- Paperback: 400 pages
- Publisher: Collins Reference; 4 edition (June 2, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062720732
- ISBN-13: 978-0062720733
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #77,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The New Lifetime Reading Plan: The Classical Guide to World Literature, Revised and Expanded 4th Edition
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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.
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Top Customer Reviews
I grew up reading mostly science fiction and other popular literature, and obtained plenty of formal education, but all of it was focused on the sciences and technology. I did not avail myself of the opportunity to use my university days to broaden my humanities education beyond what minimal requirements there were for graduation. Shame on me, and now I am making the effort to fill in those gaps.
So the question for me at least is whether or not this particular book is useful in the above sense, because there are a number of volumes that provide similar advice. I have two of them (the other being Great Books), and I selected these two books after doing a fair amount of research, on Amazon and elsewhere, and concluding that for my purposes they would be the best. (And I don't rule out getting another if I really get into this Classics thing).
The New Lifetime Reading Plan is the fourth edition of a book originally published in 1960. The author, Clifton Fadiman, is a member of the Board of Editors of the Encyclopedia Britannica and the editorial board of the Book-of-the-Month Club. I have to admit that my first reaction to reading those qualifications was to be skeptical; after all, isn't BOMC a bit on the other end of the spectrum from Sophocles, Euripides, Aeschylus, and the like? (OK, I'm a snob, but we are talking about reading "the Classics", after all, and isn't that almost by definition "snobbish"?). He is joined in this fourth edition by John Major, PhD from Harvard (now we're talking), and Senior Editor of BOMC (one step forward, one step back).
In this book you will find coverage of 133 authors, averaging just over 2 pages for each, providing a nice albeit brief outline of each author's life and works, and giving one or more recommended books for each. The authors are divided into 5 sections, covering broad chronological periods. It also includes an additional 133 authors in a supplement at the end, under "Going Further", all from the 20th century, with much shorter write-ups only covering recommended books for each. It is therefore much more than simply a list of what to read, and that where it has great value.
For some authors I feel this book provides insufficient guidance - for example, for Shakespeare the recommendation is to read his entire works (!!), and if you can't find the energy to read all 37 plays, plus the sonnets, then they do deign to provide a list of 12 (only!) as "minimum reading". OK, I am going to accept putting Hamlet,King Lear, and Othello on my "to read" list, but isn't that enough? For Dickens, seven of his works are recommended. (Again, this is why you need more than one list to give you guidance).
One thing that this book does not provide is sufficient guidance regarding which translation is best if there is more than one available (for works translated into English). So you will need to do the checking yourself if you want to attempt to get the version considered to be the truest to the author's intent in their own language. (And it is always less clear than I would like. Does it have to be so difficult? I guess it does).
With those comments, my opinion of this book, after owning it for enough time to have read a number of the recommendations, is that it is provides very good information on all of the authors and books covered. It includes a very broad range of authors and books (both chronologically, and otherwise). The articles on each author are long enough to give some very good and interesting information on them. It comes very close to providing exactly what I want, in both coverage and content.
On balance I recommend it and consider it a good investment to make if you are intending to explore to any great extend the works that are covered (if possible in combination with at least one other similar reference).
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. It needs to be approached as you would a respected friend with a different outlook on life. Take the suggestions you find useful and explore what you like. It is a guide, and used appropriately, it will help you make good choices in deciding what to read (what, which translation) and help you get the tools you may want to understand it better (historical context, explanations). Buy it, and read it!