Great Books of the Western World

Web pages by Alan Nicoll

Supplementing these Yahoo discussion groups:
Great Conversation
More Great Conversation

Please note: This site is not being updated now and so is considerably less useful than it could be. I apologize for this, but given my present workload it cannot be otherwise.
Alan Nicoll

Current Reading (opens a new window)

About This Site

Latest Changes (3/25/05): Which edition of the Great Books do you have? Take a look at this Photo Comparison of the various looks and editions of the GBWW.

This page is divided into four major sections:

I have created this collection of web pages because I have gotten seriously involved with the Britannica Great Books of the Western World (GBWW), have begun the Ten Year Reading Plan, and am participating in the ongoing discussions at the Yahoo Great Conversation (or "Group I") and More Great Conversation discussion groups. For more information about these groups, click here.

This web page provides links to many general web sites as well as to my (few so far) articles, reviews, summaries, and selected quotes, and possibly discussions of the GBWW. Most of this is forthcoming; so far there's only a little here.

Since I am owner of Group I and only a member in other groups, please be aware that this site is mostly specific to Group I and doesn't necessarily apply to Group Too or Group Cath except for the similarity of reading plans.

This page is under construction, last updated 7/25/05.

To more easily read this site, I suggest setting your View/Text Size to "Larger" (MS Explorer)

Please note: this site refers exclusively to the 54-volume first edition of the Britannica Great Books, and only incidentally to the 60-volume second edition that is currently in print. The second edition mostly adds new texts and replaces some translations, and overall is a better set, in my opinion. Why, then, follow the ten-year reading plan of the first edition and not that of the second? Because the reading plan of for the second adds about 50%, and the first edition plan is quite enough reading for ten years.

Reading Group Information

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Group I Guidelines

Here's a link to the current group guidelines on reading and writing for Group I. The only real rules are: Completion of reading and writing assignments is entirely voluntary, but Great Conversation group members are expected to participate. I am requesting members to withhold their comments on each month's reading until the fifteenth of the month, to avoid influencing the experience and understanding of other members of the work in question. In other words, I am encouraging a diversity of opinion rather than a consensus.

The Reading Assignments

These lists of reading assignments are the "ten-year reading plan" described in vol. 1 of the GBWW, broken up into months. These lists are "official" only for the Great Conversation group, though the other groups will be following these lists more or less closely.

Changes may be made in the future; in particular, I'm thinking about not splitting up the five novels (including Don Quixote and War and Peace) between two years, as specified in the original ten-year plan. Any such changes will receive thorough discussion in the Group before this becomes official.

I have added page counts and split the year up into months, generally assigning minimal or no reading to December each year. For the complete unmodified list see the book itself, Vol. 1: The Great Conversation or the "Detailed contents" link below.

To learn about the GBWW and the ten-year reading plan, examine these files:

Ten-Year Reading Plan
List of Monthly Assignments
YearHTML fileMS Word fileTotal PagesPages per Month
(for 11 months)
First YearHTMLMS Word88981
Second YearHTMLMS Word106397
Third Year{pending}MS Word1344122
Fourth Year{pending}MS Word1448132
Fifth Year{pending}MS Word1566143
Sixth Year{pending}MS Word1671152
Seventh Year{pending}MS Word1200109
Eighth Year{pending}MS Word1352123
Ninth Year{pending}MS Word1392127
Tenth Year{pending}MS Word1667152
All Years CombinedHTMLMS Word13592125(avg)

Index to this Great Books Site

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The following index to this site shows just the names of the volumes, not detailed contents (for which see above). Check each volume page for links to online texts, study questions, collected quotes, summaries, and comments (as they are added). Volume numbers in red include assigned reading for 2005.

Vol 1: The Great Conversation, by Robert Maynard Hutchins: quotes, commentary by A.N.
Vol 2: The Great Ideas I
Vol 3: The Great Ideas II
Vol 4: Homer
Vol 5: Aeschylus/Sophocles/Euripides/Aristophanes
Vol 6: Herodotus/Thucydides
Vol 7: Plato
Vol 8: Aristotle I
Vol 9: Aristotle II
Vol 10: Hippocrates/Galen
Vol 11: Euclid/Archimedes/Apollonius/Nicomachus
Vol 12: Lucretius/Epictetus/Marcus Aurelius
Vol 13: Virgil
Vol 14: Plutarch
Vol 15: Tacitus
Vol 16: Ptolemy/Copernicus/Kepler
Vol 17: Plotinus
Vol 18: Augustine
Vol 19: Thomas Aquinas I
Vol 20: Thomas Aquinas II
Vol 21: Dante
Vol 22: Chaucer
Vol 23: Machiavelli/Hobbes
Vol 24: Rabelais
Vol 25: Montaigne
Vol 26: Shakespeare I
Vol 27: Shakespeare II
Vol 28: Gilbert/Galileo/Harvey
Vol 29: Cervantes
Vol 30: Francis Bacon
Vol 31: Descartes/Spinoza
Vol 32: Milton
Vol 33: Pascal
Vol 34: Newton/Huygens
Vol 35: Locke/Berkeley/Hume
Vol 36: Swift/Sterne
Vol 37: Fielding
Vol 38: Montesquieu/Rousseau
Vol 39: Adam Smith
Vol 40: Gibbon I
Vol 41: Gibbon II
Vol 42: Kant
Vol 43: American State Papers/The Federalist/J.S. Mill
Vol 44: Boswell
Vol 45: Lavoisier/Fourier/Faraday
Vol 46: Hegel
Vol 47: Goethe
Vol 48: Melville
Vol 49: Darwin
Vol 50: Marx/Engels
Vol 51: Tolstoy
Vol 52: Dostoevsky
Vol 53: William James
Vol 54: Freud

Related Links

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Link Index: The best single link to get you started is probably the Wikipedia article on the GBWW. It gives some history on the set, links to online books, and criticism. Also, all the authors and most of the works in the GBWW have their own Wikipedia pages.

Note that pages for the individual volumes above will have supplemental links more specific than those below, though only a few of those pages have been created so far. For example, if you're looking for links specific to Plato's Apology, start with my page on Plato. I'll try to keep a month ahead of the reading plan on these individual pages.

Major Etext Sites
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Historical Background
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General References
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Literature, Mythology
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Great Books History, Criticism, Miscellaneous
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Hutchins and Adler
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And here are the Yahoo group links one last time:

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Disclaimer: While I consider myself to be sensitive to issues important to feminists and "persons of color," I make no apologies for the fact that the Great Books collection includes only the works of dead white men. I am not responsible for the choice of works included. While I consider the "Great Books" to be a valuable part of a liberal education, I see them as a part only, and just the beginning of a true education.
You can buy the second edition of the Great Books of the Western World from Amazon; if you buy it through this link, I'll get a percentage. So I am shilling shamelessly for (Note: that "best price" is for a single used volume).

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My email address is: Your comments are welcome. Join "The Great Conversation"!

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