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Ranking the Classics: Weeks Four and Five of the 60 in 60


Those Amazon readers who have followed my prior posts on the subject know that I've started in on what has been called by at least one friend "foolish" and by another "the endeavor of a madman": reading the 60 books in Penguin's Great Ideas series, one a day, and writing about each on my personal blog. Penguin's own blog questioned my sanity. Yet, I have persevered to the end of the fifth week, and my 60 in 60 audacity has been rewarded by attention from, among others, the Guardian (as book site of the week) and the Harvard University Press, which urged its readers to emulate my craziness. Still, I have made one change for my own peace of mind: between each set of 20, I get three days off to recuperate.

Every Saturday, then, I will report back to Omnivoracious readers on the prior week's reading, ranking each book I've read and turning a spotlight on the best. You can read the entire series of reviews on a special thread of my blog.

These past couple of weeks were difficult in terms of "rankings", because I enjoyed nearly everything...

1 - Lucretius' Sensation and Sex - A sometimes ornate, often matter-of-fact, always wonderful and strange (in the best way) discussion of love, sex, nascent atomic theory, and soul-death. Available from Amazon here.

2 - Plato's The Symposium - A surprisingly rich, entertaining, and funny book of conversations between Socrates and his friends on a variety of fundamental subjects, including love, death, and truth. Available from Amazon here.

3 - Christine de Pizan's The City of Ladies - A sly, clever defense of women that is designed to disarm men even as it engages them head-on.

4 - Sun-tzu's The Art of War - Ancient wisdom on the strategies and tactics of war applied to modern times in ways similar to the deployment of Machiavelli’s The Prince. Available from Amazon here.

5 - Marco Polo's Travels in the Land of Kubilai Khan - This exhaustive account of Marco Polo’s explorations contains amazingly precise information about everything from the materials made to build the roofs of palaces to the number of men garrisoned in certain provinces. Whether intentionally or not (and if accurate), it would have provided Europeans with detailed intelligence on the Great Khan–or simply made them quiver in fear at His omnipotence. Available from Amazon here.

6 - Revelation and the Book of Job - The apocalyptic Revelation portrays Christianity’s ultimate victory over its enemies. The Book of Job shows one man’s faith in the face of incredible adversity. Available from Amazon here.

7 - Cicero's An Attack on an Enemy of Freedom - Blistering speeches against the dictatorial ambitions of Mark Antony by one of the greatest statesmen of his age. Available from Amazon here.

8 - Baldesar Castiglione's How to Achieve True Greatness - A somewhat long-winded, if often witty discussion of the qualities and attributes that best serve a courtier. This isn’t to recommend not reading Castiglione, but I will say that for the first time I welcomed the “[...]” signal from the esteemed editors of the Great Ideas series that they had cut a section of the text. In this case, there’s really no way to tell that anything is missing. Available from Amazon here.

9 - Confucius' The First Ten Books - A sampling of the sayings and wisdom of Confucius, some of it universal and some particular to his times.


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Nooooo. More like sampling bite-sized portions. Most of these are abridged. All are under 140 pages.



A little like going to a the world's greatest restaurant and gobbling down your meal like a hungry teenager. Isn't it?

Why anyone (especially a publisher) would DISCOURAGE you from a task such as this is beyond me. The only downside I see is, you might need more breaks between books to digest what you've read. Otherwise, I suppose, you get, um, Readers' Indigestion.

Very astounding and intriguing viewpoints and parallels on master works of the literary greats as well as some modern views on contemporaries. Will have to look into a few when I am freed up from my time restrictions in my personal life with home, child, appointments, meetings, and just about every minute that could be taken in the moment that I'm trying to "un-wind my mind" to be able to read to reach a true comprehension. I was a true fan as well of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Timeline, and many of the classics that all of the young ladies of my time were reading in school that will always be timeless. I always loved a dreamer who saw beauty chasing windmills - we now have one turning it into energy in Texas. Have a Wonderful New Year. Laura Lee O'Callaghan

An amazing task! Reading 60 in 60. As a bookish kid in grade school, back in the 1940's, I'd sometimes read 20 in 30, indiscriminately reading my way through the offerings of my neighborhood branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. When I return to Pittsburgh, I visit that building as if it is a shrine.
That period of "omnivoracious" reading was a life-changing experience for me.
Hopefully Jeff VanderMeer will, at the end of the experience, reflect on changes the two months have wrought in him. This will likely be, for him, a "once in a lifetime" experience.
I would say that, for me, reading "a book a day" overwhelmed my defensive or critical barriers, and the content and style of the books went directly to some inner core.
It was a privilege to get to know all those people. [At my young age, for me, then, there was not a special category of "Writers, Great or Less Great", but just people who were relating to me.]
That experience made me a bibliophile and a lifelong reader of books.
It made me a better person.

Montyne's Inferno is a fantastic book. everyone check it out on kindle books or go to to get hard copy/pdf version. enjoy the read and the website!

Everyone needs to go get a copy of this great book! a kindle version is available here on amazon or you can got to for pdf version/hard copy. you won't be disappointed.

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