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The Harvard Classics in a Year: A Liberal Education in 365 Days

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The Harvard Classics in a Year aims to provide a whirlwind tour of classic literature. By reading for just 15 minutes a day throughout the year, you can discover text from “twelve main divisions of knowledge” including History, Poetry, Natural Science, Philosophy, Biography, Prose Fiction, Criticism and the Essay, Education, Political Science, Drama, Voyages and Travel and The Harvard Classics in a Year aims to provide a whirlwind tour of classic literature. By reading for just 15 minutes a day throughout the year, you can discover text from “twelve main divisions of knowledge” including History, Poetry, Natural Science, Philosophy, Biography, Prose Fiction, Criticism and the Essay, Education, Political Science, Drama, Voyages and Travel and Religion. Based on Dr. Eliot's “reading guide” for The Harvard Classics, a complete chapter of reading material is included for each day of the year (even February 29th, in case you are reading during a Leap Year): "These selections assigned for each day in the year as you will see, are introduced by comments on the author, the subjects or the chief characters. They will serve to introduce you in the most pleasant manner possible to the Harvard Classics. They will enable you to browse enjoyably among the world’s immortal writings with entertainment and stimulation in endless variety.." Each reading is framed by an introduction, a context in which the text can be read and understood, often with insightful information about the author, it's wider history, or why that particular selection is appropriate reading for that day.


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The Harvard Classics in a Year aims to provide a whirlwind tour of classic literature. By reading for just 15 minutes a day throughout the year, you can discover text from “twelve main divisions of knowledge” including History, Poetry, Natural Science, Philosophy, Biography, Prose Fiction, Criticism and the Essay, Education, Political Science, Drama, Voyages and Travel and The Harvard Classics in a Year aims to provide a whirlwind tour of classic literature. By reading for just 15 minutes a day throughout the year, you can discover text from “twelve main divisions of knowledge” including History, Poetry, Natural Science, Philosophy, Biography, Prose Fiction, Criticism and the Essay, Education, Political Science, Drama, Voyages and Travel and Religion. Based on Dr. Eliot's “reading guide” for The Harvard Classics, a complete chapter of reading material is included for each day of the year (even February 29th, in case you are reading during a Leap Year): "These selections assigned for each day in the year as you will see, are introduced by comments on the author, the subjects or the chief characters. They will serve to introduce you in the most pleasant manner possible to the Harvard Classics. They will enable you to browse enjoyably among the world’s immortal writings with entertainment and stimulation in endless variety.." Each reading is framed by an introduction, a context in which the text can be read and understood, often with insightful information about the author, it's wider history, or why that particular selection is appropriate reading for that day.

30 review for The Harvard Classics in a Year: A Liberal Education in 365 Days

  1. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Just finished 365 straight days of reading from The Harvard Classics! I sampled a little of everything from each of the 49 volumes. My reading style must be much different from the early 1900's because the "15 minutes a day" suggested by the curated Reading Guide was often an hour or more for me. Just finished 365 straight days of reading from The Harvard Classics! I sampled a little of everything from each of the 49 volumes. My reading style must be much different from the early 1900's because the "15 minutes a day" suggested by the curated Reading Guide was often an hour or more for me.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Greg

    15 minutes a day is enticing but unrealistic. 20 pages of dense text is an hour or two. I read a lot, and was hoping these daily selections would be short palate cleansers.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Of course, I haven't read every page of a book like this! But I have read enough to make a recommendation. This is an anthology based on the famous HARVARD CLASSICS. One is meant to read a short extract from the HC each day (including a selection for Feb 29th). These extracts are very well chosen and frequently send one back to the original work. As a browsing experience this is one of the best anthologies I have read and I fully intend to continue my explorations. All of the items in the HC are Of course, I haven't read every page of a book like this! But I have read enough to make a recommendation. This is an anthology based on the famous HARVARD CLASSICS. One is meant to read a short extract from the HC each day (including a selection for Feb 29th). These extracts are very well chosen and frequently send one back to the original work. As a browsing experience this is one of the best anthologies I have read and I fully intend to continue my explorations. All of the items in the HC are in the public domain though it is possible to get the entire collection in ebook format as it was originally published for a ridiculously low price.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    I waited to finish the entire year before posting this review, even though about halfway through the year I realized what a mistake it was to tackle this project. While I love the concept and found some excellent leads, there are too many flaws in the selections and presentation to make this worthwhile. As a summary: Charles Eliot was the President of Harvard from 1869 to 1909. He developed a famous "five-foot bookshelf" of classics that he believed were the foundation of a classical education, a I waited to finish the entire year before posting this review, even though about halfway through the year I realized what a mistake it was to tackle this project. While I love the concept and found some excellent leads, there are too many flaws in the selections and presentation to make this worthwhile. As a summary: Charles Eliot was the President of Harvard from 1869 to 1909. He developed a famous "five-foot bookshelf" of classics that he believed were the foundation of a classical education, and this collection pulls readings from these books with the idea that "just 15 minutes a day" over the course of a year will provide you with that foundation. Each section opens with an "introduction" meant to provide context for the reading. Finally, all of the readings are in the public domain (which is relevant, as I'll explain below). For the positives, I was introduced to some selections that I absolutely loved and likely wouldn't have otherwise read. I found myself laughing hysterically at the first chapter of Don Quixote and read the entire book; I realized that Charles Darwin is an outstanding travel writer and describes the area he visits in a compelling and personable manner; and was astonished at the prescience of George Washington (and Alexander Hamilton) as I read his final address and saw so many of our current political travesties perfectly described over 200 years ago (given how many politicians claim to idolize Washington, perhaps they should read his work...). However, there are multiple problems with this collection that lead me to strongly recommend against others working through the book: - Because the selections are in the public domain, the translations are ancient and terrible. While the translation used isn't shared (another flaw), passages from the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Bible, and others are written in a style that isn't approachable for today's reader. I found that using Wilson's translation for the Odyssey, Fagles' for the Aeneid, and the NRSV for the Bible made these passages far more enlightening than they would have otherwise been. It makes me wonder about other passages that I didn't have alternate translations of, e.g. Arabian Knights, the ancient Greek philosophers, other holy books, or any number of autobiographies. - The ebook doesn't have links or an index, so you can't easily find something from previous readings. More to the point, you can't jump to footnotes to see what a word or passage means. The worst example of this was the Introduction to the Canterbury Tales written in Olde English where a single reading had almost 200 footnotes, none of which could be accessed during the reading itself (unless you scroll ahead and back repeatedly, which would make the reading unbearable). A footnote that can't be accessed during the reading doesn't help, meaning all of the footnotes in this ebook are worthless. (To say nothing of footnotes that are written in Latin, apparently under the assumption that everyone striving for a liberal arts education can read Latin). - The brief introductions to each selection are rarely--if ever--helpful. They're typically no more than 1-3 sentences, may include something about the author's birthday or day of death (as explanation for why it's chosen for that day), and often just repeat a single point from the selection itself with no indication of why it's considered important ("In this passage, the author meets a sailor with lots of tattoos"). Given that some selections hardly seem critical to a classic education--such as a scene from an Italian farce--more explanation would have been useful. - Speaking of which, the vast majority of passages are snippets from (much) larger works, and the value in reading such a small piece isn't clear. Why read a few scenes from the middle of a play I've never heard of, or part of a book from the Odyssey or Aeneid instead of the entire book? While the idea is likely to make it manageable for a day's reading, some days are 3-5 minutes but others are 20-30; it'd be better to have meaningful passages even if it takes longer to read. - The obvious fact is that this collection was culled by the President of Harvard in the early 1900s. As a result, the selections are almost all by men (there are a few selections by female poets but not many, and no easy way to confirm how many passages are by women), they're almost all European or American (with a few selections from Arabian Knights, the Koran, and Buddhist and Hindu writings), and the content of these writings repeatedly include passages that demonstrate the abuse and degradation of women and random killing of "savages." If the purpose of these writings is for the reader to recognize how discriminatory societies were in the ancient (and not-so-ancient) era, the continued inclusion of this work makes sense. Without that context, and with introductions explaining how important and valued these authors were, it reads more like glorifying behaviors and values that we now (hopefully) recognize as abhorrent. In short, the concept of this undertaking is intriguing but the selections and presentation are so poor that it's not worth the substantial time and effort.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mark Bonham

    I took this on as a personal project and read the selections daily for an entire year. The selections vary in length and personal interest. In Kindle speak, the passages almost never exceeded 200 location units. Admittedly, I got more out of some passages than others, but it was great to read some of the most important and famous quotes in literature in their original context. It was a great initial exposure to some literary and science giants that I would never have known about, and it has enco I took this on as a personal project and read the selections daily for an entire year. The selections vary in length and personal interest. In Kindle speak, the passages almost never exceeded 200 location units. Admittedly, I got more out of some passages than others, but it was great to read some of the most important and famous quotes in literature in their original context. It was a great initial exposure to some literary and science giants that I would never have known about, and it has encouraged me to read additional works of selected authors. Obviously, this book is a commitment and probably not for the mainstream. I probably did spend 15 to 20 minutes each day to get through the selections. Some days, when I had time, I would re-read a selection that was complex. It is do-able and worthwhile but know thyself. :-) Good luck!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    A good read!! I really enjoyed reading through the Harvard Classics! I found much of the info very interesting! I highly recommend it!

  7. 4 out of 5

    Beth Peninger

    Y'all. I tried. I TRIED. But I just couldn't do it. I have been trying to read this book since August 2017. I give up. If the selections in this book mean I can partially consider myself well-read then I am NOT well-read and I'm just going to have to be okay with that. Life is just too short to give any more time to this endeavor. Listen, I bet this compilation is a worthy one for the serious academics out there but for an average gal like me? I pass. So long, farewell, well-read status. We shal Y'all. I tried. I TRIED. But I just couldn't do it. I have been trying to read this book since August 2017. I give up. If the selections in this book mean I can partially consider myself well-read then I am NOT well-read and I'm just going to have to be okay with that. Life is just too short to give any more time to this endeavor. Listen, I bet this compilation is a worthy one for the serious academics out there but for an average gal like me? I pass. So long, farewell, well-read status. We shall now part ways.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    Took 20-45 minutes of daily obligatory/programmed reading but very satisfying

  9. 4 out of 5

    ROBERT A MCINNES

    Good intro to classics

  10. 5 out of 5

    Hilari Erickson

  11. 4 out of 5

    Hugh

  12. 5 out of 5

    Steven Demmler

  13. 4 out of 5

    Biju K

  14. 4 out of 5

    John

  15. 4 out of 5

    Marcia Baer

  16. 4 out of 5

    AJ

  17. 4 out of 5

    Dennis

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jerald

  19. 4 out of 5

    Janice Rudolf

  20. 4 out of 5

    Arlene Dosen

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lawrence

  22. 4 out of 5

    Amber Lockey

  23. 5 out of 5

    Thomas M.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Aaron Weisberger

  25. 4 out of 5

    David F Hyatt

  26. 4 out of 5

    Michiel

  27. 4 out of 5

    John

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sheila Waddell

  29. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

  30. 4 out of 5

    Michael Hanson

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