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What makes a Great Book?
Great Ideas!
TABLE OF GREAT NOVELS: CRITERIA FOR “GREATNESS”
Criteria: Plot, Character, Writing Style, Length & Sales
Far right column:...
T i m e
1475–
Death of Arthur 
10 Million
Tale of Genji 
13 Million
1015–
Lord of the Rings -150M
1615–
Don Quixote – 50...
102 Great Ideas
There are102 “ideas” cataloged in Mortimer Adler's
Great Books (Canon) of the Western World
An “idea” is a...
Great “Books” (but no novels) of the Western World
T i m e
Homer (51)
Herodotus
(71)
Plato
(100)
Aristotle
(102)
Plutarch
(79)
Augustine
(97)
Aquinas
(102)
Dante
(84) Shakes...
T i m e
Homer (51)
Herodotus (71)
Plato (100)
Aristotle (102)
Plutarch(79)
Augustine (97)
Aquinas (102)
Dante (84)
Shakesp...
800BC–
600BC–
400BC–
200BC–
0–
T i m e
 Homer (51)
 Herodotus (71)
 Plato (100)
 Aristotle (102)
 Plutarch(79)
Augus...
400–
800–
1200–
1600–
1800–
2000–
800BC–
600BC–
400BC–
200BC–
0–
T i m e
 Homer (51)
 Herodotus (71)
 Plato (100)
 Ari...
V I S U A L E Q U A T I O N
T h e M o r a l o f t h e C h a r t
<51 
 5 1  1 0 2  1 0 
I d e a s m a k e a g r e a t ...
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Great ideas comprise the great books

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Great ideas comprise the great books

  1. 1. What makes a Great Book? Great Ideas!
  2. 2. TABLE OF GREAT NOVELS: CRITERIA FOR “GREATNESS” Criteria: Plot, Character, Writing Style, Length & Sales Far right column: sales of books (millions)
  3. 3. T i m e 1475– Death of Arthur  10 Million Tale of Genji  13 Million 1015– Lord of the Rings -150M 1615– Don Quixote – 500M [The Bible - 6 Billion]1440– P R I N T P R E S S 1380– 1859– Tale of Two Cities - 200M1791– Dream the Red Chamber 100M 1939– And then There were None - 100M The Hobbit 100M The Little Prince - 200M 1937– 1954– 1955– The Magician’s Nephew - 90M She - 83M Da Vinci Code - 80M 1987– 1943– 2005– 1955– Lion, Witch & the Wardrobe - 100M 1991– Harry Potter Series - 450 M 2003– The Kite Runner - 10 M PLOT OF THE GREAT NOVELS BY SALES VOLUME Novel Themes: Mystery, Quest, Death & Resurrection PRE World War II POST World War IIMILLIONS BOOK SALES
  4. 4. 102 Great Ideas There are102 “ideas” cataloged in Mortimer Adler's Great Books (Canon) of the Western World An “idea” is a common object of thought
  5. 5. Great “Books” (but no novels) of the Western World
  6. 6. T i m e Homer (51) Herodotus (71) Plato (100) Aristotle (102) Plutarch (79) Augustine (97) Aquinas (102) Dante (84) Shakespeare (79) Montaigne (90) Bacon (97) Spinoza (79) Gibbon (88) Locke (98) Hegel (97) Mill (82) Tolstoy (96) Darwin (71) Freud (91) 1939– 800BC– 425– 348– 322– 120– 430– 0– 1274– 1321– 1592– 1616– 1626– 1677– 1704– 1794– 1831– 1873– 1882– Marx (71) 1910– 1883– G r e a t I d e a s Plot of Authors & Ideas on a Timeline Canon of Great Books of the Western World
  7. 7. T i m e Homer (51) Herodotus (71) Plato (100) Aristotle (102) Plutarch(79) Augustine (97) Aquinas (102) Dante (84) Shakespeare (79) Montaigne (90) Bacon (97) Spinoza (79) Gibbon (88) Locke (98) Hegel (97) Mill (82) Tolstoy (96) Darwin (71) Freud (91) 1939– 800BC– 425– 348– 322– 120– 430– 0– 1274– 1321– 1592– 1616– 1626– 1677– 1704– 1794– 1831– 1873– 1882– Marx (71) 1910– 1883– Plot of Authors & Ideas on Timeline Canon of the Great Books of the Western World Great Ideas
  8. 8. 800BC– 600BC– 400BC– 200BC– 0– T i m e  Homer (51)  Herodotus (71)  Plato (100)  Aristotle (102)  Plutarch(79) Augustine (97)  Aquinas (102)  Dante (84)  Shakespeare (79)  Montaigne (90)  Bacon (97)  Spinoza (77)  Gibbon (88)  Locke (98)  Hegel (97)  Mill (82)  Tolstoy (96)  Darwin & Marx (71)  Freud (91) 1939– 400– 800– 1200– 1600– 1800– 2000– Criteria for a “Great” Book” Time & Truth Great Ideas
  9. 9. 400– 800– 1200– 1600– 1800– 2000– 800BC– 600BC– 400BC– 200BC– 0– T i m e  Homer (51)  Herodotus (71)  Plato (100)  Aristotle (102)  Plutarch(79) Augustine (97)  Aquinas (102)  Dante (84)  Shakespeare (79)  Montaigne (90)  Bacon (97)  Spinoza (77)  Gibbon (88)  Locke (98)  Hegel (97)  Mill (82)  Tolstoy (96)  Darwin & Marx (71)  Freud (91) 1939– I. Ancient Greek Writers II. European Writers III. Unknown Writers IV. 20th Century European Writers Vivid (Visual & Verbal) Elements Quadrants & Spheres Great Ideas
  10. 10. V I S U A L E Q U A T I O N T h e M o r a l o f t h e C h a r t <51   5 1  1 0 2  1 0  I d e a s m a k e a g r e a t b o o k i n c l u d i n g a n o v e l L e s s t h a n 5 1 “ G r e a t I d e a s ” d o n o t r e g i s t e r ( r i n g ) t h e q u a l i t y o f g r e a t n e s s A G r e a t b o o k h a s 5 1 o r m o r e g r e a t i d e a s u p t o 1 0 2 ( p l u s o r m i n u s 1 0 i d e a s a s a m a r g i n o f e r r o r ) T h e b o o k t h e n q u a l i f i e s a s r i n g i n g t h e b e l l !

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