Monthly Archive: April 2015

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Shah Nameh

Firdawsi, Persia, 1000 Shah Nameh, or “The Book of Kings” or “The Epic of Kings” is lengthy poetic work written by the Persian poet Ferdowsi around 1000 AD and is considered the national epic of the Persian speaking world. The Shah Nameh relates the the mythical and historical past of Persia and Iran from the creation of the world up until the Islamic conquest of Persia in the 7th century. Hakim Abul-Qasim Firdawsi Tusi or more commonly Ferdowsi, (935–1020) was born in the Iranian province of Khorasan, near Baj, in 935. His father was a wealthy land owner, who raised...

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Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, England. 1818 Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born into a famous literary family, moved amongst a circle of poetic greats and married one of the foremost writers of the era and, in an age when women were generally marginalized, she cast them all into the shadows with her famous novel Frankenstein. Shelley’s Gothic horror novel was one of the first best sellers by a woman author, is still widely read today and has been the basis for numerous film and stage adaptations. Blending Romantic era philosophical questions about natural perfection and beauty with horror and social criticism, the...

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The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Basho, Japan.1702 Basho, was the pseudonym of Matsuo Munefusa, a Japanese poet, who is considered the master of the Japanese poetic form of haiku. He was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan. Basho is also celebrated for his works in the collaborative haikai no renga form. His poetry is internationally renowned, and within Japan many of his poems revered. Born into a lower level samurai family in 1644 in the province of Iga, Basho went through the usual education of one of Japan’s minor nobility and was expected to join the military when old enough. But...

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Meditations c 175 Marcus Aurelius, Rome, 121-180 Marcus Aurelius Antoninus Augustus was Roman Emperor from 161 to his death. Regarded as the last  of the ‘Five Good Emperors,’ he ruled the Roman Empire from 161 to 180, and is also considered one of the most important stoic philosophers. He, along with Julius Caesar, is the only one of two ancient leaders whose written works makes The Great Books List. While in popular imagination Marcus Aurelius is regarded as an intellectual leader, his reign was marked by several wars including those against the Parthians, Germans and even elements of his own...

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Les Fleurs du Mal

Charles Baudelaire, France.1857 Of all the poets to appear on the Great Books List, few evoke the cliché of a tortured poet better than Frenchman Charles Baudelaire. Impoverished, pallid and unrecognized Baudelaire had a short, hard life; but his poetry made him one of the most influential European poets of the nineteenth century. Baudelaire was born in Paris, in 1821 into a middle class family. His father was 34 years older than his wife and died shortly after Charles was born. His mother remarried an army staff officer who was also a senior ambassador for the French government. Baudelaire began...

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The Book of Chuang Tzu

Chuang Tzu , China, c.265-275 BCE It is common with many ancient philosophic traditions for the teacher to have a primary disciple, often unknown to the teacher, who adds to and evolves the original tradition. Confucius had Mencius, Socrates wrote nothing himself but was the central character in the works of his student Plato, and Jesus of Nazareth’s philosophy was codified and written down by Paul. The same case apples to Taoism, where the original ideas of Lao Tzu written down in the Tao were expanded and discussed in the Zhuangzi, or the Book of Chuang Tzu. Chuang Tzu, who...

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Tell us about the Great Books

We hope you like the new look of The Great Books List. Part of the rework was to enable people to comment and discuss the great books. Do you have an opinion on the Great Books? Have some comment on any book or plays on the list? Do you find this useful or interesting? Any particular book we have missed? We are always looking for you feedback and how you have approached the Great Books and you thoughts on them. Start a debate with a comment. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Poems John Donne

John Donne’s poetry and prose still resonate today with their meditations upon love and death, religion and politics. His poetry, characterized by its intensity, passion word-play, and complexity is still widely read. Well-known as both a writer and important religious figure in the years leading up to the English Civil War, Donne is considered one of the greatest love poets in the English language. He is also noted for his religious verse and treatises and for his sermons, which rank among the best of the 17th century John Donne was born in London in 1572 into a prosperous Roman Catholic...