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The Great Books Reader: Excerpts and Essays on the Most Influential Books in Western Civilization Hardcover – 21 Oct 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group (21 Oct. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0764208527
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764208522
  • Product Dimensions: 23.9 x 16.8 x 5.1 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,307,639 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Great Books programs have become increasingly popular among Christian colleges, high schools, and even home schoolers. This one-of-a-kind book is designed for those who do not have the opportunity to attend such a program but are still interested in directly engaging with the Western Canon. It contains substantial excerpts from thirty of the most important books in history, with each excerpt followed by an essay placing the work in historical and Christian context. Readers can learn directly from such authors and thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, de Tocqueville, Freud, and Chesterton. Selected as one of 2011's Best Books for Preachers by Preaching Magazine

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 11 reviews
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Plato, Aristotle, Pascal & more...all in 1 book...who knew?! 12 Sept. 2011
By Gregory J. Leith - Published on
Format: Hardcover
John Mark Reynolds has taken many of the great books of all time and condensed them for the real world crowd. Then he gave them quick introductions so that the regular folks of the world could 'test drive' the greatest books of the world that lead to the greatest ideas in the world that just might lead us all to some of the deepest thoughts or actions in our worlds.

Who knew that Plato, Pascal and other great writers in history could be politely condensed into bite-sized, delicious yet deep morsels? "How can John Mark do this?", you might ask? The answer is simple actually as he has done it hundreds of times over in the lives of countless students as he founded and operated the most significant great books program in the country at Biola University. On a personal note, he's made a significant impact on four of my children who are his students. Truly, he's an expert at making Great Books come alive, and that is what leads to life change at which he's a master tutor.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Useful intro to important ideas that help build Western civiization 25 Oct. 2011
By L. Redford - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
For those of us who've not got gone through all the Great Books, this is at least a place to begin. And these excerpts from great thinkers are bracketed by some excellent essays. The quality of the book itself is unfortunately poor; will the binding last through a complete reading? I don't know. If it doesn't hold up, will the publisher send me another poor quality hard back book? Again, I don't know. Buy the book to read great ideas, not as a long term investment for the shelves of your library.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Mac D. Culver - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In reviewing books to teach a course in the introduction to philosophy in a Bible college, I came across this reader that contains much of what had been determined the richest philosophy of the ages. What an amazing work with a format that gives a "taste" of the writings from the great writers plus an extremely well done introduction. But the real treasure is the overview on each selection by a scholar of our times. Not only do I enjoy the work but my students are really "getting it". Thanks to Dr. Reynolds, others may be painlessly introduced to he great philosophy of the ages.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
good to know 15 Jun. 2014
By David Houchin - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A great book of short excerpts of great literature with essays following each providing a christian perspective. My 15 year old grandson and I are working our way through it. Good stuff.
19 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Sadly Disappointed 3 Nov. 2011
By J. Dunlap - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I've followed Dr. Reynolds' academic work for many years after hearing a lecture he gave about fifteen years ago, and I think he is a wonderful man doing great work. I've also been a huge fan of the Great Books for slightly longer, so I was filled with much anticipation when I heard Dr. Reynolds had edited a book on this subject. Though I was filled with substantial disappointment when I started looking through it.

If you are like me and you own a copy of the Great Books of the Western World and were slightly annoyed that Adler and Hutchins didn't include any introductions, explanations or means to drawn more out of their monumental set of books than they did you'll be almost as underwhelmed with this book. Reynolds has done a great job at selecting the books for this Reader, because many overly nervous Christians tend to stay away from every single non-Christian book like the plauge; so I applaud him for this. Another great aspect of this book is that he didn't just stick to selecting mostly non-fiction books like many Great Books list-makers compile, and he selected a nice variety of genres. As I expected the majority of the book is filled with experts from the original source material itself, no surprise there. What was unexpected for me was how anemic the introductions and essays are: the introductions are no more than one page long and the essays are no more than two; the introductions are very similar to what Susan Wise Bauer wrote about each book she introduced in her publication, The Well-educated Mind. In that short amount of a space very little can be said of much significance. Yes, the contributors try and fill as much value into what they do write and it's better than Adler and Hutchins' "bare bones" approach, but I believe they fall far short of what could have been a much better book. One other minor point: there are no questions in the book to help the reader gain more from the selection or as a group study guide.

One of the thing that annoys me about this and similar books is this: why include an excerpt of original source materal at all? Why don't you just introduce the book, talk about the author, the particular literary genre, how his or her ideas have impacted Western civilization or Christian history, how I can draw as much from this book as possible and why my soul can prosper from reading this piece of literature? Then just tell the reader to go and pick up a copy of that particular book and read it (the books are a dime a dozen, and most people who are reading this book probably own most or all of the books anyway), that way the contributor can teach the reader and prepare the reader to draw as much as possible from the piece selected. Why spend hundreds of pages reprinting something I and most others already own? Does Bethany House really think that the reader won't read a book that doesn't already contain original source material? I seriously doubt it. As a result they've produced a book that I really won't gain much from and ruined an opportunity to create a solid source to go back to over and over as I grow in my reading over the years. If the publisher took out the source material and focused more on developing a book that really drives the reader deep into the material and show how the reader can truly engage the material fully and allow it to change the heart and mind it would be far more transformational experience and therefore worthy of recommendation to others.

In my opinion the best set of books that a reader can use to assist the autodidact is the tan set of books published by Encyclopedia Britannica titled (I believe) The Great Ideas Program (found at the great under The Great Ideas Program, though the actual books are much more substantial than what you'll find on the website.
This set isn't bloated with original source material but seeks to cut to the chase and act as a guide for self-education.

I thank God for people like Dr. Reynolds and the contributors but it's my opinion that they simply failed at producing a book that will stand for years to come in the classical, Great Books, homeschooling or academic communities.
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