“The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”    -Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun (1951)

What is a great book?

To understand what a great book is, why not let the books speak for themselves?

The books are not regarded as “sacred cows” or museum pieces to be venerated, but rather provocative works which actually have the power to change our minds, touch our spirits, and initiate a process of self-discovery and insight in the 21st century.

At bottom, we are dealing with a certain quality of book that is capable of helping us see ourselves.

Reflection on the fundamental questions and their alternative answers – as they arise in conversations about the “best that is thought and said” – is motivated by the search for a definitive answer to these questions: reflection on the questions and the pursuit  of fundamental knowledge is the heart of liberal learning, and it is the aim of our activity at Symposium Great Books Institute.

The following lists of books and authors represents over 2,500 years of intellectual history.  The Symposium list has been largely derived from the lists serving Columbia University, University of Virginia, University of Chicago and St. John’s College.

The Master Reading List (Click to view)



Journey to the East
iSymposium East: A Serious Reader's Pathway through Six Eastern Classics from India, China and Japan
The Education Quartet
iSymposium: A Serious Reader's Pathway Through Four Western Classics - Plato's Republic, Dante's Divine Comedy, Rousseau's Emile and Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. Starting Winter 2018.
Subscribe to our Newsletter!
Receive free updates about our latest seminar offerings and other relevant news