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Must Reads for Western Peoples

Updated on March 19, 2017

Must Read Books for Westerners

As an American, I have had the very fortunate opportunity to have gained a solid, broad-based liberal arts education. That does not make me liberal in politics though ! This education has supplied me with a unique understanding of where western democratic societies have originated. The stories about the human condition told thousands of years ago not only tell us about our history and culture, but they tell us about where we may be going and warn us of the pitfalls of our predecessors.

There are very many works which you should read. But this top ten list will give you a great start and hopefully make you hungry for more:

1. The Bible - don't read it for religious reasons, read it for the stories

2. The Odyssey - Homer Translated by Robert Fagles

3. The Aeneid - Virgil Translated by Fitzgerald or David West

4. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

5. Ulysses - James Joyce

Read these books and think about relevant they are to your life even today. The key to this reading is to constantly relate the stories, their characters, and their messages to your life. You will be amazed at how these ancient tales have such strong meaning to your life today in the 21st Century.


What does the Aeneid really mean to you today ?

What does a story about a man escaping a besieged city during a war which may or may not have happened thousands of years ago mean to you in the 21st century? Long story short is that this figure (Aeneas) fled the City of Troy holding his son by the hand and carrying his father on his back to travel to a foreign land where (as the story goes) he started a community which later morphed into the Roman empire. He stayed loyal to his gods and his family and showed dedication to his task and performed deeds which he did not like. He defeated his enemies while staying true to himself and his values.

Why do we care? The American and English justice system borrows from Roman law and traditions as does the legislature. Devotion to family and country runs throughout many countries in the world, even non-western ones. The Aeneid is an early example of those ideals and uses powerful images to convey these points. If you have not read it, read it and learn about your society and yourself.


Have you read these five books?

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Scene from Iliad (incorporated into Aeneid)

Final Words

If you want to have a greater sense of cultural awareness and your place in western history, start with these five books. From the roots of morality in the Bible to the human conscience in Crime and Punishment, these books will get you thinking. There's no need for a college education if you get into these essential reads from the western canon.


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