The Great Books List

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The Prince

Perhaps the most famous book of the Renaissance is Machiavelli’s The Prince. It remains a standard political science text and has influenced political discourse since its publication in 1531. Machiavelli’s name has also become an adjective – Machiavellian today means using amoral and expedient methods to achieve political goals. Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli was born in 1469 in San Casciano in Val di Pesa, a village near of the city-state of Florence. He was born into a wealthy family and received a broad classical education and followed his father into the legal profession. At the time of his youth,...

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The Threepenny Opera

Berthold Brecht, Germany. 1928 German poet, playwright, and theatrical innovator, Bertolt Brecht was one of the most important figures in 20th-century theatre. Brecht developed a new form of political theatre and was the foremost theatre reformer of the Weimar Republic. His left leaning politics also marked him for persecution once the Nazi’s took over Germany and Brecht and his long-time musical collaborator Kurt Weil were forced to move around the world in search of work and audiences. Brecht was born in Augsburg into a middle class family. His school years were marked by insubordination and he was an indifferent student....

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The Ramayana

  Valmiki, India.c. 300BCE The Ramayana is the shorter of the two great epic poems of India, the other being the Mahabharata. The Ramayana was composed in Sanskrit, around 300 BCE, traditionally by the poet Valmiki. Its present form consists of some 24,000 couplets divided into seven books. The poem describes the life and adventures of Rama in the kingdom of Ayodhya. The poem is immensely popular still in India, where its recitation is considered an act of great merit. While it was originally composed in Sanskrit, there are many translations that are considered literary masterpieces themselves such as the...

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The Great Books List – The Middle Era

The Middle Era  6 AD – 1485 Petronius Arbiter, Rome, 61. The Satyricon. Seneca, Rome 49. On the Shortness of Life. Mark, Luke, Paul. Israel, ca. 60-80. The Gospel, The Acts, Epistles, Romans. Plutarch, Greece, 100. Life of Alexander, Life of Cato. Suetonius, Rome, 119. The Twelve Caesars. Marcus Aurelius, Rome, 180. Meditations. Apuleius, Numidia, 160. The Golden Ass. Augustine of Hippo, Rome, 410. The City of God. Kalidasa, India, ca. 410. The Cloud Messenger. Unknown, Japan, 630. The Kojiki Muhammad of Medina, Arabia, 632. The Koran. Hui-Neng, China, ca 700. The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch Sei Shonagon,Japan,...

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Middlemarch

George Eliot, England.1871 Although many female authors had enjoyed considerable success in Georgian and Victorian England, and many would be later recognized for their masterpieces and are recognized on many great books lists, there was an opinion at the time that female authors could write romances and little else. Mary Ann Evans wanted to be taken seriously as a writer and so published under the pseudonym George Eliot. There is also some evidence that she wanted to maintain her privacy, especially as she was involved with a prominent married man for many years. Set in rural England, her novels were...

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The Mengzi

Mencius, China, 372-289 BCE Mencius, which is the Latinized name of Meng-tze, was a disciple of the grandson of Confucius, and regarded as the second most important philosopher in the Confucian tradition. His work, known as the “Book of Mencius,”or “The Mengzi” is one of the four Shuh, or books, of Confucian wisdom. The life of Mencius is very sketchy. Mencius was said to have lived to the advanced age of eighty-four years, which makes him a contemporary of the great Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. His father died when he was very young and his education became the responsibility...

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The Great Book List – The Ancient Era

The Ancient Era 2000 BCE – 8 BCE Unknown, Sumer, ca. 2000 BCE. The Epic of Gilgamesh. Unknown, Egypt, ca. 1000 BCE. Egyptian Book of the Dead. Homer, Greece, ca. 800 BCE. The Iliad, The Odyssey. Hesiod, Greece, ca. 700 BCE. Theogony. Unknown, Israel, ca. 800-200 BCE. Genesis, Exodus, Isaiah, Job. Unknown, India, ca. 800 BCE. The Rig Veda. Unknown, India, ca. 600 BCE. The Upanishads. Confucius, China, 551-479 BCE. The Analects. Lao Tzu, China, ca. 550 BCE. The Tao Te Ching. Sappho, Greece, ca. 600 BCE. Hymn to Aphrodite. Aeschylus, Greece, 525-455 BCE. Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides. Sophocles, Greece,...

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So why a new Great Books List?

Why another great books list? This site has been around for a couple of years in a primitive format so I thought it time to move on and get with the program and become a little more interactive. So, more of a blog than a huge website with a page devoted to each great book on the list. I hope you like the new cleaner look and find the content something that may spur you on to exploring more of the great books. Each great book on this list illuminates something about the human condition; they explain the world live in...