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Invitation to the Classics (Masterworks) Hardcover – August, 1998


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Product Details

  • Series: Masterworks
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Baker Books (August 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801011566
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801011566
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1.1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #258,478 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

One of the many purposes of Invitation to the Classics is to warm the heart to the masterworks of Western civilization. In doing so, editors Louise Cowan and Os Guinness hope to "reawaken ... people to the vibrant heritage of these classics that are rich in themselves and in their 2000-year relationship to the Christian faith." From Homer to Chaucer, Dickens to C.S. Lewis, each author receives a chapter that includes a biographical sketch followed by a thorough summary of the classic(s) he or she penned. The "Issues to Explore" sections at the end of each chapter pose penetrating questions for interrogation of the text as well as recommendations for further study depending on whether your scope is technical, theological, analytical, critical, or biographical. Once you read Invitation to the Classics, you may agree with C.S. Lewis that we must "keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books." --Jill Heatherly

From Publishers Weekly

For over a decade, university teachers, politicians, literary critics and preachers have argued about the educational role of the literary classics of the Western world. While some have contended that the works themselves are full of immoral teachings and should be banned from libraries and school curricula, others have argued that the stereotypical portrayal of certain characters has a pernicious effect on readers and leads to classism, sexism and racism. Still others, like authors of this lively collection, believe that the classics are indispensable for an understanding of Western society and human nature. Guinness and Cowan gather over 50 brief essays by a number of respected Christian literary scholars that extend invitations to readers to experience anew or for the first time the wonder and the beauty of selected classics. Each essay contains a biographical and historical sketch, a summary of the work being considered, suggestions and bibliographies for further study and questions raised by the text about the interaction of Christian faith and society. The selections range from the Iliad to Machiavelli's The Prince, Flaubert's Madame Bovary and Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Genres covered range from Shakespeare's plays and Milton's epic poetry to Martin Luther's theological writings and Alexis de Tocqueville's travel writings.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

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Great reference for high schoolers and college students.
Amazon Customer
It is a beautiful book in its own right, with color photographs and illustrations to enhance the experience.
Tom Hinkle
This is a wonderful overview of classic Western literature from a Christian perspective.
Timothy Walker

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Walker VINE VOICE on March 7, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This is a wonderful overview of classic Western literature from a Christian perspective. With a wide scope and a clarity of expression, there is likely something that any reader can enjoy and understand within these pages.
More significant than any of this, however, is that the book has something that far too many "contemporary Christian" books do not have: fundamental fairness. When dealing with unorthodox or non-religious opinions (take Nietzsche for example), the editors neither preach nor abdicate their religious duties. Instead, they urge the reader to consider the author's viewpoint, relate it to their beliefs and experiences, and take away from it what they may.
Any book which shares the good news of God's love and encourages critical thinking is a welcome addition to any bookshelf... whether a Bible shares the shelf is completely irrelevant.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Randall C Lippert on September 26, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I received this book after a long anticipation of its arrival from Amazon.com and the wait and cost were by far worth it. As a student at Bob Jones University who loves to study and read classic literature on my spare time, the book soon became indispensable(probably with in a few minutes of cracking the cover). This volume does more in a few strokes of the pen than some do in a whole set of books. I suggest it strongly, it affirms Os Guiness' prowess as an editor as well as writer, as well as providing a concise literary base for practically every famed author of our world's favorite classic. Ranging from the Greeks to the existentalists and beyond...it is wonderful. I end this review in saying that it would be wise for anyone interested in the classics, from novice to advanced, no matter what the desire--you won't be disappointed.
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45 of 49 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 6, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an outstanding series of essays for busy but serious secular leaders seeking to enrich and expand their perspective of life and our great heritage in Western civilization. Although not in any way a work of advocacy, this volume discusses briefly some 75 different profound works which have evolved over time as the Christian perspective. All those considering strengthening the spiritual dimension of their lives of heavy daily responsibility would do well to have this volume at bedside or on the coffee table for those few precious moments of reflection and meditation so essential to all thinking individuals.
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Tom Hinkle on November 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
After recently perusing "The New Lifetime Reading Plan", I dug this book back out to do a comparison. "Invitation to the Classics" has more of a particularly Christian approach, including works by Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Weil, and Lewis that other such surveys might omit. It also focuses on western literature, leaving out some of the great Japanese and Chinese classics that would give one more of a well-rounded education. Most authors included here are represented by only one work, and some choices are curious indeed (for Faulkner, "Go Down, Moses" was selected over "The Sound and the Fury", for Joyce, "Dubliners" got the nod over "Ulysses"). That does not diminish the value of this book, however. This is more than just a reading list. It is a beautiful book in its own right, with color photographs and illustrations to enhance the experience. All in all, I highly recommend this volume.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Kathy F. Cannata on March 16, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I buy copies of this for every college-bound teen at our church. It features articles by a very eclectic mix of Christian literary critics (though evangelical Reformed/Presbyterians and Roman Catholics predominate). It is fair and balanced in its treatment of works that are often very hostile to the faith. Beautifully illustrated.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Jacob Aitken on November 11, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be a training manual for the renewal of Western Civilization. Our Culture, heritage, and way of life must not become extinct. Cowan and Guinness have done the church a remarkable service for the Church by compiling these essays.
Each essay is about 4 to 6 pages in length, supplemented by photos/pics, quotes, and questions for application at the end of the chapter. Like many works associated woth OS Guinness and the Trinity Forum, this book can challenge deeply held notions and force one to rethink them. The breadth of authors covered is immense: the Greeks to the Latins to the Reformers to Modern Day. Also interspersed are esssays about classics by non Christians.
The Book stresses that the classics are not canonicle but complementary. The need for reading--studying--old books can not be overstated. C S Lewis said that for every new book one reads, one should next read to books from another century for obvious reasons: those books have been tested over time.
Tolle Legge
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35 of 41 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I found this book at Seattle Public Library and decided I needed a copy to keep. It is a great resource for anyone interested in reading this kind of literature. From basic descriptions of the lives of the authors, to questions for further study as well as suggestions for more research, this book can be referred to again and again.
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More About the Author

OS GUINNESS (DPhil, Oxford University) is an author and social critic. Born in China, he was educated in England at the Universities of London and Oxford. He moved to the United States in 1984, and has been a Guest Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a Visiting Fellow at the Brookings Institution. He was the lead drafter of both the Williamsburg Charter and the Global Carter of Conscience, as well as the founder of the Trinity Forum. He has written more than 25 books, including The Call, The American Hour, Time for Truth, Unspeakable, The Case for Civility, A Free People's Suicide, and his latest: The Global Public Square. He lives with his wife Jenny in McLean, Virginia..