market, not pro-business.

The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich von Hayek (Univ. of Chicago, $17). Hayek wasn't just an economist; he was an intellectual dissident whose ideas stand as a bulwark against collectivism's empty promises.

Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville (Penguin, $14). What isn't to like about a French-man with an appreciation of American culture? In Democracy, Tocqueville had the great insight that "liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith." He's the king of one-liners and had an enduring point of view on what makes our country special.

The Last Lion: Defender of the Realm by William Manchester and Paul Reid (Bantam, $20). Churchill's staggering accomplishments, fearless leadership, and near monomaniacal wartime work ethic are richly recounted here. His reward for leading Britain through its darkest days? Getting kicked out of office. This fascinating book shows how the wide lens of history contextualizes a lifetime of victories and failures.

Wealth and Poverty by George Gilder (Regnery, $30). By the time I read this book, in the early 1990s, it was a primer for young conservatives. Gilder's views on the drivers of economic growth and job creation are underpinned by his strong belief in individual empowerment. He's both wonky and inspiring.

The Way the World Works by Jude Wanniski (Gateway, $17). Jude was an adviser to my friend and mentor Jack Kemp and helped coin the term "supply-side fiscalism." His 1978 book served as the foundation for national policies in the 1980s that led to an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity. Wanniski asks an enduring question: How do we maximize freedom while promoting equality? His answer delivers equal doses of analysis, history, and wit.

Paul Ryan was the 2012 Republican vice presidential candidate. His new book, The Way Forward, argues that conservatism offers America the best path to a brighter future.