Entering the Great Conversation

The following list suggests an introduction to the “Great Conversation” through the “Great Books.” These selections represent a wide range of perspectives, both Christian and non-Christian. They are presented in roughly chronological order. This list is not meant to provide a complete education – one will quickly notice that books on science and mathematics, for example, have been omitted – but they provide the foundation engaging the great ideas across time.

The Epic of Gilgamesh

Homer, The Iliad; The Odyssey

Aeschylus, Agamemnon; Choephoroe; Eumenides (The Oresteia)

Sophocles, Oedipus the King

Euripedes, Medea; The Bachantes

Aristophanes, The Clouds; The Wasps; The Birds; The Frogs; The Lysistrata

Herodotus, The History (“History of the Persian Wars,” or sometimes called “The Histories”)

Thucydides, The History of the Peloponnesian War

Plato, The Republic

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics; On Poetics

Virgil, The Eclogues, The Georges, The Aenid

Plutarch, The Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans

Tacitus, The Annals; The Histories

Augustine, The Confessions; The City of God


Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

The Second Shepherd’s Play and Everyman

Thomas More, Utopia

Martin Luther, The Babylonian Captivity of the Church; The Small Catechism

Bede, The Ecclesiastical History of the English People

Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

Montaigne, Essays

William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Richard the Third; A Midsummer

Night’s Dream; Hamlet; The Tempest

John Donne, Poems

George Herbert, The Temple

Miguel de Cervantes, The History of Don Quixote de la Mancha

Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy; Objections Against the

Meditations and Replies

Benedict de Spinoza, Ethics

John Milton, Paradise Lost

William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience

Blaise Pascal, Pensees

John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress; Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners

John Locke, A Letter Concerning Toleration; Concerning Civil Government (second essay)

George Berkeley, The Principles of Human Knowledge

David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

Jonathan Edwards, A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections

Henry Fielding, The History of Tom Jones; A Foundling

Montesquieu, The Spirit of Laws

Jean Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract; Confessions

Adam Smith, An Enquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empi re

Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason; The Critique of Practical Reason; The Critique of Judgment

Thomas Paine, Common Sense

American State Papers, The Declaration of Independence; Articles of

Confederation; The Constitution of the United States of America

Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay, The Federalist

John Stuart Mill, On Liberty; Representative Government; Utilitarianism

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson

Hegel, The Philosophy of Right; The Philosophy of History

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Goethe, Faust

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

John Henry Newman, Apologia pro vita sua

Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling

Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

John Keats, The Great Odes

Thoreau, Walden

William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays

Frederick Douglas, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas: An American Slave

Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Karl Mark and Friedrich Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party

Karl Marx, Capital

Herman Melville, Moby Dick

Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection

Emily Dickinson, The Complete Poems

Charles Dickens, Great Expectations; Oliver Twist

George Eliot, Middlemarch

Gerard Manley Hopkins, Poems

Tolstoy, War and Peace; Anna Karenina

Thomas Hardy, The Return of the Native

Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

Henrik Ibsen, A Doll’s House

Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Friedrich Nietzsche, Twilight of the Idols

William James, The Principles of Psychology

Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest

William Butler Yeats, Poems

Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism

Sigmund Freud, The Interpretations of Dreams; Civilization and Its Discontents

Joseph Conrad , Heart of Darkness

Anton Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard

James Joyce, Dubliners

George Bernard Shaw, Saint Joan

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf

Mohandas Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth

Robert Frost, Poems

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Franz Kafka, The Trial

Thornton Wilder, Our Town

Albert Camus, The Stranger

William Faulkner, Go Down, Moses

T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets; Murder in the Cathedral

Jean Paul Sartre, No Exit

Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain

George Orwell, 1984

Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman

Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot

Simone Weil, Waiting for God

Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison

Dorothy Sayers, The Mind of the Maker

C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters; Mere Christianity; The Chronicles of Narnia; Surprised by Joy; The Abolition of Man

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

Flannery O’Connor, A Good Man is Hard to Find

Eugene O’Neil, Long Day’s Journey Into Night

Solzhenitsyn, A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich; The Gulag Archipelago

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