← rory flint

Great Books - Why I Created My Own Literary Education

First published on Nov 16, 2023

Vanitas by Simon Renard de St. André

It isn't a controversial statement to say that reading is one of the most important pastimes somebody can take up. You begin, however, to head into murky waters when you dictate what should be read or what is objectively good or bad.

I recently came to the realisation that I love reading but flit from book to book; like a moth to a flame I eagerly follow the zeitgeist or the most recent recommendation. This fleeting impermanence of choice is, in my mind, a waste of the joy of reading.

There are many millions of books. Only a tiny percentage will stand the test of time and a smaller percentage still will I ever have the time to read. It therefore makes sense to be as intentional about the choice as possible. As an aside, I believe you should be as intentional as possible about everything, all of the time.

There are, regardless if you agree with the choices, a particular set of texts over the past few thousand years that are considered ‘great’. Books that stand the test of time. Books that break barriers, impart timeless wisdom or tell stories that resonate across cultures and generations.

It would be wiser to actively read those texts that supposedly meet the mythical standard, instead of merely admiring them from a distance.

Averaging out the busyness of life with a career, children and a social life, I would hazard that I read two books a month.

Undoubtedly as life meanders through its different stages this average will change but two a month seems a safe bet. Going off of the data, I have about 1,128 books left. Given over two million books are published each year and a backlog of several hundred million already exist, I had better pick wisely.

I have decided to construct a simple four year higher education style plan of reading. This is no way an attempt at a definitive list; it is an amalgamation of several famous syllabi from various University courses as well as a few additions of my own devising.

Whilst the list is divided by year, I am under no illusion that I am sure to complete it in that timeframe or stick rigidly to the structure. I work well when I have rules to break.

Once upon a time I made an effort to read 100 books in a year. It was a fun challenge but in hindsight it descended into exactly what I should have expected: a race to quickly finish short books without a lot of thought or absorption. It was the polar opposite of how I really like to do anything: with consideration and care.

With that in mind, I am putting no pressure on finishing any book in any timeframe. My goal is to study and learn from these books, to enjoy and savour them. You can view the full list here alongside some further background and sources on how the list was compiled: https://books.rory.codes

In these early days, I am particularly looking forward to a few texts and a little terrified of others:

So, on that note, the books await. I am going to be occasionally writing up notes on the books as I read them so do check in now and then. As ever feel free to be in contact via the about me me page.