The Master Plan: Seven Years to Read the Great Books

Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? If so, do you actually keep them? My track record in that area is probably not better than most people’s.

But this year will be different (really!). I’m reading a new book on goal setting, Michael Masterson’s The Pledge: Your Master Plan for an Abundant Life. I have read Masterson for several years, and this man has a thing or two to teach most people about personal productivity. When I follow his recommendations, I find myself moving much more quickly towards whatever goals I’ve set for myself.

In The Pledge, Masterson recommends creating a “master plan” for yourself by setting seven-year goals in several areas of your life. I’ve already worked mine out, and one of them is very relevant to this blog:

Beginning in January 2011, I will embark on a seven-year project to read the 60-volume Great Books of the Western World series.

Actually, I’ll have to tackle the set in six years, because my first year’s goal is to read the 10-volume Gateway to the Great Books set, which was created as a sort of “warm up” to the longer series.

If you peruse the table of contents of the Gateway set (here) and the Great Books set (here), you may conclude either that I am a speed reader or that I have taken leave of my senses. Neither conclusion is correct (I hope).

I realize this is an ambitious goal, but I think my chances of completing the project are realistic. I have read the majority of works in the set in whole or in part at some point in my life, although in some cases it has been fifteen or twenty years since my last exposure to them. The biggest hurdle for me will be the scientific works, but the editors of the set assure their readers that the fundamental nature of the works they selected ensures that the layman can hope to understand them. We shall see.

I plan to link my reading program to this blog as follows:

1. Each Monday I’ll offer some observations on what I read in the preceding week. Hopefully they will be of some interest.

2. I’ll also post my reading schedule for the upcoming week. If any of you wish to attempt portions of this program with me, perhaps we’ll be able to have a fruitful discussion. In most cases, you won’t need an actual copy of the Great Books sets to participate; nearly all these works are in the public domain and can be found somewhere online for free.

2011 is still several days away, but rather than twiddle my thumbs and possibly get cold feet, I’m going to read the volume that introduced the first edition of the Great Books series: The Great Conversation (available online in PDF format here). I’ll post some reflections on it next Monday before diving into Volume I of the Gateway to the Great Books set.

If this seems like an exciting project to you, why not join me? Gird up your loins and jump into the Great Conversation!

[This post was originally published December 27, 2010, on Through the Great Books’s parent blog, The Western Tradition.]

About Dr. J

I am Professor of Humanities at Faulkner University, where I chair the Department of Humanities and direct online M.A. and Ph.D. programs based on the Great Books of Western Civilization. I am also Associate Editor of the Journal of Faith and the Academy and a member of the faculty at Liberty Classroom.
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4 Responses to The Master Plan: Seven Years to Read the Great Books

  1. Donald says:

    I just discovered this website, coincidentally the same day I received my copy of the “Gateway” books. Although I am a few weeks behind, I think I can catch up with the works read so far. It is great to find a group of people committed to reading the Great Books.

  2. Ginger says:

    Last year I began this project and them sputtered and fizzled, although I did continue to read your posts. Again, I’ve begun again at the very beginning and plan to persevere.Thank you for your fine work and insights.

    • Dr. J says:

      It’s good to see you again, Ginger! Feel free to do the readings at a slower pace if you need to. The important thing is not to burn out! Post comments whenever you feel like it.

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