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Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life | [The Great Courses]

Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life

Why do "Great Books" continue to speak to us hundreds and even thousands of years after they were written? Can they deepen our self-knowledge and wisdom? Are our lives changed in any meaningful way by the experience of reading them?Tackle these questions and more in these 36 engaging lectures. Beginning with his definition of a Great Book as one that possesses a great theme of enduring importance, noble language that "elevates the soul and ennobles the mind," and a universality that enables it to "speak across the ages," Professor Fears examines a body of work that offers extraordinary wisdom to those willing to receive it.
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Publisher's Summary

Why do "Great Books" continue to speak to us hundreds and even thousands of years after they were written? Can they deepen our self-knowledge and wisdom? Are our lives changed in any meaningful way by the experience of reading them?

Tackle these questions and more in these 36 engaging lectures. Beginning with his definition of a Great Book as one that possesses a great theme of enduring importance, noble language that "elevates the soul and ennobles the mind," and a universality that enables it to "speak across the ages," Professor Fears examines a body of work that offers extraordinary wisdom to those willing to receive it.

You'll study dozens of works, from the Aeneid and the book of Job to Othello and 1984 - works that range in time from the 3rd millennium B.C. to the 20th century, and in locale from Mesopotamia and China to Europe and America. Professor Fears approaches each of these works from an entirely different direction, considering philosophical and moral perspectives that superbly complement a purely literary understanding.Grasping these philosophical and moral perspectives is crucial to the education of every thoughtful person. These works that have shaped the minds of great individuals, who, in turn, have shaped events of historic magnitude. You'll study the underlying ideas of each great work to see how these ideas can be put to use in a moral and ethical life."History is our sense of the past," Professor Fears says. "And these Great Books are our links to the great ideas of the past. They educate us to live our lives in a free and responsible way."

Disclaimer: Please note that this recording may include references to supplemental texts or print references that are not essential to the program and not supplied with your purchase.

©2005 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2005 The Great Courses

What Members Say

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  •  
    Kristi Milwaukie, OR, United States 07-06-14
    Kristi Milwaukie, OR, United States 07-06-14 Member Since 2011

    An old broad that enjoys books of all types. Would rather read than write reviews though. I know what I like, and won't be bothered by crap.

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    "A course that will open you to new ideas."

    This course is about exploring the greatest books ever written that changed the world.
    It also explains why they are great and how they affected those around them. Professor Fears is a great lecturer and always keeps things interesting. Each lecture is around a half hour each so great to listen to on your commute or when you have a short time to devote to the lecture.

    The books per Prof. Fears are:
    1. Letters and Papers from Prison by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    2. Homer 's Illyiad
    3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
    4. Bhagavad Gita
    5. Exodus by Moses
    6. The book of Mark in the New Testament
    7. Koran
    8. Gilgamesh
    9. Beowolf
    10. Job
    11. Oresteia by Aeschylus
    12. The Bacchae by Euripides
    13. Phaedo by Plato
    14. The Divine Comedy by Dante
    15. Othello by W Shakespeare
    16. Prometheus Bound
    17. Gulag Archipelago by Solzhenitsyn
    18. Julius Caesar by W Shakespeare
    19. 1984 by George Orwell
    20. The Aeneid by Virgil
    21. Gettysburg Address by A Lincoln
    22. Pericles Funeral Speech
    23. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
    24. Confucius
    25. The Prince by Machiavelli
    26. Plato's Republic
    27. On Liberty by John Stuart Mill
    28. Le Morte d'Arthur by Thomas Mallory
    29. Faust Parts One and Two by Goethe
    30. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
    31. Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbons
    32. Lord Acton's History of Liberty
    33. On Duties by Cicero
    34. Autobiography of Mohandas Gandhi
    35. My Early Life, The Second World War series and Painting as a Pastime by Winston Churchill
    The last lecture goes over the books quickly and talks about the lessons taught and that the best way to pursue knowledge is to open your minds and meditate on each book in order to let what the author is trying to tell you sink in.
    I highly recommend this class. It opened up a whole new world to explore for me.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    George R. Murray Boise, ID USA 10-17-13
    George R. Murray Boise, ID USA 10-17-13 Member Since 2013

    It kills me to think of how many years I've wasted driving around in my car and doing house/yard work when I could have been learning.

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    "Fascinating, Entertaining, Impactful: Best Course"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Having listened to 15 Great Courses over the last couple months, I took this course with a little trepidation, largely based on the mediocre Teach Company reviews. Yet something strange happened right from the first lecture: each book was fascinating, his lecture style became more contagious, and most importantly, I began to see the crucial importance of his underlying messages. The first statement of the course title is pretty clear cut and these books have accomplished the claim of making history because they're still around (much to the dismay of many students) hundreds...thousands of years after being written. I can make no universal claims for the second part of the title but I can speak for myself--this part was true as well. Similar to the way I felt after reading the last (to date) of George RR Martin's Song of Fire and Ice series, I grieved to be done with this course. What could top this, I wondered? Thankfully, J Rufus has several titles to choose from, so all is not lost. I loved this course and am wiser for it.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    I thought J Rufus was at his best--and most endearing--when summarizing a story by providing the voices of its pivotal characters. His drawl and enthusiasm was comical, fun and surprisingly effective in demystifying and contemporizing often ancient characters...so the Gilgamesh lecture was particularly enjoyable.


    What does Professor Rufus J. Fears bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    J Rufus takes 30+ books and weaves the strands of their shared virtues, overarching themes, and contemporary relevance into critically important message for today's society. That would be a tough feat to duplicate by reading any one, two or dozen of these books on my own. By experiencing J Rufus's course as a whole, I came to understand that so much of what is portrayed in this course seems to be missing--though is seemingly not missed--from our 21st century.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

    Antiquity's Plea


    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bernard Robbins Marshall, MI 49068 07-15-14
    Bernard Robbins Marshall, MI 49068 07-15-14 Member Since 2011
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    "I think the author is a presuppositionalist"
    Any additional comments?

    Most of the book is a decent book report on classic books, but then bam! It’s now all about his god. Then you get some more decent book report, then bam! It’s because the bible says so. Many of the arguments he gives for it being his god have been refuted many times. It was way to distracting from the book report when he does this. I could only get half way through Meditations by Marcus Aurelius before turning it off and removing it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 07-31-14
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 07-31-14 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not What I Expected"

    This was my second "course." As much as I absolutely loved the first one, this course was a huge disappointment. I expected more of a literature appreciation type discussion of great titles. This, however, was the instructor just telling the story of his favorite books. Yeah, every so often he brings up his list of characteristics of why a book is great, but there is not the literary discussion I craved. His narration was animated, for sure telling a good story. But when bringing up the discussion points was awful.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Frances Rouse Summerville, Sc 07-14-14
    Frances Rouse Summerville, Sc 07-14-14 Member Since 2011
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    "This book is Wonderful"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life to be better than the print version?

    I've enjoyed every word, the reader is outstanding. If you enjoy reading fine literature and Learning more than you new existed this is for you.


    What was one of the most memorable moments of Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life?

    The lecture on Socrates' was very enlighting, the lecture on the Athenians.


    Which character – as performed by Professor Rufus J. Fears – was your favorite?

    All characters and lectures were awesome.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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