Books That Changed the World
By Giving Voice to Something New
Informed, smart, and entertaining conversations about books that transform the world.
The human urge for self-expression - to speak on one’s own behalf in one’s own terms, and to be acknowledged and recognized by others, is not a right to be given. It is the most fundamental claim a human being makes besides being a body in space, and it finds its most powerful expression in literature. The Great Books series talks to interesting and informed people about books that added new voices to the world in ways that allowed others to understand and hear these stories as well. It’s not that Zora Neale Hurston was the first African-American woman to tell her story, or that William Wordsworth was the first to speak about his life as a long story, or that nobody before Franz Kafka examined how we include and exclude others by creating communities. But these writers found ways of expressing these human conditions that transformed everyone’s way of speaking and listening. They imposed their words on others so powerfully that their stories now irrevocably mattered, regardless of legal rules, cultural norms, and customs. The greatness of these books is not that they outdo other writers but that they alter the way in which everyone makes sense of the world by adding a startlingly new voice. My canon of Great Books is not defined by aesthetic excellence alone, but by the way a book makes someone’s lived reality suddenly available for others in words that they now use as well.
The Great Books series pairs interesting thinkers with some of the tradition’s greatest books to show how those books shift our perception of the world and provide new paradigms that offer a way out of our current dilemmas. Look for conversations on Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts, Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter… Read More