The First Conversation: Jan/Feb (Year One)

Here they are. The first books of The Great Conversation. Over the next two months I will be posting my reflections as I make my way through these classics. For those of you following along, here is the official reading order:

  1. The Epic of Gilgamesh
  2. The Iliad
  3. The Odyssey
  4. Aesop’s Fables

I’ve set up an Amazon store specifically for the site. If you click on any of the links above, you will be taken to a page where you can buy the same edition I will be reading directly from Amazon.

Alright everybody! Let the conversation begin!

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Welcome to The Great Conversation

THE CHALLENGE

Read the entire Great Books of the Western World collection and 150 Great Classics of Literature in 10 years.

MY STORY

Let me start by saying that I am not a scholar. I didn’t attend an Ivy League school, neither do I have a Master’s degree in English Literature. I do love books, however. Others may not describe me as bookish, but I have always held an affinity for the written word.

At one point in my undergraduate studies (which was longer than I’d care to admit) I was an English major. I wanted to study literature. Read the classics. Gain a better understanding of authors like Dickens and Hemingway, Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy. What I ended up with was a cursory glance at the classics and a heavy dose of modern literature. I was so disappointed that after a year and a half, I switched majors.

As I reached the end of my college career, an idea struck me. Why not give myself the education I’ve always longed for? The collegiate system as a whole had been so disappointing to me, why not supersede it altogether and let the greatest works in human history be my teachers?

I heard about the Great Books of the Western World set and decided it would be the best place to start. On top of that, I came up with a supplementary list of 150 classics to fill in the blanks where many of my personal “must-reads” were absent.

With lists in hand, I gave myself the goal of finishing in ten years. To give you an idea of what that entails, I will need to read a volume of the Great Books every 2 months and 1-2 classics a month (15 a year, roughly). Seems easy enough, right? By the time I turn 35, I’ll have become the well-read individual I’ve always aspired to be.

THE GREAT CONVERSATION

The Great Conversation is a term used by Great Books of the Western World Editor In Chief, Robert Hutchins, to describe the ongoing dialogue between the great thinkers throughout human history. The idea is that over time the greatest minds of each generation were building upon the work of their predecessors and thus conversing with them. As a disciple of the Great Conversation, one would grow in their understanding of themselves and the world around them.

Hutchins created the Great Books of the Western World collection because he believed that Western civilization was taking a headlong plunge into the abyss. A death to the spirit of intrigue had come in favor of “the Age of the Digest”, as Hermann Hesse called it.  The West needed to apply its present problems to the wisdom of the past. And it could only do so through interaction with the Great Books.

Upon first presenting the books in 1952, Hutchins said:

This is more than a set of books, and more than a liberal education. Great Books of the Western World is an act of piety. Here are the sources of our being. Here is our heritage. This is the West. This is its meaning for mankind.

THE BLOG

I started this blog to chronicle my journey. It is not intended as the final word on any of these books, merely my own personal reflections. I will keep it updated often with quotes, updates, and announcements on upcoming reading assignments. My hope is that it will inspire others to join in on The Great Conversation.

If you decide to join in on the Great Conversation, shoot me an email at: thegreatconvo@gmail.com

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