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Most Necessary for (Wo)Men to Know.

So, back in the ninth century, having established himself as king of Wessex, Alfred the Great initiated a programme of education of his male aristocracy and oversaw the translation into Old English of a number of books he considered to be 'most necessary for men to know'. These were mainly religious, but also included Bede's A History of the English Church and Peoples, and Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy.

What books would you recommend today, aside from sacred books and standard chestnuts like Shakespeare? Mine would be Sima Qian, Records of the Grand Historian, which to my mind is the finest early history we possess and a textbook introduction into how we construct, create, manipulate and interpret the varied histories that make up our past; Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which despite dated sections is still a clear cold look at the intersection of greed for money and power, faith and modern society; and Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo, which is a masterclass in plotting, pace and colour by a mixed-race author who was always proud to be exactly who he was, and as a result wrote characters who stand up for their principles. (I love the Musketeers more; and his best female characters are Claire and Manon in The War of Women, but Monte Cristo is probably his strongest book).

Over to you.

Skirt of the day: blue flags.


Jul. 14th, 2016 07:11 pm (UTC)
Well I'd be with Alf on Boethius and I would probably add Marcus Aurelius. I find stoicism almost the only possible way of coping with an increasingly impossible world. I'd want a transcript of the Putney Debates and Marc Bloch's "Strange Defeat"; as good a description of a society willing its own destruction as any I know.
Jul. 15th, 2016 12:33 pm (UTC)
Those are all excellent choices. Bloch remains such a strong voice, despite movement on in theory.

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