A wise and witty compendium of the greatest thoughts, greatest minds, and greatest books of all time -- listed in accessible and succinct form -- by one of the world's greatest scholars.
From the "Hundred Best Books" to the "Ten Greatest Thinkers" to the "Ten Greatest Poets," here is a concise collection of the world's most significant knowledge. For the better part of a century, Will Durant dwelled upon -- and wrote about -- the most significant eras, individuals, and achievements of human history. His selections have finally been brought together in a single, compact volume. Durant eloquently defends his choices of the greatest minds and ideas, but he also stimulates readers into forming their own opinions, encouraging them to shed their surroundings and biases and enter "The Country of the Mind," a timeless realm where the heroes of our species dwell.
From a thinker who always chose to exalt the positive in the human species, "The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time" stays true to Durant's optimism. This is a book containing the absolute best of our heritage, passed on for the benefit of future generations. Filled with Durant's renowned wit, knowledge, and unique ability to explain events and ideas in simple and exciting terms, this is a pocket-size liberal arts and humanist curriculum in one volume.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1968, Will Durant spent over half a century researching and writing an 11-volume history of civilization. Now some of his immense knowledge has been compressed into a series of essays, compiled by John Little, that distil many of the greatest achievements and milestones in human history. Starting with the 'Ten Greatest Thinkers' he moves on to the 'Ten Greatest Poets', the 'One Hundred Best Books for an Education' and ends with 'Twelve Vital Dates in World History'. Durant's selections are nearly all positive. John Little comments that Durant saw history not as a matter of politics and carnage but as man's struggle with mind and matter. Believing that real history can only be made by the geniuses who are its lifeblood, Durant claims of his heroes, 'We cannot honour them too much, or commemorate them excessively.' Many of the choices are surprising and stimulating. Amongst the selected few 'greatest thinkers' are Confucius, Francis Bacon and Charles Darwin. Bacon isn't one that usually springs to mind but lovers of Bacon's essays will be happy at his inclusion, and Durant is quick to defend the choice on the grounds that Bacon inspired the Royal Society of Great Britain and ushered in the spirit of modernity. Amongst the 'greatest poets', Durant places Homer, Li-Tai-Po and Dante. Keats is chosen over Tennyson, Milton, Virgil or Byron for having left poems behind that are 'as immortal as English and more perfect than Shakespeare'. This chapter alone will have readers vigorously arguing for their own preferences. The reading list provided for the 'best 100 books for an education' is astonishingly wide ranging. Durant claims confidently: 'Let me have seven hours a week and I will make a scholar and a philosopher out of you; in four years you shall be as well educated as any new-fledged Doctor of Philosophy in the land.' There are precise instructions for tackling the task. Skipping the first books on the list isn't permitted, however daunting they appear, since they provide a firm foundation. But readers are allowed to slip the easier recommended books in between. Durant even marks with a star those books he feels you need to purchase rather than borrow and tots up the total cost secondhand. The time required for reading through the list, he calculates, is precisely four years at seven hours a week, allowing ten hours per book. There's a Victorian flavour to this little volume and the curriculum Durant has laid out is perhaps in keeping with a more leisured age. Nevertheless it's a real treasure and even if you're only able to dip into it now and again, it will last you a lifetime. (Kirkus UK)