The Internet is currently abuzz with David Bowie’s list of 100 must-read books and justifiably so—it’s a great list.
This brings something to mind. Our current plan (which is always subject to modification) for educating our children is to put them in Montessori school from 3 to 12, and unschool them thereafter. It’s not going to be a full unschooling, however. There will be some things that will be mandated of them.
In particular, I want to put my kids through a Great Books tutorial, and put together a list of books that I want them to read between 12 and 16/18. So I’m trying to come up with my own list of Great Books to put them through.
I know the lists that are currently in existence, but I want our own list to be slightly different. I want the books to cover disciplines outside the traditional liberal arts (e.g. economics; business) and cover more temporary topics. I also want the list to include literature.
But the idea is to give my kids a broad and deep exposure to the liberal arts, human (Western (?)) thought from the pre-Socratics to today.
With that in mind, I’d love to have your suggestions for books for inclusion in the list.
Here are some tips on what I have in mind. Please refrain from suggesting books that are already on most “Great Books” lists, as I’m already aware of them (an exception to this rule would be to say something like: “You really can’t do without, e.g. The Gorgias because XYZ”). A bleg-within-the-bleg is that I’m utterly ignorant of Anglo and particularly recent American literature and I’d like some of that stuff in there. Another tip is that I’m eager to include in the list what I’d call “secondary” material; meaning, I’d e.g. rather have my kids read the best book on Kant’s philosophy than force them to slog through the Critiques which are really technical and abstruse—but that requires that the “secondary” book be really outstanding and that’s one of the things I need help on. More generally, it seems that most “Great Books” list include books based on their historical importance rather than what a reader may get from them. Is the best way to understand Newton’s Principia Mathematica to read it? I don’t think so, actually. And I certainly don’t want to inflict Das Kapital on them, though they will certainly read The Communist Manifesto. Another thing is that, to an extent, I’m willing to define “Book” broadly; for example, on the list are Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose series and Leonard Bernstein’s lectures, even though they’re video, so if you have some great ideas for non-book material that would fulfill the purpose I have outlined, let me know. I’d also like to include a “meta” book like How to Read a Book, though I know TAS Alum Alan has criticized that one. I’m also open to “lifehacks” books (like How to Win Friends and Influence People and such) if they’re really good.
With that in mind, to further guide you (and spark discussion!) here are some ideas of the books I’m considering for inclusion, bearing in mind that there’s no final list (and there might never be):
- The Didache
- Books by Church Fathers not named Augustine (I am so ignorant! Give me the recs! Especially the Orthodox contingent! (You know who you are))
- Good books on/of Jewish theology
- F.A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (?)
- Milton Friedman, A Monetary History of the United States (?)
- François Varillon, Joie de croire, joie de vivre
- Marc Bloch, The Strange Defeat
- Sigrid Undset, Kristin Lavransdatter (shocking, I know)
- Charles de Gaulle, France and Her Army, The Edge of the Sword, Memoirs of War, Memoirs of Hope
- Kierkegaard (which one?)
- John Paul II, Dominum et Vivificantem, Redemptoris Mater, Centesimus Annus, Evangelium Vitae, Ut Unum Sint, Ecclesia de Eucharistia
- Joseph Ratzinger, Jesus trilogy
- Therese of Lisieux, The Story of a Soul
- Hannah Arendt, The Origins of Totalitarianism, Eichmann in Jerusalem
- Alain Besançon, A Century of Horrors
- Primo Levi, If This Is A Man, The Truce
- Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man
- Amar Bhidé, The Venturesome Economy
- Clayton Christensen, The Innovator’s Solution
- Eliyahu Goldratt, The Goal, The Choice
- Andy Grove, High Output Management, Only The Paranoid Survive
- Charles Baudelaire, The Flowers of Evil, Small Prose Poems
- Eric Cobast, Leçons particulières de culture générale
- Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (?)
- Vladimir Volkoff, The Turnaround, The Angel Chronicles, The Moods of the Sea, Disinformation, Towards a French Metric
- Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man, America at the Crossroads
I could go on, but I think I’ve given you an idea. There are so many pieces that are missing here: art history; the Middle Ages; Catholic doctrine and mysticism; etc. Not enough fiction, not enough poetry…
…In any case, the floor is yours! Please help me. This should be a good discussion.