Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Western Culture's Top 50 Must-Read Books

This is from an article in 'World' magazine several years ago.

"Read at least one classic for every three new books. Doing that enables readers to avoid the narrowness of thinking that today's ideas are the only possible truths. We need 'to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books.'" (advice from C. S. Lewis)

"First comes the top five must-read classics of all time. Then, 45 more, sorted by their time period."

1 - The Bible
2 - Paradise Lost (Milton)
3 - King Lear (Shakespeare)
4 - The Pilgrim's Progress (Bunyan)
5 - The Temple (Herbert)

Ancient Books:

6 - The Iliad (Homer)
7 - Gorgias (Plato)
8 - Antigone (Sophocles)
9 - The Aeneid (Virgil)
10 - Sayings of the Fathers (trans. Hertz)
11 - Confessions (Augustine of Hippo)

Medieval:

12 - The Divine Comedy (Alighieri)
13 - The Canterbury Tales (Chaucer)
14 - Le Morte D'Arthur (Mallory)
15 - Summa Theologica (Aquinas)

Renaissance & Reformation:

16 - Dr. Faustus (Marlowe)
17 - The Faerie Queene (Spenser)
18 - Don Quixote (Cervantes)
19 - Institutes of the Christian Religion (Calvin)
20 - Book of Martyrs (Foxe)
21 - Devotions upon Emergent Occasions (Donne)
22 - Pensees (Pascal)
23 - The Two Treatises of Government (Locke)

18th Century:

24 - Gulliver's Travels (Swift)
25 - Robinson Crusoe (DeFoe)
26 - Tristram Shandy (Sterne)
27 - The Wealth of Nations (Smith)
28 - The Federalist Papers (Madison/Hamilton/Jay)
29 - Reflections on the Revolution in France (Burke)

19th Century:

30 - Sense and Sensibility (Austen)
31 - Lyrical Ballads (Wordsworth/Coleridge)
32 - Democracy in America (Tocqueville)
33 - Economic Harmonies (Bastiat)
34 - David Copperfield (Dickens)
35 - Moby Dick (Melville)
36 - Leaves of Grass (Whitman)
37 - Innocents Abroad (Twain)
38 - Crime and Punishment (Dostoevsky)
39 - Master and Man (Tolstoy)

20th Century:

40 - Ash Wednesday (Eliot)
41 - The Bear (Faulkner)
42 - The Violent Bear It Away (O'Connor)
43 - The Lord of the Rings (Tolkien)
44 - The Power and the Glory (Greene)
45 - The Chronicles of Narnia (Lewis)
46 - Survival in Auschwitz (Levi)
47 - Witness (Chambers )
48 - The Cypresses Believe in God (Gironella)
49 - The Civil War (Foote)
50 - The Second Coming (Percy)

I have read only six on this list. However, I do hope to read at least seven more. The rest I doubt I'll ever read, due to time and inclination.

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