Joseph Brodsky’s Reading List

In 1982, Monica Partridge, a freshman at Mount Holyoke College took a poetry class with the Russian poet Joseph Brodsky.

“Shortly after the class began, he passed out a handwritten list of books that he said every person should have read in order to have a basic conversation,” Partridge says. “At the time I was thinking, ‘Conversation about what?’ I knew I’d never be able to have a conversation with him, because I never thought I’d ever get through the list. Now that I’ve had a little living, I understand what he was talking about. Intelligent conversation is good. In fact, maybe we all need a little more.”

1. Bhagavatgita
2. Mahabharata
3. Gilgamesh
4. The Old Testament
5. Homer: Iliad, Odyssey
6. Herodotus: Histories
7. Sophocles: Plays
8. Aeschyles: Plays
9. Euripedes: Plays (Hippolytus, Bachants, Electra, The Phornician Women)
10. Thucydides: The Peloponesian War
11. Plato: Dialogues
12. Aristotle: Poetics, Physics, Ethics, De Anima
13. Alexandrian Poetry: The Greek Anthology
14. Lucretius: The Nature of Things
15. Plutarch: Lives
16. Virgil: Aenid, Bucolics, Georgics
17. Tacitus: Annals
18. Ovid: Metamorphoses, Heroides, Ars Amatoria
19. The New Testament
20. Svetonius: Lives of 12 Caesars
21. Marcus Aurelius: Meditations
22. Catullus: Poems
23. Horace: Poems
24. Epictetus: Discourses
25. Aristophanes: Plays
26. Aelian: Historical Miscellanies, Characters of Animals
27. Appololarces (Appololorces?): Argonautica
28. Psellus: Lives of Byzantine Rulers
29. Gibbon: Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire
30. Plotinus: The Enneads
31. Eusebius: The Ecclesiastical History
32. Boethius: Constelationes of Philosophy
33. Pliny the Younger: Letters
34. Byzantine Verse Romances
35. Heraclytus: Fragments
36. Augustine: Confessions
37. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica
38. St. Francis: The Little Flowers
39. Nicolo Machiavelli: The Prince
40. Dante: Divine Comedy (Tr. By John Ciardi)
41. Franko Sachetti: Novellas
42. Icelandic Sagas
43. Shakespeare (Anthony and Cleopatra, Hamlet, Macbeth, Henry 5)
44. Rabelais
45. Bacon
46. Martin Luther: Selected Works
47. Calvin: Institutes
48. Montaigne: Essays
49. Cervantes: Don Quixote
50. Descartes: Discourses
51. Song of Roland
52. Beowulf
53. Belvenuto (?) Cellini
54. Henry Adams: Education of Henry Adams
55. Hobbes: Leviathan
56. Pascal: Pensees
57. Milton: Paradise Lost
58. Jone Donne
59. Andrew Marvell
60. George Herbert
61. Richard Crashaw
62. Spinoza: Treatises
63. Stendhal: Charterhouse of Parma, Red and Black, The Life of Andre Ballard
64. Swift: Gulliver’s Travels
65. Lawrence Sterne: Tristram Shandy
66. Choderlos de Laclois: Les Liaisons Dangereuses
67. Montesqui: The Persian Letters
68. Locke: Second Treatise on Government
69. Adam Smith: Wealth of Nations
70. Leibmitz (?) Leibvitz?: Discourses
71. Hume: Everything
72. The Federalist Papers
73. Kant: Critis of Pure Reason
74. Soren Kierkegaard: Fear and Trembling, Either/Or, Philosophical Fragments
75. Dostoevsky: Notes From the Underground, The Possessed
76. Tocqueville: Democracy in America
77. Goethe: Faust, Italian Journey
78. De Cuistine: Journey for our Time (Empire of the Czar)
79. Eric Auerbach: Mimesis
80. Prescott: Conquest of Mexico
81. Octavio Paz: Labyrinths of Solitude
82. Sir Karl Popper: The Logic of Scientific Discovery, The Open Society and Its Enemies
83. Eliac Canetti: Crowds Are Power

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