The Books that Shape Us
In my wanderings today, I came across this post by Nathan Harden “Five Classic Books Every Smart Person Should Read” on the Huff Post blog. I am not going to lie, I felt like it took some audacity on Harden’s part to title it as he did and I almost didn’t read on that basis alone…but I was too curious to see his list to not finish the post.
For those curious, Harden’s list includes:
1. Homer’s Oddessy
2. Plutarch’s Lives
3. The Bible
4. Dante’s Divine Comedy
5. Shakespeare’s The Tempest
What I appreciated about the article is that Harden advocated that individuals read these books not because they were his favorites, or because you should have read them as one of the elite, but because they have shaped our intellectual and moral history. He pointed out that these books are no longer required reading, and that, “Consequently, we are less likely than ever to understand where our political and moral ideas come from.” Often, we are willing to read books that agree with our moral, intellectual, and political ideals, but we don’t fully explore where those ideals originated from. Americans especially seem to disconnect from history, aside from our own.
I will confess, I have not read the bulk of this short list, the exceptions being The Bible and Dante’s Divine Comedy, but I am curious to pick up each of the books mentioned, and to consider them for what they have been- books that shaped the intellectual history of generations.
What about you- have you read any of Harden’s list? Would you add any to this list, and why?