Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Well-Educated Mind: Reading The Histories



Ruth at A Great Book Study is beginning to read through The Well-Educated Mind Histories beginning January 1, 2017 and I'm going to join her on the journey.  We read through the Biographies together (or almost. I still have The Gulag Archipelago to finish up) and while it took two and a half years, it seems just like yesterday that we began.



Now, I'm under no illusions; the histories are going to take longer, especially if one wants to really absorb them.  Here is the list:

  • The Histories by Herodotus
  • The Peloponnesian War by Thucydides
  • The Republic by Plato
  • Plutarch’s Lives
  • The City of God by St. Augustine
  • The Ecclesiastical History of the English People by Bede
  • The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  • Utopia by Sir Thomas More
  • The True End of Civil Government by John Locke
  • The History of England, Vol. V by David Hume
  • The Social Contract by Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  • Common Sense by Thomas Paine
  • The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Edward Gibbon
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Democracy in America by Alexis De Tocqueville
  • The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels
  • The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burckhardt
  • The Souls of Black Folk by W.E. B. Du Bois
  • The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism by Max Weber
  • Queen Victoria by Lytton Strachey
  • The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
  • The New England Mind by Perry Miller
  • The Great Crash 1929 by John Kenneth Galbraith
  • The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan
  • The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
  • Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made by Eugene D. Genovese
  • A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century by Barbara Tuchman
  • All the President's Men by Bob Woodward & Carl Bernstein
  • Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson
  • A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
  • The End of History and the Last Man by Francis Fukuyama


Some of these I'm so excited to read, such as The Histories, The Republic, The Prince, The Social Contract, and A Distant Mirror; others leave me rather unmoved, for example, The True End of Civil Government (big yawn!), Common Sense and The Feminine Mystique.  I expect to have some surprise favourite and flops before the read is over.

There is also a Reading the Histories group on Goodreads where we'll be able to discuss as we go.  So please join us if you feel so inclined and we can read the histories together.  You never know where they may take us!


32 comments:

  1. Looking over that list, it looks like a 5 Year Plan :-)
    I salute you, comrade!

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    1. I hope to get through it in 3 years or a little over but we'll see. I want to go more in-depth with The Histories, The Republic and Plutarch's Lives, so that will certainly stretch it out. Let's just say I'm not placing any bets on the timeframe. ;-)

      I salute you back! ;-)

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  2. Thank you so much for joining me on the biographies and now the histories. I'm getting excited about starting, but I'm also intimidated about the earlier ones. I don't know why I am still afraid of the Ancients. It's not like I'm reading them in Greek or Latin.

    I am strangely interested in the Social Contract, too. I read Common Sense many years ago and liked it. At this time, there are none that I know of that I am not interested in.

    It shall be a long journey. Cheers!

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    1. It is exciting, isn't it? I'm a little intimidated by Plato, but otherwise, it shouldn't be too bad. I loved Rousseau's Confessions, so I'm interested in his The Social Contract, even though I'm certain I'll disagree with him. I am glad to hear that Common Sense isn't that bad.

      Yes, here's to a long and prosperous journey! :-)

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  3. Most of the first half is on my Classics Club list and ill definitely be joining for those. I was always told not to read the Histories as a History /student/ but since I don't study it now I'll be looking forward to it.

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    1. Oh, I'm so glad you're joining! The Histories so far (yes, I've started it!) seems more like Herodotus describes it --- an inquiry. But since "history" books didn't exist at the time he wrote it, there would have been nothing to compare. In any case, it's all fascinating!

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  4. Tempting...sort of. There are some I probably wouldn't tackle.

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    1. Perhaps you could join us for a few that interest you. The list looks rather daunting, I know, and certainly not everyone will want to tackle all of it. Please think about it ..... :-)

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    2. I'll try & do that - the first 2 would be interesting; we have a folio set of Decline & Fall, picked up as a freebie from them years ago & unread since - there are 8 volumes!!! Communist manifesto, Longest Day perhaps. Thanks for the encouragement!

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    3. You're welcome! I'm glad that you'll be joining us! :-)

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  5. I agree....this looks like a 5 year plan! I've read 5 on the list...some massive (The Histories) some that will read in a day or two (The Prince). Battle Cry of Freedom is easy to read per chapter....then put it away for a while if need be. The books that would tempt me in 2017 would be Fukuyama, Galbraith, Miller and Tuchman. I hope I can squeeze them in while travelling around the world! Good luck with this phase The Well-Educated Mind!

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    1. Oh yes, Nancy, I hope you'll read a couple with us! You've made a good point ---- sometimes with these type of books it's hard to read right through and you need to pause and let them percolate. We'll see how it goes. Hopefully I'll be able to adjust if need be.

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  6. With current state of affairs, I will probably get through this list in 10 years, but I have 10 years I think and most of these books are so worth it. So I am IN....just do not expect me to be time bound about it!!Also, as we have discussed many time previously, this list while brilliant is very Euro centric and I think i will through in a couple of Eastern classics in the mix, that probably extended my timeline to 15 years! Oh!well! What is life without constant reading and learning?

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    1. Please do share your Eastern classics! I'm looking for more eastern books to add to my TBR.

      I know ..... life has been crazy lately, but I'm (I hope not fruitlessly) hoping that everything will come together in 2017 and reading will be top of the order. Foolishly optimistic? Perhaps .... actually likely, but I need to start with a good attitude otherwise I feel like I'll self-combust. Yikes! So here's to lots of reading in 2017!

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  7. My Gosh!! You'll be the smartest reader on the continent! i've read some of these, but i find, now, that when i read a book, one that was there in my brain pan falls out, so the total book capacity is constant... hence no matter what i read, it will be doomed inevitably to dissolution... anyway, much luck with the project!

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    1. Well, look at it this way, Mudpuddle ..... each book read and re-read will be new and exciting. Lol! ;-) For some reason, I was like that with TV programs and movies ever since I was young. I never remembered the plot and action, but it made for a broader range of movies to choose from! :-)

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    2. haha! good points; i hope you can forge ahead with the list... i'm pretty sure if i tried it, i'd hit a berg and do a Titanic...

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  8. Quite a few of these are on my CC list, so count me in for at least some of them! I'm not sure I want to read the Republic again.

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    1. LoL! Did The Republic traumatize you? ;-) I'm looking forward to it.

      And I'm so happy that you'll be joining us for at least some. More readers, more joy and less pain through those not-so-joyful ones! :-)

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  9. YES. It did. Plato was a jerk, man. Or possibly I just don't know any better.

    http://howlingfrog.blogspot.com/2012/11/the-republic.html

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    1. lol ! i wonder what the greek word for "jerk" is...? lol again...

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    2. Snicker! Great review! It gives me a starting point. I wonder if Plato was completely serious and how The Republic compares to his other works. I was under the impression that Plato was more broad-minded and it was Aristotle who was more rigid, but since I have read very little Plato and no Aristotle, I have no idea. :-Z

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  10. I added Histories to my challenges 2017. It fits perfectly in my non-fiction year. I've discoverd there are many NF classics to be read! MY goal is 5 reads in 2017. Republic? I would recommend it…but be prepared to feel exhausted after each chapter! Don't be discouraged after ch 1...your head will spin but keep reading. The book gets better!

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    1. Yay, Nancy! I'm excited that I'll be reading more non-fiction in 2017.

      Strangely, Plato doesn't intimidate me. Now, Aristotle ...... he's a whole other story! :-Z

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    2. I used a reader's guide 'Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics" (168 pg) by C. Warne. It helped me understand all the details. :)

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  11. Good luck with all of these, that's quite a list :) I've a few in common with you for next year - Herodotus, Plato, Augustine, More... I love Bede and Weber, both are great. And the Marx is a quick read and very interesting. I've read the Rousseau too, but that was quite a while ago... Anyway, I wish you the best of luck and hopefully, at least, I'll join you in reading some Herodotus. My plan (on the Ancients front) is to finish (or nearly finish) my 4th - 2nd Century BC list. That's an awful lot of Plato and Aristotle - not so sure I'm up to it :S

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    1. I'm glad to hear your good reports on some of these books/authors. It makes me even more excited to start.

      Yes, indeed, lots of Plato and Aristotle. If I could keep up to your reading speed, I might like to read Aristotle with you when you get to him. We'll see .... :-)

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  12. I can vouch that The Prince is really fun! Knowing that makes me personally less scared of histories :) Hope you find more books to like here than to yawn about! Good luck with the list!

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    1. Well, I must say that I didn't yawn through nearly as many of the biographies that I expected to, and I'm really interested in the histories, so hopefully there will be no yawners. I'm looking forward to The Prince, not only because of the content, but because of the length! :-)

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  13. This actually looks like a great list - but I know I could never commit to it, at least not in a time-frame. Maybe a book here and there. Someday.... Good luck and enjoy!

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    1. Yes, I know it seems crazy, but I really enjoyed the biographies we went through, much more than I thought I would. I hope my experience with the histories will be even better.

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