What are the Great Books?

What are the Great Books? June 9, 2014

Lots of books are good, but few books are great, and a mark of great books is that they can be read over and over by the same person with every growing appreciation and learning. A friend of ours repeats the reading of a great book for every two new books she reads, and I can’t say I’m even close to her approach — but I do think it is wise. The truly great books for me include Homer’s Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, Augustine’s Confessions, and Dante’s The Divine Comedy.

What are your “truly great books”?

My friends, Steve Wilkens and Don Thorsen, both at Azusa Pacific University, are editors of a faculty-created symposium on great books, not to be confused with the Great Books of the Western World imaged on this post, that influenced the university: Twelve Great Books that Changed the University. Here is their list, a list that represents the span of disciplines at a university, and a book that helps us think about the deep meanings of life itself — so broaden the books to your own field and say, “What is a truly great book in my discipline/field?” Their approach to the word “great” means “influential” over time for the university classroom.

Furthermore, each chp in this book summarizes the book, summarizes its contribution to its own field or discipline in the university, and its significance for other disciplines and most especially for the Christian faith and life. Very helpful chps, that’s for sure.

1. Plato’s The Republic, by Rico Vitz.
2. Augustine’s Confessions, by Don Thorsen
3. Shakespeare’s Hamlet, by David D. Esselstrom
4. Cervantes’ Don Quixote, by Andrea Ivanov-Craig.
5. Francis Bacon’s Novum Organum, by Leslie Wickman
6. John Locke’s The Second Treatise of Government, by Jennifer E. Walsh
7. Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, by Roger B. Conover
8. Edward Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Bradley Rainbow Hale
9. Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, by Joshua Morris
10. Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams, by Theresa Clement Tisdale
11. Max Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, by Nori Lowe Henk
12. John Dewey’s Democracy and Education, by Anita Fitzgerald Henck

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