4 December

Now, finally, Philip Ward's A Lifetime's Reading: The World's 500 Greatest Books, as the author notes, "divided into fifty chapters, or 'years', to give the reader who requires it a discipline according to which he can pace himself." As with most of the other book-as-list projects documented here (Powys, Van Doren, Fadiman, Dirda, Newman) the work or works noted in the section headings within each chapter do not always capture which works in particular Ward recommends; or, rather, in the section text, he recommends further books as clearly as he does that or those in the section heading. Again, I don't want to be too liberal in the inclusion of texts or misrepresent Ward's work; I just want to clarify as much as possible which particular works have been selected.

The biographical blurb included in A Lifetime's Reading leaves us unsurprised that Ward's list is one of the few truly-global selections of "great books". A librarian who worked for a variety of institutions in England, Indonesia, Libya, and elsewhere, he wrote not just about literature but also Tripoli: A Portrait of a City and other travel books as well as The Book of Common Fallacies: Falsehoods, Misconceptions, Flawed Facts, and Half-Truths That Are Ruining Your Life.

The number of monographical works indicated in braces throughout the list is tentative. Some of the anthologies and author collections Ward includes could include complete plays, novellas, etc., and since I won't get around to looking through those books until probably 2016, the total will remain tentative for some time.

Year 1:
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson ('Lewis Carroll') (1832-1898)
The Complete Works. (Modern Library, 1937; Nonesuch Library, 1939).
[incl. {1} Symbolic Logic; {2} Game of Logic; {3} Pillow Problems; {4} A Tangled Tale; {5} Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; {6} Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There; {7} The Hunting of the Snark, esp. in the form of Martin Gardner's Annotated Snark (Penguin, 1967)]

Plato (c. 429-347 B C).
{8} Apology, {9} Crito, {10} Phaedo.

The Old Testament.

Vaclav Havel (b. 1936).
{11} Zahradní Slavnost.
{12} Vyrozumení.

{13} The Epic of Gilgamesh.

Publius Cornelius Tacitus (c. 55-c. 120 A D).
{14} Annales. And {15} Historiae.

Ondra Lysohorsky (b. 1905).
Selected Poems, selected and introduced by Ewald Osers (Cape, 1971).

Ernst Hans Gombrich (b. 1909).
{16} The Story of Art. First published 1950.

Poem Into Poem: World Poetry in Modern Verse Translation, introduced and edited by George Steiner (Penguin, 1970).

Pierre Abélard (1079-1143) and Héloïse (1101-1164).
Letters. And the {17} Historia Calamitatum of Abélard.


Year 2:
{18} The New Testament

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus (c. 69-after 121 A D).
{19} De Vita Caesarum. First published 1470.

'Murasaki Shikibu' (c. 978-1030).
{20} Genji Monogatari.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616).
Tragedies. First published 1623.
"A recommended order to read the tragedies is chronological, beginning with {21} Romeo and Juliet (1594-95 - like most dates, conjectural), {22} Hamlet (1600-02), {23} All's Well That Ends Well (1602), {24} Troilus and Cressida (1602), {25} Othello (1604-05), {26} Measure for Measure (1604), {27} King Lear (possibly Shakespeare's greatest achievement, 1605-06), {28} Macbeth (1605-06), {29} Antony and Cleopatra (1607), {30} Coriolanus (1608), {31} Timon of Athens (1608), and {32} Pericles, Prince of Tyre (1608)." Ward also especially recommends Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet ballet and Verdi's operas for Macbeth and Othello.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890).
Complete Letters. 3 vols. (Thames & Hudson, 1958; new ed., New York Graphic Society, 1978, distributed by Little, Brown).

Alexei Maximovich Peshkov (Maxim Gorki) (1868-1936).
{33} Na Dne. The Lower Depths and other plays.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834).
The Portable Coleridge. (Viking and Penguin, 1961).
[incl. 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' and 'Kubla Khan']

Lin Yutang (b. 1895).
{34} The Importance of Living.

Aeschylus (525-456 B C).
{35} Oresteia.

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continued at 5 December, 6 December, 7 December, 8 December, 9 December, 10 December, 11 December, 12 December, 13 December, 14 December, 15 December, 16 December, 20 December, 21 December, 22 December, 23 December, 24 December25 December, 26 December, and 27 December posts...