Category Archives: Great Books and Harvard Classics Series

Duration to Completion of the Great Books of the Western World

I get many search queries that hit my website, and loads of questions, pertaining to how long it takes to read the Great Books of the Western World (GBWW), edited by Mortimer Adler.  Of course, there’s no strict answer to this question, but I can give some perspective.  I think, for the average working layperson, reading the set within ten years is more than reasonable.  A couple such plans may be found by clicking here and here.  In fact, another plan puts the duration at seven years, and this might be the outright reasonable timeframe for the average working (and more or less disciplined) layperson.  Continue reading

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Comparing the Great Books of the Western World to the Harvard Classics (Part IV): Why Read the Harvard Classics or the Great Books of the Western World?

Please excuse mid-post rant.  If you disagree with my opinion, you will just have to forgive me, and let me my opinion.

Some of the search engine results that end up leading folks to my GBWW vs. HC series are “why should I read the harvard classics” and “why should I read the great books of the western world.”  Since there seems to be considerable demand for an answer to these questions, I figured I would take the time to give my two cents.  I will start with the Harvard Classics (HC).  Continue reading

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Comparing the Great Books of the Western World to the Harvard Classics (Part III): Assessing the Philosophy Selections

I think the real limitation of Harvard Classics can be seen in the philosophy selections it contains.  Unfortunately, I think the Harvard Classics could have been put together with much greater efficacy, had the editor taken a much more piecemeal approach in selecting excerpts to be included.  Otherwise, I am not sure I see any way that Harvard Classics could present a sustained usefulness to a readership seeking novelty in the set.  The approach of the Great Books of the Western World, including whole swathes of philosophical literature, essentially, obviates the most desires to own the Harvard Classics, at least as far as the philosophy goes.  In fact, when I began this blog, I owned the Harvard Classics, but not the Great Books of the Western World; but finding the latter to be such an asset, I now on it and sold the former.  Continue reading

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Comparing the Great Books of the Western World to the Harvard Classics (Part II): Assessing the Fiction Selections

For all that I took the Harvard Classics to the woodshed in the first part of this series, the Great Books of the Western World shall get their fill in this one.  Let me preface this post by saying that I will not too strongly impose my opinions upon the two sets of books, in the sense that I will only criticize selections on the basis of what I think is within the realm of acceptability.  That is, I will criticize those selections which wouldn’t make my top 100 fiction selections, let alone my top dozen or two.  Also, I will include epics in this discussion, and keep them separate from poetry, at least for the purposes of this post. Continue reading

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Comparing the Great Books of the Western World to the Harvard Classics (Part I): General Observations and Remarks

(attention: Please note that there are about a dozen works (a few more so in the Harvard Classics than the Great Books of the Western World) within each collection that I have not read, and I will do my best to note which those are.  There are a few works, like Summa Theologica, of which I have read a portion through abridged editions or numerous excerpts, but I do feel competent, even in such a partial reading of these few texts, to comment upon their having been selected.  Additionally, I have only read half of the books in the Gateway to the Great Books collections, and the same is true of the Harvard Classics’ shelf of fiction.  Therefore, I will not comment on either of these.) Continue reading

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