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.
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.