The Harvard Classics

In 1909, then Harvard University President Charles W. Eliot compiled and published his version of the Western canon — 51 volumes of essays, poetry and prose.  In 1985, my parents purchased a set, and it has slept peacefully in my father’s study ever since.  Around two months ago, I finally worked my way through the barricade of boxes and bric-a-brac that have accumulated in front of the shelves over the years.  The books were a lovely sight to behold.  Mr Eliot, challenge accepted.

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Dimanche and Other Stories by Irene Nemirovsky

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About the book

This is a collection of ten short stories published posthumously in 2000.  The English translation by Bridget Patterson was published ten years later.  Most of the stories are about relationships between family members, and a few are set during and around times of war.  The stories are:

  • Dimanche (Sunday) – about a woman with an adulterous husband and a carefree teenaged daughter
  • Les rivages heureux (Those Happy Shores) – about an ambitious, recently-engaged young woman and an embittered middle-aged prostitute
  • Liens du sang (Flesh and Blood) – about four siblings dealing with each other, their respective families, and their mother
  • Fraternite (Brotherhood) – about a man waiting for the train with a stranger
  • La femme de don Juan (Don Juan’s Wife) – a governess writing to her previous ward about the latter’s parents
  • Le sortilege (The Spell) – about the unusual living arrangements and behavior of a Russian family
  • Le spectateur (The Spectator) – about a man striving to be a neutral during the war
  • Monsieur Rose (Mr Rose) – about a man striving to maintain a detached and uneventful existence
  • La Confidente (The Confidante) – a man asking his wife’s friend about the circumstances surrounding her death
  • L’inconnu (The Unknown Soldier) – a man telling his brother about killing a German soldier

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St John’s College Undergraduate Reading List

2008 edition.  This is probably the ultimate, as far as checklists go.

FRESHMAN YEAR

  • 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
  • ARISTOPHANES: Clouds
  • 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
  • Essays by: Archimedes, Fahrenheit, Avogadro, Dalton, Cannizzaro, Virchow, Mariotte, Driesch, Gay-Lussac, Spemann, Stears, J.J. Thompson, Mendeleyev, Berthollet, J.L. Proust

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Hood – Emma Donoghue

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About the book

Hood is Irish writer Emma Donoghue’s second novel.  Alternating reveries and reality, it is an account of how a woman copes with the sudden death of her partner. It was published in 1995, and won the Stonewall Book Award (formerly the ALA’s Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Book Award for Literature).  This 2011 edition contains some additional material, including a transcript of an interview with the author.

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Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

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About the book –

“Colera” in Spanish has two meanings – 1) an infectious disease, and 2) a state of rage or intense emotion.  “El amor en los tiempos del colera” is a novel by Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  It was published in 1985, his first novel since winning the Nobel Prize in 1982, and the English translation by Edith Grossman was released in 1988.  Set in a Latin American country and spanning a half century (around 1880-1930), it follows a young man’s feverish obsession over a woman, despite seemingly insurmountable odds.  Woven between and beyond the lines is an illuminated commentary on social norms, and a convincing treatise on things that can be love and things that love can be.

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The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht

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About the book –

This is the debut novel of Tea Obreht, published in 2011, when it was also awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize).  It is set in fictional wartorn Balkan provinces, and the story spans generations.  At the heart of it is a young doctor, who has pieced together the pivotal events of her grandfather’s childhood in an attempt to still her own unrest.  It is dedicated to Stefan Obreht, the author’s grandfather.

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