A while ago I finished Susan Wise Bauer's "The Well-Educated Mind." I said I would offer comments on the books she recommends. She has a bunch of suggestions for how, when, why, etc. to read, in addition to what. The annotated lists she gives are not supposed to be exhaustive, and there are definitely more important books that were omitted (where's Henry Adams?). I gather her intent is to offer ranges of different types of books from antiquity to the present day and demonstrate how the general types have evolved over decades and centuries. For blogging purposes, I am not as concerned with that as I am in just expressing whether not (if I read it) I liked it or (if I have not read it) if I would be likely to like it. So, here goes. (Same thing as with the admirals. If I never heard of 'em, all that means is that I never heard of 'em. No offense, Margery Kempe.)
Don Quixote / Cervantes – Read it in college because I was told to. Loved it! It's a buddy/road movie, which is what many great works boil down to. I know that it's a book, but calling it a road book sounds lame so I'm calling it a road movie. Also, check out this excellent documentary on Terry Gilliam's quixotic attempt to shoot his own version of Quixote.
The Pilgrim's Progress / Bunyan – Also a road movie. Read portions years ago.
Gulliver's Travels / Swift – I actually read this in 6th grade and did a book report on it. I remember reading the end of it and asking my parents all these questions about it in the back of the station wagon on the way back from my cousin's house. Why did I do this? Because of the punchline of a Peanuts comic strip in which Charlie Brown procrastinated and stayed up all night to read Gulliver's Travels. Yes, I included the comic strip with my book report. I have reread it subsequently.
Pride and Prejudice / Austen – Never read it, probably won't.
Oliver Twist / Dickens – I'd like to get to this sometime. I loved The Pickwick Papers.
Jane Eyre / Bronte - Nope.
The Scarlet Letter / Hawthorne – Not yet.
Moby-Dick / Melville – I read this in my mid-20s at the recommendation of Stanley Crouch. I like this book a lot, and it led me to a lot more Melville. Here again is the Moby Dick blook.
Uncle Tom's Cabin / Stowe – Nope, but I read quite a bit about the origins and effects of this book in the book I mentioned a while ago about Joshua Chamberlain.
Madame Bovary / Flaubert – Nope.
Crime and Punishment / Dostoyevsky – Not yet.
Anna Karenina / Tolstoy – Not yet. David McCullough says that Theodore Roosevelt read this book while chasing around a bunch of cattle rustlers in the Dakotas.
The Return of the Native / Hardy – Negative.
The Portrait of a Lady / James – Nope.
Huckleberry Finn / Twain – Read this many times; Twain is one of my favorites.
The Red Badge of Courage / Crane – Yes; Read it in high school, though it didn't make as big an impression on me as it did on others in my class.
Heart of Darkness / Conrad – I read this about 10 years ago due to the fact that it was the basis for Apocalypse Now.
The House of Mirth / Wharton – Nope. Probably won't get to it any time soon, either.
The Great Gatsby / Fitzgerald – Read this several times, including once on audiobook. Each time I do, I read a bit more into it. Note: As far as George Will and I are concerned, there is no question that listening to an unabridged audiobook counts.
Mrs. Dalloway / Woolf – Nope.
The Trial / Kafka – Yes. I like Kafka a lot. The guy is messed up!
Native Son / Wright – No, but I'd like to.
The Stranger / Camus – Yes. Same comment as Kafka.
1984 / Orwell – This is my main man. I've read '84 and most of the rest of Orwell's full books. There are some collections of his essays that I hope to get to soon.
Invisible Man / Ellison – No, but I'd like to.
Seize the Day / Bellow – No, but I enjoy Saul Bellow very much. I liked The Adventures of Augie March and Mr. Sammler's Planet quite a bit, again stemming from the recommendation of Stanley Crouch.
One Hundred Years of Solitude / Marquez – No, but maybe one of these days.
If On a Winter's Night a Traveler / Calvino – No, but this sounds far out!
Song of Solomon / Morrison – No, probably won't.
White Noise / Delillo – I'd like to read Underground first.
Possession / Byatt – I listened to this on audiobook a couple of years ago. Every five minutes, one of the principal characters kept using lush adjectives to describe all these they-don't-make-'em-like-that-anymore vintage household items and knick-knacks from the simpler days of yore and going on and on about what exquisite pleasure they afforded the users. I was like "Jeez, just go to Target already."
Autobiography and Memoir
The Confessions / Augustine – No, but this is one of Garry Wills's favorite books.
The Book of Margery Kempe / Kempe – Never heard of it before.
Essays / Montaigne – One of these days.
The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself / Teresa – Nope.
Meditations / Descartes – One of these days.
Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners / Bunyan - Maybe sometime.
The Narrative of the Captivity and Restoration / Rowlandson – Maybe sometime.
Confessions / Rousseau – Tried to once, didn't get far. Might try again.
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin / Franklin – Yes.
Walden / Thoreau – Read parts of it. And now it's a blog.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written by Herself / Jacobs – Never heard of it.
Life and Times of Frederick Douglass / Douglass – Yes, liked it. (Btw – It had three totally different, rewritten editions. Kind of like director's cuts.)
Up From Slavery / Washington – Yes, I think I liked it, although I may be mixing parts of it up w/Douglass, above.
Ecce Homo / Nietzsche – Nope. Maybe sometime.
Mein Kampf / Hitler – Nope.
An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments With Truth / Gandhi – Nope. But speaking of Hitler, I did read an alternate history short story by Harry Turtledove once about what if the Nazis made it all the way to India, and Hitler and Gandhi faced off.
The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas / Stein – Nope.
The Seven Storey Mountain / Merton – Negative.
Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life / Lewis – I read parts of this in college. He's a real interesting guy.
The Autobiography of Malcolm X / Malcolm X – Read parts of this a long time ago. There is a Trivial Pursuit questions that asks who wrote this book. If Bill O'Reilly had had a talk show in 1965:
Journal of a Solitude / Sarton – Never heard of it.The Gualg Archipelago / Solzhenitsyn
– I'd like to read this sometime.
Born Again / Colson – OK, I know all this is subjective, but what on earth is this doing on this list when the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant are not?
Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez / Rodriguez – I'd like to; I hear good things about Rodriguez.
The Road From Coorain / Conway – Never read it.
All Rivers Run to the Sea: Memoirs / Wiesel – Maybe sometime. (I did read Night, though.)
The Histories / Herodotus – I'd like to.
The Peloponnesian War / Thucydides – I'd like to.
The Republic / Plato – I'd like to.
Lives / Plutarch – I'd like to.
The City of God / Augustine – I'd like to.
The Ecclesistical History of the English People / Bede – I'd like to.
The Prince / Machiavelli – I'd like to.
Utopia / More – I'd like to.
The True End of Civil Government / Locke – I'd like to.
The History of England, Vol. V / Hume – I'd like to.
The Social Contract / Rousseau – I'd like to.
Common Sense / Paine – Finally! Read this in high school and college.
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire / Gibbon – I'd like to.
A Vindication of the Rights of Women / Wollstonecraft – Listened to this on audio. This was written by the mother of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, author of Frankenstein.
Democracy in America / Tocqueville – Yes. Whole thing. Unabridged. Did it to go along with the C-Span series that retraced Tocqueville's travels. Motivational speakers and other dimwits frequently misattribute this blithering nonsense to Alexis de Tocqueville.
The Communist Manifesto / Marx & Engels – I have a copy around here somewhere, never read it.
The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy / Burckhardt – I'd like to.
The Souls of Black Folk / Du Bois – I'd like to.
The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism / Weber – I'd like to.
Queen Victoria / Strachey – I'd like to.
The Road to Wigan Pier / Orwell – Yes. See Orwell comments above.
The New England Mind / Miller – Never heard of it before.
The Great Crash 1929 / Galbraith – Never read it.
The Longest Day / Ryan – Yes. See my post of 6/6/05.
The Feminine Mystique / Friedan - Nope.
Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made / Genovese – I'd like to.
A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century / Tuchman – I listened to this unabridged on audio about six or eight years ago and liked it quite well.
All the President's Men / Woodward & Bernstein – Read this in high school and again after college. I am going to read it again sometime, maybe in tandem with the new Deep Throat book.
Battle Cry of Freedom / McPherson – Read this about three or four years ago, and it is really really good.
A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 / Ulrich – Nope.
The End of History and the Last Man / Fukuyama – I'd like to.
Agamemnon / Aeschylus – Kind of.
Oedipus the King / Sophocles – Read this in college.
Medea / Euripedes – Not yet.
The Birds / Aristophanes – I love the part where suddenly all the birds are sitting on the jungle gym. How'd they all get there so quietly?
Poetics / Aristotle – Never read this or saw it.
Everyman / ? – No.
Doctor Faustus / Marlowe – No, but I'd like to.
Richard III / Shakespeare – Al Pacino is a big fan. I read this after I saw the excellent film adaptation set in the 1920s/30s.
A Midsummer Night's Dream / Shakespeare – Read this and saw it performed in high school and college.
Hamlet / Shakespeare – Read this several times. Also, I like the Canadian film adaptation.
Tartuffe / Moliere – I'd like to.
The Way of the World / Congreve – Never heard of it.
She Stoops to Conquer / Goldsmith – Never heard of it.
The School for Scandal / Sheridan – Never heard of it.
A Doll's House / Ibsen – I read it in high school and didn't get it.
The Importance of Being Ernest / Wilde – Yes. Now this guy is funny!
The Cherry Orchard / Chekhov – Negative.
Saint Joan / Shaw– I'd like to.
Murder in the Cathedral / Eliot– I'd like to.
Our Town / Wilder – Sat through this in high school and again in college (I think). Since Wilde is so funny, you'd think Wilder would be funnier. Guess not.
Long Day's Journey Into Night / O'Neill - Nope.
No Exit / Sartre – I'd like to.
A Streetcar Named Desire / Williams – Not that into it. Sorry.
Death of a Salesman / Miller – Same as Streetcar.
Waiting for Godot / Beckett – Read this in high school, liked it. I'd like to read it again.
A Man for All Seasons / Bolt– I'd like to.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead / Stoppard– I'd like to.
Equus / Shaffer– I'd like to.
Except for the narrative epics like the Iliad and the Odyssey, Gilgamesh, Beowulf, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, (which are all cool) I don't really get poetry, so I will pass on offering comments.
OK, so that's how I stack up Well-Educated Mindwise.