Ten Years of Reading in Great Books of the Western World

Ten Years of Reading in Great Books of the Western World

Mortimer Adler, along with Encyclopædia Britannica, put out a series of books called the Great Books of the Western World. While you’re favorite classic may be missing, it’s still an impressive set of books. It ranges from Homer to William James. That’s c. 700 BC to 1900. I’m sure that other books after 1900 could qualify for “classic” status but I think the philosophy behind the series was to make them as cheap as possibly for the average person to invest in. That means the book had to be in the public domain. That also means that the translations of the original text into English also had to be in the public domain. As you get deeper & deeper (& deeper) into these classics, it might be worth it to look at different translations. I find a lot of them were done in the Victorian era which means that a lot of the language & subject matter of the books might be bowdlerized according to Victorian Era sensibilities, which as you well may know were very prudish. Anyway, the list & the original set of books are a fantastic place to start.

Adler & his crew created a reading list that would take approximately 10 years to get through (more if you take copious notes like me). Anyway, it’s a great way to get a variety across time, across different subjects & across different countries. I recommend it highly – obviously since this my hobby.

P.S. My family & I have moved from the United States to Great Britain. Sadly, the complete series of books didn’t make the trip & are sitting in my parents’ attic. I am picking away at this here & there as I’ve been able to acquire the books from charity shops like Oxfam & such for £2 or £3 a piece.

 

First Year

  1. Plato: Apology, Crito
  2. Aristophanes: Clouds, Lysistrata
  3. Plato: Republic [Book I-II]
  4. Aristotle: Ethics [Book I]
  5. Aristotle: Politics [Book I]
  6. Plutarch: The Lives of the Noble Grecians & Romans [Lycurgus, Numa Pompilius, Lycurgus & Numa Compared, Alexander, Caesar]
  7. New Testament [The Gospel According to Saint Matthew, The Acts of the Apostles]
  8. St. Augustine: Confessions [Book I-VIII]
  9. Machiavelli: The Prince
  10. Rabelais: Gargantua & Pantagruel [Book I-II]
  11. Montaigne: Essays [Of Custom, & That We Should Not Easily Change a Law Received; Of Pedantry; Of the Education of Children; That It Is Folly to Measure Truth & Error by Our Own Capacity; Of Cannibals; That the Relish of Good & Evil Depends in a Great Measure upon the Opinion We Have of Them; Upon Some Verses of Virgil]
  12. Shakespeare: Hamlet
  13. Locke: Concerning Civil Government [Second Essay]
  14. Rousseau: The Social Contract [Book I-II]
  15. Gibbon: The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire [Ch. 15-16]
  16. The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States, The Federalist [Numbers 1-10, 15, 31, 47, 51, 68-71]
  17. Smith: The Wealth of Nations [Introduction – Book I, Ch. 9]
  18. Marx-Engels: Manifesto of the Communist Party

 

Second Year

  1. Homer: The Iliad
  2. Aeschylus: Agamemnon, Choephoroe, Eumenides
  3. Sophocles: Oedipus the King, Antigone
  4. Herodotus: The History [Book I-II]
  5. Plato: Meno
  6. Aristotle: Poetics
  7. Aristotle: Ethics [Book II; Book III Ch. 5-12; Book VI Ch.8-13]
  8. Nicomachus: Introduction to Arithmetic
  9. Lucretius: On the Nature of Things [Book I-IV]
  10. Marcus Aurelius: Meditations
  11. Hobbes: Leviathan [Part I]
  12. Milton: Areopagatica
  13. Pascal: Pensées [Numbers 72, 82-83, 100, 128, 131, 139, 142-143, 171, 194-195, 219, 229, 233-234, 242, 273, 277, 282, 289, 298, 303, 320, 323, 325, 330-331, 374, 385, 392, 395-397, 409, 412-413, 416, 418, 425, 430, 434-435, 463, 491, 525-531, 538, 543, 547, 553, 556, 564, 571, 586, 598, 607-610, 613, 619-620, 631, 640, 644,  673, 675, 684, 692-693, 737, 760, 768, 792-793]
  14. Pascal: Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle
  15. Swift: Gulliver’s Travels
  16. Rousseau: A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality
  17. Kant: Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals
  18. Mill: On Liberty

 

Third Year

  1. Aeschylus: Prometheus Bound
  2. Herodotus: The History [Book VII-IX]
  3. Thucydides: The History of the Peloponnesian War [Book I-II, V]
  4. Plato: Statesman
  5. Aristotle: On Interpretation [Ch. 1-10]
    1. On Interpretation
  6. Aristotle: Politics [Book III-V]
  7. Euclid: Elements [Book I]
  8. Tacitus: The Annals
  9. St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica [Part I-II, QQ 90-97]
  10. Chaucer: Troilus & Cressida
  11. Shakespeare: Macbeth
  12. Milton: Paradise Lost
  13. Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding [Book III, Ch. 1-3, 9-11]
  14. Kant: Science of Right
  15. Mill: Representative Government [Ch. 1-6]
    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2
    • Chapter 3
    • Chapter 4
    • Chapter 5
    • Chapter 6
  16. Lavoisier: Elements of Chemistry [Part I]
  17. Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov [Part I-II]
  18. Freud: The Origin & Development of Psychology

 

Fourth Year

  1. Euripides: Medea, Hippolytus, Trojan Women, The Bacchantes
    • Medea
    • Hippolytus
    • Trojan Women
    • The Bacchantes
  2. Plato: Republic [Book VI-VII]
    • Book VI
    • Book VII
  3. Plato: Theaetetus
  4. Aristotle: Physics [Book IV, Ch. 1-5, 10-14]
    • Book IV
  5. Aristotle: Metaphysics [Book I, Ch. 1-2; Book IV, Book VI, Ch. 1; Book XI, Ch. 1-4]
    • Book I
    • Book IV
    • Book VI
    • Book XI
  6. St. Augustine: Confessions [Book IX-XIII]
    • Book IX
    • Book X
    • Book XI
    • Book XII
    • Book XIII
  7. St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica [Part I, QQ 16-17, 84-88]
  8. Montaigne: Apology For Raimond de Sebonde
    • Apology For Raimond de Sebonde
  9. Galileo: Two New Sciences [Third Day, through Scholium of Theorem II]
  10. Bacon: Novum Organum [Preface, Book I]
  11. Descartes: Discourse on the Method
  12. Newton: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy [Prefaces, Definitions, Axioms, General Scholium]
  13. Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding [Book II]
  14. Hume: An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  15. Kant: Critique of Pure Reason [Prefaces, Introduction, Transcendental Aesthetic]
  16. Melville: Moby Dick
  17. Dostoevsky: The Brothers Karamazov [Part III-IV]
  18. James: Principles of Psychology [Ch. XV, XX]

 

Fifth Year

  1. Plato: Phaedo
  2. Aristotle: Categories
  3. Aristotle: On the Soul [Book II, Ch. 1-3; Book III]
  4. Hippocrates: The Oath; On Ancient Medicine; On Airs, Waters, & Places, The Book of Prognostics; Of the Epidemics; The Law; On the Sacred Disease
  5. Galen: On the Natural Faculties
  6. Virgil: The Aeneid
    • Book 1 – The Trojans Reach Carthage
    • Book 2 – Aeneas’s Narration – The Sack of Troy
    • Book 3 – Aeneas’s Narration Continued – His Travels
    • Book 4 – The Tragedy of Dido
    • Book 5 – The Funeral Games
    • Book 6 – The Visit to the Underworld
    • Book 7 – War in Latium
    • Book 8 – The Site of the Future Rome
    • Book 9 – Siege of the Trojan Camp
    • Book 10 – The Relief & Pitched Battle
    • Book 11 – Councils of War: Pitched Battle Again
    • Book 12 – Decision: the Death of Turnus
  7. Ptolomy: The Almagest [Book I, Ch. 1-8]
    Copernicus: Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres [Introduction – Book I, Ch. 11]
    Kepler: Epitome of Copernican Astronomy [Book IV, Part II, Ch. 1-2]
  8. Plotinus: Sixth Ennead
  9. St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica [Part I, QQ 75-76, 78-79]
  10. Dante: The Divine Comedy [Hell]
  11. Harvey: The Motion of the Heart & Blood
  12. Cervantes: Don Quixote [Part I]
  13. Spinoza: Ethics [Part II]
  14. Berkeley: The Principles of Human Knowledge
  15. Kant: Critique of Pure Reason [Transcendental Analytic]
  16. Darwin: The Origin of the Species [Introduction – Ch. 6, Ch. 15]
  17. Tolstoy: War & Peace [Book I-VIII]
  18. James: Principles of Psychology [Ch. XXVIII]

 

Sixth Year

  1. Old Testament [Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy]
  2. Homer: The Odyssey
  3. Plato: Laws [Book X]
    • Book X
  4. Aristotle: Metaphysics [Book XII]
    • Metaphysics
  5. Tacitus: The Histories
  6. Plotinus: Fifth Ennead
  7. St. Augustine: The City of God [XV-XVIII]
  8. St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica [Part I, QQ 1-13]
  9. Dante: The Divine Comedy [Purgatory]
  10. Shakespeare: Comedy of Errors, The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It, Twelfth Night
    • Comedy of Errors
      • Act I
      • Act II
      • Act III
      • Act IV
      • Act V
      • Summary
    • The Taming of the Shrew
      • Act I
      • Act II
      • Act III
      • aAct IV
      • Act V
      • Summary
    • As You Like It
      • Act I
      • Act II
      • Act III
      • Act IV
      • Act V
      • Summary
    • Twelfth Night
      • Act I
      • Act II
      • Act III
      • Act IV
      • Act V
      • Summary
  11. Spinoza: Ethics [Part I]
  12. Milton: Samson Agonistes
  13. Pascal: The Provincial Letters
  14. Locke: An Essay Concerning Human Understanding [Book IV]
  15. Gibbon: The Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire [Ch. 1-5, General Observations on the Fall of the Roman Empire in the West]
  16. Kant: Critique of Pure Reason [Transcendental Dialectic]
  17. Hegel: Philosophy of History [Introduction]
  18. Tolstoy: War & Peace [Book IX-XV, Epilogues]

 

Seventh Year

  1. Old Testament [Job, Isaiah, Amos]
    • Job
    • Isaiah
    • Amos
  2. Plato: Symposium
  3. Plato: Philebus
  4. Aristotle: Ethics [Book VIII-X]
  5. Archimedes: Measurement of a Circle, The Equilibrium of Planes [Book I], The Sand-Reckoner, On Floating Bodies [Book I]
  6. Epictetus: Discourses
  7. Plotinus: First Ennead
  8. St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica [Part I-II, QQ 1-5]
  9. Dante: The Divine Comedy [Paradise]
    • Canto 1-3
    • Canto 4-6
    • Canto 7-9
    • Canto 10-12
    • Canto 13-15
    • Canto 16-18
    • Canto 19-21
    • Canto 22-24
    • Canto 25-27
    • Canto 28-30
    • Canto 31-33
  10. Rabelais: Gargantua & Pantagruel [Book III-IV]
  11. Shakespeare: Julius Caesar, Antony & Cleopatra, Coriolanus
    • Julius Caesar
      • Act I
      • Act II
      • Act III
      • Act IV
      • Act V
      • Summary
    • Antony & Cleopatra
      • Act I
      • Act II
      • Act III
      • Act IV
      • Act V
      • Summary
    • Coriolanus
      • Act I
      • Act II
      • Act III
      • Act IV
      • Act V
      • Summary
  12. Galileo: Two New Sciences [First Day]
  13. Spinoza: Ethics [Part IV-V]
  14. Newton: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy [Book III, Rules], Optics [Book I, Part I; Book III, Queries]
  15. Huygens: Treatise on Light
  16. Kant: Critique of Practical Reason
  17. Kant: Critique of Judgment [Critique of Aesthetic Judgment]
  18. Mill: Utilitarianism

 

Eighth Year

  1. Aristophanes: Thesmophoriazusae, Ecclesiazusae, Plutus
    • Thesmophoriazusae
    • Ecclesiazusae
    • Plutus
  2. Plato: Gorgias
  3. Aristotle: Ethics [Book V]
  4. Aristotle: Rhetoric [Book I, Ch. 1 – Book II, Ch. 1; Book II, Ch. 20 – Book II, Ch. 1; Book III, Ch. 13-19]
  5. St. Augustine: On Christian Doctrine
  6. Hobbes: Leviathan [Part II]
  7. Shakespeare: Othello, King Lear
    • Othello
      • Act I
      • Act II
      • Act III
      • Act IV
      • Act V
      • Summary
    • King Lear
      • Act I
      • Act II
      • Act III
      • Act IV
      • Act V
      • Summary
  8. Bacon: Advancement of Learning [Book I, Ch. 1 – Book II, Ch. 11]
  9. Descartes: Meditations of the First Philosophy
  10. Spinoza: Ethics [Part III]
  11. Locke: A Letter Concerning Toleration
  12. Sterne: Tristram Shandy
  13. Rousseau: A Discourse on Political Economy
  14. Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nation [Book II]
  15. Boswell: The Life of Samuel Johnson
  16. Marx: Capital [Prefaces, Part I-II]
  17. Goethe: Faust [Part I]
  18. James: Principles of Psychology [Ch. VIII-X]
    • Chapter VIII
    • Chapter IX
    • Chapter X

 

Ninth Year

  1. Plato: The Sophist
  2. Thucydides: The History of the Peloponnesian War [Book VII-VIII]
  3. Aristotle: Politics [Books VII-VIII]
  4. Apollonius: On Conic Sections [Book I, Prop. 1-15; Books III, Prop. 42-55]
  5. New Testament [The Gospel According to Saint John, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, The First Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians]
  6. St. Augustine: The City of God [Book V, XIX]
  7. St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica [Part II-II, QQ 1-7]
  8. Gilbert: On the Loadstone
  9. Descartes: Rules for the Direction of the Mind
  10. Descartes: Geometry
  11. Pascal: The Great Experiment Concerning the Equilibrium of Fluids, On Geometrical Demonstration
  12. Fielding: Tom Jones
  13. Montesquieu: The Spirit of Laws [Book I-V, VIII, XI-XII]
  14. Fourier: Analytical Theory of Heat [Preliminary Discourse, Ch. 1-2]
  15. Faraday: Experimental Researches in Electricity [Series I-II], A Speculation Touching Electric Conduction & the Nature of Matter
  16. Hegel: Philosophy of Right [Part III]
  17. Marx: Capital [Part III-IV]
  18. Freud: Civilization & Its Discontents

 

Tenth Year

  1. Sophocles: Ajax, Electra
    • Ajax
    • Electra
  2. Plato: Timaeus
  3. Aristotle: On the Parts of Animals [Book I, Ch. 1 – Book II, Ch. 1], On the Generation of Animals [Book I, Ch. 1, 17-18, 20-23]
  4. Lucretius: On the Nature of Things [Book V-VI]
  5. Virgil: The Eclogues, The Georgics
  6. St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica [Part I, QQ 65-74]
  7. St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica [Part I, QQ 90-102]
  8. Chaucer: Canterbury Tales [Prologue, Knight’s Tale, Miller’s Prologue and Tale, Reeve’s Prologue and Tale, Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale, Friar’s Prologue and Tale, Summoner’s Prologue and Tale, Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale]
  9. Shakespeare: The Tragedy of King Richard II, The First Part of King Henry IV, The Second of King Henry IV, The Life of King Henry V]
  10. Harvey: On the Generation of Animals [Introduction – Exercise 62]
  11. Cervantes: Don Quixote [Part II]
  12. Kant: Critique of Judgment [Critique of Teleological Judgment]
  13. Boswell: The Life of Samuel Johnson
  14. Goethe: Faust [Part II]
  15. Darwin: The Descent of Man [Part I; Part III, Ch. 21]
  16. Marx: Capital [Part VII-VIII]
  17. James: Principles of Psychology [Ch. I, V-VII]
  18. Freud: A General Introduction to Psycho-Analysis

 


Additional Texts from the 2nd Edition

 

Adler & co. issued a 2nd edition of the books, dropping a few books out of the original series & putting some new ones in. I consider these to be extra credit & fully worthy of my attention. I hope you feel the same.

First Year

  1. Tocqueville – Democracy in America
  2. Ibsen – The Master Builder
    1. Act 1
    2. Act 2
    3. Act 3
  3. Schrödinger – What is Life?

 

Second Year

  1. Voltaire – Candide
    1. Ch. 1-5
    2. Ch. 6-10
    3. Ch. 11-15
    4. Ch. 16-20
    5. Ch. 21-25
    6. Ch. 26-30
  2. Nietzsche – Beyond Good and Evil
    1. Ch. 1 – On the Prejudices of Philosophers
    2. Ch. 2 – The Free Spirit
    3. Ch. 3 – What is Religious?
    4. Ch. 4 – Apophthegms and Interludes
    5. Ch. 5 – The Natural History of Morals
    6. Ch. 6 – We Scholars
    7. Ch. 7 – Our Virtues
    8. Ch. 8 – Peoples and Fatherlands
    9. Ch. 9 – What is Noble?
  3. Whitehead – Science and the Modern World
    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2
    • Chapter 3
    • Chapter 4
    • Chapter 5
    • Chapter 6

 

Third Year

  1. Twain – Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  2. Lévi-Strauss – Structural Anthropology (Selections)
  3. Poincaré – Science and Hypothesis
    • Part 1
    • Part 2

 

Fourth Year

  1. Calvin – Institutes of the Christian Religion (Book 3)
    • Book 3 – On The Manner Of Receiving The Grace Of Christ, The Benefits Which We Derive From It, And The Effects Which Follow It.
      • Argument.
      • Chapter 1 – What Is Declared Concerning Christ Rendered Profitable To Us By The Secret Operation Of The Spirit.
      • Chapter 2 – Faith Defined, And Its Properties Described.
      • Chapter 3 – On Repentance.
      • Chapter 4 – The Sophistry And Jargon Of The Schools Concerning Repentance, Very Remote From The Purity Of The Gospel. On Confession And Satisfaction.
      • Chapter 5 – Indulgences And Purgatory. The Supplements To Their Doctrine Of Satisfactions.
      • Chapter 6 – The Life Of A Christian. Scriptural Arguments And Exhortations To It.
      • Chapter 7 – Summary Of The Christian Life. Self-Denial.
      • Chapter 8 – Bearing The Cross, Which Is A Branch Of Self-Denial.
      • Chapter 9 – Meditation On The Future Life.
      • Chapter 10 – The Right Use Of The Present Life And Its Supports.
      • Chapter 11 – Justification By Faith. The Name And Thing Defined.
      • Chapter 12 – A Consideration Of The Divine Tribunal, Necessary To A Serious Conviction Of Gratuitous Justification.
      • Chapter 13 – Two Things Necessary To Be Observed In Gratuitous Justification.
  2. Frazer – The Golden Bough (Selections)
  3. Heisenberg – Physics and Philosophy
    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2
    • Chapter 3
    • Chapter 4
    • Chapter 5
    • Chapter 6

 

Fifth Year

  1. Dewey – Experience and Education
  2. Waddington – The Nature of Life
  3. Orwell – Animal Farm
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10

 

Sixth Year

  1. Kierkegaard – Fear and Trembling
  2. Huizinga – The Waning of the Middle Ages
    • Chapter 1
    • Chapter 2
    • Chapter 3
    • Chapter 4
    • Chapter 5
    • Chapter 6
    • Chapter 7
    • Chapter 8
    • Chapter 9
    • Chapter 10
  3. Shaw – Saint Joan
    1. Scene 1
    2. Scene 2
    3. Scene 3
    4. Scene 4
    5. Scene 5
    6. Scene 6

 

Seventh Year

  1. Weber – Essays in Sociology (Part 3)
  2. Proust – Swann in Love
  3. Brecht – Mother Courage and Her Children

 

Eighth Year

  1. Barth – The Word of God and the Word of Man
    • Part 1
    • Part 2
    • Part 3
    • Part 4
  2. Bergson – An Introduction to Metaphysics
  3. Hardy – A Mathematician’s Apology
  4. Kafka – The Metamorphosis

 

Ninth Year

  • Molière – Tartuffe
    • Act 1
    • Act 2
    • Act 3
    • Act 4
    • Act 5
  • Austen – Emma
    • Chapter 1-5
    • Chapter 6-10
    • Chapter 11-15
    • Chapter 16-20
    • Chapter 21-25
    • Chapter 26-30
    • Chapter 31-35
    • Chapter 36-40
    • Chapter 41-45
    • Chapter 46-50
    • Chapter 51-55
  • Planck – Scientific Autobiography
  • Veblen – The Theory of the Leisure Class
  • Joyce – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  • Hemingway – The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber

 

Tenth Year

  1. Erasmus – In Praise of Folly
  2. Huizinga – The Waning of the Middle Ages
    • Chapter 11
    • Chapter 12
    • Chapter 13
    • Chapter 14
    • Chapter 15
    • Chapter 16
    • Chapter 17
    • Chapter 18
    • Chapter 19
    • Chapter 20
    • Chapter 21
    • Chapter 22
    • Chapter 23
  3. Eddington – The Expanding Universe
  4. Eliot – The Waste Land