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    The Five Foot Shelf.

    Heard an interesting Radio 4 programme about the Five Foot Shelf this morning. It is an idea from Charles W. Eliot - President of Harvard and cousin of T.S. - that everything required for a complete, liberal education could fit on a shelf of books just 5-feet in length. The original list is here. Of course, having been published in 1909, it misses out more than a 100 years since. What should be on the shelf now?

    I will start with

    Non-fiction
    A Short History of Nearly Everything - Bill Bryson
    Jerusalem: The Biography - Simon Sebag Montefiore
    In the Steps of the Master - H. V. Morton
    The Diary of Anne Frank

    Fiction
    Life of Pi - Yann Martel
    Prayer For Owen Meany - John Irving
    To Kill A Mockingbird - Harper Lee
    1984 - George Owell

    #2
    The original set is available online gratis.

    The hardcover originals are also very widely available in used bookstores and antique shops in this country, as they were quite ubiquitous in bourgeois households of the time.

    I haven't read the Morton book on Bored's list.

    Comment


      #3
      Bloody hell, that's great, ursus. Thanks.

      The Morton book is, perhaps, a personal idiosyncrasy. He was, if you didn't know, a travel writer from the early part of the 20th Century. I am reading his In Search Of Wales and, I expect, it is like a lot of his travel books at the time in that they are snapshots of the places at this time and are fascinating for that. However, this particular book is particularly notable for being an account of Palestine before Israel. You spend the whole book wondering if the places that he describes are still there. However, in a biography that I intend to read, it appears that he was also, unfortunately, an anti-semite Nazi-sympathising fantasist (he writes about meeting Lloyd George in Criccieth - where my Dad's family is from, as it goes - which probably didn't happen).

      Comment


        #4
        Non-fiction:

        I Will Bear Witness: A Diary of the Nazi Years, two volumes, 1933-1941 and 1942-1945, by Victor Klemperer

        Fiction:
        Catch 22 - Joseph Heller;
        The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald;
        Animal Farm - George Orwell

        Comment


          #5
          How many books are we allowed to throw on to the shelf?

          I'm going to restrict myself to five... I think these really help someone understand a lot about Europe and the messes of the 20th century in particular.

          Reference:

          Times Comprehensive Atlas Of the World

          Non-Fiction:

          Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski
          If This Is A Man by Primo Levi

          Fiction:

          The Bridge Over The Drina by Ivo Andric
          The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa

          Comment


            #6
            Non-fiction
            Guns, Germs and Steel: the Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond

            Fiction
            The Book of Sand by Jorge Luis Borges (you all knew I was going to say one of his, so I'll get it out the way quickly)
            The Trial by Franz Kafka
            Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne
            One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
            Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie
            The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
            A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James

            Conclusion: I need to read more contemporary women, and more non-fiction.

            I would second Bored's nomination of A Short History of Nearly Everything, SD's nomination of Animal Farm and Catch-22, and SB's nomination of the Times atlas.

            Comment


              #7
              Do you know what, I think I am going to change "1984" for "Animal Farm". I think the latter is better. Certainly I enjoyed it more.

              Comment


                #8
                This is obviously impossible, but:

                Philosophy - John Rawls, A Theory of Justice

                History - Eugene Genovese, Roll, Jordan, Roll

                Sport - C.L.R. James - Beyond a Boundary

                Drama - Tony Kushner - Angels in America

                Reportage - Michael Herr - Dispatches

                Business - Bryan Burrough and John Helyar - Barbarians at the Gate

                Fiction - Elena Ferrante - L'amica geniale
                Last edited by ursus arctos; 17-08-2018, 13:31.

                Comment


                  #9
                  I'd add

                  Non fiction
                  Gospel of Freedom by Jonathan Reider (about MLK's letter from Birmingham Jail)
                  The God Delusion
                  Freakonomics
                  Shakespeare by Bill Bryson

                  Fiction
                  Generation X
                  Of Mice and Men

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by ursus arctos View Post
                    The original set is available online gratis.

                    The hardcover originals are also very widely available in used bookstores and antique shops in this country, as they were quite ubiquitous in bourgeois households of the time.

                    I haven't read the Morton book on Bored's list.
                    Thanks for that. The original list looks pretty heavy, which is hardly unexpected. I may tiptoe my way through a portion of it though.

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Goldblatt: The Ball Is Round. Surely?

                      Comment


                        #12
                        I would nominate Middlemarch, Anna Karenina and either Mansfield Park or Pride and Prejudice. For non fiction, The Wretched of the Earth, Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, The First Casualty and On Liberty. Fanon, Kennedy, Knightley and Mill respectively.

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