Reading List

A continuously updated list of pointers to resources that have made a difference in my life:

Bowers, John M. The Western Literary Canon in Context. 6 disks. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2008. CD, Print.
Bowers helps one appreciate how literature reflects the era in which books are written. A delightful tour of time.
Braudel, Fernand. The Structures of Everyday Life: The Limits of the Possible. 3 vols. New York: Harper & Row, 1979, 1981. Print.
Four hundred years of European history help one understand how similar people are across time.
Bronowski, Jacob. Ascent of Man. Boston: Little, Brown & Company, 1973. Print.
Although a scientist, Bronowski is a humanist, tying the present to the past. A very readable coffee table book of big ideas.
Bronowski, Jacob. Fulfillment of Man.
Bronowski, Jacob. Magic, Science, and Civilization. New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 1978. Print.
Bronowski inoculates each of us to not be taken in by charlatan’s practicing magic — the idea that someone who knows special incantations can go beyond the laws of nature.
Confucius. The Analects. Hammondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1979. Print.
The first and greatest teacher in China — a man of his time, and ours.
Cousineau, Phil. Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Our Lives. Berkeley, CA: Conari Press, 2001. Print.
Convinces is that myths are not fantasies of the distant past, but conveyors of life lessons open to us all if we dare consider what they have to say.
Eco, Umberto. Confessions of a Young Novelist: On the Advantages of Fiction for Life and Death. October 5-7, 2008. Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature, Emory University. Podcast.
Eco believes that the imagined—so prominent in Post-modern literature—and real coexist to reinforce each other, and that the purpose of fiction is to educate us what is the case. Eco believes the ethical purpose of fiction is to fix in the mind that events do happen and that mythical creatures are real insofar as they have impact.
Escher, M. C. Print Gallery. 1956 Lithograph. Web. 16 Jan 2010. <>
No better representation of recursion exists. People think recursively. They can think about thinking about thinking . . .. Recursion is a double-edged sword or a spirited horse, depending on your analogy.
Fears, J. Rufus. The Wisdom of History. 3 vols. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2007. CD, print.
A kick in the shins to those who discount the value of history to instruct us about patterns in life worth detecting.
Fischer, David Hackett. Washington’s Crossing. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004. Print.
George Washington was a man of character. In that character was a will to persist forged by understanding what matters and why.
Frankurt, Harry G. On Bullshit. Print.
Bullshit is not lying, but not caring. One must label what is to be able to defend against it.
Friedman, Milton. Capitalism and Freedom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002. Print.
Schools don’t teach economics; they teach small “t” truths about it.
Heilbroner, Robert. Marxism: For and Against. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 1980. Print.
Heilbroner offers the insight that when you master logic, logic masters you.
Hofstadter, Douglas. Gödel, Escher and Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid. New York: Vintage Books, 1980. Print.
Perhaps the only popular book to discuss recursion — a process by which one can think about thinking.
Jaynes, Julian. The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1976. Print.
Jaynes sets out the proposition that consciousness is a sometime acquired trait. If so, schooling should not leave the practice to chance.
Joseph, Sister Miriam. The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric. Philedelphia, PA: Paul Dry Books, 2002. Print.
Schools used to teach the Trivium to undergraduates so they could learn to think and then graduate schools would practice thinking on subjects. Scholastics decided to teach subjects instead and hope students learned to think.
Kapuzcinski, Ryszard. Travels with Herodotus. New York: Vintage Books, 2008. Print.
Herodotus was the first and greatest historian.
Kreeft, Peter. What Would Socrates Do?: The History of Moral Thought and Ethics. Barnes & Noble, USA: Recorded Books, LLC, 2004. CD, print.
An easy introduction into what philosophy used to be, when dealing with the simple daily problems of living.
Laing, R. D. Knots. London: Penguin. 1970. Print.
Lang uses poetry to approach mental recursive loops to show how anti-therapeutic they can be.
Landon, Brooks. Building Great Sentences: Exploring the Writer’s Craft. 2 vols. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2007. CD, print.
Words matter. Clarity matters. Beauty matters.
Lin Yutang, ed. The Wisdom of Confucius. New York: Random House, 1938, 1966.
More of the great Chinese teacher.
McCullough, David. 1776. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. Print.
A delightful introduction to history, from the first chapter, reviewing parlimentary deliberations about war, to the last measuring George Washington’s character.
Mitchell, Richard. Less Than Words Can Say. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1979. Print
Mitchell was a grammar teacher at Glassboro State Teacher’s College appalled at what teachers were teaching teachers. The essays sound the trumpet that fog is rolling in to our thoughts. No better starting point to discover what matters.
Mencken, H.L.
A reporter and columnist for the Baltimore Sun Mencken’s essays spoke about people and how they act. Alistair Cooke wrote about Mencken.
Mencken, H.L.
Mencken, H.L.
Montaigne, Michel de. Complete Essays of Montaigne. Trans. Donald Frame. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1943, 1948, 1958, 1965. Print.
Montaigne invented the word “essay” — the french word “to try”. Montaigne professed to know nothing except about himself. Shakespeare read Montaigne before writing his works.
Montaigne, Michel de. Essays. Hammondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books Ltd., 1958. Print.
A short list of seminal essays from Montaigne. A great way to discover his works.
Morrison, Philip and Morrison, Phylis. Powers of Ten. New York: W.H. Freeman & Company, 1994. Print.
A visual perspective of exactly where you fit in the universe.
O’Neill, Eugene. Long Day’s Journey into Night. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1955. Print.
On families and human nature.
O’Rourke, P. J. On the Wealth of Nations. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2007. Print.
O’Rourke distilled 950 pages of this 1776 classic into 150 pages of eminently readable entertainment that infuses the basic ideas of economics so much better than any Econ 101 class. A must read for all of us who took Economics and who therefore are economically illiterate.
Perry, Mark. “In The Currency of Time, Good Old Days Are Now.” Carpe Diem. 11Feb2008. Web. 20 Dec 2009. <>.
Perry’s blog provides solid data to refute many of the economic canards perpetrated on us by our credentialed betters.
Pirie, Madsen. 101 Great Philosophers. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2009. Print.
Really, philosophers did a substantial amount of groundwork for ordinary people before they ran off the rails trying to prove the unprovable. We can extract insights from them that concern dealing with the simple daily problems of living.
Pirie, Madsen. How to Win Every Argument. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2006. Print.
In days of yore, when students argued how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, the goal was not to determine the number but to practice detecting logical fallacies in rhetoric. Detecting fallacies matters because, as author William Gass explained, words are how we chew others up into food.
Rand, Ayn. The Virtue of Selfishness. New York: New American Library, 1961, 1964.
Altruism is unworkable groupthink. Charity is individual and fine. And it turns out that self interest often shows great concern for others. Rand helps us stand up against present day misplaced social pressure.
Robinson, Daniel N. The Great Ideas of Philosophy. 2nd ed. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2004. 125. CD, print.
Philosophy really shouldn’t be taught in school; it belongs on your CD player when you are driving.
Sayers, Dorothy. “Lost Tools of Learning.” Web. 17 Jan 2010. <>
Mystery writer and medievalist, Dorothy Sayers warned in 1948 that schooling had gone astray, sending students unarmed into the world.
Schmidt, James. Making Man in Reason’s Image: The Enlightenment and the Birth of Modern Humanity. USA: Barnes & Noble, 2006. CD, print.
Reason isn’t how people think; it is how they check their work.
Seneca, Lucius Annaeus. Letters from a Stoic. Hammondsworth, Middlesex, England: Penguin Books ltd., 1969. Print.
Montaigne quoted Seneca in his essays, with good reason. Seneca passed on practical wisdom in letters to his son and to us.
Spurgin, Timothy. The English Novel. 2 vols. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2006. CD, print.
Reading a novel gives personal understanding, but it is wise to add to that the insight and context of others who are expert at the task.
Thomas, Lewis. The Medusa and the Snail: More Notes of a Biology Watcher. New York: Viking Press, 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1979.
A surgeon, Lewis Thomas wrote essays, including one called “Why Montaigne is not a bore.” And that, in 1980 in the Dallas Airport” is how I got started into my lifetime journey into character.
Vandiver, Elizabeth, Noble, Thomas F. X., Heffernan, James A., Heinzelman, Susan Sage, and Herzman, Ronald B. Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition. 2nd ed. 7 vol. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2004. CD, print.
Laugh at those who would diminish the value of the Western Literary Canon. It is a reflection of life to be mined and assayed by individuals for full value. Individuals validate for themselves what matters, and cannot trust the task to anyone else.
Violi, Unicio J. Greek and Roman Classics. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1965.
Myths record what matters to a culture and are another vein of ore to mine.
Wikipedia. <>.
How blessed is this generation to have as a resource the collected thoughts of others.
Zarefsky, David. Argumentation: The Study of Effective Reasoning. 2nd ed. 2 vols. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company, 2005. CD, print.
Another noteworthy skill academics hope students will learn by studying other things. Not so much.


Conrad, Joseph. Nigger of Narcissus.
Fielding, Henry. Tom Jones.
Wister, Owen. The Virginian
Wister wrote this in 1902, while the West lived in memory. The Virginian was not schooled, but wise in the lessons of life.


Waters, Roger, Rick Wright, David Gilmour and Nicholas Mason. “Time”.
An examination of one’s place in time and an appreciation that time is only ours temporarily.
Young, Neil. “Star of Bethlehem”,
The transitory nature of things.

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