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Ancient & Classical Great Books
Medieval & Renaissance Great Books
Colonial & Enlightenment Great Books
American & Modern Great Books
The 100 Great Books list posted here is not quite 100 Great Books, as we are still reading. However, most of the selections on the list are typical of those found on most 100 Great Books of Western Literature lists.
We have posted this list as a place to start, not necessarily as a place to end; since many of us did not have the benefit of being educated with the Great Books in our own childhoods and education.
The fact that most of us did not read these in our own educations presents a dilemma. They are considered too hard for regular folks to read without a university professor or some other great mind as a guide, explaining what is meant by it all. But I disagree. I think that anyone that can read and understand the Bible for himself can read and understand any of these books for himself. These books were originally written, for the most part, to be understood by the intelligent layperson of the day, after all. In reading them without a university professor or a guide, you might come to a different conclusion of what youíve read than the ďexpertsĒ might have you draw. That is no loss. Take from them what speaks to your own heart, your own mind. Cherish what rings true, discard what doesnít. Savor the beauty and poetry of the language, the elegance of thought. Enjoy meeting the minds that have contributed to Western Civilization. Have fun! You canít ruin it because you arenít an expert. Some books you probably wonít care for; others you will love, and return to again and again. That is as it should be.
Be that as it may, some people will just be more comfortable tackling these books with a guide. If that is the case, these are the guides we recommend:
Invitation to the Classics by Louise Cowan and Os Guinness provide readable and enlightening introductions, essays, and discussion questions for 75 classics of Western Civilization written by the best Christian literary scholars of our day.
The Company of the Creative: A Christian Readerís Guide to Great Literature and Its Themes by David L. Larson, Professor Emeritus of Preaching at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, points out the great themes, philosophies, and spiritual undercurrents present in hundreds of the Westís greatest works of philosophy, history, literature, and poetry.
Realms of Gold: The Classics in Christian Perspective by Leland Ryken, Professor of English at Wheaton College, examines 9 great texts of Western Civilization. If this book is out of print, search for it at Bookfinder.com, AddAll.com, or eBay Books.
We have not attempted to divide up the list into grade levels in any way. The books are listed chronologically, to our knowledge. Wes Callihan, of Schola Classical Tutorials, an experienced and qualified literature and Great Books instructor, believes that many of the Great Books require a rhetoric level of maturity in order to glean the full benefit from reading them, therefore his Great Books program is four years, meant for 9th through 12th graders. Fritz Hinrichs of Escondido Tutorial Service, an equally qualified instructor, has a six-year program of Great Books instruction, designed for 7th through 12th graders. We really feel it is up to the individual parents to decide when to begin the Great Books with their children, taking the experience of these experts into consideration. Some of us start earlier than others, but we all agree that the Great Books need to wait until the dialectic and rhetoric stages. We also believe there is benefit in reading them chronologically, in order to better realize the development of the Great Discussion over time.
However, we do realize that reading 100 books of the depth and length and breadth that these books represent, in six years, for teens, is not a realistic possibility. Therefore, we have enlarged and bolded the 20 books out of the 100 that we feel are foundational to all the others. It is a place to begin, and the choice of these 20 is completely subjective. It was based on reading and teaching these books with our teens: what we felt was within their reach and understanding, and what they grasped well; what we felt was particularly important and foundational even if it was hard; what we felt is necessary to think about, to wrestle with, and to understand to be an educated and mature individual and Christian in todayís society. We do feel that reading all 100 is of great benefit; and some were particularly hard to leave out of the top 20: Thucydides, Livy, Augustine, Dante, Calvin, Spenser, Milton, Bunyan, Pope, Paine, Austen, Newman, Dostoyevsky, Orwell, and Solzhenitsyn. Well, there is a list of the next most foundational 15. :) But reading and savoring all 100 of these books, and rereading them, is the pursuit of a lifetime, and we and our children will have the rest of our lives to be engaged in it.
In addition, some of the titles on the list are in smaller, lighter print, beginning with Rene Descartes (1596-1650) Discourse on Method. The reason for this is that it seemed to us that books found in the Great Books lists at universities diverge at that point, and two paths may be discerned. We are not expert, but we feel this divergence begins (or at least, begins to be noticeable) with Descartes and the other books in small print which follow in that path. Where the path ends up, with Darwin and Nietzsche and Marx, seems to us to not be Western Civilization, but something else. Something else characterized by authoritarianism, socialism, despair, death, hopelessness, futility, vanity, ruin, foolishness. In any case, that is our opinion; we are not experts on these matters, and we welcome you to judge for yourself about them.
We believe daily and consistent reading and Bible study to be necessary for all of life, including the years spent studying the Great Books. The books listed are offered in addition to the Bible, the greatest Great Book, but certainly never in replacement of it.
If the text of the book is available online, we have provided a link to it. We have also provided a link to Barnes & Noble for those desiring to purchase quality copies for the home library. Purchasing books through links on this page supports our attempt to provide helpful and useful information on the Internet. Thank you!
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