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

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

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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."

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

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

What Members Say

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  •  
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 07-06-14
    Kristi Richardson Milwaukie, OR, United States 07-06-14

    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.

    141 of 144 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Will Menlo Park, CA, USA 10-07-15
    Will Menlo Park, CA, USA 10-07-15 Member Since 2010
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    "Good if you don't mind the Christian-centric bias"

    The performance is very good, though. Lots of passion for the material.

    Mostly centered around Western values, with a few token efforts to mold Eastern thinking into the Western "canon" of antiquity.

    Still enjoyable, despite the caveats, and a very decent intro to the material.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 08-01-14
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    "Just about ok"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    Yes it was since I got a wikipedia style introduction to some great books.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    That question is not applicable amazon! Why don't you just let us write free style reviews?


    What three words best describe Professor Rufus J. Fears’s voice?

    Southern drawl. I was amusingly distracted by his pronunciation of "dooty".


    Was Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life worth the listening time?

    Yes.


    Any additional comments?

    I liked the treatment of the non-fiction books better than that of the fiction. For example, discussion of Othello, 1984, All is quiet on the Western front etc was nothing more than a dramatic rendering of the summary. What I expected to hear more was a discussion of the underlying themes. For the non fiction works such as the works of Winston Churchill or Gandhi, the treatment was much better. All in all, it was an average course. I do not regret listening to it, but I was not enthralled by it either.

    26 of 31 people found this review helpful
  •  
    George R. Murray Boise, ID USA 10-17-13
    George R. Murray Boise, ID USA 10-17-13

    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


    17 of 20 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kwt 02-13-15
    kwt 02-13-15

    mama_karen

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    "Superior listen"

    Wow! Excellent lectures on literature but also on history and ethics. I learned so much from this man and he has inspired me to search further. I especially appreciated the last few lectures. They really spoke to me. I highly recommend this series.

    7 of 8 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 07-31-14
    Patti Chittenango, NY, United States 07-31-14 Member Since 2015
    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.

    12 of 15 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Gabriel Velloso 07-28-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not so good great books"

    Professor Rufus was an enthusiastic and somewhat lively narrator, but the problem relies in his conception and canon, limited by his own views. Instead of analyzing great books and quenching our thristy to read them, he decides to tell the story in his own words, what is silly and defeats the whole purpose of the course. Scarce details are given about the central ideas, often misguided. For instance, troubled by the fact that Gibbon blames extensively Christianity for the fall of the Roman Empire, pious professor Rufus drops it all - for him, the book gives as the main reason the failure to deal with conflicts in Middle East, which is a puzzling interpretation. To be precise, his canon is a mess (Gettysburg Address, Gulag Archipelago and Chirchill's Memoirs steal the place that could belong to Balzac, Proust, Marx, Rousseau, Descartes, James Joyce...). If you want to save the work (and pleasure!) of reading great books, pick this course; he is a passable narrator. Otherwise, most of the books are in public domain; by all means read/listen to them and seek a better analysis (or read Wikipedia).

    8 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rich Shields Abuja, Nigeria 04-09-15
    Rich Shields Abuja, Nigeria 04-09-15

    Abu Dhabi, UAE

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Worth ur time"

    A nice way to catch up on all the great books you knew where great but had no idea why.

    10 of 14 people found this review helpful
  •  
    eve 03-10-16
    eve 03-10-16
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Could not endure this program"

    The presentation was so tedious, so monotonous, and so pedantic it was like listening to nails scraping on a chalkboard. I completed 2 chapters, and then kept avoiding listening to more until it was too late to return the course and ask for a refund.
    Compare this course to "24 Books that Changed the World." I loved every second of it and was frustrated that I couldn't lavish more than 5 stars on it. Go figure.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Rena Alberta Canada 07-11-15
    Rena Alberta Canada 07-11-15 Member Since 2012

    I'm always on the search for engaging, intelligent books & authors who give me a story I can relate to. Through Audible I'm finding a lot! When I'm not reading or listening, I'm writing, cooking, traveling or working on my house or in the yard. Politics is also central in my life; I feel it's important to be aware of what's going on and give voice to protecting all that we value & hold dear.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Had to Stop Reading"
    What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

    I got to chapter 8 and had to quit for several reasons. Credibility was lost for after I listened to the chapter on Mohammed. The author didn't just present what should have been a factual account of this prophet but seemed to be using the book as an opportunity to actually promote this particular religion and all its rules not only in this chapter but the one following. I found this disturbing particularly when put in context of how misogynist the Koran is and how burdened those that follow are bound by its rules which ultimately rob a person of thinking for themselves. The author came across as actually promoting the paradigm where there is no division of church/ state and individual.


    What could The Great Courses have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

    A more professional impartial approach to the subject.
    The lyrical style of narrative became annoying as well as the formulaic music to begin each chapter and the piped in clapping that ends each chapter.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Professor Rufus J. Fears?

    No.


    Any additional comments?

    Get rid of the formulaic music to begin and clapping at the end of each chapter. It's tiresome.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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