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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Review: The Skeptic's Guide to the Great Books

The elevator pitch for this book's awesome: what if, instead of trying (and failing) to read all the "great books" that are part of the western literary canon could be replaced by exciting, fun books that will have you eager to read them instead? What if a professor gave you 12 books to replace boring stuff like Hamlet, Moby-Dick, War and Peace, or Ulyses?

Sucker that I am, I jumped on The Skeptic's Guide to the Great Books. The problem is, the typical professor's taste is not necessarily going to be to be yours. I'd actually read 3 of the books Prof. Voth provides in this course: Robert Penn Warren's "All the King's Men", Le Carre's "The Spy Who Came in from the Cold", and Moore's "Watchmen." For those 3 books, I can attest that Voth does a good job describing the book and explaining why it's so great. Unfortunately, for the rest of the books in his list, I can't say as much. He recommends 12 books, and of them all, the only 2 books I'm even intrigued by are Orwell's Down and Out in Paris and London, and Death of An Expert Witness. The other books he recommend sound as boring as the classical works they replace.

The upside is that the audio lecture series is short: 6 hours to cover 12 books, so worse comes to worse you're not out a lot of time.

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