Great books

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Great Books)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Great books are written publications that have been accepted by modern day scholars as the essential foundation of literature in Western culture. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines them as certain classics of literature, philosophy, history, and science that are believed to contain the basic ideas of western culture. Over the years it has become customary for institutes of higher education to incorporate these readings into their curriculum. The reason for the study of these classical texts is to both allow and encourage students to become familiar with some of the most revered authors throughout history. This helps to ensure that students and newly found scholars are equipped with a plethora of resources to utilize throughout their studies.

The great books are used in conjunction with literary classes in higher education courses, but are often taught in separate subcategories designed for the tone of the intended learning environment. Mortimer Adler used 500 books, out of the list of 517 books within the conglomeration of mixed titles, to teach his pupils expanded literary knowledge past that of their current generation. While Adler stuck to the original list, with a few differences to some novels, many chose to omit many of these titles in order to suit an undergraduate class semester by allowing for only 130 books, such as Torrey Honors Institute.[1] For more thorough literary criticisms, people such as Harold Bloom have comprised lists of volumes including up to 2400 books of differing natures.[2]


The great books are those that tradition, and various institutions and authorities, have regarded as constituting or best expressing the foundations of Western culture (the Western canon is a similar but broader designation); derivatively the term also refers to a curriculum or method of education based around a list of such books. Mortimer Adler lists three criteria for including a book on the list:

  • the book has contemporary significance; that is, it has relevance to the problems and issues of our times;
  • the book is inexhaustible; it can be read again and again with benefit; "This is an exacting criterion, an ideal that is fully attained by only a small number of the 511 works that we selected. It is approximated in varying degrees by the rest."[3]
  • the book is relevant to a large number of the great ideas and great issues that have occupied the minds of thinking individuals for the last 25 centuries.[4]

Circular conceptualization[edit]

Circular reasoning may not be a desirable practice in demonstrations, but circular conceptualization sometimes may be.[citation needed]

The great works are nominated by the acclamations of historical choice, and the great issues are those issues found in those works. Parties interested in those issues in turn seek out comment and compare outside opinion in response along the lines of the issues, the discussion of the content of which finally serves as the criteria for re-judging the great works from time to time and including new ones.[citation needed]

The University of Chicago Great Books group called this the Great Conversation. This began in the ninth century BC with Homer, and some even extend this to the Bible. Robert Hutchins called "the goal towards which Western society moves" "the Civilization of the Dialogue"[5] and noted Western Civilization has one great conversation of this type, while Eastern Civilization has several.[citation needed]


The first words of Robert M. Hutchins' preface to the 1952 Great Books of the Western World series declared:

Until lately the West has regarded it as self-evident that the road to education lay through great books. No man was educated unless he was acquainted with the masterpieces of his tradition. There never was very much doubt in anybody's mind about which the masterpieces were. They were the books that had endured and that the common voice of mankind called the finest creations, in writing, of the Western mind.[6]

Hutchins and his circle believed that textbooks, designed as stepping stones to reach the great understanding achieved by certain authors, were becoming a problem in replacing the great books by becoming the final steps of education in their place.[citation needed] Textbooks reduced the ability for learners to attain the full understanding of what the great authors were able to convey about the difficult topics they covered.[citation needed]

In America, Thomas Jefferson,[7] well known for his interest in higher education, frequently composed great books lists for his friends and correspondents, for example, for Peter Carr in 1785[8] and again in 1787.[9]

In 1909, Harvard University published a 51-volume Great Books series, titled the Harvard Classics. These volumes are now in the public domain.

Great Books of the Western World came about as the result of a discussion among American academics and educators, starting in the 1920s and 1930s and begun by Prof. John Erskine of Columbia University,[10] about how to improve the higher education system by returning it to the western liberal arts tradition of broad cross-disciplinary learning. These academics and educators included Robert Hutchins, Mortimer Adler, Stringfellow Barr, Scott Buchanan, Jacques Barzun, and Alexander Meiklejohn. The view among them was that the emphasis on narrow specialization in American colleges had harmed the quality of higher education by failing to expose students to the important products of Western civilization and thought, an emphasis contributing to the other motives, bearing concurrent results, specified in the above prefatory remarks to the set.

They were at odds both with much of the existing educational establishment and with contemporary educational theory, which caused educational theorists like Sidney Hook[11] and John Dewey (see pragmatism) to disagree with the premise that there was crossover in education.[citation needed]


In 1920, Professor Erskine taught the first course based on the "Great Books" program, titled "General Honors", at Columbia University, and helped mould its core curriculum.[12][13] The course, however, initially began to fail shortly after its introduction due to numerous disputes between senior faculty over the best way to conduct classes, as well as concerns about the rigour of the courses. This resulted in junior faculty, including Mark Van Doren and Mortimer Adler after 1923, teaching parts of the course. The course was discontinued in 1928, though later reinstated. Adler left for the University of Chicago in 1929, where he continued his work on the theme, and along with the University president, Robert M. Hutchins, held an annual seminar of great books. In 1937, when Mark Van Doren redesigned the course, it was already being taught at St. John's College, Annapolis, in addition to the University of Chicago. This course was later named Humanities A for freshmen, and then subsequently evolved into Literature Humanities.[13] Survivors, however, include Columbia's Core Curriculum, the Common Core at Chicago, and the Core Curriculum at Boston University, each heavily focused on the "great books" of the Western canon.

Modern day university and college Great Books Programs are inspired by the Great Books movement that began in the United States during the 1920s. The aim of such programs is a return to the Western Liberal Arts tradition in education, as a correction to the extreme disciplinary specializations common within the academy. The essential component of such programs is a high degree of engagement with whole primary texts, the Great Books. The curricula of Great Books programs often follow a canon of texts considered more or less essential to a student's education, such as Plato's Republic, or Dante's Divine Comedy. Such programs often focus exclusively on Western culture. Their employment of primary texts dictates an interdisciplinary approach, as most of the Great Books do not fall neatly under the prerogative of a single contemporary academic discipline. Great Books programs often include designated discussion groups as well as lectures, and have small class sizes. In general students in such programs receive an abnormally high degree of attention from their professors, as part of the overall aim of fostering a community of learning.

There are only a few true "Great Books Programs" still in operation. These schools focus almost exclusively on the Great Books Curriculum throughout enrolment and do not offer classes analogous to those commonly offered at other colleges. The first, and most well known, of these schools is St. John's College in Annapolis and Santa Fe (program established in 1937);[14] it was followed by Shimer College in Chicago, the Integral Program[15] at Saint Mary's College of California (1955), Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California (est. 1971), Thomas More College of Liberal Arts in Merrimack, New Hampshire (est. 1978), and Magdalen College of the Liberal Arts in Warner, New Hampshire. More recent schools with this type of curriculum include New Saint Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho (est. 1994), Gutenberg College in Eugene, Oregon (est. 1994), Harrison Middleton University in Tempe, Arizona (est. 1998), Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming (est. 2005), and Imago Dei College in Oak Glen, California (est. 2010). Fordham University's Honors Program at Rose Hill incorporates the Great Books curriculum into a rigorous first four semesters in the program. Loyola University Chicago's Honors Program combines a Great Books curriculum with additional elective classes on subjects not covered in traditional Western thought over a rigorous four year program.[16] The University of Notre Dame's Program of Liberal Studies, established in 1950, is a highly regarded Great Books Program that operates as a separate institution within the College of Liberal Arts. Dharma Realm Buddhist University is the first Great Books school to offer curriculum combining Eastern and Western classics.[17]

Adler co-founded the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas in Chicago with Max Weismann to advance the Great Conversation found in the Great Books by providing Adler's guidance and resource materials through live and online seminars, educational and philosophical consultation, and access to the Center's library collection of books, essays, articles, journals and audio/video programs. Center programs are unique in that they do not replicate other existing programs either started or developed by Adler.[citation needed]


Over 100 institutions of higher learning in the United States, Canada, and Europe maintain some version of a Great Books Program as an option for students.[18] Among these are:

The Core Curriculum at Columbia University includes the oldest great books program in the United States, created by John Erskine.

United States





In contemporary scholarship, the Great Books curriculum was drawn into the popular debate about multiculturalism, traditional education, the "culture war," and the role of the intellectual in American life.

Many[who?] had issue with the lack of culture added to this list in both the first and second editions due to its lack of diversity in ethnic origin, as many Hispanic- and African-American documents were overlooked because they did not meet the ideals of drawing from the Great Ideas, of which the chosen texts had to meet a total of 25 at the least, to be considered as Great Books.

However, Great Books curriculum extends much further than the one series of books, and the Great Ideas were not really canonical; rather, the books were, the Great Ideas being invented as concept clusters to identify broad areas of common study down through the ages.[citation needed]

Much of this debate centered on reactions[whose?] to the publication of The Closing of the American Mind in 1987 by Allan Bloom.[66] In his book, Allan Bloom suggested that the shortcoming of teaching by the method of the Great books is that it focuses primarily on historical reading without allowing for the point of view of the reader in this day and age.

He argued that this limited the ability for our knowledge to grow, given that no perspective was given in regards to the advancement of civilization past the date of these books. But although the 1952 set ended with a work from 1932, the 1990 second edition had elements designed to meet those objections, such as the six 20th-century-selection volumes, as large, if not larger, than a typical book from the set.

One of the purposes of the set is to help a reader to fundamental mastery of idea topics, which while time-intensive and requiring study beyond a liberal-arts college degree, is apt to lead to the reader making their own decisions of how or whether modern works extend or transcend ideas understood by way of the intellectual traditions preceding those concept clusters.[citation needed]


The Great Books of the Western World is a hardcover 60-volume collection (originally 54 volumes) of 517 individual works on the Great Books list. A prominent feature of the collection is a two-volume Syntopicon, meaning "a collection of topics", that includes essays written by Mortimer Adler on 102 "great ideas." Following each essay is an extensive outline of the idea with page references to relevant passages throughout the collection. The collection was published by Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., which owns the copyright.

Shortly after Adler retired from the Great Books Foundation in 1989, he served as editor-in-chief for the 1990 edition of the Great Books of the Western World for Encyclopædia Britannica, which included more Hispanic and female authors and, for the first time, works by black authors.[67] During his tenure as president of the Foundation, Adler had resisted such additions.[68] Ultimately, he remarked:

We did not base our selections on an author's nationality, religion, politics, or field of study; nor on an author's race or gender. Great books were not chosen to make up quotas of any kind; there was no "affirmative action" in the process ... 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 [as main entries].[3]

[Robert Hutchins wrote in 1951,] "In the course of history ... new books have been written that have won their place in the list. Books once thought entitled to belong to it have been superseded; and this process of change will continue as long as men can think and write. It is the task of every generation to reassess the tradition in which it lives, to discard what it cannot use, and to bring into context with the distant and intermediate past the most recent contributions to the Great Conversation."[69]

Before and after the 1990 edition 20th-century-authors volumes were added, other additions to the Great Books main entries were published from 1953 to 2002 in the Great Ideas Today yearbook series volumes matching the styling of the set, like encyclopedia yearbooks. The first work from the modern era by a black author (some authors of the ancient world are of unknown race) chosen for these additions to the Great Books main entries was The Souls of Black Folk by W. E. B. Dubois (1903).

Reading lists[edit]

An example chronological list, compiled from How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler (1940), and How to Read a Book, 2nd ed. by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren (1972):

Ancient (before AD 500) :

  1. HomerIliad; Odyssey
  2. The Old Testament
  3. Aeschylus – Tragedies
  4. Sophocles – Tragedies
  5. HerodotusHistories
  6. Euripides – Tragedies
  7. ThucydidesHistory of the Peloponnesian War
  8. Hippocrates – Medical Writings
  9. Aristophanes – Comedies
  10. Plato – Dialogues
  11. Aristotle – Works
  12. Epicurus – "Letter to Herodotus"; "Letter to Menoecus"
  13. EuclidElements
  14. Archimedes – Works
  15. ApolloniusConics
  16. Cicero – Works (esp. Orations; On Friendship; On Old Age; Republic; Laws; Tusculan Disputations; Offices)
  17. LucretiusOn the Nature of Things
  18. Virgil – Works (esp. Aeneid)
  19. Horace – Works (esp. Odes and Epodes; The Art of Poetry)
  20. LivyHistory of Rome
  21. Ovid – Works (esp. Metamorphoses)
  22. QuintilianInstitutes of Oratory
  23. PlutarchParallel Lives; Moralia
  24. TacitusHistories; Annals; Agricola; Germania; Dialogus de oratoribus (Dialogue on Oratory)
  25. Nicomachus of GerasaIntroduction to Arithmetic
  26. EpictetusDiscourses; Enchiridion
  27. PtolemyAlmagest
  28. Lucian – Works (esp. The Way to Write History; The True History; The Sale of Creeds; Alexander the Oracle Monger; Charon; The Sale of Lives; The Fisherman; Dialogue of the Gods; Dialogues of the Sea-Gods; Dialogues of the Dead)
  29. Marcus AureliusMeditations
  30. GalenOn the Natural Faculties
  31. The New Testament
  32. PlotinusThe Enneads
  33. St. Augustine – "On the Teacher"; Confessions; City of God; On Christian Doctrine

Medieval (AD 500—1450) :

  1. The Volsungs Saga or Nibelungenlied
  2. The Song of Roland
  3. The Saga of Burnt Njál
  4. MaimonidesThe Guide for the Perplexed
  5. St. Thomas AquinasOf Being and Essence; Summa Contra Gentiles; Of the Governance of Rulers; Summa Theologica
  6. Dante AlighieriThe New Life (La Vita Nuova); "On Monarchy"; Divine Comedy
  7. Giovanni Boccaccio - The Decameron
  8. Geoffrey ChaucerTroilus and Criseyde; The Canterbury Tales
  9. Thomas à KempisThe Imitation of Christ

Modern (after AD 1450) :

  1. Leonardo da VinciNotebooks
  2. Niccolò MachiavelliThe Prince; Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy
  3. Desiderius ErasmusThe Praise of Folly; Colloquies
  4. Nicolaus CopernicusOn the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
  5. Thomas MoreUtopia
  6. Martin LutherTable Talk; Three Treatises
  7. François RabelaisGargantua and Pantagruel
  8. John CalvinInstitutes of the Christian Religion
  9. Michel de MontaigneEssays
  10. William GilbertOn the Lodestone and Magnetic Bodies
  11. Miguel de CervantesDon Quixote
  12. Edmund SpenserProthalamion; The Faerie Queene
  13. Francis BaconEssays; The Advancement of Learning; Novum Organum; New Atlantis
  14. William Shakespeare – Poetry and Plays
  15. Galileo GalileiStarry Messenger; Two New Sciences
  16. Johannes KeplerThe Epitome of Copernican Astronomy; Harmonices Mundi
  17. William HarveyOn the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals; On the Circulation of the Blood; Generation of Animals
  18. GrotiusThe Law of War and Peace
  19. Thomas HobbesLeviathan; Elements of Philosophy
  20. René DescartesRules for the Direction of the Mind; Discourse on the Method; Geometry; Meditations on First Philosophy; Principles of Philosophy; The Passions of the Soul
  21. Corneille – Tragedies (esp. The Cid, Cinna)
  22. John Milton – Works (esp. the minor poems; Areopagitica; Paradise Lost; Samson Agonistes)
  23. Molière – Comedies (esp. The Miser; The School for Wives; The Misanthrope; The Doctor in Spite of Himself; Tartuffe; The Tradesman Turned Gentleman; The Imaginary Invalid; The Affected Ladies)
  24. Blaise PascalThe Provincial Letters; Pensées; Scientific Treatises
  25. John Bunyan - The Pilgrim's Progress
  26. BoyleThe Sceptical Chymist
  27. Christiaan HuygensTreatise on Light
  28. Benedict de SpinozaPolitical Treatises; Ethics
  29. John LockeA Letter Concerning Toleration; Of Civil Government; An Essay Concerning Human Understanding; Some Thoughts Concerning Education
  30. Jean Baptiste Racine – Tragedies (esp. Andromache; Phaedra; Athalie (Athaliah))
  31. Isaac NewtonMathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy; Opticks
  32. Gottfried Wilhelm LeibnizDiscourse on Metaphysics; New Essays on Human Understanding; Monadology
  33. Daniel DefoeRobinson Crusoe; Moll Flanders
  34. Jonathan SwiftThe Battle of the Books; A Tale of a Tub; A Journal to Stella; Gulliver's Travels; A Modest Proposal
  35. William CongreveThe Way of the World
  36. George BerkeleyA New Theory of Vision; A Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge
  37. Alexander PopeAn Essay on Criticism; The Rape of the Lock; An Essay on Man
  38. Charles de Secondat, baron de MontesquieuPersian Letters; The Spirit of the Laws
  39. VoltaireLetters on the English; Candide; Philosophical Dictionary
  40. Henry FieldingJoseph Andrews; Tom Jones
  41. Samuel JohnsonThe Vanity of Human Wishes; Dictionary; Rasselas; Lives of the Poets
  42. David HumeA Treatise of Human Nature; Essays Moral and Political; An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding; History of England
  43. Jean-Jacques RousseauDiscourse on Inequality; On Political Economy; Emile: or, On Education; The Social Contract; Confessions
  44. Laurence SterneTristram Shandy; A Sentimental Journey Through France and Italy
  45. Adam SmithThe Theory of Moral Sentiments; The Wealth of Nations
  46. William BlackstoneCommentaries on the Laws of England
  47. Immanuel KantCritique of Pure Reason; Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals; Critique of Practical Reason; Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics; The Science of Right; Critique of Judgment; Perpetual Peace
  48. Edward GibbonThe History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Autobiography
  49. James BoswellJournal; The Life of Samuel Johnson
  50. Antoine Laurent LavoisierTraité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry)
  51. Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James MadisonFederalist Papers (together with the Articles of Confederation; United States Constitution and United States Declaration of Independence)
  52. Jeremy BenthamComment on the Commentaries; Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation; Theory of Fictions
  53. Johann Wolfgang GoetheFaust; Poetry and Truth
  54. Thomas Robert MalthusAn Essay on the Principle of Population
  55. John DaltonA New System of Chemical Philosophy
  56. Jean Baptiste Joseph FourierAnalytical Theory of Heat
  57. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich HegelThe Phenomenology of Spirit; Science of Logic; Elements of the Philosophy of Right; Lectures on the Philosophy of History
  58. William Wordsworth – Poems (esp. Lyrical Ballads; Lucy poems; sonnets; The Prelude)
  59. Samuel Taylor Coleridge – Poems (esp. Kubla Khan; The Rime of the Ancient Mariner ); Biographia Literaria
  60. David RicardoOn the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation
  61. Jane AustenPride and Prejudice; Emma
  62. Carl von ClausewitzOn War
  63. StendhalThe Red and the Black; The Charterhouse of Parma; On Love
  64. François GuizotHistory of Civilization in France
  65. Lord ByronDon Juan
  66. Arthur SchopenhauerStudies in Pessimism
  67. Michael FaradayThe Chemical History of a Candle; Experimental Researches in Electricity
  68. Nikolai LobachevskyGeometrical Researches on the Theory of Parallels
  69. Charles LyellPrinciples of Geology
  70. Auguste ComteThe Positive Philosophy
  71. Honoré Balzac – Works (esp. Le Père Goriot; Le Cousin Pons; Eugénie Grandet; Cousin Bette; César Birotteau)
  72. Ralph Waldo EmersonRepresentative Men; Essays; Journal
  73. Victor Hugo - Les Misérables
  74. Nathaniel HawthorneThe Scarlet Letter
  75. Alexis de TocquevilleDemocracy in America
  76. John Stuart MillA System of Logic; Principles of Political Economy; On Liberty; Considerations on Representative Government; Utilitarianism; The Subjection of Women; Autobiography
  77. Charles DarwinOn the Origin of Species; The Descent of Man; Autobiography
  78. William Makepeace Thackeray – Works (esp. Vanity Fair; The History of Henry Esmond; The Virginians; Pendennis)
  79. Charles Dickens – Works (esp. Pickwick Papers; Our Mutual Friend; David Copperfield; Dombey and Son; Oliver Twist; A Tale of Two Cities; Hard Times)
  80. Claude BernardIntroduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine
  81. George BooleThe Laws of Thought
  82. Henry David ThoreauCivil Disobedience; Walden
  83. Karl Marx and Friedrich EngelsDas Kapital (Capital); The Communist Manifesto
  84. George EliotAdam Bede; Middlemarch
  85. Herman MelvilleTypee; Moby-Dick; Billy Budd
  86. Fyodor DostoyevskyCrime and Punishment; The Idiot; The Brothers Karamazov
  87. Gustave FlaubertMadame Bovary; Three Stories
  88. Henry Thomas BuckleA History of Civilization in England
  89. Francis GaltonInquiries into Human Faculties and Its Development
  90. Bernhard RiemannThe Hypotheses of Geometry
  91. Henrik Ibsen – Plays (esp. Peer Gynt; Brand; Hedda Gabler; Emperor and Galilean; A Doll's House; The Wild Duck; The Master Builder)
  92. Leo TolstoyWar and Peace; Anna Karenina; "What Is Art?"; Twenty-Three Tales
  93. Richard DedekindTheory of Numbers
  94. Wilhelm WundtPhysiological Psychology; Outline of Psychology
  95. Mark TwainThe Innocents Abroad; Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court; The Mysterious Stranger
  96. Henry AdamsHistory of the United States; Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres; The Education of Henry Adams; Degradation of Democratic Dogma
  97. Charles PeirceChance, Love, and Logic; Collected Papers
  98. William SumnerFolkways
  99. Oliver Wendell HolmesThe Common Law; Collected Legal Papers
  100. William JamesThe Principles of Psychology; The Varieties of Religious Experience; Pragmatism; A Pluralistic Universe; Essays in Radical Empiricism
  101. Henry JamesThe American; The Ambassadors
  102. Friedrich Wilhelm NietzscheThus Spoke Zarathustra; Beyond Good and Evil; On the Genealogy of Morality; The Will to Power; Twilight of the Idols; The Antichrist
  103. Georg CantorTransfinite Numbers
  104. Jules Henri PoincaréScience and Hypothesis; Science and Method; The Foundations of Science
  105. Sigmund FreudThe Interpretation of Dreams; Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality; Introduction to Psychoanalysis; Beyond the Pleasure Principle; Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego; The Ego and the Id; Civilization and Its Discontents; New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
  106. George Bernard Shaw – Plays and Prefaces
  107. Max PlanckOrigin and Development of the Quantum Theory; Where Is Science Going?; Scientific Autobiography
  108. Henri BergsonTime and Free Will; Matter and Memory; Creative Evolution; The Two Sources of Morality and Religion
  109. John DeweyHow We Think; Democracy and Education; Experience and Nature; The Quest for Certainty; Logic – The Theory of Inquiry
  110. Alfred North WhiteheadA Treatise on Universal Algebra; An Introduction to Mathematics; Science and the Modern World; Process and Reality; The Aims of Education and Other Essays; Adventures of Ideas
  111. George SantayanaThe Life of Reason; Scepticism and Animal Faith; The Realms of Being (which discusses the Realms of Essence, Matter and Truth); Persons and Places
  112. Vladimir LeninImperialism; The State and Revolution
  113. Marcel ProustIn Search of Lost Time (formerly translated as Remembrance of Things Past)
  114. Bertrand RussellPrinciples of Mathematics; The Problems of Philosophy; Principia Mathematica; The Analysis of Mind; An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth; Human Knowledge, Its Scope and Limits
  115. Thomas MannThe Magic Mountain; Joseph and His Brothers
  116. Albert EinsteinThe Theory of Relativity; Sidelights on Relativity; The Meaning of Relativity; On the Method of Theoretical Physics; The Evolution of Physics
  117. James Joyce"The Dead" in Dubliners; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Ulysses
  118. Jacques MaritainArt and Scholasticism; The Degrees of Knowledge; Freedom and the Modern World; A Preface to Metaphysics; The Rights of Man and Natural Law; True Humanism
  119. Franz KafkaThe Trial; The Castle
  120. Arnold J. ToynbeeA Study of History; Civilization on Trial
  121. Jean-Paul SartreNausea; No Exit; Being and Nothingness
  122. Aleksandr SolzhenitsynThe First Circle; Cancer Ward

The original edition of How to Read a Book contained a separate "contemporary list" because "Here one's judgment must be tentative".[70] All but the following authors were incorporated into the single list of the revised edition:

  1. Ivan PavlovConditioned Reflexes
  2. Thorstein VeblenThe Theory of the Leisure Class; The Higher Learning in America; The Place of Science in Modern Civilization; Vested Interests and the State of Industrial Arts; Absentee Ownership and Business Enterprise in Recent Times
  3. Franz BoasThe Mind of Primitive Man; Anthropology and Modern Life
  4. Leon TrotskyThe History of the Russian Revolution


In 1954 Mortimer Adler hosted a live weekly television series in San Francisco, comprising 52 half-hour programs, entitled The Great Ideas. These programs were produced by Adler's Institute for Philosophical Research and were carried as a public service by the American Broadcasting Company, presented by National Educational Television, the precursor to what is now PBS. Adler bequeathed these films to the Center for the Study of the Great Ideas, where they are available for purchase.[71]

In 1993 and 1994, The Learning Channel created a series of one-hour programs discussing many of the Great Books of history and their impact on the world. It was narrated by Donald Sutherland and Morgan Freeman, among others.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Reading List | Torrey Honors Institute, Biola University".
  2. ^ Teeter, Robert. "Bloom. Western Canon".
  3. ^ a b Adler, Mortimer J. "Selecting Works for the 1990 Edition of the Great Books of the Western World". Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  4. ^ Adler, "Second Look", p. 142
  5. ^ Hutchins, Robert M. (1952), ed. The Great Conversation. Great Books of the Western World (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica), v. 1, p. 1.
  6. ^ Hutchins, Robert M., ed. (1952). Great Books of the Western World (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica), v. 1, p. xi.
  7. ^ "Thomas Jefferson's Reading Lists". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  8. ^ Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr (An honest heart, a knowing head; Paris, 19 August 1785). In: Merril D. Peterson (ed.), Thomas Jefferson Works, 1984. (pp. 814–818)
  9. ^ Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr (The homage to Reason; Paris, 10 August 1787). In: Merril D. Peterson (ed.), Thomas Jefferson Works, 1984. (pp. 900–906).
  10. ^ "". Archived from the original on 7 September 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  11. ^ Hook, Sidney (1946). "A Critical Appraisal of the St. John's College Curriculum". Education for Modern Man. New York, NY: The Dial Press. Reprinted with some minor changes from The New Leader, May 26 and June 4, 1944
  12. ^ "An Oasis of Order: The Core Curriculum at Columbia College:Faculty Profiles:John Erskine". Columbia College. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  13. ^ a b c "The Beginnings of the Great Books Movement at Columbia". Columbia Magazine. Winter 2001. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
  14. ^ "St. John's College | Academic Program | The Reading List". Archived from the original on 27 May 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  15. ^ "The Integral Program".
  16. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ a b "Dharma Realm Buddhist University Accepting Applications for Undergraduate Program". Dharma Realm Buddhist University. Retrieved 10 August 2016.
  18. ^ Casement, William. "College Great Books Programs". The Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC). Archived from the original on 16 November 2012. Retrieved 29 May 2012.
  19. ^ "American Public University System Online Master's Degree in Humanities". 27 January 2019.
  20. ^ "Azusa Pacific University Honors College". Retrieved 29 April 2017.
  21. ^ "Baylor University || Great Texts". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  22. ^ "Omnia Extended Core". Retrieved 26 May 2020.
  23. ^ "About « Torrey Honors Institute « Biola University". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  24. ^ "Perspectives and PULSE programs".
  25. ^ "Core Curriculum - Boston University".
  26. ^ "index". 16 April 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  27. ^ "The Honors Program « Franciscan University". Archived from the original on 31 December 2013. Retrieved 9 January 2014.
  28. ^ "Honors Program | Great Books College | George Fox".
  29. ^ "Gutenberg College Great Books". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  30. ^ "Curriculum - Harrison Middleton University". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  31. ^ "Honors College". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  32. ^ The Newman Guide, "Northeast Catholic College" Archived 6 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 5 November 2015
  33. ^ "Mercer Great Books". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  34. ^ "Literary Studies Requirements". Retrieved 13 September 2016.
  35. ^ "Honors Program | Palm Beach Atlantic University". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  36. ^ "Great Books" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 25 May 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  37. ^ "Integrated Studies in the Great Books Major Description". Archived from the original on 24 August 2016. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  38. ^ "St. John's College". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  39. ^ "The Integral Program". St. Mary's College. Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  40. ^ [1] Archived 28 December 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ "Templeton Honors College and Eastern University". Eastern University. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  42. ^ "The Great Books | Thomas Aquinas College". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  43. ^ "The Thomas More College Curriculum". 15 February 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  44. ^ "The College Core Curriculum". University of Chicago. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  45. ^ "Association for Core Texts and Courses & The ACTC Liberal Arts Institute » College Great Books Programs". Archived from the original on 16 November 2012. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  46. ^ "About Us - U-M LSA Department of Classical Studies".
  47. ^ "Great Works Academic Certificate".
  48. ^ "Program of Liberal Studies". University of Notre Dame. 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  49. ^ "St. Ignatius Institute – University of San Francisco (USF)". Retrieved 20 June 2014.
  50. ^ "Thomas Jefferson Center for the Study of Core Texts and Ideas". 5 November 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  51. ^ "Kugelman Honors Program Study of Great Books" (PDF). 26 February 2016. Archived from the original on 8 November 2014. Retrieved 26 February 2016.
  52. ^ "Departments » Great Books Curriculm". Wilbur Wright College.
  53. ^ "Academics » The Great Books". Wyoming Catholic College. 28 March 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  54. ^ "The Great Books in the Bachelor of Humanities Program". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  55. ^ "Welcome - Liberal Arts College - Concordia University - Montreal, Quebec, Canada". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  56. ^ "Overview - Liberal Studies - Vancouver Island University".
  57. ^ "Great Books". St Thomas University. 2014. Archived from the original on 6 November 2014. Retrieved 6 November 2014.
  58. ^ "Foundation Year Programme | University of King's College". Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  59. ^ "Arts One Program". Retrieved 29 May 2014.
  60. ^ "Global Great Books Certificate". Retrieved 14 February 2020.
  61. ^ "UCP - Instituto de Estudos Políticos". Archived from the original on 9 November 2013. Retrieved 9 November 2013.
  62. ^ "Universidade da Beira Interior". Retrieved 4 March 2018.
  63. ^ "Foundation Courses". Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  64. ^ "Courses Offered". Ateneo de Manila University. 21 November 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  65. ^ "A Great Books College". Shalem College. Archived from the original on 13 June 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  66. ^ John Searle, "The Storm Over the University," The New York Review of Books, 6 December 1990
  67. ^ Sabrina Walters (1 July 2001). "Great Books won Adler fame, scorn". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 4 November 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
  68. ^ Peter Temes (3 July 2001). "Death of a Great Reader and Philosopher". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on 4 November 2007. Retrieved 11 July 2007.
  69. ^ Great Books – The Foundation of a Liberal Education, New York – Simon & Schuster, 1954.
  70. ^ How to Read a Book, 1940, p. 375
  71. ^ "Mortimer Adler Videos on The Great Ideas".


  • Aquinas , Thomas. "Why the Great Books?" Thomas Aquinas College, 24 April 2019,

External links[edit]