[HRB] How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler

How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren [HRB]

Current edition published in 1972

I found this book after realizing that my master was skewing heavily toward the 20th century. Specifically, it was when I saw that Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene was not going to make the Master without a little help from some friends. Now, I’ve never read anything by Spenser but I know he is famous enough to be known by last name alone.

The short of it was that if The Faerie Queen wasn’t canonical I don’t know what was. Mortimer Adler’s list saved Spenser and a number of other “dead white guys” as well (Cicero, Horace, and Pope). Mortimer J. Adler helped Encyclopaedia Britannica put together its own Great Books list [GB] so it is no surprise that there is a lot of similarities between the two. Often you will see those are the only two votes a book gets, which is a touch incestuous. But the [HRB] and the [GB] do regularly part ways in their recommendations. For example, it isn’t the Great Books list that also raises up Spenser’s Faerie Queen. It is Harold Bloom’s sprawling Western Canon [HB].

To see Adler’s full list, scroll below or click here. Works marked in RED appeared on at least one other of the twenty-four “Great Works” lists I’ve compiled, and so made the Master List.

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