Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Ten Books Every Student Should Read in College
HUMAN EVENTS ^ | Week of June 2, 2003 | 28 distinguished scholars and university professors

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

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

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
Written: 1835

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

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
Author: Plato
Written: c. 360 B.C.

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
Author: Aristotle
Written: Fourth Century, B.C.

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
Author: Aristotle
Written: Fourth Century, B.C.

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

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
Written: 1790

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?"

TOPICS: Culture/Society; News/Current Events; Philosophy
KEYWORDS: books; federalistpapers; highereducation; humanevents; readinglist
Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-80 ... 241-253 next last

1 posted on 05/30/2003 11:45:30 AM PDT by Remedy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: LiteKeeper; rdf; Cicero; Van Jenerette
substitutions, rearrangement?
2 posted on 05/30/2003 11:51:35 AM PDT by Remedy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
2. The Federalist Papers

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" ?

3 posted on 05/30/2003 11:53:19 AM PDT by AdamSelene235 (Like all the jolly good fellows, I drink my whiskey clear....)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: AdamSelene235
Anti-Federalist papers SHOULD have been included.
4 posted on 05/30/2003 11:54:34 AM PDT by Remedy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
I agree. All of them save the Bible, are available in the world famous Penguin Classics paperback series of world literature. The most readable version of The Bible is Ernest Sutherland's famous 1936 classic The Bible: Designed And Arranged To Be Read As Living Literature. Both formats will introduce readers to the core works of Western civilization at a price they can afford. Sorry for the shameless plug here but that's how I encountered all of the above authors and its a pleasure to be able to read works that have affected our thinking and lives ever since.
5 posted on 05/30/2003 11:54:52 AM PDT by goldstategop (In Memory Of A Dearly Beloved Friend Who Lives On In My Heart Forever)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
I would recommend replacing one of the Augustine works with Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed. Just as an aside, this great work was originally written in ARABIC.
6 posted on 05/30/2003 11:56:57 AM PDT by Alouette (Why is it called "International Law" if only Israel and the United States are expected to keep it?)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
I agree with many of these, but this list is much to liberal arts oriented. If all students are going to read the ancient texts on politics, regardless of whether they apply to their major, then there is no reason all students should not read Newton's Principia and some of the works of Einstein, Copernicus, Euler, and other great scientists and mathmaticians. They are no harder to read or more boring for non-science majors than some of the chosen ten are for those who aren't political science or literature majors.
7 posted on 05/30/2003 11:59:06 AM PDT by LonghornFreeper
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
Add the following:

Atlas Shrugged

The Road to Serfdom

Capitalism and Freedom

Free to Choose
8 posted on 05/30/2003 11:59:21 AM PDT by FlatLandBeer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
These guys don't seem to be fans of any books written in the last two centuries, do they? ;-) LOL. Since I'm just getting out of college now, here's all the books I've read out of their wish list:

The Bible
The Federalist Papers
The Divine Comedy, Part I: The Inferno
The Illiad
King Lear
Oedipus Trilogy, Parts I & III (nobody ever pays attention to II)
Animal Farm

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.

9 posted on 05/30/2003 12:01:56 PM PDT by BillyBoy (George Ryan deserves a long term...without parole.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: LonghornFreeper
Blaise Pascal - Pensees
10 posted on 05/30/2003 12:02:37 PM PDT by Remedy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
There are two in the list I haven't read: Confessions and City of God. I'll try and read them.

I would add one more text to the list and that is Atlas Shrugged.


11 posted on 05/30/2003 12:03:48 PM PDT by M Kehoe
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
If possible, read these in their original languages. Especially Dante. It might be noted that a common thread besides technique such as irony runs through many of these recommended works.
12 posted on 05/30/2003 12:04:37 PM PDT by RightWhale (gazing at shadows)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: BillyBoy

I don't get all the Ayn Rand worshipers

Nor do I - The Ethics of Ayn Rand: A Preliminary Assessment

13 posted on 05/30/2003 12:04:51 PM PDT by Remedy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
of course,all you freepers are assuming these kids can read....and why should they waste their time when the liberal professor will tell them what to think and they will get a passing grade from that professor cuz they mouth his/her exact statements!!!!!!
14 posted on 05/30/2003 12:05:40 PM PDT by fishbabe
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
It's telling that Marcus Tullius Cicero didn't even get an Honorable Mention. Crikey, when I took Latin in HS we had to translate Caesar's "Gallic Wars" as well as Cicero's "Republic". Guess they went out when Latin studies went out. But Cicero has my vote as the most important defender of the Republic ideal.
15 posted on 05/30/2003 12:06:53 PM PDT by widowithfoursons
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
Bump for reference. Great thread.
16 posted on 05/30/2003 12:07:33 PM PDT by I still care
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
"When the nation's history is poorly taught in schools, ignored by the young, and rejected by qualified elders, awareness of the tradition consists only in wanting to destroy it."

Jacques Barzun: From Dawn to Decadence : 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present
17 posted on 05/30/2003 12:07:58 PM PDT by TheWillardHotel
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: M Kehoe


Fifth Circuit No. 99-10331 & Your Gun as an honorable mention?

18 posted on 05/30/2003 12:08:33 PM PDT by Remedy
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 11 | View Replies]

To: Remedy
Atals Shrugged
The Fountainhead
Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal

All by Ayn Rand. They should also consider reading all the works of P.J. O'Rourke.
19 posted on 05/30/2003 12:08:59 PM PDT by LanPB01
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Alouette
I would recommend replacing one of the Augustine works with Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed.

I agree.

I'm suprised that Aristotle was included. But gratified.


20 posted on 05/30/2003 12:09:28 PM PDT by JRandomFreeper (I'm just a cook.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

Navigation: use the links below to view more comments.
first 1-2021-4041-6061-80 ... 241-253 next last

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson