A Haahvad president in the eraly 1900's compiled a bookshelf of classic literature that he felt that, to read the books therein, was to embrace the minimum that ENglish literature had to present so that the reader was truly educated. Today, we have so many subjects that Id like to hear some of our own "minimla five foot bookshelves " that would contain the esssences of the subjects we were interesetd in.
Id like to start with History soince what gave me the idea was reading one of Sets post about education's role in "lighting the candles to smoke out the myths".
Maybe this wont work because the opinions are varied and the subjects are many. Id like, again to start with history and then science, art and cuklture,
H. G. Wells An Outline of History.
And, of course, Will and Ariel Durant's seminal work.
I'm reading Wells off and on now; also Tacitus' The Annals of Imperial Rome, and Herodotus' The Histories. These are small books, don't take up a lot of room on the shelf. Sad to say, I gave my father's set of the Durants' volumes to my cousin's husband unread by me. Stupid, stupid choice, based on space problems after my parents passed away.
I'm no history expert, but I very much enjoyed a translation of Jacob Burckhardt's The Age of Constantine the Great (1852 and 1880 or so), so it's a keeper on my shelves. Years ago I liked Graves' I Claudius. but no longer have a copy, or even opinions on it.
I think Primo Levi is important but I've only read one of his books, The Reawakening. Want to read his Survival in Auschwitz.
Here's a review from an amazon customer on Survival in Auschwitz -
"It would be easy to bluntly horrify the reader in a book about life in a death camp, but Levi is not content to appeal to the emotions. He has an intellectual fascination with details, and the psychology of genocide. By a dispassionate and careful treatment of the very difficult material, he manages to write a compelling book about a terrible subject. And the emotional effect does not suffer from this approach--because Levi does not manipulate them, the reader's feelings are deeper and more lasting.
In one chapter, Levi describes how many of the prisoners, after fourteen hours of manual labor, would assemble in one corner of the camp in a market. They would trade rations and stolen goods. Levi describes how the market followed classical economic laws. Whenever I remember this I am freshly amazed at the resilience of life, and the ability of people to live and think and work in the most adverse conditions. It is remarkable that I finished a book about the Holocaust with a better opinion of mankind than I started with; I think the fact that the book affected me this way is the best recommendation."