Greater Books

Frequently-Asked Questions

What isn't my favorite list of classics included?
Please read the Guidelines page for an explication of the rules used to determine which lists are included in the Greater Books project, as well as a list of lists excluded so far.

How did you find these lists?
My knowledge of these lists has come both easily, in the form of free resources (such as Robert Teeter's web site or My Harvard Classics) and references to other lists made by the listmakers themselves; and fitfully, when a significant amount of research suddenly brought forth several older lists. A gamut of information-retrieval methods, from already being aware of the Great Books of the Western World series and Harold Bloom's Western Canon, to browsing through the titles on several shelves of the local university library, have been used. Reading through the "great books" posts at Macroscopic 2013, the blog documenting this site's development, will provide more information about the process.

With the exception of the Raymound Queneau list (available at the Bureau of Public Secrets), all of these lists have been transcribed from the original publications.

Why is this site so simply designed and not have any images?
Greater Books will eventually allow to user to create his own list based upon a few search parameters. This will make the site into an interactive experience more useful for those looking for shorter, specific lists of works. For example, if a user doesn't like a certain number of the 40 lists used so far, he could exclude those from the master list and see how the order of works with the most entries is altered. Or a user who wants to read more books in a certain langauage could only include works originally written in that lanaguage.

That said, the site will always fit in better with the "Web 1.0" world of text-dominant documents. Web sites about books, even excellent resouces such as Brain Pickings, arguably discourage the close reading they puport to complement. The web has become more of an entertainment medium in and of itself, instead of a supplement or enhancement of documentation and research pursuits; this site is not part of that trend. Ironically, once the interactive features noted above are put in place, the site will be more "printer-friendly," as the shorter tallies resulting from such features could serve as handy "shopping lists" to take to libraries and bookstores.

Moreover, with its clearly-defined rules, Greater Books is designed for posterity, so that it could continue well after the original author of the site is dead or has lost interest. It is not meant to be confined to a particular medium or format.

As for images.... Instead of displaying common book covers—like many book-related sites do—I'd like to include scans of covers not yet found on the web. As of January, 2016, the plan is to make scans of complete dust jackets of hardbacks, to distinguish the images here and make them more worthwhile.

Will this site provide personalized recommendations of books to read?
No. See the response to the third question, above, regarding the user being able to alter the master list. This site is not intended to offer much in the way of editorial content—so far, only commentaries at Macroscopic 2013 on the lists or the books from which lists have been gleaned. If a user notices that a particular listmakers' opinions match his own, he should seek out the original text. Also, plenty of web sites designed to offer users personalized recommendations are worthy of perusal; for example, Book Browse, Bookish, Good Reads, and Library Thing. One should also consider old-fashioned readers' advisory at public libraries; some libraries have provided such services for decades and have highly-informed librarians eager to help you find something new to read.

Who are you?
Justin Kau. I evaluate and develop standardized tests in Georgia, United States, and recently received a Master of Library and Information Science degree from Rutgers University. I am seeking jobs in the realm of archives and academic libraries. I also have a Master of Arts in History from a previous stint in graduate school. I self-publish my own writings and interviews, mostly about music, at Sweet Pea (under a sort of Simplified Spelling version of a pseudonym, Justin Kaw, reflecting the way my family pronounces that name). Greater Books developed out of my decades-long interest in reading and studying bibliographies and discographies, and more recently my reading of "classic" literature I had not gotten to during formal education. You can contact me via e-mail or at Linked In.