In 2021, I continued to work my way through the chronological “greatest books of all time” list, focusing primarily on books I already own (with occasional trips to the library). I finished the 18th Century and moved into the 19th Century. One of the highlights was the four volume Dream of the Red Chamber (also know as Story of the Stone), one of the four classic Chinese novels. (I had previously read The Water Margin and Journey to the West/Monkey, two of the other classics.) But I veered off the greatest booklist path a few times. I read two books on recent biological discoveries – I like to keep up-to-date with science. I read some art books, as part of my recent obsession with art. And I read some history/biography. My niece gave me a 2018 Frederick Douglass bio as a gift, so I read that and then of course I needed to read Douglass’s autobiography. And a friend raved about the first volume of Rick Atkinson’s American Revolution trilogy, so I checked that out as well. Another friend loaned me The Pueblo Revolt, which helped provide historical context for our vacation in Santa Fe, New Mexico in September/October.
Here are the books I finished in 2021 (in chronological order by publication date), with my 1-5 star rating:
- The Social Contract (1762). By Jean-Jacques Rousseau (4/5)
- The Vicar of Wakefield (1766). By Oliver Goldsmith (4/5)
- The Sorrows of Young Werther and Selected Writings (1774). By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (4/5)
- Dangerous Liaisons (1782) By Pierre Choderlos de Laclos (4/5)
- Confessions (1782). By Jean-Jacques Rousseau (4/5)
- Dream of the Red Chamber (Story of the Stone) (1791). By Cao Xeuqin (and Gao E) (5/5)
- Autobiography and Selected Writings (1791). By Benjamin Franklin (4/5)
- Songs of Innocence and of Experience (1794). By William Blake (4/5)
- Kant: Selections (1770-1797). By Immanuel Kant. Edited by Theodore M. Greene (4/5)
- Faust: A Tragedy, Part One (1808). By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (4/5)
- Persuasion (1817). By Jane Austen (4/5)
- Faust, Part Two (1832). By Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (4/5)
- Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845). By Frederick Douglass (4/5)
- Art: A History of Painting, Sculpture, Architecture (1976). By Frederick Hartt (5/5)
- The Pueblo Revolt (1994). By Robert Silverberg (5/5)
- Modern Art in the U.S.A.: Issues and Controversies of the 20th Century (2000). By Patricia Hills (4/5)
- Why Evolution Is True (2008). By Jerry A. Coyne (4/5)
- Speaking of Art: Four Decades of Art in Conversation (2010). By William Furlong (4/5)
- A New History of Life: The Radical New Discoveries about the Origins and Evolution of Life on Earth (2015). By Peter D. Ward (3/5)
- Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (2018). By David W. Blight (5/5)
- The British Are Coming: The War for America, Lexington to Princeton, 1775-1777 (2019). By Rick Atkinson (4/5)
Happy New Year 2022! This is an excellent site! Meta-lists are much more accurate than individual lists as we obtain something approaching objectivity. You’ve obviously put a lot of work into it. Well Done! It gives me inspirational ideas for what to do this year. Have you considered doing a meta-list of the greatest philosophy books of all time? Such a list would be fascinating. Also, how do your own preferences differ from the meta-list of the greatest philosophers of all time? Thank you!
Leonard: Thanks so much for your feedback. I’m glad you are enjoying the site and I agree with your observation about meta-lists. A list of the best philosophy books is a great idea – I may do this at some point. As for my preferences of philosophers, among my personal favorites are: David Hume, William James, Bertrand Russell, Ludwig Wittgenstein, A.J. Ayer, John Searle, W.V.O. Quine, Thomas Nagel, Richard Rorty, Amelie O. Rorty. What about you?
All important and interesting philosophers! I rather like Epictetus, Kant and Peter Singer. All very different but each valuable in his own special way. I’d always assumed that Plato, Aristotle and Kant were the 3 greatest of all time and your meta-list confirms this almost perfectly, so I knew you were doing worthwhile, accurate work. Yes indeed I will be most interested if you make a meta-list of the (10?) greatest philosophy books as I will make it my reading list. Please let me know when you do this. No hurry of course; you must be extremely busy with all the other insightful meta-lists you do on this excellent site.