Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Great Books, More Info

I meant to link to a full list of the authors. Wikipedia has a good one here. The first edition is the one that I'm working through.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Finding the Books

Haven't even started the project yet and already I've found out something that I didn't know. Back when I started this I thought that the e-book arrangement would give virtually free classics to anyone that wanted it. Not quite. Most of them were free on the Kindle but very few were on the Nook. Barnes and Noble are selling most of these for a dollar or less. Google books had all of them but the formats can be a bit wonky. I might go back and set up links to Project Gutenberg at some point too.
It's something of a modern cliche to note that we have tremendous amounts of knowledge at our fingertips. Setting this up really drove that home for me.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Year One

I'm going to try and set links to the Kindle, Nook and Google books copies of all of these. I expect that these links will break at some point due to common internet drift. Please notify me and I'll fix them at least during the year that we're working through these pieces.


Plato: 'Apology' and 'Crito' Kindle/Nook/Google
Aristophanes: 'Clouds' and 'Lysistrata' Kindle/Nook/Google,Google


Plato: 'Republic' books 1 and 2 Kindle/Nook/Google
Aristotle: 'Ethics' book 1 Kindle/Nook/Google
Aristotle: 'Politics' Book 1 Kindle/Nook/Google


Plutarch: 'Lives of Noble Grecians and Romans' (only Lycurgus, Numa Pompilius, Lycurgus and Numa compared, Alexander, Caesar) Kindle/Nook/Google


From the New Testament: Gospel of St Matthew and Acts of the Apostles Kindle/Nook/Google, Google
St Augustine: 'Confessions' books 1-8 Kindle/Nook/Google


Machiavelli: 'The Prince' Kindle/Nook/Google


Rabelais: 'Gargantua and Pantagruel' books 1 and 2 Kindle/Nook/Google


Montaigne: 'Essays' (Of Custom; Of Pedantry; Of the Education of Children; That it is Folly to Measure Truth and Error by Our Own Capacity; Of Cannibals; That the Relish of Good and Evil Depends in a Great Measure upon the Opinion We Have of Them; Upon some Verses of Virgil) Kindle/Nook/Google


Shakespeare: 'Hamlet' Kindle/Nook/Google


Locke: 'Concerning Civil Gov't', second essay Kindle/Nook/Google
Rousseau: The Social Contract books 1 and 2 Kindle/Nook/Google


Gibbon: 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, chapters 15 and 16 Kindle/Nook/Google


Declaration of Independence Kindle/Nook/Google
Constitution of the United States Kindle/Nook/Google
The Federalist Nos 1-10, 15, 31, 47, 51, 68-71 Kindle/Nook/Google


Smith: 'The Wealth of Nations' Introduction - Book 1, Chapter 9 Kindle/Nook/Google
Marx-Engles: 'Manifest of the Communist Party Kindle/Nook/Google

Sunday, October 2, 2011

An Invitation

As I mentioned, in a few months I'm going to start a long reading program. I'd love some company and I'm hoping that some people reading this will come along. The plan is ten years long, each year having 18 different pieces of reading.
Ten Years?
Yeah, it's a long one but I don't want anyone to be intimidated by the length. I'm hoping to do the whole thing in order but that doesn't mean everyone else needs to. Anyone that wants to hop in and out is welcome to do so. That includes anyone that simply stumbles across this through Google. Come on in!
Eighteen Pieces a Year?
It would have been easier if they'd gone with twelve or twenty four so we could just follow the monthly pattern. We'll simply have to improvise. Some months will have two or even three pieces. I've tried to figure this out for fairly balanced lengths of work.
Just How Long are we Talking Here?
The designers felt that an average person could do this with about fifteen minutes of reading per day. Each month will have something like 100 pages or so. Sometimes more, sometimes a lot more. But the really lengthy ones are written in novel form. For instance, one month will be Melville's 'Moby Dick' which is pretty doable in a month.
Any Thoughts on Format?
Yes. I have some ideas on how to do this. There will be some regularly scheduled questions and themes. Some will be stodgy and traditional but I'll try for some that mix things up.
What About the Series Itself? Any Good?
I think so. It certainly hits all of the high points that I can think of. Not that it's without flaws. My set ends before the 20th century so there is quite a bit of modern thought missing. And it concentrates very heavily on European thought. And no women.
No Women?
Yep. In fairness to the editors, for most of the period of time covered women simply couldn't break through and write like men could. The set could have included some poetry and a few 19th century novelists and it probably should have. I'll be open to suggestions from commenters on filling in the gaps.
What Else?
One of the interesting things about this is that it includes quite a bit of natural science, history and religion. The editors think that the 'average reader' would be able to handle more of this than is ordinarily thought. I'll be interested in testing this out.
There is a fairly large religious content to all of this. This makes sense as there was a period of pre-Enlightenment time when the big thinkers were almost all part of the church. Plus, the Judeo-Christian foundation is a huge piece of our civilizational framework. We just don't think about it today. (And I'm curious what we can still learn from St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.)

So there is the reading plan. Feel free to dip your toe in and try it out. You might learn and grow. I hope to.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Lesser Conversation

A few weeks back I was talking with my dad about our various e-readers. I mentioned to him that one of the overlooked positive things about them is that they bring classic works to the reader for free. Virtually everything written before the 20th century, certainly all of the important works, have been converted into free text by Project Gutenberg and others. One of the first things that a new Kindle user finds is that there is a multitude of free stuff out there and most of it falls into this category.
I happened to mention the book series 'The Great Books of the Western World'. This is a set of books published way back in 1952. It includes all the major works that make up the foundation of Western civilization. The early heavies like Homer and Plato all the way up to Dostoevsky and Freud. Everything up through the 19th century. All of this is now free, I said. Everything except the introductory book called 'The Great Conversation' and a two volume indexy type thing called the 'Syntopicon' (which my dad calls a thesis generator).
We had this set in our house while I was growing up and some time after I moved out I asked to have them. I've pecked at them a bit but never really attacked them. After I talked with my dad I picked up the introduction, maybe for the first time, and started to look through it. Much to my surprise I came across a ten year reading plan.
Well, it's tough for me to resist a well put together reading list. And I don't intend to resist this one either. This plan is designed to lead one through the great works of history, touching on each of the listed authors. It consists of 18 pieces per year. They say that it has a steadily increasing difficulty level.

At the beginning of the next year, Jan 1st, 2012, I intend to start the plan. Frankly I'm excited.