Host a Reading Group

Support Offered by IHS

IHS is excited to be a resource both to you and your students as you explore the ideas of a free society.

We typically offer $500-1,200 for books and food, depending on the group size. We also provide marketing and registration assistance as well as post-group feedback from students.

We can also connect students with other educational events, opportunities to apply for graduate studies scholarships, and mentorship programs.

Why Should You Apply?

Benefits for Faculty: Reading groups are a perfect opportunity to introduce your motivated, intellectually curious students to a topic, book, or thinker in the classical liberal tradition that you find most compelling, enhancing their intellectual development, and helping them practice and appreciate the value of free and open inquiry. They are also an opportunity to build relationships and connect with other colleagues on your campus to by inviting their students to join the discussion.

“As both students and teachers of politics and philosophy, we have found that students who are treated as adults capable of making valuable contributions to an intellectual discussion are more likely to continue thinking seriously about the most important things throughout their lives. Our previous experiences with this reading group have confirmed this belief. The students who participated in our Spring 2017 reading group surpassed our already high expectations in terms of the quality of discussion, and potential for future development as scholars of political theory.”

– Professor Kimberly Hale, Coastal Carolina University

Benefits for Students: Reading groups are an opportunity to converse with other students and professors in a way that is not available in the usual classroom setting. They have the chance to spend quality time with a professor they respect and admire. Most students that participate in reading groups recount the meetings as some of their most memorable college moments.

Students that participate will also be given the opportunity to connect with IHS for invitations to attend other educational events and have access advice on pursuing graduate-level education.

Faculty Proposal Checklist

  • Gauge student interest and availability
  • Choose a book or reading list
  • Apply for support for your reading group today

Educational Approach: IHS reading groups aim to facilitate organic, student-driven conversations. These events should raise questions more than they provide answers and seek to foster an environment of open inquiry where critical thinking, challenging one’s own beliefs, and engaging respectfully with others are paramount values. We encourage our faculty partners to provide an intellectually open and academically rigorous learning environment that will inspire students to feel comfortable trying on new ideas.

Suggested Book Club Topics:

  • Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments or Wealth of Nations
  • A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom
  • Richard Thaler & Cass Sunstein’s Nudge
  • Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State and Utopia
  • Charles Murray’s Real Education or Coming Apart
  • Jim Otteson’s What Adam Smith Knew
  • Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America
  • Chris Coyne’s Doing Bad by Doing Good
  • Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind
  • Adam Thierer’s Permissionless Innovation
  • Tyler Cowen’s The Average is Over or The Great Stagnation
  • William Easterly’s The White Man’s Burden
  • Deirdre McCloskey’s Bourgeoisie Virtues
  • Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist
  • Bryan Caplan’s The Myth of the Rational Voter
  • Peter Boettke’s Living Economics
  • Jason Brennan’s Against Democracy or Markets Without Limits
  • Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action
  • Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop
  • David Schmidtz’s The Elements of Justice
  • Edmund Burke’s A Vindication of Natural Society
  • Ayn Rand’s Capitalism and the Unknown Ideal

Frequently Asked Questions

Reading groups should meet a minimum of 3-4 times throughout the semester, but can meet as frequently as desired.

If you are interested in bringing other scholars to your campus to foster a broad dialogue on important ideas, then applying for a public lecture would be right for you.

We have found reading groups work best when reading groups include no more than 20 students – 8-15 is ideal.

To ensure the discussion flows best and remains student-driven, we recommend no more than three faculty members participate in the reading group meetings.

No, but faculty partners should set an expectation that students should attend as many meetings as their schedule allows. In such a small, intimate setting where conversations build on each other from meeting to meeting, it’s important that everyone does the required readings, attends, and participates in each meeting.

Absolutely not! Reading groups are an opportunity to be creative and bring together students and other faculty on campus to discuss the ideas of a free society. We support faculty in developing formats best suited to their students, colleagues, and campus and can offer guidance based on what’s worked for other faculty partners.

For any additional questions, please feel free to email Darien Contu at dcontu@ihs.gmu.edu.