Tag Archives: Aristotle

2019 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 5 (Greeks and Romans)

Welcome to my favorite reads of 2019…Part 5! I TAed this past semester for a class on early Western political thought which means I finally knocked off a lot of Greek writers from my to-read list! However, I will be the first to say that I only understood most of these books because I was taking a class while I read them. Accordingly, while these hit five stars and were favorites of the year, I don’t necessarily recommend just picking them up for fun.

The Histories by Herodotus

Basically, the book where we get the story of 300. Full of facts and legends, it really was an interesting read and fascinating as the first “history book” as we know the term today. I found it surprisingly fun as well as historically significant. 

Clouds, Frogs, Assemblywomen, Wealth by Aristophanes 

Arisotphanes was an Athenian playwright who lampooned the Iliad-like honor culture of Greek society. I read 4 of his plays. They are extraordinarily vulgar, extremely astute, and quite funny. And considering 2,000 years have passed since he wrote this stuff, it is incredible that his poop jokes are still funny. I think Wealth was my favorite. 

Phaedo by Plato

 Plato’s account of Socrates last hours before his death. It is a final look at his philosophy towards life and the philosopher’s call. Brief but impactful. 

The Republic by Plato

An incredibly important book for Western thought and the more I study it, the more I realize how much it impacted the world we know today. I kept pausing to exclaim, “But that’s something C.S. Lewis says!” or “That’s straight out of Saul Alinsky!” or “This is foundational to a G.K. Chesterton arguments!” But of course, it isn’t a book a book that depends on Lewis or Alinsky or Chesterton, but rather the common background for all them. That said, definitely a philosopher’s book. It begs for debate, discussion, further analysis but it doesn’t entirely satisfy because it leaves much unanswered. 

Ethics by Aristotle

I actually read this one twice: first at the beginning of the year while in Thailand then for my class. It definitely made way more sense the second time through. Context does amazing things for your understanding. I particularly liked the section on Friendship. Quite thought provoking. 

The Aeneid by Virgil

I did not like The Aeneid as much as The Iliad, but it certainly deserves credit for historical significance. The Aeneid follows the fall of Troy through the founding of Rome. Tons of hilariously bad passages foreshadowing the glory of Rome and Caesar and whatnot. But also tons of familiar scenes that are part of our modern mythos. So, worth a read. 


Whatcha Reading…? 1/28/2019 Book Update

Back in 2016-2017, I used to do an occasional “Whatcha Reading” update. Basically, when I find myself buried in avalanche of current reads, I like sorting them out on here. 

Now, I know what you are thinking! “BUT WHAT ABOUT THAILAND?!” I promise I’m still here. The thing is, due to certain circumstances, I spent the weekend at home. And really, the most exciting thing I accomplished was laundry. I’ve strained my brain to make laundry an entertaining story, but mostly it involved me lacking the correct change and making strategic visits to the convenience store to get more. Mostly I read. And as I’ve decided to tackle several rather long books courtesy but my new Kindle, a “Whatcha Reading” update is the best way I can describe my weekend.

Without further ado, I present you my current reads: Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas, Ethics by Aristotle, The City of God by Saint Augustine, Pamela by Samuel Richardson, and Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy L. Sayers. (And lest you think my reading involves only intellectual works, I must confess I recently finished To Catch A Bad Guy by Marie Astor, Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder by Joane Flunke, and The Cinderella Deal by Jennifer Cruise – all as horrible as they sound.) As you can see, I’m working through the As on my Kindle. 

Summa Theologica by Thomas Aquinas is 95,666 pages long. I’m 1,520 pages in –  about 1%. I do not plan on finishing it this year…or next…or maybe the year after. But the work played an instrumental role in developing Western thought so I figure it is worth the long term commitment. 

Ethics by Aristotle…I am not sure what I think about this one yet. Obviously, I’m familiar with Aristotle’s theory of virtue as the mean between two extremes. He jumps around quite a bit, however, between personal application of virtue and civic virtue. His explanation of justice I found particularly intriguing. Mostly I feel like I miss as much as I understand. But I find his method of explaining things helps me better understand Aquinas. (Similar formatting of arguments.) 

I purchased my copy of The City of God by Saint Augustine instead of getting the free version and I am amazed the difference a good translation makes. I am not particularly far into the book but I’m quite intrigued. It begins with a seeming history lesson about the barbarians who sacked Rome but did not touch the Christian churches. Amidst this strange beginning, Saint Augustine weaves several points about human suffering. 

Pamela; or, Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson was published in 1740 and I’ve been dragging myself through it since last July. Though a remarkable literary achievement for its time, I find the entire work slow and irritating. But I’m also stubbornly determined to finish it since it was a ‘first’ for many literary tropes we use today. (And Jane Austen read it.) 

Letters to a Diminished Church by Dorothy L. Sayers is incredibly good so far. I find it easier to grasp than her work about the trinity, The Mind of the Maker. In this book, she tackles Christian doctrine. She continues to emphasize the creativity of God and the importance of creation for human identity. I’m convinced this one will end up an immediate favorite.