How to Read a Book
by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren

For more on Adler's ideas about the Great Books, see his essay, "Why Read the Great Books"

Frequently Asked Questions

Who wrote this list?

See the heading above and the credit below to find out who wrote this list. If you don't like the selections in this list or the arrangement, take it up with the author(s).

Why isn't my favorite author listed here?

This list may not include your favorite author, but he or she may be on other Great Books lists. Check the author index to see.

See the Great Books FAQ for more about the Great Books and these lists of them.

  1. Homer (9th Century B.C.?)
    Iliad
    Odyssey
  2. The Old Testament
  3. Aeschylus (c.525-456 B.C.)
    Tragedies
  4. Sophocles (c.495-406 B.C.)
    Tragedies
  5. Herodotus (c.484-425 B.C.)
    History
  6. Euripides (c.485-406 B.C.)
    Tragedies
    (esp. Medea, Hippolytus, The Bacchae)
  7. Thucydides (c.460-400 B.C.)
    History of the Peloponnesian War
  8. Hippocrates (c.460-377? B.C.)
    Medical Writings
  9. Aristophanes (c.448-380 B.C.)
    Comedies
    (esp. The Clouds, The Birds, The Frogs)
  10. Plato (c.427-347 B.C.)
    Dialogues
    (esp. The Republic, Symposium, Phaedo, Meno, Apology, Phaedrus, Protagoras, Gorgias, Sophist, Theaetetus)
  11. Aristotle (384-322 B.C.)
    Works
    (esp. Organon, Physics, Metaphysics, On the Soul, The Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, Rhetoric, Poetics)
  12. Epicurus (c.341-270 B.C.)
    Letter to Herodotus
    Letter to Menoeceus
  13. Euclid (fl.c. 300 B.C.)
    Elements
  14. Archimedes (c.287-212 B.C.)
    Works
    (esp. On the Equilibrium of Planes, On Floating Bodies, The Sand-Reckoner)
  15. Apollonius of Perga (fl.c.240 B.C.)
    Conic Sections
  16. Cicero (106-43 B.C.)
    Works
    (esp. Orations, On Friendship, On Old Age)
  17. Lucretius (c.95-55 B.C.)
    On the Nature of Things
  18. Virgil (70-19 B.C.)
    Works
  19. Horace (65-8 B.C.)
    Works
    (esp. Odes and Epodes, The Art of Poetry)
  20. Livy (59 B.C.-A.D. 17)
    History of Rome
  21. Ovid (43 B.C.-A.D. 17)
    Works
    (esp. Metamorphoses)
  22. Plutarch (c.45-120)
    Parallel Lives
    Moralia
  23. Tacitus (c.55-117)
    Histories
    Annals
    Agricola
    Germania
  24. Nicomachus of Gerasa (fl.c. 100 A.D.)
    Introduction to Arithmetic
  25. Epictetus (c.60-120)
    Discourses
    Encheiridion (Handbook)
  26. Ptolemy (c.100-170; fl. 127-151)
    Almagest
  27. Lucian (c.120-c.190)
    Works
    (esp. The True Way to Write History, The True History, The Sale of Creeds)
  28. Marcus Aurelius (121-180)
    Meditations
  29. Galen (c. 130-200)
    On the Natural Faculties
  30. The New Testament
  31. Plotinus (205-270)
    The Enneads
  32. St. Augustine (354-430)
    Works
    (esp. On the Teacher, Confessions, City of God, On Christian Doctrine)
  33. The Song of Roland (12th century?)
  34. The Nibelungenlied (13th century?)
    (Völsunga Saga is the Scandinavian version of the same legend)
  35. The Saga of Burnt Njal
  36. St. Thomas Aquinas (c.1225-1274)
    Summa Theologica
  37. Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)
    Works
    (esp. The New Life, On Monarchy, The Divine Comedy)
  38. Geoffrey Chaucer (c.1340-1400)
    Works
    (esp. Troilus and Criseyde, The Canterbury Tales)
  39. Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
    Notebooks
  40. Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527)
    The Prince
    Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy
  41. Desiderius Erasmus (c.1469-1536)
    The Praise of Folly
  42. Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543)
    On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres
  43. Sir Thomas More (c.1478-1535)
    Utopia
  44. Martin Luther (1483-1546)
    Table Talk
    Three Treatises
  45. François Rabelais (c.1495-1553)
    Gargantua and Pantagruel
  46. John Calvin (1509-1564)
    Institutes of the Christian Religion
  47. Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
    Essays
  48. William Gilbert (1540-1603)
    On the Loadstone and Magnetic Bodies
  49. Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616)
    Don Quixote
  50. Edmund Spenser (c.1552-1599)
    Prothalamion
    The Faërie Queene
  51. Francis Bacon (1561-1626)
    Essays
    Advancement of Learning
    Novum Organum
    New Atlantis
  52. William Shakespeare (1564-1616)
    Works
  53. Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
    The Starry Messenger
    Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences
  54. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
    Epitome of Copernican Astronomy
    Concerning the Harmonies of the World
  55. William Harvey (1578-1657)
    On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals
    On the Circulation of the Blood
    On the Generation of Animals
  56. Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679)
    The Leviathan
  57. Rene Descartes (1596-1650)
    Rules for the Direction of the Mind
    Discourse on the Method
    Geometry
    Meditations on First Philosophy
  58. John Milton (1608-1674)
    Works
    (esp. the minor poems, Areopagitica, Paradise Lost, Samson Agonistes)
  59. Molière (1622-1673)
    Comedies
    (esp. The Miser, The School for Wives, The Misanthrope, The Doctor in Spite of Himself)
  60. Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
    The Provincial Letters
    Pensees
    Scientific Treatises
  61. Christiaan Huygens (1629-1695)
    Treatise on Light
  62. Benedict de Spinoza (1632-1677)
    Ethics
  63. John Locke (1632-1704)
    Letter Concerning Toleration
    "Of Civil Government" (second treatise in Two Treatises on Government)
    Essay Concerning Human Understanding
    Thoughts Concerning Education
  64. Jean Baptiste Racine (1639-1699)
    Tragedies
    (esp. Andromache, Phaedra)
  65. Isaac Newton (1642-1727)
    Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy
    Optics
  66. Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz (1646-1716)
    Discourse on Metaphysics
    New Essays Concerning Human Understanding
    Monadology
  67. Daniel Defoe (1660-1731)
    Robinson Crusoe
  68. Jonathan Swift (1667-1745)
    A Tale of a Tub
    Journal to Stella
    Gulliver's Travels
    A Modest Proposal
  69. William Congreve (1670-1729)
    The Way of the World
  70. George Berkeley (1685-1753)
    Principles of Human Knowledge
  71. Alexander Pope (1688-1744)
    Essay on Criticism
    Rape of the Lock
    Essay on Man
  72. Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755)
    Persian Letters
    Spirit of Laws
  73. Voltaire (1694-1778)
    Letters on the English
    Candide
    Philosophical Dictionary
  74. Henry Fielding (1707-1754)
    Joseph Andrews
    Tom Jones
  75. Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)
    The Vanity of Human Wishes
    Dictionary
    Rasselas
    The Lives of the Poets (esp. the essays on Milton and Pope)
  76. David Hume (1711-1776)
    Treatise on Human Nature
    Essays Moral and Political
    An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding
  77. Jean Jaques Rousseau (1712-1778)
    On the Origin of Inequality
    On the Political Economy
    Emile
    The Social Contract
  78. Laurence Sterne (1713-1768)
    Tristram Shandy
    A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy
  79. Adam Smith (1723-1790)
    The Theory of Moral Sentiments
    Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
  80. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
    Critique of Pure Reason
    Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Morals
    Critique of Practical Reason
    The Science of Right
    Critique of Judgment
    Perpetual Peace
  81. Edward Gibbon (1737-1794)
    The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
    Autobiography
  82. James Boswell (1740-1795)
    Journal (esp. London Journal)
    Life of Samuel Johnson, Ll.D
  83. Antoine Laurent Lavoisier (1743-1794)
    Elements of Chemistry
  84. John Jay (1745-1829), James Madison (1751-1836), and Alexander Hamilton (1757-1804)
    Federalist Papers
    (together with the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution of the United States, and the Declaration of Independence)
  85. Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832)
    Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation
    Theory of Fictions
  86. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
    Faust
    Poetry and Truth
  87. Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier (1768-1830)
    Analytical Theory of Heat
  88. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)
    Phenomenology of Spirit
    Philosophy of Right
    Lectures on the Philosophy of History
  89. William Wordsworth (1770-1850)
    Poems
    (esp. Lyrical Ballads, Lucy poems, sonnets; The Prelude)
  90. Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834)
    Poems
    (esp. "Kubla Khan," Rime of the Ancient Mariner)
    Biographia Literaria
  91. Jane Austen (1775-1817)
    Pride and Prejudice
    Emma
  92. Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831)
    On War
  93. Stendhal (1783-1842)
    The Red and the Black
    The Charterhouse of Parma
    On Love
  94. George Gordon, Lord Byron (1788-1824)
    Don Juan
  95. Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860)
    Studies in Pessimism
  96. Michael Faraday (1791-1867)
    Chemical History of a Candle
    Experimental Researches in Electricity
  97. Charles Lyell (1797-1875)
    Principles of Geology
  98. Auguste Comte (1798-1857)
    The Positive Philosophy
  99. Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850)
    Père Goriot
    Eugénie Grandet
  100. Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
    Representative Men
    Essays
    Journal
  101. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)
    The Scarlet Letter
  102. Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859)
    Democracy in America
  103. John Stuart Mill (1806-1873)
    A System of Logic
    On Liberty
    Representative Government
    Utilitarianism
    The Subjection of Women
    Autobiography
  104. Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
    The Origin of Species
    The Descent of Man
    Autobiography
  105. Charles Dickens (1812-1870)
    Works
    (esp. Pickwick Papers, David Copperfield, Hard Times)
  106. Claude Bernard (1813-1878)
    Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine
  107. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
    Civil Disobedience
    Walden
  108. Karl Marx (1818-1883)
    Capital
    (together with the Communist Manifesto)
  109. George Eliot (1819-1880)
    Adam Bede
    Middlemarch
  110. Herman Melville (1819-1891)
    Moby Dick
    Billy Budd
  111. Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881)
    Crime and Punishment
    The Idiot
    The Brothers Karamazov
  112. Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880)
    Madame Bovary
    Three Stories
  113. Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)
    Plays
    (esp. Hedda Gabler, A Doll's House, The Wild Duck)
  114. Leo Tolstoy (1828-1910)
    War and Peace
    Anna Karenina
    What is Art?
    Twenty-Three Tales
  115. Mark Twain (1835-1910)
    The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
    The Mysterious Stranger
  116. William James (1842-1910)
    The Principles of Psychology
    The Varieties of Religious Experience
    Pragamatism
    Essays in Radical Empiricism
  117. Henry James (1843-1916)
    The American
    The Ambassadors
  118. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844-1900)
    Thus Spoke Zarathustra
    Beyond Good and Evil
    The Genealogy of Morals
    The Will to Power
  119. Jules Henri Poincaré (1854-1912)
    Science and Hypothesis
    Science and Method
  120. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
    The Interpretation of Dreams
    Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
    Civilization and Its Discontents
    New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
  121. George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)
    Plays (and Prefaces)
    (esp. Man and Superman, Major Barbara, Caesar and Cleopatra, Pygmalion, Saint Joan)
  122. Max Planck (1858-1947)
    Origin and Development of the Quantum Theory
    Where Is Science Going?
    Scientific Autobiography
  123. Henri Bergson (1859-1941)
    Time and Free Will
    Matter and Memory
    Creative Evolution
    The Two Sources of Morality and Religion
  124. John Dewey (1859-1952)
    How We Think
    Democracy and Education
    Experience and Nature
    Logic, the Theory of Inquiry
  125. Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947)
    An Introduction to Mathematics
    Science and the Modern World
    The Aims of Education and Other Essays
    Adventures of Ideas
  126. George Santayana (1863-1952)
    The Life of Reason
    Skepticism and Animal Faith
    Persons and Places
  127. Nikolai Lenin (1870-1924)
    The State and Revolution
  128. Marcel Proust (1871-1922)
    Remembrance of Things Past
  129. Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
    The Problems of Philosophy
    The Analysis of Mind
    An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth
    Human Knowledge: Its Scope and Limits
  130. Thomas Mann (1875-1955)
    The Magic Mountain
    Joseph and His Brothers
  131. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
    The Meaning of Relativity
    On the Method of Theoretical Physics
    The Evolution of Physics (with L. Infeld)
  132. James Joyce (1882-1941)
    "The Dead" in Dubliners
    Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
    Ulysses
  133. Jacques Maritain (1882- )
    Art and Scholasticism
    The Degrees of Knowledge
    The Rights of Man and Natural Law
    True Humanism
  134. Franz Kafka (1883-1924)
    The Trial
    The Castle
  135. Arnold Toynbee (1889- )
    A Study of History
    Civilization on Trial
  136. Jean Paul Sartre (1905- )
    Nausea
    No Exit
    Being and Nothingness
  137. Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn (1918- )
    The First Circle
    The Cancer Ward

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First posted: February 1998