Top 10 Great Books of the Western World

 

Great Books of the Western World are a series of books published in the US in 1952 by Encyclopedia Britannica. It’s is one of the most acclaimed publishing achievements of the 20th century. The project got a kick start at the University of Chicago under the University president Robert Hutchins who later collaborated with Mortimer Adler, and together they both aimed to introduce through these books those ideas, stories, and discoveries that have shaped the modern civilization. Initially, it consisted of 54 volumes each covering categories like history, philosophy, mathematics, art, politics, literature and science.

Volume 1 and 2 comprises of Syntopicon consisting 102 major ideas uniting the great book. It also includes the Great Conversation, which featured interesting background information, timelines, photos and quotes of the classical age. In 1990 it’s the second edition was published and more volumes were added to list making it of 60 volumes containing 517 works written by 130 authors each covering variety of subjects. The basic motive behind this was to make people aware of the age-old practices and ideas and to develop a better understanding of the western culture, its history, and literature.

Don Quixote

Widely regarded as the funniest yet tragic books ever written, Don Quixote accounts the adventures of the self -created knight-errant Don Quixote of La Mancha (a part of central Spain) and his faithful squire named Sancho Panza, as they travel through the 16th-century Spain. The novel has been viewed as an apologue for numerous things like Christianity, extreme materialism, artist’s romantic cult. This single book could be read on so many levels, as a satire on the chivalric genre, comedy on different class relations, as a way of exploring the upper-class madness. Its complexity at so many levels makes it a real masterpiece of art from the Renaissance period.

Read it For:
If you are looking to read the best classics of all time, Don Quixote never fails you. The books take you on an adventurous yet funny ride. Throughout the story, there’s not a single moment of disappointment by the author. There’s a lot of mind-blowing symbolism and commentary on the human condition. The novel takes on a fun ride, and you wouldn't regret reading it.
Don't Read it For:
Don't read if you don't like reading long novels. It takes much of your time to complete the whole novel, consisting of two volumes
What makes this book stand out?:
Being a perfect mixture of humor and reality, it gives a sense of realization about the world, makes you question about its existence. It mocks many romantic chivalric stories that were popular during that time by the satire of someone who took them seriously (Quixote, character’s name).

In Search of Lost Time

Swann’s Way, the first of 7 volume of Marcel Proust’s masterpiece, has engaged and enchanted readers. It’s a pseudo-autobiographical novel told mostly in a stream-of-consciousness style. It’s a sprawling love story where the narrator is seen recalling his childhood, aided by the famous madeleine and describes M. Swann’s passion for Odette. The first love, heartbreaks, losses, and the exciting phase of youth have been beautifully captured in a book that will make your emotions dance and sway.

Read it For:
It’s a vibrant and fascinating account focusing on society and social manners. It’s full of poetic devices which captures your heart and makes impossible to leave the story in midway.
Don't Read it For:
Don't read if you are not fascinated by the concepts of memory, aesthetics, sensations, relationships, and love as in that the novel will bore you out.
What makes this book stand out?:
Through this novel, Proust recalls his childhood experiences. He’s has written it not from a child's perspective, but from an adult perspective, remembering his childhood in spectacular detail, and the effect is incredible.

Ulysses

Ulysses is the Latinised name of Odysseus which is the main characters of Homer’s Odyssey, an epic poem. In the novel, there are a series of parallels between the poem and the novel. Ulysses records events in the lives of two central characters, Leopold Bloom and Stephen Dedalus on their single day in Dublin. The story is directed from numerous linguistic as well as psychological points of view.

Read it For:
It shakes the foundation of literary realism. The language used in the novel is excellent, and he’s seen playing with the narrative techniques. Read if you are a fan of English literature.
Don't Read it For:
The language used is somewhat difficult to understand by the ordinary public who don't have a deeper knowledge of literary words.
What makes this book stand out?:
It’s the best of its time and holds a special position in the history of English literature. It’s probably the zenith of modernism experimentation which has been created through language.

The Odyssey

The Odyssey, Homer's best-loved poem,  recounts Odysseus' wanderings after the Trojan War. It traces his journey back to his home Ithaca to return to his wife Penelope and son Telemachus after twenty years of absence. He left home to fight in the Trojan War which lasted ten years .  He encountered many obstacles that kept him away for another ten years.

Read it For:
It has poetic style and structure. Some part of the story is told through flashbacks, some of it is told through different narrators. Read if you want to develop an interest in Greek mythology.
Don't Read it For:
It's dense and heavy on mythology, so if you don't have any interest in mythology, don't go for it
What makes this book stand out?:
It’s a mixture of vengeance, spiritual growth, hospitality. It beautifully captures the emotions of a family, effects of war on families and its after-effects.
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War and Peace

It focuses on Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812 and follows three of the most well-known characters in literature: Pierre Bezukhov, Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, and Natasha Rostov. As Napoleon’s army invaded, characters from diverse backgrounds like soldiers, peasants are brought into the story making it a complete pleasure to read

Read it For:
It's enormously educational, as you will be able to learn more. If you want to know more about great Napoleon, this novel is the one for you
Don't Read it For:
It has a huge epilogue and very historical
What makes this book stand out?:
It gives you knowledge of life and death. This novel takes on a journey of war. While reading, you start to feel like a part of it.

Moby Dick

It’s the greatest works of imagination in literary history. As Ishmael is drawn into Captain Ahab's obsessive quest to slay the white whale Moby-Dick, he finds himself engaged in a metaphysical struggle between good and evil. The use of language in the novel is highly acclaimed.

Read it For:
Read it for the variety of dialogues it has, the excruciating details of everything
Don't Read it For:
There’s too much reference to the whales that it becomes dull and boring after a while.
What makes this book stand out?:
It’s written with wonderfully redemptive humor and is one fine literary piece.

The Divine Comedy

The story examines the questions of faith, desire, and The poem is a brilliant work of human redemption. It describes Dante's descent into Hell with Virgil as a guide; his ascent of Mount Purgatory and encounter with his dead love, Beatrice; and finally, his arrival in Heaven.

Read it For:
It gives you the knowledge of life and death, about Satan, concepts of hell and heaven
Don't Read it For:
It afterlife concepts or question on death and life bores you don't go for this one as you might get bored of it.
What makes this book stand out?:
It started in the depth pain of hell and ended in the magnificent beauty of Heaven

Hamlet

"Hamlet" is considered by many his masterpiece. Hamlet is a revenge story that is perhaps like any other a son's quest for avenging his father's murder. The king of Denmark is killed by his brother, who lusts after the crown and the queen. Hamlet comes to know about this and vows revenge.

Read it For:
It’s an interesting revenge story. Read if you love stories with dramatic endings.
Don't Read it For:
if tragic love stories are not your type don't go for this one.
What makes this book stand out?:
It’s a story of love, lust, and hatred. There are puns and metaphors used which put forward ideas about identity, female sexuality, etc. It is interesting to note how Shakespeare treats love.

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

It is told in the first person by Huckleberry "Huck" Finn who is a great-hearted but ignorant bumpkin of a boy who understands far less than the reader but who knows how to follow his heart over his head.

Read it For:
wonderful book concentrating on some great American problems like slavery, racism, war poverty, etc.
Don't Read it For:
it’s more realistic, and less of humor instances are there so one might get bored reading it.
What makes this book stand out?:
it stands against racism as well as slavery, war.

The Great Gatsby

Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. All day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing, and debating his mysterious character. Beneath the shimmering surface of Gatsby’s life, he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.

Read it For:
read if you want to know about the lives of rich elites
Don't Read it For:
it kind of a love story so if love stories bore you this novel is definitely not for you.
What makes this book stand out?:
the character Great Gatsby has been portrayed as larger than life which fascinates the audiences to read even more about it. This fact stands the novel apart from other novels.

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