Summary: A mix of ‘read this instead of that’ guide to Great Books, with half of the time devoted to great book outside of the cannon.
I am a fan of the concept of Great Courses, lectures from good lecturers about interesting subjects. These are similar to repackaged college lectures, not TEDTalks. Most of the ones I have liked best are subjects that I have some familiarity with, but not too much. I have been somewhat reluctant to do the literature lectures because I either have read the books and I am not sure I want to read more, or because I haven’t read the books and felt like I would miss too much.
I very much appreciated How to Read Literature Like a Professor, which was more about how to think about reading and how literature works. Skeptics Guide to Great Books was not really like that. I had two literature courses in college, but only two and I always feel like I am missing something in my process of reading, especially when I am reading the great books.
The Skeptics’ Guide to the Great Books was not really what I was looking for, but it was helpful in its own way. It gave me introductions to 7 books that I was unlikely to have picked up on my own. These were all books that were suggested as ‘read this instead of that’. The focus of these was lesser known great books that did much the same thing as other great books, but were shorter and/or more approachable.
The second half of the course was on books that are outside of the cannon of great books because of their genre, but are still worth reading. Of these last five, I have read three was was broadly familiar with the content of the remaining two. In many ways the discussion of the books that I was familiar with was more enjoyable than the discussion of the books I did not know. Part of it might have been the subject matter. Hearing about how Le Carré ‘The Spy Who Came in from the Cold or PD James’ Cover Her Face changed the face of spy and detective novels gave me context outside of those novels for why what was in the novels matters.
I did not feel like my time with this was wasted, but I also did not think this was one of the better lectures I have heard from Great Courses. It was however, more than adequate for the sale price of about $5 I paid for it.
The Skeptic’s Guide to the Great Books by Grant Voth (Great Courses) Purchase Links: Audible.com Audiobook