Yesterday I spotted this book in the new books section at the library. I’d never heard of it before, but it looked interesting, so I took it home with me.
In The Whole Five Feet, Christopher Beha turns to the great books for answers after undergoing a series of personal and family crises and learning that his grandmother had used the Harvard Classics to educate herself during the Great Depression. Inspired by her example, Beha vows to read the entire Five-Foot Shelf, one volume a week, over the course of the next year. As he passes from St. Augustine’s Confessions to Don Quixote, from Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast to essays by Cicero, Emerson, and Thoreau, he takes solace in the realization that many of the authors are grappling with the same questions he faces: What is the purpose of life? How do we live a good life? What can the wisdom of the past teach us about our own challenges? Beha’s chronicle is a smart, big-hearted, and inspirational mix of memoir and intellectual excursion—and a powerful testament to what great books can teach us about how to live our own lives.
I’m not sure if I’ll get to this before it’s due back, but I’m going to try.
EDIT: I just read this review of the book in today’s NY Times Book Review section. Very good review.
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