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It's also interesting that the books are so spread out chronologically. I've been meaning to read Don Quixote and more Sherlock Holmes. Now I have a good excuse.


Fascinating! I've heard the concept (everything comes from either Shakespeare or the Bible) but this is a pretty good list. I'm spotty like you... might blog my list, just for fun :)


Great idea for a meme, Danielle!


It is interesting that all of the mythologies have the same themes cropping up. The slaughter of the innocents, a flood - and such.
Like you I know bits and pieces of the bible, quite a lot of mythology, Metamorphoses (in Latin!)
From the list I've missed out on Robinson Crusoe and I just can't get on with Conan Doyle.


This is a really interesting idea. I'm reading Ovid's Metamorphoses right now, actually. It's very colorful and readable, I like it a lot.

Laura's Reviews

Great list. I read a lot of these in high school and college. I need to read some of these like Dante's Inferno.

Ariel/Sycorax Pine

You had a great high school education, Danielle!


At first I thought I'd read very little on the list but when I started thinking back to grade school and high school there were more there than I realized. Still should pick a few more up though one of these days.


I am pretty much neck-and-neck with you on this list. I have read a lot Shakespeare, but am embarrassed at how little detail I can recall. Don Quixote was a couple years ago, and many of the others were in college. I have, however, read most of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I do think they are a love/hate type of thing. Once you start, you'll either gobble them all up in a couple weeks or you'll never get past the first one.


Apart from Cervantes which I want to read in Spanish and have got in Spanish I am actually happy to report that I read everything on your list. Ah no, Dante is missing too although I know the first sentences of the original. It always strikes me that in other countries Dante (or other books) is read in translation. That's such a no go in Switzeralnd. School and university alike. Language courses are in the respective languages. Latin was in Latin! No writing of papers, masters Ph.D.s in another but the language of the work you study. On the other hand you sure did read a wide variety of works at school. Did you ever enjoy reading for school? I did occasionally. But often they spoilt it because we read it so painstakingly slowly... I remember reading Michel Tournier. Our teacher had a double Ph.D in French and psychology so we had to suffer through his double analysis. I think he read things into the positions of commas...
Al in all I'd like to read Dirda.

Margaret @ BooksPlease

I like this list - read some and not others. I might blog my list too!


Oh I am shockingly bad at having read these sorts of books.I know the Homer and the Ovid and obviously Jane Austen and Arthur Conan Doyle and that's it. I suspect myself of working backwards from several thousand contemporary novels, lol!


It is an oddly scattered list, decidedly patriarchal, and where the hell are the Russians, Milton, Dickens, and Werther? I have not read Plutarch, Dante, or Morte d'Artur, but I've hit all the rest. Many were required in highschool or college - the myths, The Iliad and Odyssey, Quixote, and a good deal of Shakespeare, though I have since read the plays for fun. The others I read for pleasure, often because they were on the shelf at home.


References are everything. It amazed me when after reading Diary of a Nobody, I heard the term 'Pooterish' several times. It would have previously gone right over my head.

Fairy tales, the scary kind, formed the foundation of a very vivid imagination as well as a love for reading when I was a kid. Those were the days *sigh*.


I'm ashamed to say that I've read very few of these all the way through (The Bible, Arthur Conan Doyle, Pride and Prejudice and Alice in Wonderland) and little bits and pieces of Shakespeare (some of his plays, but not the ones listed here). I have the Odyssey on my shelf TBR. Dirda's explanation is one of the reasons to read classics: to better understand modern literature. (He also has a book specifially about classics which I'd like to read.)

Thanks for sharing this!


This list for me too is a lot of bits and pieces. In my reading plan for this year is A Midsummernight's Dream as well as the myths of Perseus and Pygmalion. Folktales is a definite Yes though, ever since I read Women Who Run With the Wolves I collect them. I would recommend Anne Cameron's Daughters of Copper Woman.


Okay, here's mine, Danielle! Thanks!


Hm, sorry, it didn't link:


What a neat idea! You're tempting me more and more to track down this book.
Sometimes I find myself missing English class. I honestly don't know if I would have read any of the Greeks without that impetus, and having discussions made it much easier to know the context.


I've read a precious few of the titles on this list. Like Rebecca, I miss English class where we had an excuse to venture out and try some of the classics that I otherwise avoid (Plutarch, Dante...).

Are you liking Downton Abbey? Part two comes tomorrow night!

Dorothy W.

I've read about eight, which I guess isn't too bad. The others I don't think I'm likely to get to, though. Plutarch and the Arabian Nights just don't sound appealing. But then again, you never know!


Mindy--He does space them out. I suppose Conan Doyle could be considered 20th century? I'd like to read more Sherlock Holmes stories as well.
Julia--Thanks for sharing your list and leaving me the link. I guess if you've read lots from the Bible and Shakespeare you're doing pretty well. I figure it all must build on what comes before anyway.
Susan--You can thank Mr Dirda for this! I have a feeling his book might just inspire a few more posts.
Katrina--Very impressive to have read Ovid in Latin. I will have to settle for English I'm afraid. I should read more fables and fairy tales--I think they really are building blocks when it comes to stories.
Anna--I bought an edition of the Metamorphoses a few years ago, but I've not gotten around to it. It seems a little formidable, so I am glad to hear you are getting on well with it.
Laura--I think of the ones I've read it was also in school. Sadly it's only a very few I've read since I left school. Hopefully I'll get to a few more of them, though.
Ariel/Sycorax Pine--I was in AP English my senior year and we read from one of those thick Norton Anthologies. Looking back I did get a good groundwork even though I missed a lot of more modern classics.
Elizabeth--I think I did most of my reading from this list in school as well. Now I see why they've chosen to stick with these classics as foundation for studying lit. I could read a few more from the list as well, though.
Amanda--I hate to admit how hazy my memory is as well. I know I've read books but when I try and remember details I fail miserably! I liked the one Sherlock Holmes book I read, and mean to read more only can't seem to squeeze them in.
Caroline--I think European education is much more rigorous than it is over here--at least it appears so in some areas. I learned French in high school and we did read some shorter French classics--but nothing major. I studied German in college but didn't go far enough to be able to read novels. And now that I don't use it I couldn't read or write much of anything at all. I can get by in Spanish but even that is more Spanglish than Spanish. Unless you are very dedicated it is hard to stay fluent when you don't use it very often. Even though I always loved reading I'm not sure how thrilled I was by studying literature in high school, I'm sorry to say. I'm sure I loved some things but others maybe not so much. And I think every student must have a few authors they might otherwise love as an adult, but their work was forced down the throat so it took all the fun out of it!
Margaret--It is at least not a huge list--so often it is almost impossible to think of reading the entire list, but this one is really do-able. I'll watch for your list! :)
Litlove--Imagine working your way forward from the beginnings to modernity! You might take an entire lifetime before you even made it to the 20th century! What a thought! I sort of like the idea of working your way back...
Bookeywookey--It is somewhat arbitrary. I wondered too about Milton as I studied him along with Dante and Swift in high school. And it is also decidedly white-anglo-saxon, too. I guess to some extent that is what we study here and to have common knowledge that is the foundation of books--well, I'm thinking that's where he's coming with this list. I'm all for supplementing it though! I really do need to read more Shakespeare, though, one way or another.
Darlene--It is nice when you've been reading widely and you see certain books, characters or themes coming up over and over again. I also love getting those references as it makes the reading experience much richer. When I was little I used to have storybooks of fairy takes that had a cassette along with it--so you read and listened. It might be fun to revisit those (though maybe not with the cassette...and the beeps that let you know when to turn the page...)!
Kathy--There are a number of these where I also just read bits and pieces, but I guess we've at least had exposure to them. I wonder if kids nowadays are getting this sort of foundation. sadly my niece is not a reader and I bet she doesn't know most of the fairy tales and fables. My library has that Dirda book on classics and it is sitting on my desk at work. Unfortunately I've been too busy to look at it!
Catharina--I read A Midsummer Night's Dream for a reading challenge a few years back and watched a film adaptation--it was fun. I should really try and work in at least one of Shakespeare's plays every year. I'm bad on folktales--I'll note the title you've shared and I recall when Women Who Run with the Wolves was popular--not sure why I never picked it up!
Rebecca--I miss taking classes for that exact reason--having some guidance in what I'm reading and also being able to listen to and take part in discussions. The Dirda book is great fun and worth at least tracking down at the library!
Debby--I've always been a little afraid of reading the Greeks, though they seem very important. I have this idea I will either not understand or be really bored. I should give one of these a try this year. And I will definitely be watching the next part of Downton Abbey--I totally enjoyed it it last weekend!
Dorothy--I admit that I don't have a burning desire to read Plutarch, though maybe I'd be pleasantly surprised? I do sort of like the idea of reading the Arabian Nights--or at least getting a taste of what they're like, though I have no plans at the moment to do so. I should look at what my library has and take a peek.


I've read maybe about half of the books mentioned in the list, though some might have been children's editions. I really should read some ancient Greek and Roman authors, have not read much of them. But I have just recently found out that many of them are available online or downloadable for an e-reader for free, so I just might get into some of those this year.


Very interesting! This looks like a book I'd really like to try for myself. I've read quite a few off of the list with mixed results. Many of them were high school and early-college attempts. Don Quixote is one I'm especially shy of. Not sure why--I just don't think I'll like it! But speaking of "patterning," it's one of Paul Auster's favorite novels, so I'm curious if he's dropped any references into his own work. Hmmmm!


I do love a book about books! And yes from the list that you have up there..even I have a spotty record..Just a few here and there..and several of them incomplete :(


Isn't Dirda great? One of the best classes I ever took in college was the Bible as literature. We didn't read it cover-to-cover but we managed all the major books using the King James version. It was great fun being able to discuss the Bible and all its contradictions as literature instead of religion. And then of course there was the poetry. King James might not be the most accurate translation but it certainly is the most beautiful.


Tiina--I've not read much in the way of Greek classics either. It's at times like this that I like the idea of having an ereader so I can dowload freebies.
Andi--I was afraid of Don Quixote as well, but it is not a hard book to read at all--just very long. Since it is a picaresque novel it follows his adventures--it's broken up into sections as well, so easy to read a bit and take a little break. Most of the ones I've read I also read in school!
Vipula--The Dirda is wonderful--I love books about books, too. Even if I haven't read whatever he is talking about, he presents it so well that I can still appreciate the experience. I guess with a list like this you can always return to it later in life and read bits here and there.


Stefanie--I'd love to read the Bible that way. In school it was all about a different sort of lesson, but I like the idea of approaching it as a work of literature. Maybe someday I'll go back to it--or look for the Bible stories in some other format.


That is a fascinating list. I read The Metamorphoses in college and loved it. I had a wonderful professor though and his class was all about mythology and it was just so fun. I have only read half of Don Quixote and that was my second attempt. Hopefully when I make the third attempt I'll get through it all. haha...


Iliana--I was thinking about pulling out my copy of The Metamorphoses last night, but I resisted. Maybe I'll pull it out just to look at it! :) That sounds like a fun class--I would love to read a book like this with other people and be able to discuss it. And I spent one summer reading Don Quixote--though I understand how easy it would be to get sidetracked with such a hefty book.



This definitely is a much better and more interesting list than the one I found in a book titled "The Art of Reviewing a Book" (vaguely along these lines). I've read most of these books as part of the school curriculum or as bed-time stories. My parents gifted me quite a few of these books.

The only ones that I haven't touched yet but heard a lot about are Dante, Cervantes and Plutarch. Being a fan of mythology I read most of the rest.

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