Great Minds Think Alike

OK. Actually, many great minds don’t think alike. Compare Shakespeare to Tolstoy, Edison to Tesla, or Aristotle to Kierkegaard. Quite a few differences there, yet all are arguably geniuses.

If you are interested in reading the complete text of some great pieces of literature, science, or philosophy you may want to start with some of the books in the Andersen Library’s Great Minds Collection, such as those in the Great Books of the Western World set. Here you will find the tragedies of Euripides, the astronomy of Nicolaus Copernicus, the philosophy of Sigmund Freud, and quite a bit more.

This particular set of books was published in 1952 and, unfortunately, is substantially male and Eurocentric. There are several similar sets, a couple of which we also have. Most “great books” in such sets have been around long enough to stand the test of time, and yet aren’t particularly diverse. If you’re interested in something more recent, worldly, or written by a woman, you may have to look elsewhere. This was part of the inspiration behind the Great Minds Collection. This collection is a wonderful place to browse for books to read this summer.

All that being said, here is my stab at a few literary works you might enjoy this summer. They likely aren’t in traditional “great books” lists, but I think they should be. Some available copies are in our Great Minds Collection, while others are in the Main Collection.

  • 1Q84 (2011) by Haruki Murakami – Main Collection, PL856.U673 A61213 2011
    An ode to George Orwell’s “1984,” also well worth reading, this book tells the stories of an assassin for a secret organization who discovers that she has been transported to an alternate reality, which might have been created by a teenager and her amateur ghostwriter.
  • Aleph and Other Stories, 1933-1969 by Jorge Luis Borges – Main Collection, PQ7797 .B635 A22 1970
    These short stories journey inside the minds of an unrepentant Nazi, an imprisoned Maya priest, fanatical Christian theologians, a man awaiting his assassin, and a woman plotting vengeance on her father’s “killer.”
  • Beloved (1987) by Toni Morrison – Great Minds Collection, PS3563.O8749 B4 1987
    Inspired by a true story, this novel follows an escaped slave living in post-Civil War Ohio with her daughter and mother-in-law, who is haunted by the ghost of her dead baby girl.
  • A Dream of Red Mansions (17XX) by Cao Xueqin – Main Collection, PL2727.S2 A29 1999
    The overarching story is of two branches of an aristocratic family who reside in two large, adjacent family compounds in the capital city. The main protagonist has a special bond with his sickly cousin but is predestined to marry another.
  • The Fountainhead (1943) by Ayn Rand – Main Collection, PS3535 .A547 F6 1943
    This novels follows the trials and tribulations of a individualist former architecture student who refuses to compromise on his architectural dreams.
  • The House of the Spirits (1982) by Isabel Allende – Main Collection, PQ8098.1.L54 C313 1985
    This magical realist novel follows three generations of a South American family through their domestic and political conflicts.
  • Invisible Man (1952) by Ralph Ellison – Main Collection, PS3555 .L625 I5 1952
    In this bildungsroman, the narrator traces his life from an innocent childhood in the south to an enlightened adulthood in Harlem where he becomes invisible like other African Americans.
  • The Joy Luck Club (1989) by Amy Tan
    This novel focuses on the generational and cultural differences between a young Chinese American woman and her late mother’s Chinese friends, all members of the longstanding Joy Luck Club. To fulfill her mother’s dying wish, she joins the club and learns secrets she never dreamed of.
  • Left Hand of Darkness (1969) by Ursula LeGuin – Great Minds Collection, PS3562.E42 L4 2000
    While on a mission to an alien planet where people have no fixed gender, an earthling is sent by one nations’s leaders to a concentration camp, from which the exiled prime minister of another nation tries to rescue him.
  • The Satanic Verses (1988) by Salman Rushdie – Main Collection, PR9499.3 .R8 S28 1989
    A legendary movie star in India and “the man of a thousand voices,” fall earthward from a bombed jet toward the sea, singing rival verses in an eternal wrestling match between good and evil.
  • To the Lighthouse (1929) by Virginia Woolf – Main Collection, PR6045.O72 T6 1992
    This novel follows a family during the one summer they spent with friends in their Scottish vacation home. Offshore stands a remote, inaccessible lighthouse, an external presence in a changing world.
  • Things Fall Apart (1958) by Chinua Achebe – Great Minds Collection, PR6051.C5 T47
    The protagonist, a man driven to ameliorate the legacy of his father, at first succeeds, but later suffers as a result of his actions. An overarching theme is the growing friction between traditional village life in Nigeria and the ways of whites determined to save heathen Africans.

Whether or not you agree with my suggestions, feel free to comment below. Perhaps you have your own ideas of some new great books. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

About Martha

Martha is a Reference & Instruction Librarian and the liaison to the Biological Sciences, Computer Science, Languages and Literatures, Mathematics, and Physics Departments
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