Lifetime Reading Plan

December 23, 2003

Via Sheila O'Malley I receive a challenge: how many of these have I read.

I will mark the ones I have read, and add some comments in italics.

after marking up the list below.
It looks like I have read or read significantly in about 43 of the items on that list. I am long on history and political theory, light on plays and poetry. That does not surprise me - I am more social science than humanities.

This is a slightly goofy list based on the Western canon. I was struck by the differences between this list and my incomplete list of 50 essential reads.

Off the top of my head, the biggest gaps here are:
Epic of Gilgamesh
Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, Isiah, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts, Romans, Corinthians, Revelation. I would add Jonah to that list if only because of the story of the gourd at the end of the book.
Koran: The Cow. Not sure what other parts to add.
I would add some documents from non-semitic religions, but I don't know them well enough to suggest.

Why are all of the books but one from Western Europe or North America? Off the top of my head, add:
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin (powerful schlock, and influential both artistically and politically)
Mishima Yukio, Temple of the Golden Pavilion, Sailer who Fell from Grace with the Sea.
feh, my Japanese lit is boxed up and I can't remember exact titles. That might be enough to disqualify most of it.

Looking at my not-ready-for-prime-time list, I see some things to add to this canon:
Karl Marx The 18th Brumiare of Louis Bonaparte]
Max Weber, the selections in From Max Weber, especially Protestant ethic, Charisma theory.
Martin L. King jr, "Letter from a Birmingham Jail"
Franz Fanon The Wretched of the Earth
W.E.B. DuBois Souls of Black Folk
Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf (feel free to skim this)
Immanual Kant The Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals
Norbert Elias The Civilizing Process
Jonathan Edwards The Religious Affections or Freedom of the Will

The remarkable thing about my list of 40 is how much it overlaps with this list of 100. For me the fascinating thing about canons is that everyone would make a different list, and many books will overlap from list to list.

I have some more reading to do. Yep. Marcus Aurelias first I think - I have long been curious about him.

The Beginning

Yes Homer. The Iliad.
Yes Homer. The Odyssey.
Yes Herodotus. The Histories.
Yes Thucydides. The History of the Peloponnesian War.
Yes Plato. Selected Works.
Some Aristotle. Ethics; Politics. Read ethics

Aeschylus. The Oresteia.
Some Sophocles. Oedipus Rex; Oedipus at Colonus; Antigone. Read two, did not read Antigone
Euripides. Alcestis; Medea; Hipploytus; Trojan Women; Electra; Bacchae.
Lucretius. Of the Nature of Things.
Virgil. The Aeneid.
Aurelius, Marcus. Meditations. I keep hearing about this one, it is probably at the top of my classics list.

The Middle Ages

Augustine, Saint. Confessions.
Alighieri, Dante. The Divine Comedy. Read portions
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales. Read portions


Some Shakespeare, William. Complete Works. Heh, I have read a dozen plays and 40 sonnets.

Molière. Selected Plays.
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von. Faust.
Ibsen, Henrik. Selected Plays.
Shaw, George Bernard. Selcted Plays and Prefaces. Which selected plays? I have read a couple.
Chekhov, Anton. Uncle Vanya; Three Sisters; The Cherry Orchard.
O'Neill, Eugene. Mourning Becomes Electra; The Iceman Cometh; Long Day's Journey into Night.
Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot; Endgame; Krapp's Last Tape.
Watson, E. Bradlee and Benfield Pressey. Contemporary Drama
I don't read a lot of plays.


Bunyan, John. Pilgrim's Progress.
Yes Defoe, Daniel. Robinson Crusoe.
Yes Swift, Jonathan. Gulliver's Travels; A Modest Proposal; Meditations upon a Broomstick; Resolutions when I Come to be Old.
Sterne, Laurence. Tristram Shandy.
Fielding, Henry. Tom Jones.
Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice; Emma.
Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights.
Thackeray, William Makepeace. Vanity Fair.
Some Dickens, Charles. Pickwick Papers; David Copperfield; Bleak House; Great Expectations; Hard Times; Our Mutual Friend; Little Dorrit.
Eliot, George. The Mill on the Floss; Middlemarch.
Yes Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; Through the Looking-Glass.
Yes Hardy, Thomas. The Mayor of Casterbridge.
Conrad, Joseph. Nostromo.
Forster, E, M,. A Passage to India. Have read other Forster, not that one,
Joyce, James. Ulysses.
Some Woolf, Virginia. Mrs. Dalloway; To the Lighthouse; Orlando; The Waves. Read Lighthouse in college
Yes Lawrence, D. H.. Sons and Lovers; Women in Love.
Yes Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World; Collected Essays.
Yes Orwell, George. Animal Farm; Nineteen Eighty-Four.
Mann, Thomas. The Magic Mountain.
Some Kafka, Franz. The Trial; The Castle; Selected Short Stories. Read some short stories

Rabelais, François. Gargantua and Pantagruel.
Voltaire. Candide and Other Works.
Stendhal. The Red and the Black. Started, got bored.
Balzac, Honoré de. Père Goriot; Eugénie Grandet.
Flaubert, Gustave. Madame Bovary.
Proust, Marcel. Remembrance of Things Past. I am not yet old enough to read this.
Malraux, André. Man's Fate.
Camus, Albert. The Plague; The Stranger. I know I read something by Camus, forget what.
Yes Poe, Edgar Allan. Short Stories and Other Works.
Yes Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter; Selcted Tales.
Yes Melville, Herman. Moby Dick; Bartleby the Scrivener.
Yes Twain, Mark. Huckleberry Finn.
James, Henry. The Ambassadors.
Yes Faulkner, William. The Sound and the Fury; As I Lay Dying.
Yes Hemingway, Ernest. Short Stories.
Bellow, Saul. The Adventures of Augie March; Herzog; Humboldt's Gift.
Saavedra, Miguel de Cervantes de. Don Quixote.
Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths Dreamtigers.
Márquez, Gabriel Garcia. One Hundred Years of Solitude.
Gogol, Nikolai Vasilievich. Dead Souls. Started, got bored.
Yes Turgenev, Ivan Sergeyevich. Fathers and Sons.
Yes Dostoevsky, Feodor Mikhailovich. Crime and Punishment; The Brothers Karamazov.
Yes Tolstoy, Leo Nikolayevich. War and Peace.
Some Nabokov, Vladimir. Lolita; Pale Fire; Speak, Memory. Read Lolita. Hasn't everyone?
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr Isayevich. The First Circle; Cancer Ward.

Philosophy, Psychology, Politics, Essays

Yes Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan.
Yes Locke, John. Second Treatise of Government.
Hume, David. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding. If you own it long enough, does that count?

Yes Mill, John Stuart. On Liberty.
Yes Engels, Karl Marx and Friedrich. The Communist Manifesto.
Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm. Thus Spake Zarathustra; Selected Other Works. Started Zarathustra
Freud, Sigmund. Selected Works.
Yes Macchiavelli, Niccolò. The Prince.
Montaigne, Michel Eyquem de. Selected Essays.
Descartes, René. Discourse on Method.
Pascal, Blaise. Thoughts (Pensées).
Yes Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Both volumes
Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Selected Works. Some essays
Yes Thoreau, Henry David. Walden; Civil Disobedience.
James, William. The Principles of Psychology; Pragmatism and Four Essays from The Meaning of Truth; The Varieties of Religious Experience.
Dewey, John. Human Nature and Conduct.
Santayana, George. Skepticism and Animal Faith; Selected Other Works.


Donne, John. Selected Works.
Milton, John. Paradise Lost; Lycidas; On the Morning of Christ's Nativity; Sonnets; Areopagitica.
Yes Blake, William. Selected Works.
Wordsworth, William. The Prelude; Selected Shorter Poems; Preface to the Lyrical Ballads, 1800.
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor. The Ancient Mariner; Christabel; Kubla Khan; Biographia Literaria; Writings on Shakespeare. Read some
Yeats, William Butler. Collected Poems; Collected Plays; The Autobiography.
Eliot, T. S.. Collected Poems, Collected Plays.
Yes Whitman, Walt. Selected Poems; Democratic Vistas; Preface to the first issue of Leaves of Grass (1855); A Backward Glance O'er Travel'd Roads.
Yes Frost, Robert. Collected Poems.
Poets of the English Language, edited by W.H. Auden and Norman Holmes Pearson.
Yes The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry, edited by Richard Ellmann and Robert O'Clair.
Most of the poetry I have read has come from school anthologies. I have read Kipling, Blake, and Whitman for fun.

History, Biography, Autobiography

Yes Basic Documents in American History, edited by Richard B. Morris What an obscure title - I bet I have read the documents, just not that collection.

Yes The Federalist Papers, edited by Clinton Rossiter.
Rousseau, Jean Jacques. Confessions. Read parts of his Social Contract.
Boswell, James. The Life of Samuel Johnson.
Adams, Henry. The Education of Henry Adams.
Braudel, Fernand. The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II; Civilization and Capitalism, 15th-18th Century.


McNeill, William H.. The Rise of the West
Durant, Will and Ariel. The Story of Civilization.
Morison, Samuel Eliot. The Oxford History of the American People
Smith, Page. A People's History of the United States.
Whitehead, Alfred North. Science and the Modern World.
Whitehead, Alfred North. An Introduction to Mathematics.
Gombrich. The Story of Art.
Adler, Mortimer J.. How to Read a Book (co-authored with Charles Van Doren)
This looks like a list of decent surveys, not a canon. I have most of the information, not in these forms.

Posted by Red Ted at December 23, 2003 07:31 AM | TrackBack