The Great Books List

The Great Books

Starting in 2023, I’m embarking on Phase II of this project where I will read through The Great Books.  Can you help me gather the best list, supplementary materials, and translations/versions?

Ways You Can Help:

  1. What books have I missed in the list below?
  2. What is the best translation/version of each book?
  3. What is the best guide to better understanding each book? This can be a supplementary book or article, a subject matter expert, or another work of art (opera, play, movie, etc.).

The Plan

I have generated this list from a variety of sources that are listed below. My plan is to read the books in the order you see them from oldest to newest. A negative number before a year signifies B.C.E. and the others are for C.E.

My Rules:

I will start each year by reading a different translation of the Bible (suggestions welcome). I anticipate this taking the first two months of each year. I will also take the months of July and December as breaks. Therefore, each year, I will read The Great Books for 8 months and use Jan, Feb, July, and Dec for the Bible / other books.

I’m in this for the long haul. I anticipate this project taking 10 years at a minimum. I am dropping my Phase I goal of 52 books per year. I know some of these books will take months to read.

  • Read in order oldest to newest
  • No books written within the last 50 years

Since I’m doing this project by myself, I know I will need help in understanding each book. I will first read each Great Book. I will then consult a book, article, subject matter expert, or work of art in the hope of better understanding the Great Book. Please help me in compiling a list of guides.

I will continue The Books of Titans Podcast through this new phase. I plan to cover each book first and then cover the guides in a separate episode.

I’d love for you to participate in one of the following ways:

  1. Read The Great Books with me.
  2. Read some of these books with me.
  3. Participate in in-person or online discussions about some of the books.
  4. Help me finalize this list of books and guides.

Please email me at erik@booksoftitans.com if any of these ideas strike your fancy.

Proposed Reading List

# Book Author Est. Year
1 The Epic of Gilgamesh -2100
2 Writings from Ancient Egypt -2000
3 The Rigveda -1500
4 Enuma Elish Babylonian -1100
5 The Iliad Homer -730
6 Theogony & Works and Days Hesiod -700
7 The Odyssey Homer -700
8 Stung with Love: Poems and Fragments Sappho -600
9 Aesop’s Fables Aesop -580
10 Selected Works Aeschylus -458
11 Selected Works Sophocles -442
12 The Histories Herodotus -430
13 Lysistrata, Comedies Aristophanes -411
14 Selected Works Euripides -405
15 History of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides -405
16 Apology, Symposium, The Republic, Timaeus Plato -399
17 Rhetoric, Physics, Politics, Nichomachean Ethics, Poetics Aristotle -350
18 Analects Confucius -300
19 Elements Euclid -300
20 The Art of Happiness Epicurus -280
21 The Book of Chuang Tzu Chuang Tzu -250
22 Works Archimedes -220
23 Terence The Comedies Terence -165
24 On the Nature of Things Lucretius -70
25 The Republic and The Laws, On the Nature of the Gods Cicero -51
26 Aeneid Virgil -20
27 The History of Rome: Books 1 – 10 Livy -9
28 Metamorphoses Ovid 8
29 Letters from a Stoic Seneca 65
30 The Jewish War Josephus 90
31 Institutes of Oratory Quintilian 95
32 Arithmetic Nicomachus 100
33 Lives Plutarch 100
34 Almagest Ptolemy 100
35 Discourses / Enchiridion Epictetus 108
36 Annals Tacitus 110
37 Meditations Marcus Aurelius 180
38 The Mishnah 200
39 The Enneads Plotinus 270
40 The Bhagavad-Gita in the Mahabharata 300
41 Ecclesiastical History, On the Life of Pamphilus Eusebius 330
42 Life of St Anthony, On the Incarnation Athanasius 367
43 Confessions, The City of God St. Augustine 400
44 Selected Letters St. Jerome 400
45 The Talmud 400
46 The Consolation of Philosophy Boethius 523
47 The Koran 632
48 Beowulf 1000
49 Arabian Knights 1000
50 The Forest of Thieves and the Magic Garden 1000
51 The Pillow Book Shōnagon 1002
52 Shahnameh: The Persian Book of Kings Abolqasem Ferdowsi 1010
53 The Tale of Genji Murasaki Shikibu 1021
54 Proslogium Saint Anselm 1078
55 The Song of Roland 1100
56 The Alexiad Anna Komnene 1148
57 Selected Writings Hildegard of Bingen 1160
58 The Lais of Marie de France Marie de France 1160
59 The Guide for the Perplexed Maimonides 1190
60 The Saga of the Volsungs 1200
61 Njal’s Saga 1200
62 Magna Carta 1215
63 The Essential Rumi Rumi 1260
64 Divine Comedy Dante Alighieri 1320
65 The Tale of the Heike 1330
66 The Decameron Boccacio 1350
67 Sir Gawain and the Green Knight 1390
68 Canterbury Tales Chaucer 1392
69 The Imitation of Christ Thomas à Kempis 1420
70 The Book of Margery Kempe Margery Kempe 1430
71 Summa Theologica Thomas Aquinas 1485
72 In Praise of Folly Erasmus 1511
73 Utopia Thomas More 1516
74 The 95 Theses, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church Martin Luther 1520
75 The Prince Niccolò Machiavelli 1531
76 Gargantua and Pantagruel Rabelais 1532
77 Institutes on the Christian Religion John Calvin 1536
78 On the Revolution of the Spheres Copernicus 1543
79 The Book of Common Prayer 1549
80 The Story of Hong Gildong 1550
81 Essays Michael de Montaigne 1580
82 The Dark Night of the Soul St. John of the Cross 1580
83 The Fairie Queen Edmund Spenser 1590
84 Essays, Novum Organum Francis Bacon 1597
85 Selected Comedies, Tragedies, Histories, and Sonnets William Shakespeare 1600
86 Epitome IV Johannes Kepler 1618
87 Poems John Donne 1620
88 Motion of the Heart and Blood William Harvey 1628
89 The Temple George Herbert 1633
90 Two New Sciences Galileo Galilei 1638
91 Meditations, Rules for the Direction of the Mind René Descartes 1641
92 The Book of Five Rings Miyamoto Musashi 1643
93 Westminster Confession of Faith 1647
94 Leviathan Thomas Hobbes 1651
95 Maxims La Rochefoucauld 1665
96 The Misanthrope Molière 1666
97 Paradise Lost, Aeropagiticia John Milton 1667
98 Fables La Fontaine 1668
99 Theological-Political Treatise Benedict de Spinoza 1670
100 Pensées Blaise Pascal 1670
101 Revelations of Divine Love Julian of Norwich 1670
102 Phaedra John Baptiste Racine 1677
103 Pilgrim’s Progress, The Holy War John Bunyan 1678
104 Oroonoko Aphra Behn 1680
105 Principia Mathematica Isaac Newton 1685
106 Treatise on Light Christiaan Huygens 1690
107 Second Treatise on Government, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding John Locke 1700
108 Monadology Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz 1714
109 Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe 1719
110 Major Works Alexander Pope 1720
111 Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift 1726
112 Treatise on Human Nature David Hume 1740
113 The Spirit of Laws Montesquieu 1755
114 Candide Voltaire 1759
115 On the Origin of Inequality, Political Economy, The Social Contract, Confessions Jean-Jacques Rousseau 1762
116 The Wealth of Nations, The Theory of Moral Sentiments Adam Smith 1776
117 The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon 1776
118 Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Constitution Founding Fathers 1776
119 Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals Immanuel Kant 1785
120 The Federalist Papers Hamilton, Jay, Madison 1788
121 Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience William Blake 1789
122 Elements of Chemistry Antoine Lavoisier 1790
123 The Interesting Narrative Olaudah Equiano 1790
124 Life of Johnson Boswell 1791
125 The Ancient Mariner Samuel Taylor Coleridge 1798
126 The Two Part Prelude William Wordsworth 1799
127 Logic Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 1807
128 Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility Jane Austen 1813
129 On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation David Ricardo 1817
130 Frankenstein Mary Shelley 1818
131 The Great Odes John Keats 1819
132 Ivanhoe Sir Walter Scott 1819
133 Democracy in America De Tocqueville 1835
134 Theory of Parallels Lobachevsky 1840
135 Fear and Trembling, Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Sickness Unto Death Søren Kierkegaard 1843
136 The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas 1844
137 The Communist Manifesto, Capital Karl Marx 1844
138 Stories Edgar Allen Poe 1845
139 Jane Eyre Charlotte Brontë 1847
140 Wuthering Heights Emily Brontë 1847
141 Economic Sophisms Frederic Bastiat 1847
142 The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne 1850
143 Essays and Aphorisms Arthur Schopenhauer 1851
144 Moby Dick, Benito Cereno Herman Melville 1851
145 Uncle Tom’s Cabin Harriet Beecher Stowe 1852
146 Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert 1856
147 Origin of Species Charles Darwin 1859
148 A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, David Copperfield Charles Dickens 1859
149 The Gates Ajar Elizabeth Stuart Phelps 1868
150 Complete Poems Emily Dickinson 1870
151 Middlemarch George Eliot 1871
152 Autobiography, On Liberty John Stuart Mill 1873
153 Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy 1877
154 Complete Poems Alfred Tennyson 1880
155 The Brothers Karamazov, Notes from the Underground Fyodor Dostoyevsky 1880
156 The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass 1881
157 The Portrait of a Lady Henry James 1881
158 Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain 1884
159 Beyond Good and Evil, Twilight of the Idols, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, The Gay Science Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche 1886
160 Philosophical Investigations Ludwig Wittgenstein 1887
161 Tess of the D’Urbervilles Thomas Hardy 1891
162 Briefer Course William James 1892
163 The Red Badge of Courage Stephen Crane 1895
164 Dracula Bram Stoker 1897
165 Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad 1899
166 The Interpretation of Dreams, General Introduction to Psychoanalysis, Civilization and its Discontents Sigmund Freud 1899
167 The Everyman Chesterton, The Thing Essay G.K. Chesterton 1900
168 Essays on the Theory of Numbers Richard Dedekind 1901
169 King Arthur and His Knights Howard Pyle 1903
170 The Souls of Black Folk W. E. B. Du Bois 1903
171 In Search of Lost Time Marcel Proust 1909
172 Selected Writings Booker T. Washington 1910
173 The Electron Robert A. Millikan 1917
174 Ulysses James Joyce 1920
175 Poems William Butler Yeats 1920
176 The Kristin Lavransdatter Trilogy Sigrid Undset 1920
177 The Trial Franz Kafka 1925
178 Mrs. Dalloway Virginia Woolf 1925
179 Special & General Relativity Albert Einstein 1926
180 The Sound and the Fury, Absalom, Absolom William Faulkner 1929
181 The Physical Principles of the Quantum Theory Werner Heisenberg 1930
182 The General Theory John Maynard Keynes 1936
183 Their Eyes Were Watching God Zora Neale Hurston 1937
184 The Space Triology C. S. Lewis 1938
185 Rebecca Daphne Du Maurier 1938
186 The Complete Poems and Plays, 1909 – 1950 T.S. Elliot 1941
187 The Road to Serfdom Friedrich Hayek 1944
188 1984 George Orwell 1949
189 The Second Sex Simone de Beauvoir 1949
190 Letters and Papers from Prison Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1951
191 East of Eden John Steinbeck 1952
192 The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays Martin Heidegger 1956
193 Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe 1958
194 The Bell Iris Murdoch 1958
195 To Kill a Mockingbird Harper Lee 1960
196 The Moviegoer Walker Percy 1961
197 One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, Harvard Address Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn 1962
198 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Thomas S. Kuhn 1962
199 The Master and Margarita Mikhail Bulgakov 1966
200 The New Industrial State John Kenneth Galbraith 1967
201 Selected Stories Flannery O’Connor 1971
202 A Theory of Justice John Rawls 1971

*As You Like It, The Merchant of Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, The Tempest, Much Ado About Nothing / Romeo and Juliet, Julius Ceasar, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus / Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V, King Lear

Suggestions?

I’m sharing my proposed list to gather feedback. Any books I’m missing? Please make suggestions and I’ll consider them for the project. I’m specifically seeking Great Books I missed, suggested guidebooks to help in understanding any of the books listed above, or someone you know who is a subject matter expert about the book.

The Great Books Suggestions

Sources

I pulled from the sources below to compile this Great Books list. Efforts were made to expand outside of the Western Canon. No books will be added that were written within the last 50 years.