In this remarkable little book, Will Durant answers the questions that most people would have wanted to ask him - what are the conclusions he drew from the experience of a long lifetime; what eras, individuals, and achievements stand out as being the most significant? Who, for example, could be legitimately classified as the greatest thinkers in human history? Who were the truly great poets, the ones that plucked notes upon heartstrings that continue to resonate hundreds and thousands of years after their passing? And what are the absolute best books one should read in order to receive a meaningful - and useful - education? As Will Durant was repeatedly asked to "weigh in" on such matters, he, over the course of his career, responded to the increasing public demand for such qualified assessments by putting pen to paper and crafting a series of essays containing his personal rankings of human achievement. These essays have been brought together for the first time in this book.
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(203mm x 127mm x 15mm)
Simon & Schuster International
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
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UK Kirkus Review »
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1968, Will Durant spent over half a century researching and writing an 11-volume history of civilization. Now some of his immense knowledge has been compressed into a series of essays, compiled by John Little, that distil many of the greatest achievements and milestones in human history. Starting with the 'Ten Greatest Thinkers' he moves on to the 'Ten Greatest Poets', the 'One Hundred Best Books for an Education' and ends with 'Twelve Vital Dates in World History'. Durant's selections are nearly all positive. John Little comments that Durant saw history not as a matter of politics and carnage but as man's struggle with mind and matter. Believing that real history can only be made by the geniuses who are its lifeblood, Durant claims of his heroes, 'We cannot honour them too much, or commemorate them excessively.' Many of the choices are surprising and stimulating. Amongst the selected few 'greatest thinkers' are Confucius, Francis Bacon and Charles Darwin. Bacon isn't one that usually springs to mind but lovers of Bacon's essays will be happy at his inclusion, and Durant is quick to defend the choice on the grounds that Bacon inspired the Royal Society of Great Britain and ushered in the spirit of modernity. Amongst the 'greatest poets', Durant places Homer, Li-Tai-Po and Dante. Keats is chosen over Tennyson, Milton, Virgil or Byron for having left poems behind that are 'as immortal as English and more perfect than Shakespeare'. This chapter alone will have readers vigorously arguing for their own preferences. The reading list provided for the 'best 100 books for an education' is astonishingly wide ranging. Durant claims confidently: 'Let me have seven hours a week and I will make a scholar and a philosopher out of you; in four years you shall be as well educated as any new-fledged Doctor of Philosophy in the land.' There are precise instructions for tackling the task. Skipping the first books on the list isn't permitted, however daunting they appear, since they provide a firm foundation. But readers are allowed to slip the easier recommended books in between. Durant even marks with a star those books he feels you need to purchase rather than borrow and tots up the total cost secondhand. The time required for reading through the list, he calculates, is precisely four years at seven hours a week, allowing ten hours per book. There's a Victorian flavour to this little volume and the curriculum Durant has laid out is perhaps in keeping with a more leisured age. Nevertheless it's a real treasure and even if you're only able to dip into it now and again, it will last you a lifetime. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Will Durant
Will Durant (1885-1981) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize (1968) and the Medal of Freedom (1977). He spent more than fifty years writing his critically acclaimed THE STORY OF CIVILIZATION (the later volumes written in conjunction with his wife, Ariel). His book THE STORY OF PHILOSOPHY is credited with introducing more people to the subject of philosophy than any other work.