But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
Wow. It is amazing to me to think this book was written in 1794/95. One of the most influential thinkers/writers/pamphleteers of the American AND French revolutions. You can't read Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins or Bart D. Ehrman and not feel that these authors ALL owe huge debts of gratitude to Thomas Paine and his last book. 'The Age of Reason', which essentially advocated deism, promoted humanism, reason and freethinking, and violently quarelled with ALL institutionalized religion (especially Christianity, viz the Bible), turned one of the heroes of the American Revolution into a social pariah. Only 6 people showed up for his funeral in 1809 (15 years after 'The Age of Reason' was first published) because many were still horrified by 'The Age of Reason'. Thomas Paine was an amazing thinker and like Hitch, I might not always agree with the end result of his thinking, but I am always amazed at the energy, force, originality and bravery of his thought.
For me the greatest approbation for a book I've just read is a simple declaration that this is a book I'll read again, and perhaps one that I'll read regularly. This is a desert island work for sure. It (for me) fits into the same mental shelf space as Marcus Aurelius' Meditations or Herodotus' The Histories or Adams' The Education of Henry Adams. Some pieces of nonfiction should probably be considered a type of humanist sacred-text. One more book I've got to grab if the house is on fire. One more book I will forever be buying extra copies of so I can fop them off on unprepared friends.
If you are going to read/listen to Thucydides, might I suggest listening to this wonderful audiobook while reading the Landmark version. There are so many places, people and changing loyalties that it really helped having the notes, maps, etc. I love the classical beauty of the Crawley translation and Bottino does a stellar job at narrating this amazing work. While I'm not one to demean anyone, I would simply suggest that the difficulties in narrating Thucydides is ORDERS of MAGNITUDE beyond most contemporary fiction or history. Narrating this book must have been a beast, and Bottino is my hero for doing such an impressive job.
For me, there is not much better than Thucydides' speeches. "The Funeral Oration of Pericles", "Diodotus to the Athenian Ecclesia", "Demosthenes to his troops at Pylos" & "Nicias before the last sea fight" are all some of the most interesting, moving and inspiring speeches and harangues ever written.
This book is a must for students of the classics, politics, history and war. Hell, even if you are just interested in a good story, Thucydides tells a mighty good one. This is an amazing, beautiful and important piece of history.