Recommended Great Reading During Advent
Copyright © 2004 by Redd Griffin


Passages of the following works were presented and discussed on the Light of the East radio program on Sunday, December 5, 2004.

A passage of The Confessions by St. Augustine was read on the air, exemplifying Christian writing inspired by a non-Christian author, Plato. This was cited as part of the dialogue through the ages between the Church and the secular world.

Most of the other works referred to, are not usually thought of as religious, yet they deal with God's gifts in ways that are often illuminating, inspiring, or entertaining to readers:

the allegory of the cave from Plato's book, The Republic

poems from Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of

a passage from William Butler Yeats' "Sailing to Byzantium"

the epigraph to Ernest Hemingway's "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" and a passage from his novella, The Old Man and the Sea

the last paragraph of James Joyce's "The Dead," from the Dubliners.

Several other authors or works were recommended near the end of the program, including

St. Augustine's The City of God

and several works that are not explicitly religious but deal with themes and content helpful to living a more spiritual life:

Plato's "The Phaedrus," "The Apology, "The Crito" and "Phaedo"

Aristotle's treatises

William Shakespeare's Henry V and King Lear

Mortimer Adler's Aristotle for Everybody.


This next set of recommended readings appear on The Great Books Foundation and The College of Humanities and Sciences websites. All but four of them have been read and discussed in Great Books classes I have led. The most relevant to spiritual questions, ideas, values, themes or experiences. are printed in bold. An asterisk (*) after a title, means that the complete work is presented in books in these programs.

Anton Pavlovich Chekhov: Rothschild's Fiddle*, Uncle Vanya*

Plato: The Republic, "Symposium"

Immanuel Kant: Conscience

William Shakespeare: Othello* , Hamlet* The Tempest*, King Lear*

Sophocles: Antigone*, Oedipus the King*

Euripides: Iphigeneia at Aulis*

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky: Notes from the Underground*

Herman Melville: Billy Budd, Sailor*

Soren Aabye Kierkegaard: The Knight of Faith

Moses Maimonides: On Evil

Geoffrey Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy: The Death of Ivan Ilych

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust, Part One*

Dante Alighieri: The Divine Comedy, Volume I: Inferno

Aristotle:" On Happiness" from The Nichomachean Ethics

Alexis de Tocqueville: "The Power of the Majority" from Democracy in America

Adam Smith: Wealth of Nations

Herodotus: The Persian Wars

John Locke: Of Civil Government

Jonathan Swift: Gulliver's Travels

John Stuart Mill: On Liberty, Utilitarianism

Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War

Karl von Clausewitz: What Is War?

Homer: The Iliad

Baron de la Brede et de Montesquieu: Principles of Government

Aeschylus: Agamemnon*

Henry James: The Beast in the Jungle*

Max Weber: The Spirit of Capitalism

Moliere: The Misanthrope*

George Bernard Shaw: Caesar and Cleopatra*

Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison: The Federalist

Nikolai Gogol: The Overcoat*

Franz Kafka: The Metamorphosis*

Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France

Henry Adams: The Education of Henry Adams


Other recommended works are:

Christopher Marlowe's Tragical History of Dr. Faustus

Blaise Pascal's Thoughts

Alfred Lord Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade"

James Russell Lowell's "Vision of Sir Launfal"

Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Dylan Thomas' "Fern Hill" and "The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower"

Other recommended authors are

John Donne
Alexander Pope
Robert Frost
T.S. Eliot
William Faulkner


The following Christmas tales are recommended for the whole family to read aloud, at least in part. The most relevant to spiritual questions, ideas, values, themes or experiences are in bold type:

Charles Dickens: A Christmas Carol
O. Henry: The Gift of the Magi
Dylan Thomas: Child's Christmas in Wales

The sources referred to above include:

The Great Books Foundation @ 1-800-222-5870

The College of Humanities and Sciences (877) 248-6724 or (480) 829-4999,

Note: Alexander Pope, a Catholic author of literary classics, well worth reading during Advent wrote, "To err is human, to forgive, divine." In that spirit, please forgive some words of mine on the 12/05/04 broadcast that might be misinterpreted:

St. Augustine was a student of Plato but not a contemporary, having read Plato's works several centuries after the philosopher.

"Gyre" in the Yeats' poem "Sailing to Byzantium" should be pronounced with a soft "g" as in jire.

Plato wrote about Socrates' death in the "Apology."

Redd Griffin



Annunciation of the Mother of God Byzantine Catholic Parish
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