Skip to comments.Ten Books Every Student Should Read in College
Posted on 05/30/2003 11:45:30 AM PDT by Remedy
The editors of HUMAN EVENTS asked a panel of 28 distinguished scholars and university professors to serve as judges in developing a list of Ten Books Every Student Should Read in College.
To derive the list, each scholar first nominated titles. When all the nominations were collected-they amounted to more than 100 titles-HUMAN EVENTS then sent a ballot to the scholars asking each to list his or her Top Ten selections. A book was awarded ten points for receiving a No. 1 rating, 9 points for receiving a No. 2 rating, and so on. The ten books with the highest aggregate ratings made the list. We have also compiled an Honorable Mention list.
Interestingly enough, the No. 1 book our judges decided every college student should read is a volume that has been virtually banned in public schools by the United States Supreme Court. 1. The Bible Score: 116
Written: c. 1446 B.C. to c. A.D. 95
1. The Bible
The Bible, the central work of Western Civilization, defines the relationship between God and man, and forms the foundation of faith in the Judeo-Christian tradition. Yet, today it is virtually banned in America's public primary and secondary schools-meaning many American students may not encounter the most important book of all time in a classroom setting until they reach college. 2. The Federalist Papers Score: 106
Authors: Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison
Written: October 1787 to May 1788
2. The Federalist Papers
Written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison, The Federalist Papers first appeared in several New York state newspapers as a series of 85 essays published under the nom de plume "Publius" from the fall of 1787 to the spring of 1788.
The purpose of The Federalist Papers was to garner support for the newly created Constitution. At the time the states were bound together under the Articles of Confederation, but the weakness of the Articles necessitated the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Once the Constitution was drafted, nine states were required to ratify it, so Hamilton, Jay, and Madison took up the effort to persuade skeptics. Because Hamilton and Madison were both members of the Constitutional Convention, their writings are instructive in divining the original intent of those who drafted the Constitution.
According to the Library of Congress, the first bound edition of The Federalist Papers was published in 1788 with revisions and corrections by Hamilton. A bound edition with revisions and corrections by Madison published in 1818 was the first to identify the authors of each essay. 3. Democracy in America Score: 80
Author: Alexis de Tocqueville
3. Democracy in America
A left-leaning Frenchman who visited America in 1831, de Tocqueville produced an incisive portrait of American political and social life in the early 19th Century. He praised the democratic ideals and private virtues of the American people but warned against what he saw as the tyrannical tendency of public opinion. Visiting during the heyday of slavery, de Tocqueville foresaw the troubles racial questions would pose for the country. He also was early in observing that judicial power had a tendency to usurp the political in the United States. He also wrote of the difficulties inherent in the egalitarian sentiment then gaining strength in America. "However energetically society in general may strive to make all the citizens equal and alike, the personal pride of each individual will always make him try to escape from the common level, and he will form some inequality somewhere to his own profit," he said. 4. The Divine Comedy Score: 57
Author: Dante Alighieri
Written: A.D. 1306-1321
4. The Divine Comedy
One of the most frequently cited poems of all time, this epic allegory is an amalgam of Dante's views of science, theology, astronomy, and philosophy. In it Dante recounts his imaginary journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, during which he realizes his hatred for his sin and becomes a changed man by the grace of God.
The work contains three sections-"Inferno," "Purgatorio," and "Paradiso." In "Inferno," Dante journeys through Hell, led by the soul of the Roman poet Virgil. He describes Hell as a funnel-shaped pit divided into nine circles, each one a place for those people guilty of a particular sin, with suffering increasing as he descends to the bottom where Satan himself dwells.
In "Purgatorio," Dante travels with Virgil up the Mount of Purgatory. Ten terraces make up the Mount and the process of purification for its occupants is arduous as they climb from terrace to terrace. When Dante and Virgil pass the final terrace, they glimpse Paradise where Beatrice, Dante's first love, awaits and Virgil is forced to depart.
In "Paradiso," Beatrice guides Dante through the various levels of Paradise. At the highest level, Empyrean, where God, Mary, and many of the angels and saints abide, Dante views the light of God, which leaves him speechless and changed. 5. The Republic Score: 55
Written: c. 360 B.C.
5. The Republic
The Republic is likely the most important work of the most important and influential philosopher who ever lived. The writings of Plato, a disciple of Socrates in ancient Athens, provide the foundation of abstract thought for all of Western Civilization, and The Republic contains expositions of various theories of justice, the state and society, and the soul. Is justice a matter of being helpful to those who help you and harmful to those who harm you? Or is it simply the "interest of the stronger," defined by those who govern the rest of us, as post-modern leftists would have it? How should society be organized? How is the human soul structured? How may we arrive at truth? The first author in history to deal with such questions in systematic rational argument, Plato contrasts the ideal society with reality in a way later echoed in the City of God (No. 7) by St. Augustine-who explored his own soul in his Confessions (No. 9). Plato describes the first totalitarian utopia as part of his argument, the first of many thinkers to do so. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Out of Plato come all things that are still written and debated among men of thought." 6. The Politics Score: 54
Written: Fourth Century, B.C.
6. The Politics
Aristotle, the most famous student of Plato, is one of the few men who managed to be highly appreciated both in his own time (he was hired to tutor Alexander the Great) and by posterity. His philosophy continues to form the backbone of Western thought. Much of his writing was lost for centuries, but its recovery helped Thomas Aquinas, in the 13th Century, and later political philosophers, develop the concept of natural law that became central to the Anglo-American understanding of just and limited government. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson cited Aristotle as an inspiration for the Declaration of Independence.
In the Politics, Aristotle examines the formation and composition of civil society more simply and effectively than perhaps anyone since. Beginning with a complete accounting of the elements in the basic unit of society-the oikos or family home-the philosopher expands outward to discuss the larger unit of human existence, the city-state-or polis-in the same terms. 7. Nicomachaean Ethics Score: 52
Written: Fourth Century, B.C.
7. Nicomachaean Ethics
The Ethics is a collection of notes from Aristotle's lectures, taken by his student Nicomachus. The Ethics' elegant inductive arguments, developed hundreds of years before the Christian era, proved that man can indeed understand the basic concepts of good and evil without the aid of Divine Revelation-a fact that many leftists are unwilling to accept in their quest to destroy respect for objective rules of right and wrong.
Unlike today's secularists, Aristotle saw clearly that all human beings have a built-in need to pursue happiness through behaving properly. Aristotle analyzes why not all human actions lead to happiness, and reveals how a man's daily choices between good and evil result in the habits of virtue or vice. Virtuous action, he concludes, makes men happy, whereas vice does not. 7. City of God Score: 52
Author: St. Augustine of Hippo
Written: A.D. 413-426
7. City of God
The City of God ranks as history's most influential writing by a theologian. Augustine, the cultured bishop of an ancient Roman city in North Africa, created a philosophy of history that answered the argument of pagans who blamed the decline of Rome on the rise of Christianity. (Rome had first been sacked in 410.) Augustine explained human history in terms of Divine Providence and asserted that the Church would bring human history to its final consummation. At that consummation, the two "cities" that remained intermingled on Earth-the pure, virtuous city of God and the sinful, flawed city of man-would be separated into two. Augustine argued that the sinful practices of the pagan Romans helped prompt God to allow the Eternal City's capture by barbarians. Augustine firmly implants teleology-the Aristotelian idea that all things have an ultimate purpose-into history just as previous Christian thinkers had adopted teleology to explain God's plan for individual human beings. For Augustine, all of human history points toward a divine purpose. 9. Confessions Score: 47
Author: St. Augustine of Hippo
Written: c. A.D. 400
The Confessions is Augustine's spiritual autobiography. Addressed to God, the book bares the author's soul. Here Augustine explains the history of his life in terms of Divine Providence, much as in the City of God he explained the history of Rome. He owns up to the sins that pulled him away from faith despite the exertions of his intensely devout mother, St. Monica. In the course of describing both his exterior and interior life, Augustine reiterates the Christian philosophy of the human person expounded by St. Paul in his epistles. He describes the interplay among passion, will, and reason and attempts to explain why men do evil when they know better. 10. Reflections on the Revolution in France Score: 44
Author: Edmund Burke
10. Reflections on the Revolution in France
An Irish-born British politician of the late 18th Century, who was popular in America because of his opposition to taxing the colonies, Burke holds a prominent place in the history of English-speaking conservatives. Indeed, in The Conservative Mind, Russell Kirk singled him out as the first modern conservative intellectual.
Burke's early and energetic disapproval of the French Revolution proved prophetic in light of the Reign of Terror that followed. A champion of the inherent wisdom of long-settled traditions, Burke argued that by violently ripping up their nation's institutions root and branch, the French had assured themselves years of chaos.
If changes had to be made in France, he argued, could not the tried-and-true be kept and only the bad discarded? "Is it, then, true," he asked, "that the French government was such as to be incapable or undeserving of reform, so that it was of absolute necessity that the whole fabric should be at once pulled down and the area cleared for the erection of a theoretic, experimental edifice in its place?"
Why did Hamilton conceal his authorship of the Federalist Papers?
Why did roughly half of the delegates to Constitutional Convention walk out?
Why did Patrick Henry when nominated to the Constitutional Convention refuse to attend saying, "Because I smelt a rat" ?
The Federalist Papers
The Divine Comedy, Part I: The Inferno
Oedipus Trilogy, Parts I & III (nobody ever pays attention to II)
All were required for various classes except the last one.
There are a couple on their list that I haven't read but would like to, such as "The Conservative Mind" and "A New Birth of Freedom".
Oddly enough, I was forced to read Ayn Rand in High School and hated it. I don't get all the Ayn Rand worshipers on this forum who says Rand "converted" them to conservative thought. I was conservative long before Rand and her novel Anthem put me to sleep, Orwell wrote on the same theme and did it much better instead of hitting you over the head with it. And the fact that she's a pro-abortion athetist doesn't endear me to her either.
I would add one more text to the list and that is Atlas Shrugged.
I don't get all the Ayn Rand worshipers
Fifth Circuit No. 99-10331 & Your Gun as an honorable mention?
I'm suprised that Aristotle was included. But gratified.
There is in fact a true law--namely, right reason--which is in accordance with nature, applies to all men and is unchangeable and eternal. By its commands this law summons men to the performance of their duties; by its prohibitions it restrains them from doing wrong. Its commands and prohibitions always influence good men, but are without effect upon the bad. To invalidate this law by human legislation is never morally right, nor is it permissible ever to restrict its operation, and to annul it wholly is impossible. Neither the senate nor the people can absolve us from our obligation to obey this law, and it requires no Sextus Aelius to expound and interpret it. It will not lay down one rule at Rome and another at Athens, nor will it be one rule today and another tomorrow. But there will be one law, eternal and unchangeable, binding at all times upon all peoples; and there will be one common master and ruler of men, namely God, who is the author of this law, its interpreter and sponsor. The man who will abandon his better self, and in denying the true nature of man, will thereby suffer the severest of penalties, though he has escaped all other consequences which men call punishment. Francis W. Coker, Readings in Political Philosophy (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1938), 151.
Certain partakers with us in the grace of Christ, wonder when they hear and read that Plato had conceptions concerning God, in which they recognize considerable agreement with the truth of our religion. Some have concluded from this, that when he went to Egypt he had heard the prophet Jeremiah, or, whilst travelling in the same country, had read the prophetic scriptures, which opinion I myself have expressed in certain of my writings.1 But a careful calculation of dates, contained in chronological history, shows that Plato was born about a hundred years after the time in which Jeremiah prophesied, and, as he lived eighty-one years, there are found to have been about seventy years from his death to that time when Ptolemy, king of Egypt, requested the prophetic scriptures of the Hebrew people to be sent to him from Judea, and committed them to seventy Hebrews, who also knew the Greek tongue, to be translated and kept. Therefore, on that voyage of his, Plato could neither have seen Jeremiah, who was dead so long before, nor have read those same scriptures which had not yet been translated into the Greek language, of which he was a master, unless, indeed, we say that, as he was most earnest in the pursuit of knowledge, he also studied those writings through an interpreter, as he did those of the Egyptians,not, indeed, writing a translation of them (the facilities for doing which were only gained even by Ptolemy in return for munificent acts of kindness,2 though fear of his kingly authority might have seemed a sufficient motive), but learning as much as he possibly could concerning their contents by means of conversation. What warrants this supposition are the 152 opening verses of Genesis: "In the beginning God made the heaven and earth. And the earth was invisible, and without order; and darkness was over the abyss: and the Spirit of God moved over the waters."3 For in the Timæus, when writing on the formation of the world, he says that God first united earth and fire; from which it is evident that he assigns to fire a place in heaven. This opinion bears a certain resemblance to the statement, "In the beginning God made heaven and earth." Plato next speaks of those two intermediary elements, water and air, by which the other two extremes, namely, earth and fire, were mutually united; from which circumstance he is thought to have so understood the words, "The Spirit of God moved over the waters." For, not paying sufficient attention to the designations given by those scriptures to the Spirit of God, he may have thought that the four elements are spoken of in that place, because the air also is called spirit.4 Then, as to Platos saying that the philosopher is a lover of God, nothing shines forth more conspicuously in those sacred writings. But the most striking thing in this connection, and that which most of all inclines me almost to assent to the opinion that Plato was not ignorant of those writings, is the answer which was given to the question elicited from the holy Moses when the words of God were conveyed to him by the angel; for, when he asked what was the name of that God who was commanding him to go and deliver the Hebrew people out of Egypt, this answer was given: "I am who am; and thou shalt say to the children of Israel, He who is sent me unto you;"5 as though compared with Him that truly is, because He is unchangeable, those things which have been created mutable are not,a truth which Plato zealously held, and most diligently commended. And I know not whether this sentiment is anywhere to be found in the books of those who were before Plato, unless in that book where it is said, "I am who am; and thou shalt say to the children of Israel, who is sent me unto you."
1. Revolt of the Masses by Jose Ortega y Gassett
2. Wealth and Poverty by George Gilder
3. Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell
The Ends justify the Means.
Read it from cover to cover in 3 days.
I was there once. Embarassing but true. I worked my way to St. Thomas through Rand and then Aristotle. Extrapolating from my personal experience, those who have been schooled have little to no exposure to Aristotle's philosophy. Exposure to concepts like metaphysics, epistemology and absolute truth for the first time can be a very heady experience. It's easy to make the mistake of transferring one's natural love for truth to some person who sometimes persuasively claims to possess the truth.
I think they should read at least 100. They've got 4 years to do it.
Natural Right and History
by Leo Strauss
The Conservative Mind
by Russell Kirk
A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War
by Harry V. Jaffa
by C.S. Lewis
by William Shakespeare
The Abolition of Man
by C.S. Lewis
by G.K. Chesterton
by William Shakespeare
by Paul Johnson
Ideas Have Consequences
by Richard Weaver
Idea of a University
by John Henry Newman
The Road to Serfdom
by Friedrich von Hayek
by George Orwell
A Humane Economy
by Wilhelm Roepke
The Public Philosophy
by Walter Lippman
The Roots of American Order
by Russell Kirk