Decameron by Boccacio
Written in Italian, not Latin: 10 young friends flee Florence trying to hide from the Black Death. Each day, they tell a story to entertain; shockingly realistic
The Divine Comedy by Dante
An epic poem written in Italian. A trilogy; Inferno, Purgatorio, Paradiso
The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
He describes a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral. Each pilgrim tells their story.
Autobiography of Benito Cellini by Cellini
Interesting book about a fascinating man. Celebrates spirit of individualism. “Man can do all things”
The Courtier by Castiglione
Etiquette guide for modern “Renaissance Man”; best of both medieval modern virtues.
The Prince by Macchiavelli
A leader needs to do whatever is necessary for good of the state. “Better to be feared than loved”
Latin Catholic Bible used by church from earliest days.
In Praise of Human Folly by Erasmus
A satire in which he mocks clearly intelligent things and praises foolish ones; he was criticizing certain church practices
Utopia by Moore
Describes a perfect world where people treat each other with pure Christian kindness
95 Theses by Luther
It is Luther’s 95 arguments against the Catholic practice of indulgences, good works. It started the protestant reformation.
Against the Robbing and Murdering Hordes of Peasants by Luther
He condemns Peasant’s revolt; Luther opposes social revolution. Luther believes in separation of church and state.
Institutes by Calvin
being the most important work of Protestant reformation; written in French instead of German. He deserves the concept of “predestination”. He also gives structure to reformed church.
In Defense of Seven Sacraments by Henry VIII
a strong statement of support in defense of Catholic dogma of Lutheran reformation
Book of Common Prayer by no one author
A beautiful collection of English language prayers and hymns; used by the church of England
The Way of Perfection by St. Theresa of Avila
Catholic-devotional that described the steps one should take to live like a saint
The Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola
Catholic-devotional that describes things you can do to grow stronger in your faith.
Index by no one author
list of books that Catholics may not read under penalty of loosing your soul
Paradise Lost by Milton
Describes the battle between the Angels of Light and Darkness between God and Lucifer; “I would rather reign in hell, than serve in heaven”
On the Revolutions of Heavenly Bodies by Copernicus
First major work of modern astronomy that explains the heliocentric theory; published on his deathbed. He kept the orbits circular.
New Astronomy by Kepler
Using very complex mathematical equations, he proved the elliptical orbits of heavenly objects; he made the heliocentric theory work.
Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems by Galileo
A discussion comparing the geocentric and heliocentric theories
Principia by Newton
A summary of his work with mathematics, motion, and universal science including gravity and the rise and fall of tides.
Optica by Newton
An explanation of his work with light including his argument of white light shown thru a prism creates the spectrum
On the Structure of the Human Body by Vesalius
A collection of beautiful anatomical drawings the first since antiquity; used by medical students for the next 300 years.
On the Movement of Blood in Animals by Harvey
An explanation of the circulatory system including the role played by the arteries, veins, heart, and lungs.
Inquiry into the Cause and Effect of Vaccine by Jenner
Description of his vaccine for smallpox based on cowpox.
New Instrument by Bacon
A collection of his thoughts about how to approach scientific knowledge, including scientific method.
Discourse on Method by Descartes
A collection of his thoughts on rationalism; includes the famous line. “I think, therefore, I am.”
The Republic by Bodin
This work offered an intellectual argument in support of the idea that all power should be in the hands of the kind; influenced by on the crisis by Louis Valois kinds during French War of Religion.
Don Quixote by Cervantes
A satire that mocks medieval values and the idea that we must conform to society’s values; written in Spanish vernacular and masterpiece of Spanish literature.
The Leviathan by Hobbes
The first work to explain the social contract theory; the contract can never be broken. He said men form government to prevent chaos; pro-absolute monarchy.
Of Civil Government by Locke
He agreed with Hobbes that there was a social contract but could be broken. The people have the right to revolt and the rights of “life, liberty, and prosperity”. Very inspirational on U.S. founding fathers.
The True Law of Free Monarchs by James I
An argument in favor of absolute divine-right monarchy; He used the Bible to justify the argument. It is the same argument as Bodin’s Republic.
Candide by Voltaire
A satirical work that mocked the optimistic views of the day and the belief in a loving God. Dr. Pangloss’ comment that we “live in the best of all possible worlds at the best of all possible times” captures the theme.
Philosophical Letters on the English by Voltaire
It is a love letter to England written during an exile from France. Voltaire compared the freedom of England to the repression of France. “England, where men think free and noble thoughts”
The Spirit of the Laws by Montesquieu
Influential political work that advocated the separation of political powers into different branches of government. It influenced Madison in drafting of the U.S. Constitution.
The Social Contract by Rousseau
Revolutionary work that opposed hereditary monarchy and argued that man is happiest in the “natural state” and that civilization is corrupting. He favored the “general will” or democracy; “Man is born free, yet everywhere he is in chains.”
Encyclopedia by Diderot
A compendium of all human knowledge to be at your quick access. The first Encyclopedia was 28 volumes and focused on philosophy and science.
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire by Gibbon
The first modern history book based on empirical data, not simply legends of myths. Much of Gibbons research was based off the newly discovered ruins at Pompeii.
The Wealth of Nations by Smith
Probably the single most important economics text ever written; Smith argued against Mercantilism and in favor of supply and demand capitalism. He said that government should maintain a “laissez-faire” attitude toward the economy.
The Laws of War and Peace by Grotius
First major book of international law, in it Grotius argued that nations were governed by the same laws as people. 3 mile limit.
Gulliver’s Travels by Swift
Masterpiece of 18th century satire that mocked English Society.
What is the Third Estate by Sieyes
A pamphlet written by a priest that excited people before the revolution. It said the third estate was everything, it was France.
Declaration on the Rights of Women by de Gouge
This is the first ever argument in favor of women’s rights. She argued that women have the same responsibilities, they should have the same rights.
Vindication on the Rights of Women by Wollstonecraft
An English language echo of the declaration of the rights of women.
Reflections on the Revolution in France by Burke
A condemnation of the French Revolution; He argued no single generation has the right to destroy the work of all those before it. The beginnings of conservatism.
Ode on a Grecian Urn by Keats
An epic romantic poem based on the pictures of an ancient Greek vase; the most famous verse “Beauty is truth-truth beauty. That is all ye know on Earth and all ye need to know.”
Frankenstein by Shelley
A warning to man not to play God. The hero of the story tried to create his own “Adam”; He creates a monster, not a man.
The Sanitary Conditions of the Laboring Population of Britain by Chadwick
An engineering text that blueprints the modern sewer system: one set of pipes for clean water, one set for waste.
Conditions on the Working class of England by Engels
A vivid heartbreaking description of the terrible suffering of the poor.
A Tale of Two Cities by Dickens
On the surface, It’s about the French Revolution, but it’s really a warning to 19th century British society that the same thing could happen here if they don’t treat the poor fairly.
Rationale of Punishment and Reward by Bentham
He offered his views of a more humane type of prison; prisons should punish and rehabilitate.
On Liberty by Mill
The bible on Liberalism. He explains that political philosophy “The government that governs best, governs least”
On the Subjugation of Women by Mill
He argued that women deserve equal rights to men including the vote. He argued that no one was free as long as half of humanity was inferior.
The Wealth of Nations by Smith
An economics text in which he explains the theory of Capitalism; he argues that there are natural laws that govern economics, the most basic of which is supply and demand.
Essay on the Principles of Population by Malthus
Economics text where he argues that population is growing faster than the Earth’s ability to sustain it; “Starvation is inevitable”
Political Economy and Taxation by Ricardo
Economics text in which he argues that labor is subject to the law of supply and demand like any other good; “Iron Law Wages”
What is Property? by Proudhon
He argued that the bourgeoisie get rich off the sweat of working men’s labor. What is profit? Profit is theft. Total Crap.
The Communist Manifesto by Marx/Engels
One of the most revolutionary political documents ever written; the Bible of Communism. In it he explains the philosophy including class struggle, revolution, and the historical dialectic. “Workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains.”
On the Origin of Species by Darwin
One of the most revolutionary science texts ever written; He argued that all plant (flora) and animal (fauna) life is in a best survive, those that don’t; are “survival of the fittest”
Das Kapital by Marx
In it he explains the economic ideas.
The Book of Household Management by Beeton
First book of Home-economics; a home should be run as a business. The product of a well-run home is a well-raised child. The book contains recipes, suggestions for child-rearing, and hints for managing servants.
Je Accuse by Zola
1899 newspaper article in which Zola exposes all the rigged evidence against Dreyfus and it led to Dreyfus’ release.
Lyrical Ballads by Wordsworth/Coleridge
A collection of romantic poems that celebrate nature.
White Man’s Burden by Kipling
A poem that justifies imperialism and explains the European attitude toward people of color; paternalistic not racist.
The Descent of Man by Darwin
Written decades after On the Origin of Species he clearly states that evolution appears to man too. Very controversial.
Charge of the Light Brigade by Tennyson
It describes an attack in the Crimean War. It celebrates the courage of the common soldier; I attacks the British custom of promoting officers based on connections, not experience.
The Interpretation of Dreams by Freud
The first major work of psychoanalysis. He divided the mind into the three parts; the ID, the EGO, and the SUPEREGO. Freud believed hat dreams are windows to our subconscious.
The Soldier by Brooke
Rupert Brooke’s idealistic poem that captured the excitement and enthusiasm of the younger generation at the start of the war.
Dulce Et Decorum Est by Owen
Wilfred Owen’s devastating poem that described horrors of trench warfare; it describes a poison gas attack.
The Economic Consequences of the Peace by Keynes
John Maynard Keynes’ book that argued that the reparations forced on Germany by Versailles would condemn Europe to another war.
All Quiet on the Western Front by Remarque
Remarque’s searing description of the Brutal senseless nature of WWI trench warfare.
Decline of the West by Spangler
He argued that Western Civilization had grown weak and soft, and if it did not get hard again it was doomed.
One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Solzhenitsyn
It is a terrifying description of the life of a political prisoner in a Soviet Gulag.
The Second Sex by de Beauvoir
The Bible of modern feminism. She argued for total gender equality, including education, employment, and reproduction (including contraception and abortion)