Great Books – St Johns College

I love comparing my reads to reading lists. I’ve already done the BBC’s Big Read, Hugo, and Newbery lists. This list comes from St. Johns college in Santa Fe. They are one of a handful of “great books” colleges that focus on a reading list as the main source of their curriculum. If I had a college do-over I might apply to St. Johns since I enjoying reading great books and discussing them anyway. I even took a 1 term great books course at college.

Books I’ve read in bold. Books from my great books course in italics too.


    HOMER: Iliad, Odyssey
    AESCHYLUS: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides, Prometheus Bound
    SOPHOCLES: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Philoctetes, Ajax
    THUCYDIDES: Peloponnesian War
    EURIPIDES: Hippolytus, Bacchae
    HERODOTUS: Histories
    PLATO: Meno, Gorgias, Republic, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Symposium, Parmenides, Theaetetus, Sophist, Timaeus, Phaedrus
    ARISTOTLE: Poetics, Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, On Generation and Corruption, Politics, Parts of Animals, Generation of Animals
    EUCLID: Elements
    LUCRETIUS: On the Nature of Things
    PLUTARCH: Lycurgus, Solon
    NICOMACHUS: Arithmetic
    LAVOISIER: Elements of Chemistry
    HARVEY: Motion of the Heart and Blood


    THE BIBLE: New Testament
    ARISTOTLE: De Anima, On Interpretation, Prior Analytics, Categories
    APOLLONIUS: Conics
    VIRGIL: Aeneid
    PLUTARCH: “Caesar,” “Cato the Younger,” “Antony,” “Brutus”
    EPICTETUS: Discourses, Manual
    TACITUS: Annals
    PTOLEMY: Almagest
    PLOTINUS: The Enneads
    AUGUSTINE: Confessions
    MAIMONIDES: Guide for the Perplexed
    ST. ANSELM: Proslogium
    AQUINAS: Summa Theologica
    DANTE: Divine Comedy
    CHAUCER: Canterbury Tales
    MACHIAVELLI: The Prince, Discourses
    KEPLER: Epitome IV
    RABELAIS: Gargantua and Pantagruel
    PALESTRINA: Missa Papae Marcelli
    MONTAIGNE: Essays
    VIETE: Introduction to the Analytical Art
    BACON: Novum Organum
    SHAKESPEARE: Richard II, Henry IV, The Tempest, As You Like It, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, and Sonnets
    POEMS BY: Marvell, Donne, and other 16th- and 17th-century poets
    DESCARTES: Geometry, Discourse on Method
    PASCAL: Generation of Conic Sections
    BACH: St. Matthew Passion, Inventions
    HAYDN: Quartets
    MOZART: Operas
    BEETHOVEN: Third Symphony
    SCHUBERT: Songs
    STRAVINSKY: Symphony of Psalms


    CERVANTES: Don Quixote
    GALILEO: Two New Sciences
    HOBBES: Leviathan
    DESCARTES: Meditations, Rules for the Direction of the Mind
    MILTON: Paradise Lost
    LA FONTAINE: Fables
    PASCAL: Pensees
    HUYGENS: Treatise on Light, On the Movement of Bodies by Impact
    ELIOT: Middlemarch
    SPINOZA: Theological-Political Treatise
    LOCKE: Second Treatise of Government
    RACINE: Phaedre
    NEWTON: Principia Mathematica
    KEPLER: Epitome IV
    LEIBNIZ: Monadology, Discourse on Metaphysics, Essay On Dynamics, Philosophical Essays, Principles of Nature and Grace
    SWIFT: Gulliver’s Travels
    HUME: Treatise of Human Nature
    ROUSSEAU: Social Contract, The Origin of Inequality
    MOLIERE: Le Misanthrope
    ADAM SMITH: Wealth of Nations
    KANT: Critique of Pure Reason, Foundations of the Metaphysics of Morals
    MOZART: Don Giovanni
    JANE AUSTEN: Pride and Prejudice
    DEDEKIND: “Essay on the Theory of Numbers”
    “Articles of Confederation,” “Declaration of Independence,” “Constitution of the United States of America”
    TWAIN: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    WORDSWORTH: The Two Part Prelude of 1799


    Supreme Court opinions
    GOETHE: Faust
    DARWIN: Origin of Species
    HEGEL: Phenomenology of Mind, “Logic” (from the Encyclopedia)
    LOBACHEVSKY: Theory of Parallels
    TOCQUEVILLE: Democracy in America
    LINCOLN: Selected Speeches
    FREDERICK DOUGLASS: Selected Speeches
    KIERKEGAARD: Philosophical Fragments, Fear and Trembling
    WAGNER: Tristan and Isolde
    MARX: Capital, Political and Economic Manuscripts of 1844, The German Ideology
    DOSTOEVSKI: Brothers Karamazov
    TOLSTOY: War and Peace
    MELVILLE: Benito Cereno
    O’CONNOR: Selected Stories
    WILLIAM JAMES; Psychology, Briefer Course
    NIETZSCHE: Beyond Good and Evil
    FREUD: Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
    BOOKER T. WASHINGTON: Selected Writings
    DUBOIS: The Souls of Black Folk
    HUSSERL: Crisis of the European Sciences
    HEIDEGGER: Basic Writings
    EINSTEIN: Selected papers
    CONRAD: Heart of Darkness
    FAULKNER: Go Down Moses
    FLAUBERT: Un Coeur Simple
    WOOLF: Mrs. Dalloway

Top 5 Literature

pen-and-paperTop 5 Authors
5. Tolkien
4. Frank Peretti
3. Edward Eager
2. Stephen R Lawhead
1. P K Dick

Top 5 Books
5. Runaway Ralph
4. Prometheus Bound
3. Wuthering Heights
2. Dream Thief
1. the Bible

Top 5 Shakespearean Plays
5. Much Ado About Nothing
4. Othello
3. Macbeth
2. King Lear
1. Hamlet

Top 5 Children’s Series
5. The High King Books
4. Edgar Eager Books
3. Ralph S. Mouse
2. Junie B. Jones
1. Nancy Drew / Hardy Boys

Opening Lines

3066777026_8d5f941606Young adult books often have some of the best opening lines, probably because their audience is likely to drop it and look for something else if they aren’t interested right away. Here are some of my favorites:

The Series of Unfortunate Events – The Bad Beginning “If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book. In this book, not only is there no happy ending, there is no happy beginning and very few happy things in the middle.”

Winnie-The-Pooh “Here is Edward Bear, coming downstairs now, bump, bump, bump, on the back of his head, behind Christopher Robin. It is as far as he knows, the only way of coming downstairs, but sometimes he feels that there really is another way, if only he could stop bumping for a moment and think of it.”

Junie B. Jones “My name is Junie B. Jones. The B stands for Beatrice. Except I don’t like Beatrice. I just like B and that’s all.”

The Box Car Children “One warm night four children stood in front of a bakery. No one knew them. No one knew where they had come from.”

Uglies “The early summer sky was the color of cat vomit.”

What’s your favorite opening line? Is it one here or some other? I’d be very interested to know.


Review: Ratha’s Creature

Ever finished a book and were just like “Uh?” That was Ratha’s Creature for me.

While well written and engaging I’m not sure what the point was. The book is about a clan of intelligent cats living in a prehistoric world. The cats have learned to herd wild game for domestic use. This allows them to develop a more sophisticated society, language and laws. When we meet Ratha she is a young cat learning how to catch wild game and tame it to add to their herding stock.

Ratha is more intelligent than even most of the clan cats, and has a fatal flaw of being too honest. Basically she can’t keep her mouth shut when she should. It’s gets her into trouble with friends and enemies alike.

I would say this is a coming of age story except that she doesn’t really ever seem to grow up emotionally. She may be super intelligent and a great survivor, but she never learns how to filter her thoughts so as not to offend everyone around her. It makes her hard to connect with as a reader, and leads to tragedies that could have been avoided. Ratha is the cause of most of her own problems. Even when warned by her friend Thakur she can’t seem to act any differently than her impulses. Is the author implying that no matter how “cultured” a cat may get they are still “wild”? I find that hard to believe.

What Ratha does learn is bitterness and that leads her to revenge. Even when Thakur sacrifices himself so she can live she hates him for it. It’s just really weird that in such a well written book the main character and plot can be so messy.