Hugh Hewitt's lifetime book reading list
The top 30 books that everyone ought to have read
Books to read if you want to understand how the world works
the transcript
the audio

Professor David Allen White, U.S. Naval Academy Professor John Mark Reynolds, Biola University
  1. Bible
  2. Shakespeare
  3. Dialogs of Plato
  4. Homer's Iliad
  5. Dante's Divine Comedy
  6. Cervantes' Don Quixote   [I read it every year]
  7. Dickens' David Copperfield   [great story, great storyteller]
  8. Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov   [historical, philosophical]
  9. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  10. The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn   [the great book of our age]
  11. Homer's Odyssey
  12. Aeschylus' Oresteia
  13. Aristole's Ethics
  14. Virgil's Aeneid
  15. Aquinas' Summa Theologica
  16. Pensees – Blaise Pascal   [French for "thoughts"]
  17. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen   [everyone who wants to be married has to read this]
  18. Immortal Poems of the English Language – edited by Oscar Williams
  19. Moby Dick – Herman Melville   [greatest book written by an American]
  20. Sophocles' Oedipus Rex
  21. Song of Roland, Chanson de Geste   [great battle poem of all time, extraordinary character study]
  22. Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer
  23. Alice In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll   [understand the modern mind]
  24. Through The Looking Glass – Lewis Carroll   [here is the modern world in spades]
  25. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  26. Collected Poems, 1909-1962 – T.S. Eliot
  27. Witness – Whittaker Chambers
  28. The Complete Stories – Flannery O'Connor
  29. Of A Fire On The Moon – Norman Mailer
  30. Lost In The Cosmos – Walker Percy
  1. Homer's Odyssey
  2. Aristole's Ethics   [learn to think about things correctly]
  3. Plato's Republic   [I reread every semester of my life]
  4. Sophocles' Oedipus Rex   [understand the nature of truth, and where theater comes from]
  5. Augustine's Confessions   [I read every year]
  6. The Divine Comedy – Dante Alighieri   [great poetry, great science, great theology]
  7. The 2nd Treatise on Government – John Locke   [one of the hardest books to read]
  8. Virgil's Aeneid
  9. Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
  10. Lincoln's 2nd Inaugural Address
  11. Declaration of Independence   [miracles of modern thought]
  12. Constitution of the United States
  13. Federalist Papers – Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay
  14. Democracy In America – Alexis de Tocqueville
  15. Wealth of Nations – Adam Smith
  16. Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx
  17. On the Origin of Species – Charles Darwin   [it's not fascinating, it's important]
  18. The Birth of Tragedy and the Genealogy of Morals – Friedrich Nietzsche
  19. Civilization And Its Discontents – Sigmund Freud
  20. Abolition of Man – C.S. Lewis   [best essay written in the 20th Century]
  21. Aquinas' Summa Theologica
  22. Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer
  23. The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli
  24. The Faerie Queene – Edmund Spenser   [C.S. Lewis described as a psychologically purifying moment]
  25. Calvin's Institutes
  26. Paradise Lost – John Milton
  27. The Consolation of Philosophy – Ancius Boethius   [tough things, fate, God's relationship to fate]
  28. Aeschylus' Oresteia
  29. Cicero's On Friendship and On Duties
  30. Leviathan – Thomas Hobbes   [a vile and evil book]


Shakespeare A to Z: The Essential Reference to His Plays, His Poems, His Life and Times, and More by Charles Boyce, David Allen White (752 pages)

[... page numbers came from my print-out that was 9 pages in length ...]

We need beauty in our lives. We need souls that are good, and true, and beautiful. Don't fall into the trap of thinking only things that work matter. [JMR, p3]

We can't get to good, true, and beautiful by starting with ourselves, because all of us are in process. We need great writers to help us find the big ideas, the truths that never change. [JMR, p3]

If you're ever tempted to be a socialist, the Communist Manifesto will argue you out of it. [JMR, p4]

Nietzsche, Freud, Marx, Darwin: the makers of the modern mind [JMR, p4]

I view Freud as a waste of time, I view Marx as a good joke on everyone who fell for it. [HH, p5]

I wouldn't read Darwin. James Joyce - who I consider one of the big frauds of the 20th century. Joyce, Marx, Freud, Darwin: a complete waste of the gifts they were given. You can get a sense of them secondhand. [DAW, p5]

Most people call [James Joyce's] Ulysses the greatest novel of the 20th Century. The irony, of course, is that nobody's ever read it, or could read it. It's a complete and total bore. [DAW, p5]

[With Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, men] can learn something about being a man. She had a better sense of manhood than most men in our time.   [HH: Can we watch the movie instead?]   No, you've got to read it. The sentences are exquisite, and the wisdom of this woman is profound. [DAW, p5]

Immortal Poems of the English Language – Sidney, Spencer, Marlowe, Jonson, Donne, Milton, Dryden, Pope, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Browning, Hopkins, Whitman, Dickenson, Frost. [DAW, p5]

Essays – Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)
    tells you how people work [HH, p6]
Reflections on the Revolution in France – Edmund Burke
    understand the way politics works, the way people work [JMR, p6]

I do scowl at Machiavelli. [DAW, p6]

Both of you want to understand the modern mind without reading the modern mind, so I don't know what to make of either of you. [JMR, p6]

Oedipus Rex - gets right to the question of who am I, proves to us we have no idea, and when we find out, it's pretty horrifying. [DAW, p6]

Lear is number one, to my mind, the greatest thing ever written by anybody. [DAW, p6]

Leviathan established the agenda for nearly all subsequent Western political philosophy. The word "Hobbesian" is sometimes used in modern English to refer to a situation in which there is unrestrained, selfish, and uncivilised competition. This usage, now well-established, is misleading because "Leviathan" describes such a situation, but only in order to criticise it. [Wikipedia]

I think anybody who gets near Norman Mailer gets evil diseases of the intellectual sort, and can utterly shut down and stop thinking forever. [JMR, p8]

I hear the name Calvin, and I fall on the floor and shake. [DAW, p8]

Why isn't the canon of great books taught?

We dumb down education because it's easier to be stupid than it is to be smart. These books aren't immediately fun to read, though they're fun for the rest of your life in an intellectual sense ... With a good leader, students are dying for this. [But they need a guide] to understand how to read great literature ... and as you start to help them get a hold of the real thing, they become hungry for it, with a passion that passes anything you've ever seen. Our students aren't worse than they were 100 years ago. The teachers are worse ... Adults can do this as well, but you need to find a good guide, you need to find someone who can help you get through things, and you need to understand that being bored is not a sin. Some things are hard to learn, but they're worth learning. You need to press on and try to get what you can. Repetitive reading of books is a great idea. If a book's worth reading once, it's generally worth reading multiple times. [JMR, p8]

Why isn't the canon of great books taught?

Because modern universities and colleges are the biggest fraud on the planet. They hate Western civilization, and they will do anything to destroy it, which means destroying the canon ... [Students and adults will respond to these books, but] they need some good guidance to get them through. I agree completely with the remarks that were just made. I always think, and I point to this, in the Divine Comedy, when Dante's taking his journey, he's got to have Virgil there to guide him, and then Beatrice and then St. Bernard. You've got to have a guide. [DAW, p9]