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Sunday, March 15, 2009

My next 5 difficult books to read

If I were to choose five authors from the list of Great Books of the Western World to read, my picks would be:
  • Homer (800 BC)
  • The Bible (600 BC–100AD)
  • Plato (427BC–347BC, 80 years)
  • Aristotle (384BC–322BC, 62 years)
  • Shakespeare (1564–1616, 52 years)
Similarly, my five picks from the Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan would be:
  • St. Augustine (354–430, 76 years)
  • St. Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274, 49 years)
  • Thomas à Kempis (1380–1471, 91 years)
  • St. Teresa of Ávila (1515–1582, 67 years)
  • St. Thérèse of Lisieux (1873–1897, 24 years)
There's never enough time, and so many other things to do, but I hope that before I die I'll have read the major works of the above authors.

What five difficult authors/books do you plan to read in your lifetime?


  • So I've got all these books on-hand. How do I avoid getting stuck on one of the longer books?

    My plan is to have 2-3 books on the go at any given time. One might be long and take me a few months (such as Plato's Republic). Another might be quite short, finishable in a day (such as one of the books in the Bible). Also I might be doing a quick first reading of one of the books, and a detailed second reading of another.

    So I'll be mixing things up for variety.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 3/16/2009 11:07 PM  

  • "Still, in a first reading we must achieve a middle ground between the slow sipping which never gets to the bottom of the glass and the quick gulp which never senses the flavor, body and aroma."

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 3/17/2009 10:21 PM  

  • I am currently reading the autobiography of St. Therese (260 pages). It's part autobiography, part theology (in the form of aphorisms).

    "How To Read A Book" doesn't give many instructions for this kind of work, so I am adapting the instructions as follows. In the autobiographical parts, I simply immerse myself in the story, getting familiar with the character of each person, and the warm family home environment. In the theological parts, I note the main points being made (and supporting points, although these are rare).

    I am not focusing much on terms and arguments, as the book doesn't have much of either.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 3/22/2009 4:51 PM  

  • There are four "tracks" to my reading plan:

    * Dramatic track: Iliad, Odyssey, Divine Comedy, Aeneid, and Shakespeare
    * Philosophy track: Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas
    * Bible track: The Bible, The Catechism of the Catholic Church
    * Saints track: St. Augustine, St. Teresa of Avila, Thomas a Kempis, St. Therese of Lisieux

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 4/18/2009 5:31 PM  

  • Refined the tracks a bit:

    Biblical Track
    * Revised Standard Version (2nd Catholic Ed.)

    Theology Track
    * St. Augustine – City of God
    * St. Augustine – Confessions
    * St. Augustine – Of True Religion
    * St. Augustine – Enchiridion: On Faith, Hope, and Charity
    * Thomas a Kempis – Imitation of Christ
    * St. Teresa of Avila – Life
    * St. Teresa of Avila – Way of Perfection
    * St. Teresa of Avila – Interior Castle
    * St. Therese of Lisieux – Autobiography
    * Catechism of the Catholic Church

    Philosophy Track
    * Plato - Complete Works
    * Aristotle - Complete Works
    * Aquinas – Summa Theologiae
    * Aquinas – Summa Contra Gentiles
    * Aquinas – Catechetical Instructions

    Literature Track
    * Homer – Odyssey
    * Homer – Iliad
    * Virgil – Aeneid
    * Dante – Inferno
    * Dante – Purgatorio
    * Dante – Paradiso
    * Shakespeare – Complete Works

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 4/26/2009 2:49 PM  

  • Notably missing on your western reads: Atlas Shrugged.

    By Blogger Doug Ransom, at 5/01/2009 7:07 AM  

  • Ah yes, Atlas Shrugged is considered by many to be a classic. I chose my books from Encyclopædia Britannica's Great Books of the Western World, which is mostly older works.

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 5/01/2009 12:26 PM  

  • A lifetime reading plan is hard work, a long-term investment. Why do it? It's a preparation for a moment in the distant future—of greatness or of great temptation—such as the one that Churchill wrote of: "I felt as if I was walking with destiny, and that all my past life had been but a preparation for this hour."

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 5/09/2009 10:53 PM  

  • I'm glad to see Dante on your list. Reading the Divine Comedy is not an easy undertaking -- keeping straight all the Ghibellines and Guelfs and people well-known back then but known today primarily because of Dante -- but the year I devoted to reading through it was some of the best time I ever spent.

    By Blogger stpetric, at 7/13/2009 4:58 AM  

  • stpetric—well done!

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 7/13/2009 8:19 AM  

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