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Topic: Great Books of the Western World

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Subject: Great Books of the Western World
Date Posted: 6/25/2008 2:23 PM ET
Member Since: 4/21/2008
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Does anyone else have this collection or at least the list ? I've been trying for a few years to read some as I can. I skip around about what i read depending on my mood.


Right now I'm reading "On Liberty" by John Stuart Mill. Interesting reading!


Date Posted: 6/30/2008 1:02 AM ET
Member Since: 4/22/2007
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Is this what you are looking for?



Date Posted: 6/30/2008 9:38 AM ET
Member Since: 4/21/2008
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I was looking for anyone who wants to discuss the books included :)


Date Posted: 6/30/2008 2:49 PM ET
Member Since: 4/22/2007
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Well I'd love to, but I'm ashamed to say that I can only claim to have read the following:



One deck to read:


Date Posted: 6/30/2008 6:17 PM ET
Member Since: 4/21/2008
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I've read

Some Shakespeare

Part of the Iliad

The United States Documents

Part of The Federalist

On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

Hedda Gabbler by Ibsen

Experience and Education by John Dewey

A Lost Lady by Willa Cather

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf

Metamorphosis by Kafka (that was just weird, didn't get much out of it)

The Prussian Officer by Lawrence

The Great Gatsby by Fitzgerald

A Rose for Emily by Faulkner

The Short Happy Life of Macomber by Hemingway


Some of the ones I'm considering next are:

Gulliver's Travels

Moby Dick

Pragmatism by William James

An Introduction to Mathematics by A.N. Whitehead

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by Joyce


Date Posted: 6/30/2008 10:37 PM ET
Member Since: 4/22/2007
Posts: 2,461
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We don't have much to discuss with each other at this point eh?


Date Posted: 7/1/2008 12:38 AM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
Posts: 5,931
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Let's see, I've read...

  • Aeschylus- Prometheus Bound 
  • Sophocles- the Oedipus cycle
  • Euripides- Alcestis, Medea
  • Lots o' Shakespeare (love the Bard)
  • Swift- Gulliver's Travels
  • Fielding- Tom Jones
  • The Declaration of Independence
  • The Constitution
  • Melville- Moby Dick
  • Darwin- The Origin of Species
  • Some Freud
  • Some Nietzsche
  • Balzac- Cousin Bette
  • Austen- Emma (why this one, this is by far not her best work, I'd have picked P&P or Persuasion)
  • Dickens- Little Dorrit (again, why did they pick this one? there are so many better ones...Nicholas Nickleby, Bleak House, Our Mutual Friend....)
  • Twain- Huckleberry Finn
  • Ibsen- A Doll's House
  • Conrad- Heart of Darkness
  • Kafka- The Metamorphosis
  • Fitzgerald- The Great Gatsby
  • Faulkner- A Rose for Emily
  • Orwell- Animal Farm

Going to read...

  • Virgil- The Aeneid
  • Thomas Aquinas- Summa Theologica
  • Dante- Divine Comedy
  • Chaucer- The Canterbury Tales
  • Machiavelli- The Prince
  • Cervantes- Don Quixote
  • Milton- Paradise Lost
  • Darwin- The Descent of Man
  • Goethe- Faust
  • Tolstoy- War & Peace
  • a lot of others if I live long enough

Some criticisms besides the noted ones where I'd have selected another work by the author... there's an awful lot of philosophy & other non-fiction works, but it seems a lot of great works of fiction are left off (Hawthorne, Poe, Brontes, Arthur Miller, Dumas, O. Henry, Tennesse Williams, etc) also classics like Beowulf, and Ovid's Metamorphoses.  Also some really enjoyable ones like Bram Stoker, Conan Doyle, Tolkien, Ray Bradbury & Lewis Carroll.  Also why is there hardly any poetry included?  So those are my criticisms, but there's an awful lot of interesting stuff on the list.

Date Posted: 7/1/2008 8:37 AM ET
Member Since: 4/21/2008
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I also wonder about some of their choices for certain authors. Other lists you see of great books to read list different options for authors like Jane Austen. I don't have the introduction handy but I know they do talk about why some famous works were left out. If memory serves me correctly it has to do with the works all tying together and perhaps they didn't think they could tie Beowulf in with the rest (shrugging my shoulders). Also, I think in they introduction the compilers do say they are not saying these are all of the great works but it is a starting place.



Date Posted: 7/1/2008 6:30 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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Yeah, it seemed more like "Great Classical works with some other modern stuff also included" since there was such a heavy concentration on classical literature (which is fine, but does exclude a lot of important stuff).  And I keep thinking of even classical literature that they didn't include, like besides missing Ovid, they're also missing Suetonius' 12 Caesars which I think is one of the best classical works, although perhaps not as important as Plato's Republic, but much more fun.

Date Posted: 7/1/2008 8:15 PM ET
Member Since: 4/21/2008
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I found this from Adler




As I have recently written elsewhere, the adjective "great" in the phrase "great books" derives its primary meaning from its use in the phrase "great ideas." There are many other criteria by which people make up diverse lists of the books they wish to honor by calling them "great books." But from the primary significance of the adjustive "great" as applied to the great ideas is derived the significance of that adjective as used in the phrase, "the great conversation."

In other words, we chose the great books on the basis of their relevance to at least 25 of the 102 great ideas. Many of the great books are relevant to a much larger number of the 102 great ideas, as many as 75 or more great ideas, a few to all 102 great ideas. In sharp contrast are the good books that are relevant to less than 10 or even as few as 4 or 5 great ideas. We placed such books in the lists of Recommended Readings to be found in the last section in each of the 102 chapters of the "Syntopicon." Here readers will find many twentieth-century female authors, black authors, and Latin American authors whose works we recommended but did not include in the second edition of the Great Books.