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The New Lifetime Reading Plan: The Classical Guide to World Literature, Revised and Expanded [Paperback]

Clifton Fadiman , John S. Major
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)

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Book Description

June 2, 1999 0062720732 978-0062720733 4
Now in print for the first time in almost 40 years, The New Lifetime Reading Plan provides readers with brief, informative and entertaining introductions to more than 130 classics of world literature. From Homer to Hawthorne, Plato to Pascal, and Shakespeare to Solzhenitsyn, the great writers of Western civilization can be found in its pages. In addition, this new edition offers a much broader representation of women authors, such as Charlotte Bront%, Emily Dickinson and Edith Wharton, as well as non-Western writers such as Confucius, Sun-Tzu, Chinua Achebe, Mishima Yukio and many others.

This fourth edition also features a simpler format that arranges the works chronologically in five sections (The Ancient World; 300-1600; 1600-1800; and The 20th Century), making them easier to look up than ever before. It deserves a place in the libraries of all lovers of literature.

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Editorial Reviews Review

In print for almost 40 years, The Lifetime Reading Plan has long been a worthy addition to any serious reader's bookshelf, providing entertaining and informative introductions to the great works of Western civilization. Now, this "classic about classics" has been updated to reflect more diverse traditions. The New Lifetime Reading Plan recommends great literature from around the globe, including writers and works from Confucius to Chinua Achebe, Gabriel García Márquez to the Koran. Also new is an appendix profiling books by 100 important 20th-century authors--or "temporary classics," as coauthor John S. Major calls them.

Readers may argue with some of the selections (or, more likely, the omissions). Others may quarrel with the editors' opinions; they routinely analyze artists' "characters,"with occasionally prissy or patronizing results. (Of Walt Whitman, for instance, coauthor Clifton Fadiman declares that "He had an original temperament, a certain peasant shrewdness, but only a moderate amount of brains.") But no one can argue with the book's mission: promoting the classics as "life companions." "Once part of you, they work in and on and with you until you die," Fadiman writes in the introduction. Anyone seeking a guide to the vast riches of world literature need look no further than the The New Lifetime Reading Plan; it provides a gateway to the greatest achievements of the human mind. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Clifton Fadiman (1904-1999) was a well-known American author, editor, public intellectual, and radio and television personality.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Collins Reference; 4 edition (June 2, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062720732
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062720733
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,734 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
123 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential Book October 18, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is essential. It is opinionated and selective. It promises nothing but the considered opinion of two people that have been significantly involved with reading and thinking about literature throughout much of their lives.

Many of the comments made by different reviewers at this site are addressed in the book itself. It explains why the Bible is not included. It explains why significant scientific works are excluded. Even within the strict realm of literature, they also explain that people might argue with their choices.

In fact, this is part of the point. This is not the last word on literature. It is a starting place that provides a number of excellent points of departure. It invites you to look at and think about the authors, the books it recommends and ask some basic questions: Is the author described interesting enough to read? If so, which book? Once finished with a book, do I agree with the comments made? Why or why not?

The authors provide a good summary - some have honestly brought tears to my eyes I thought they were that good - and some pointers for background information, literary criticism, anthologies, suggested translations and other information.

You may find that Thucydides is "charmless" as Clifton claims. I didn't. You may find that Finnegan's Wake is worth your time. Clifton recommends avoiding it - which I find I agree after several attempts to read it.

Most importantly to me, it is with the suggestions of this book that I was able to tackle works like Joyce's Ulysess and Mann's Magic Mountain that would have been impossible to do without the very helpful suggestions it contains.

This book should be owned by anyone with even a passing interest in literature.
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66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars read the preface for goodness sake March 26, 2008
I haven't reviewed a book in a long time because customer reviews so often annoy me. Now I'm writing this one because another one has.

Another reveiwer here criticizes The New Lifetime Reading Plan and its predecessors for not including the Bible. That would be a good criticism indeed if not for this sentence from the preface to the book, " We assume that nearly every reader of this book will own a Bible and be at least somewhat accustomed to reading it; and there is nothing we might try to say about it that would not seem presumptuous."

And for those who find the listing and others like it 'dogmatic', it is a list of the books that people who have read widely and deeply over many years have found lasting value in. The earlier works in the list were an influence on the later works. The later works have been appreciated by the contemporary authors influenced by the earlier ones. The list is a suggestion. These are the books I and people like me have enjoyed. Try them if they sound interesting to you. If they don't, then read something else. If you want to write a book suggesting your own favorites, knock yourself out.

And as for political correctness, while that is indeed a problem in modern scholarship, it is not a problem in this book. Hippies may very well have played at Buddhism, but it is a religion older than Christianity that is still practiced by many sincere followers in Eastern countries. Hinduism is also older than Christianity and still practiced by many people. The works of those religions and cultures have not had much influence on the literature of the West because they were not well known until relatively recently.
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40 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must for the serious reader November 8, 1999
This book serves not only as a list of the editors' recommendations for books the serious reader will want to have read by the end of one's life, but as an informal guide to the works themselves. They offer analysis of the works' historical origins and value, as well as things to keep in mind while reading them (their suggestions on reading Shakespeare and James Joyce are splendid!)
What's more, they encourage the reader to add upon the suggestions made here; the emphasis above all is placed on the love of reading and the discovery of great literature.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Whets the appetite for great reading November 18, 2000
Want to get serious about reading great literature but don't know where to start? This is a perfect starting point. Not only does it guide you into the classic "repertoire" but it creates a hunger to delve into these literary delicacies. The authors definitely have a passion for this material, and the best part is they are not afraid to be critical of these works and authors at times. Included are works that fall outside the "western" canon that could easily go unread by those unfamiliar with eastern culture. The worlds of science and philosophy are also well-represented.
I remember that I did some of my required reading in school like many did: by reading the Cliff's Notes. Now, as an adult, it's time to go back and give books like "The Scarlet Letter" and "Crime and Punishment" a second chance, from a more mature perspective. Ahead of me lies literary "Mt. Everests" to climb such as "Ulysses" and "Remembrance of Things Past". Of course, in a reading plan such as this, there are always omissions (where's "Beowulf", for gosh sakes?), but even recognizing the omissions increases my awareness and hunger for them. This book is not the be-all and end-all of literary reading plans, no book is, but it accomplishes its task perfectly.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Book...However...
Of the many guides to the classics that are available, by Harold Bloom, Thomas C. Foster, Charles Van Doren, Daniel S. Read more
Published 5 months ago by R. P. Jones
5.0 out of 5 stars must have for lit lovers
I love this book. Well presented, clean and accessible format, very well written. Author write-ups are just the right length. If you love books, this is essential. Read more
Published 17 months ago by DougP
5.0 out of 5 stars Buy it!
I bought this book because my book club reads one classic every year, and I thought this might provide some guidance. Read more
Published 18 months ago by K. Sanders
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, except for the sexism
I really, really enjoyed this book but I was disappointed when one of the authors decided to mention that George Eliot's face resembled a horse, or when he said that she was a... Read more
Published 23 months ago by Indica Wilde
4.0 out of 5 stars A Tour Through 2,500 Years of Great Books
The concept of Great Books has become the storm center of a politically correct whirlwind. The Great Books that have formed the very cornerstone of Western culture are all too... Read more
Published on November 5, 2011 by Martin Asiner
1.0 out of 5 stars What was the point?
I'm not sure why this book was even written in the first place. It did nothing to help me get more out of the REAL books it was reviewing. Read more
Published on October 14, 2011 by Amazon Johnny
3.0 out of 5 stars World Literature? Or Eurasia and their conquests?
I was curious to know how truly global this mix was so I looked up all of the featured authors and found this mix is represented by continent

North America - 16%... Read more
Published on September 1, 2011 by Ruth Tretter
5.0 out of 5 stars Broadening yourself through an exploration of the classics of...
Anyone considering this book is likely to be interested in some guidance in "what to read", or perhaps more specifically "where to start" for the purpose of undertaking an... Read more
Published on August 27, 2011 by Phil in Magnolia
4.0 out of 5 stars Not the best "to read" list anymore, but still very useful
The first edition of this classic came out in 1960 and I was given a copy the next year as a high school graduation gift. Read more
Published on October 4, 2009 by Michael K. Smith
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic in itself
I was recommended this book by a friend and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. This book not only gives you a wide array of Literature, but also informs you on the... Read more
Published on August 14, 2009 by Rah
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