Recommended Reading: General List

Recommended Reading List

 

 Why read the Great Books?

There are different kinds of reading, just as there are different kinds of books. Some books have entertainment value. And some books, sometimes called The Great Books, have a deeper value. Reading the great books will immeasurably expand and develop one’s understanding of the world because they discuss and convey the Big Ideas that have shaped our civilization, and have changed the way humans live and see the world. The great books are an odyssey toward truth. Though we may not see it from our perspectives, we enter human history as late comers to the Great Discussion, and we benefit from the advances (and failures) of those who came before us. If we allow ourselves to live our lives simply for pleasure, power, or wealth, and ignore the Great Conversation, we rob ourselves of a wonderful part of the human experience. It is too easy today to form opinions about the biggest and most important questions of life from memes, article headlines, and late-night comedians. If we debate and form our opinions about the big questions, while ignoring the voices who came before us, we allow ourselves to enter the conversation immature, ill-informed, and half-blind. Listening to the voices of the past will cause us to see how we got here and will shed light on the issues of today. Endeavoring to read these books is not an easy journey, but there is hardly an activity more rewarding.

 

The purpose of reading through the works on this list is not to make one snobbish, or even cultivated. Nor is it to make one rich, as the knowledge contained in these books will not lead directly to monetary wealth. I offer this list to others hungry for truth, because I wish I someone would have explained such a list to me a decade and a half ago.

 

How to use this list:

 

1.     Don’t get discouraged if your journey through the Great Books is not perfect. We are all busy. None of us have an ideal situation of being able to focus solely on reading in a comfortable environment. We must do the best we can to be intellectually responsible and mature while balancing other responsibilities. That being said, I recommend reading through the books on the Summary Guidebooks list, while beginning to read through the books on the Great Conversation list. After the Great Conversation List, I have included some recommended books to help one better understand contemporary issues. These books will not be as clear to those who have not understood the Great Conversation, so it is better to read them afterwards. However, in our busy lives, reading them out of context is better than not reading at all.  

 

2.     Consider keeping a journal as you read and think. Write down what you consider to be the main point of a book, and a summary of the argument being made. Consider what other thinkers have thought of this person’s ideas, and write down your own thoughts. This will be a handy reference when reading other books.

 

3.     Consider the questions on the Concepts list as you read, and write down your thoughts.

 

4.     Consider listening to audio books. It is better to read, re-read, and take notes. But listening to audio-books on the commute to work is much better than not thinking through these books at all.

 

5.     Be realistic about the time and energy it will take to read through important books. If you are serious about learning, then dedicate time to learning. Realize you must spend a couple of evenings each week away from TV, Youtube, Facebook, X-box, etc. (It’s a great trade-off)

 

6.     Realize environment matters. If you are able, find a well-lit, comfortable, and quiet place to contemplate these books. Thinking is a mental exercise that requires rest and fuel. (Even still, reading uncomfortably is better than not reading at all.)

 

7.     If you are not wealthy, consider finding inexpensive ways to access these books. Many of these books can be found secondhand on Thriftbooks.com.

 

8.     There are other books which could have been included on this list. To keep the list achievable, they were excluded. Once you have a functional understanding of the books on this list, by all means, add more books!

 

 

Concepts to Consider While Reading

The books on this list discuss these fundamental questions. As you seek to understand how various thinkers have answered these questions, slowly form your own thorough understanding.

 

What is the Nature of the Cosmos?

How do we learn truth about the Cosmos?

What is Good?

Does Good exist?

What is the Nature of Humans?

What are Human Rights?

-Why do people have rights?

-What rights do people have?

-Do these rights extend universally to all humans? Why?

Are all humans equal? In what way are they equal?

What is Justice?

What kind of state/society should we have?

What are the traditional reasons for believing God exists?

What are the traditional reasons for not believing God exists?

What implications for human existence would the existence or non-existence of God have?

What is Beauty?

What is Art?

Why is the World Comprehensible?

What should a society teach its children?

What connections and responsibilities do living members of a society have toward past and future generations?

What is a Country? A Nation?

Is it ever right to go to war?

What are cultural institutions? What value is there in these institutions?

 

(Once you form a solid understanding of these concepts and are able to answer these questions well, then work your understanding out to today’s issues. For example: ”Human beings have rights, because x”. “Human beings have the right to privacy because of x.” ” “How should the right to privacy affect the internet culture, corporate advertising, law, etc?”)

 

The Reading List

 

Summary Guidebooks

How to Read a Book, Mortimer Adler

The History of the Ancient World, Susan Wise Bauer

The History of the Medieval World, Susan Wise Bauer

The History of the Renaissance World, Susan Wise Bauer

A Concise History of the Crusades, Thomas Madden

A History of Philosophy, Frederick Copleston (any volume you can find is helpful)

The Beginnings of Western Science, David Lindberg

Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister McGrath

Christianity’s Dangerous Idea: The Protestant Revolution--A History from the Sixteenth Century to the Twenty-First, Alister McGrath

Fundamentalism and American Culture, George Marsden

Bulfinch's Mythology, Thomas Bulfinch

Socratic Logic, Peter Kreeft,

Discarded Image, CS Lewis

Philosophy of Mind: A Beginner’s Guides, Ed Feser

 

 

The Great Conversation

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Homer,

-The Iliad

-The Odyssey

 

Plato,

-The Republic           -Crito           -Apology           -Meno

-The Statesman          -Theaetetus          -Phaedo          -Symposium         

-Philebus          -Laws           -Gorgias           -The Sophist

-Timaeus

 

Aristotle,

-Metaphysics           -Ethics          -Politics

-Rhetoric          -Poetics          -Categories          -On the Soul

-Physics

Aeschylus, Agamemnon

Sophocles,

-Oedipus Rex          -Ajax

Euripides, The Bacchantes

The Old Testament

Hippocrates (460-370 BC), The Oath

Thucydides (460 BC- 400 BC), The History of the Peloponnesian War
Herodotus, The Histories (440 BC)

Euclid, Elements (circa 300 BC)

Lucretius, On the Nature of Things (99 BC-55 BC)

Julius Caesar, The Conquest of Gaul (circa 58-49 BC)  

Cicero, The Republic (circa 54 BC)

Virgil, The Aeneid (circa 19 BC)

The New Testament

Tacitus (circa AD 56- c120),

            -The Annals

            -The Histories

Ptolemy, The Almagest (circa AD 100- c170)

Plutarch (AD 46- AD 120), The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans: Alexander, Caesar

St. Augustine,

-On Christian Doctrine (397 AD)

-Confessions (398 AD)

-The City of God (426 AD)

Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the British People (circa AD 731)

Marcus Aurelius, Meditations (circa pre AD 850)

Asser (died circa 909), Alfred the Great

Beowulf (circa AD 975-1025)

St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica (AD 1263-1274)

 [Part I-II, QQ 90-97] [Part I, QQ 16-17, 84-88] [Part I, QQ 75-76, 78-79] [Part I, QQ 1-13] [Part I-II, QQ 1-5] [Part I, QQ 65-74] [Part I, QQ 90-102] [Part II-II, QQ 1-7]

Dante, The Divine Comedy (circa AD 1308- c.1320)

-Inferno

-Purgatory

-Paradise

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales (AD 1392)

Thomas More, Utopia (AD 1516)

Erasmus, In Praise of Folly (AD 1511)

Martin Luther, 95 Thesis (AD 1517)

Machiavelli, The Prince (circa AD 1532)

Themes: Politics

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (AD 1536)
Montaigne (AD 1533-1592), Essays [Of Custom, and That We Should Not Easily Change a
Law Received; Of Pedantry; Of the Education of Children; That It Is Folly to Measure
Truth and Error by Our Own Capacity; That the Relish of Good and
Evil Depends in a Great Measure upon the Opinion We Have of Them

Themes: Conservatism, Politics

Stephen Hawking, On the Shoulders of Giants

-Nicolaus Copernicus, On the Revolution of the Heavenly Spheres (AD 1543)

-Galileo Galilei, Dialogues Concerning the Two New Sciences (AD 1639)

-Johanes Kepler, Harmony of the World, Book Five (AD 1619)

-Sir Isaac Newton, Principia (AD 1687)

Francis Bacon, Novum Organum (AD 1620)
 

William Shakespeare, Macbeth (AD 1623)

  -Themes: Fate (wyrd), Evil, Free Will

-Hamlet (circa AD 1600)

-Julius Caesar

-Antony and Cleopatra

-The Tragedy of King Richard II,

-King Henry IV,

-The Life of King Henry V

René Descartes,

-Meditations on the First Philosophy (AD 1641)

-Discourse on Method

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan (AD 1651)

John Milton,

Areopagitica (circa AD 1644)

-Themes: Freedom of speech

-Paradise Lost (AD 1667)

Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics (AD 1677)

John Bunyan, Pilgrim’s Progress (AD 1678)

John Locke,

-An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (AD 1689)
-Second Treatise Concerning Civil Government (AD 1689)

-A Letter Concerning Toleration (AD 1689)

Christiaan Huygens, Treatise on Light (AD 1690)

George Berkeley, The Principles of Human Knowledge (1710)

Bernard Mandeville, The Fable of the Bees (AD 1714)

Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws (AD 1748)

David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (AD 1748)

Jean-Jacques Rousseau,

-A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (AD 1755)

-The Social Contract (AD 1762)

-Discourse on Political Economy

Voltaire, Candide (AD 1759)

Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations (AD 1776)

Thomas Jefferson,

-Notes on the State of Virginia (AD 1785)

-Statute of Religious Liberty (AD 1779)

Thomas Paine,

-Common Sense (AD 1776)

-The Rights of Man (AD 1791)

John Adams, The Adams-Jefferson Letters, (AD 1777-1826)

The Declaration of Independence (AD 1776)

James Madison/John Jay, The Federalist Papers (AD 1787-1788)

Immanuel Kant,

-Critique of Pure Reason (AD 1781)

-Answering the Question: What is Enlightenment? (AD 1784)

-Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysic of Morals (AD 1785)

-Critique of Practical Reason (AD 1788)
-Critique of Judgment (AD 1790)

The Constitution of the United States (AD 1787-1789)

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (AD 1790)

Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography (AD 1791)

Mary Wollstonecraft, The Vindication of the Rights of Women (AD 1792)

Samuel Taylor Coleridge,

-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (AD 1798)

-Biographia Literaria (AD 1817)

Charles Lyell, The Principles of Geology (AD 1830)

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America: Volume II (AD 1835)

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel,

Philosophy of History (AD 1822-1830)

Charles Dickens,

-Oliver Twist (AD 1838)

-A Christmas Carol (AD 1843)
Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling (AD 1843)

            Christian Existentialism

Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave (AD 1845)

Karl Marx/Engles, Manifesto of the Communist Party (AD 1848)

Herman Melville, Moby Dick (AD 1851)
Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species (AD 1859)

John Stuart Mill,

-On Liberty (AD 1859)

-Considerations on Representative Government (AD 1861)

-Themes: Freedom of thought, Freedom of speech

- Utilitarianism (AD 1863)

-The Subjection of Women (AD 1869)

Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov (AD 1879)
Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (AD 1884)

Stephen Crane,

- The Red Badge of Courage (AD 1895)

William James,

                The Principles of Psychology (AD 1890)

               Varieties of Religious Experience (AD 1902)

Henri Poincaré, Science and Hypothesis [Part I – II] (AD 1902)

Booker T. Washington, Up From Slavery (AD 1901)

Frederick Nietzsche,

-Beyond Good and Evil (AD 1886)
-Ecce Home (AD 1908)

Max Weber, The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (AD 1905)

Sigmund Freud,

-The Origin and Development of Psychoanalysis (AD 1910)

-Civilization and Its Discontents (AD 1930)

T.S. Eliot,

-The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (AD 1915)

-The Waste Land (AD 1922)

Albert Einstein,

-Relativity: The Special and General Theory (AD 1916)

Walter Rauschenbusch, A Theology for the Social Gospel (AD 1917)

            Liberal Christianity

Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (AD 1925)
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (AD 1925)

G.K. Chesterton,

-Orthodoxy (AD 1908)

-The Everlasting Man (AD 1925)

Virginia Woolf,

-A Room of One’s Own (AD 1929)

                Modernism

Karl Barth, The Word of God and the Word of Man [I - IV] (AD 1935)

John Dewey, Experience and Education (AD 1938)

CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man (AD 1943)

Jean-Paul Sartre,

            -On Being and Nothingness (AD 1943)

            -No Exit (AD 1944)

            -Existentialism and Humanism (AD 1946)

 

Erwin Schrodinger, What is Life? (AD 1944)

George Orwell,

- Animal Farm (AD 1945)

-1984 (AD 1949)

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (AD 1948)

Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy (AD 1962)

Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology (AD 1963)
James Watson, The Double Helix (AD 1968)

John Rawls, A Theory of Justice (AD 1971)

                Themes: Political Theory,

Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (AD 1976)

Stephen J Gould, The Mis-measure of a Man (AD 1981)

Stephen Hawking,

                -A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes (AD 1988)

-The Universe in a Nutshell (AD 2001)

 

 

Post-Modernism

(Have a functional understanding of Nietzsche, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir)

Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality

Derrida, Grammatology

 

-Explaining Post-Modernism

Pauline Marie Rosenau, Post-Modernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions

Simon Glendinning, Derrida: A Very Short Introduction

 

-Contra Post-Modernism

Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds, and Firebrands

 

Christian Apologetics

Entry Level:

Craig Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible?

Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ

Gary Habermas/Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus

Edward Feser, Aquinas: A Beginner’s Guide

Alister McGrath, Intellectuals Don’t Need God: And Other Modern Myths

John Lennox, Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Nancy Pearcy, Saving Leonardo (A conservative Christian commentary on culture)

Holly Ordway, Apologetics and the Christian Imagination: An Integrated Approach to Defending the Faith

William Lane Craig’s Youtube lectures, Defenders Class, is worth watching.

 

 

Intensive:

Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels

William L Craig, Reasonable Faith

N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God

Alister McGrath, Darwinism and the Divine

C.S. Lewis, Miracles

Bruce Metzger, The New Testament: Its Background, Growth, & Content

 

 

Atheism

(First read The Gospels, St. Augustin, Feser’s Aquinas, and Nietzsche)

Bertrand Russell, Why I am not a Christian

Michael Martin, The Case Against Christianity

Stephen Hawking, The Grand Design

Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion

Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Sam Harris, Free Will

Sam Harris, The Moral Landscape

Lawrence Krauss, A Universe From Nothing

Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

 

Additional World Thought

Tao Te Ching, Lao-Tzu

The Analects of Confucius

The Bhagavad Gita 

 

Modern Politics and Political Theory

(First read Plato’s Republic, Aristotle’s Politics, Jefferson, Paine, Burke)

 

Henry Kissinger, Diplomacy

Samantha Power, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide

Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope

Hillary Clinton, It Takes a Village

Fareed Zakaria, The Future of Freedom

Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent

Daniel Oppenheimer, Exit Right

Dick Cheney, Exceptional

Peter Hitchens, The Abolition of Britain

Roger Scruton, The Meaning of Conservatism

Roger Scruton, How to be a Conservative

Michael Sandel, Liberalism and the Limits of Justice

Robert George, In Defense of Natural Law

George Bush and Brent Scowcroft, A World Transformed

Ronald Reagan, An American Life

 

Geopolitics

The Next Hundred Years, George Friedman

The Next Decade, George Friedman

The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman

The Post-American World, Fareed Zakaria

Flashpoints, George Friedman

 

Islam and the West

The Qur’an

Karen Armstrong, Islam

Tariq Ramadan, Islam, the West and the Challenges of Modernity

Sam Harris and Maajid Nawaz, Islam and the Future of Tolerance: A Dialogue

Nabeel Qureshi, Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward

Amin Maalouf: The Crusades Through Arab Eyes

Raphael Patai, The Arab Mind

 

Economics

*Know something about past thinking on the economy and their successes and failures. This puts more recent thinking, successes, and failures into context.

 

J.M. Keynes, The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money

Thomas Sowell, Basic Economics

Milton Friedman, Capitalism and Freedom

F.A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom

Joseph Stiglitz, Making Globalization Work

Joseph Stiglitz, The Roaring Nineties

Alan Greenspan, The Age of Turbulence

Alexander Hamilton, Report on the Subject of Manufactures

 

Feminism

(First Read Virginia Woolf and Mary Wollstonecraft)

Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex

Betty Friedman, The Feminine Mystique

Gloria Steinem, Moving Beyond Words

Margaret Mead, Male and Female

Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa

Bell Hooks, Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations

Allan Johnson, The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy

 

-Dissenting Feminists

Christina Hoff Sommers, The War Against Boys

Camille Paglia, Sex, Art, and American Culture

 

-Contra Feminism:

Suzanne Venker and Phyliss Schlafly, The Flipside of Feminism

 

LBTQ Theory  

(This movement depends on the Post-Modern movement, especially Sartre, Foucault, Simone de Beauvoir)

Judith Butler, Gender Trouble

God and the Gay Christian, Matthew Vines

 

Abortion

(This topic, for many, is intimately connected to feminist works listed elsewhere. For many others, it’s connected to Christian Scripture. These aspects should be kept in mind when considering people’s views on the subject.)

 

Historical:

James C. Mohr, Abortion in America: The Origins and Evolution of National Policy

 

Pro-Life:

Robert George, Embryo: A Defense of Human Life

Dave Sterrett, Aborting Aristotle: Examining the Fatal Fallacies in the Abortion Debate

 

Pro-Choice:

Kate Greasley, Arguments about Abortion: Personhood, Morality, and Law

Peter Singer, Ethics in the Real World

Willie Parker, Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice

Leslie Reagan, When Abortion Was a Crime: Women, Medicine, and Law in the United States, 1867-1973

 

Supplemental Poetry, Literature, and Play

 

Euripides,

-Medea

-Hippolytus

-Trojan Women

 

The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology (Oxford World Classics)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Alfred Lord Tennyson

John Donne

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Walt Whitman

William Blake

William Butler Yeates

Emily Dickenson

TS Eliot

                -Transitionary Modernism

Ezra Pound

Philip Larkin

William Shakespeare, Othello, King Lear, Coriolanus

Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird (AD 1960)
 

 

Additional Science and Mathematics

 

Archimedes, Measurement of a Circle (circa 250 BC)

Rene Descartes, Geometry (AD 1637)

Blaise Pascal (AD 1623-1662)

-Treatise on the Arithmetical Triangle
-On Geometrical Demonstration

Antoine Lavoisier, Elementary Treatise on Chemistry (AD 1789)

Michael Faraday, Experimental Researches in Electricity (AD 1839)

James Clerk Maxwell, A Dynamical Theory of the Electromagnetic Field (AD 1865)

Max Planck, Scientific Autobiography (AD 1949)

Roger Penrose, The Road to Reality (AD 2004)