Where Shall I Begin?


What is the best book for me to begin with? Hard to say. However, there are four fundamental options for an approach, which one can choose for himself depending on the prior knowledge and personal preferences. Depending on the objectives, these would be:


Motive A 

Inspiration and Entertainment (Fiction)

Motive B 

Learning about Rand’s Philosophy (Nonfiction)


identifying the principles (completely “unromantically”)


as thorough as possible


as concise as possible


discovering and reconstructing everything on ones own

Motive C

Gaining an Overview Both Over Fiction And Nonfiction Works

Motive D

“Objective? I don't have anything like that!” 


A) The Novel Route 


For somebody who primarily puts value on thrilling entertainment and moral inspiration, one of the two major works of Ayn Rand is recommendable without doubts – or even better, both: Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

While the plot of Atlas Shrugged (AS) takes place in a certain socio-political context, which is inseparably connected with it, things are more “psychologically” in The Fountainhead (TF). AS will appeal to the politically, culturally and philosophically interested person more than The Fountainhead will do. The latter addresses to a rather psychologically interested audience. The choice, whether first Atlas or TF, should be met according to your personal interests.


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B) The Nonfiction Route 


Those who want to do without the novels and concentrate on the idea system of Objectivism, two paths are given:


1. a) The present standard reference for Objectivism is still Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand. OPAR – among Objectivists the common abbreviation for this book– essentializes and connects all ideas from Rand’s fiction and nonfiction works into an integrated, and internally closed system. OPAR is (for a philosophy book) astonishingly clear and understandable. For those of us who don’t already carry in themselves the motivation to have a good look at the issues presented, this might be a little hard to digest.


b) Accordingly easier – and even more dense in its concentration – clearly is the (many times shorter) book by Allan Gotthelf, On Ayn Rand. For the ambitious non-fiction book reader who is pressed for time, starting with Gotthelf might be the best way to become acquainted with Objectivism. To make a selective reinforcement possible, in this case a parallel purchase of OPAR is more than appropriate, because Gotthelf had to pass over a multitude of interesting details, to stay within the page number limit imposed by the publisher. 


2.  The disadvantage of both getting started with Gotthelf and Peikoff, though is, that one misses much of Rand’s implicitly imparted sense of life, which has filled so many readers of her novels and essays with enthusiasm. It is therefore far better to personally reconstruct the integration process of the above-mentioned authors by reading Rand’s essays according to their logical order. Unfortunately, there is no reader available yet, where all important essays are (in a unabridged form) summarized in one volume in exactly that order. The Ayn Rand Institute provides interested parties, who want to walk along this way, with the following list, which is reproduced here (supplemented with two entries). 


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C) The "Middle Course" 


The English language editions of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead are containing all together 1.778 pages. With them more than six anthologies come along. This is not little.


Especially not for those, who besides their interest in the explicitly articulated philosophy of Objectivism, also want to get an impression of this adventure.


Well, under circumstances one stands before the problem of having to make a selection of necessity, without exactly knowing what matters. But the problem is solved by Leonard Peikoff and Garry Hull who have collected more than 500 pages of what is necessary for those who are equally thirsty for knowledge as they are under stress, to be able to obtain a fast overview. You can read a description of the Ayn Rand Reader yourself in the section “Miscellany.” There you will find also, as for almost all books, the contents which, however, doesn't seem to be absolutely meaningful. Therefore it is represented here in a form, which is extended by the treated questions (and where the correct references for the excerpts aren’t missing either, as they are in the book).


The Ayn Rand Reader therefore makes the specific reading on about forty topics of your interest possible. However, as addition to the Reader, Gotthelf’s (concise) On Ayn Rand shouldn’t be renounced nevertheless. 


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D) For Surfers and Browsers  


Otherwise, simply read the book descriptions and get what promises some fun (if anything at all).


If you have difficulty deciding what you want, you can simply get advice from the recommended reading level (A–G), which is displayed by pulling the mouse pointer over the cover illustration. (A lower reading level –A– is in contrast to a higher reading level –G– a buying recommendation; the given reading level should serve only as a help for deciding between two given alternatives. This is not a definite reading order.


Who is not seriously interested in the topic, can get acquainted with Rand also on the humorous way. Mat Ruff has written a satirical novel , where, among others, a virtual Rand is up to her mischief. In their despair, German Objectivists reach for this Edition. As you can see, at this time objectivist materials and educational programs in German language are virtually nonexistent.

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