The New York Times Bestseller and Notable Book of the Year
A National Book Critics Circle Finalist

At the age of forty-eight, writer and film critic David Denby returned to Columbia University and re-enrolled in two required core courses in Western civilization to confront the literary and philosophical masterpieces—the "great books"—that are now at the heart of the culture wars. In Great Books, he leads us on a glorious tour, a rediscovery and celebration of such authors as Homer and Boccaccio, Locke and Nietzsche. Conrad and Woolf. The resulting personal odyssey is an irresistible blend of self-discovery, cultural commentary, reporting, criticism, and autobiography—an inspiration for anyone in love with the written word.


"A lively adventure of the mind...The tone of the one of unqualified enthusiasm: energy, vigor, intellectual curiosity, and what might be called an ecstasy of imaginative journalism...The reader is left with a sense of optimism regarding the future of the humanities and a conviction that, fine film critic as he may be, David Denby seems to have missed his true vocation: a professional involvement in the teaching and transmission of literary ‘greatness.’” —Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Times Book Review

“A captivating book that casts light on many things: on the job of a critic, on what the classics are, on the pleasure of sustained reading….If…you envy Mr. Denby his year-long reading party, you should read his exuberant book.” —The Economist

“Unusually angled, vivacious, and candid…” —Sir Frank Kermode, The New York Review of Books 

“The most original response to the culture wars.” —Peter Watson, in The Modern Mind: An Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century

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