WEM Reading List

We’re using Susan Wise Bauer’s reading list from The Well-Educated Mind.  She allows for substitutions, but all three of us are first-borns and we like to follow the rules.  Anything less, or different, or even out of order from this list, would feel like cheating.

You don’t like cheaters, do you?  We didn’t think so.

Here are the titles, but we strongly encourage you to get your own copy of WEM, because SWB’s list is beautifully annotated, and includes recommended editions.  Not to mention that she doesn’t just tell you what to read, but also how to read it.  Important stuff.

Since we have multiple readers I won’t clutter up the list with lots of designations.  Just these:
Finished Titles
Currently Reading 


  1. Don Quixote – Miguel de Cervantes
  2. The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
  3. Gulliver’s Travels – Jonathan Swift
  4. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  5. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  6. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë
  7. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  8. Moby-Dick – Herman Melville
  9. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe
  10. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  11. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  12. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  13. The Return of the Native – Thomas Hardy
  14. The Portrait of a Lady– Henry James
  15. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn – Mark Twain
  16. Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane
  17. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  18. The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton
  19. The Great Gatsby – F. Scott Fitzgerald
  20. Mrs. Dalloway – Virginia Woolf
  21. The Trial – Franz Kafka
  22. Native Son – Richard Wright
  23. The Stranger – Albert Camus
  24. 1984 – George Orwell
  25. Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  26. Seize the Day – Saul Bellow
  27. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
  28. If on a winter’s night a traveler – Italo Calvino
  29. Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison
  30. White Noise – Don Delillo
  31. Possession – A.S. Byatt


  1. The Confessions – Augustine
  2. The Book of Margery Kempe – Margery Kemp
  3. Essays – Michel de Montaigne
  4. The Life of Saint Teresa of Ávila by Herself – Teresa of Ávila
  5. Meditations – René Descartes
  6. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners – John Bunyan
  7. The Narrative of the Captivity of Restoration – Mary Rowlandson
  8. Confessions – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
  9. An Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin – Benjamin Franklin
  10. Walden – Henry David Thoreau
  11. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written By Herself – Harriet Jacobs
  12. Life and Times of Frederick Douglass – Frederick Douglass
  13. Up from Slavery – Booker T. Washington
  14. Ecce Homo – Friedrich Nietzsche
  15. Mein Kampf – Adolf Hitler
  16. An Autobiography:  The Story of My Experiments with Truth – Mohandas Gandhi
  17. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas – Gertrude Stein
  18. The Seven Storey Mountain – Thomas Merton
  19. Surprised by Joy:  The Shape of My Early Life – C.S. Lewis
  20. The Autobiography of Malcolm X – Malcolm X
  21. Journal of a Solitude – May Sarton
  22. The Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn
  23. Born Again – Charles W. Colson
  24. Hunger of Memory:  The Education of Richard Rodriguez – Richard Rodriguez
  25. The Road from Coorain – Jill Ker Conway
  26. All Rivers Run to the Sea:  Memoirs – Elie Wiesel


  1. The Histories – Herodotus
  2. The Peloponnesian War – Thucydides
  3. The Republic – Plato
  4. Lives – Plutarch
  5. The City of God – Augustine
  6. The Ecclesiastical History of the English People – Bede
  7. The Prince – Niccolò Machiavelli
  8. Utopia – Thomas More
  9. The True End of Civil Government – John Locke
  10. The History of England, Volume V – David Hume
  11. The Social Contract – Jean-Jasques Rousseau
  12. Common Sense – Thomas Paine
  13. The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – Edward Gibbon
  14. A Vindication of the Rights of Women – Mary Wollstonecraft
  15. Democracy in America – Alexis de Tocqueville
  16. The Communist Manifesto – Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  17. The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy – Jacob Burckhardt
  18. The Souls of Black Folk – W.E.B. Du Bois
  19. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism – Max Weber
  20. Queen Victoria – Lytton Strachey
  21. The Road to Wigan Pier – George Orwell
  22. The New England Mind – Perry Miller
  23. The Great Crash – John Kenneth Galbraith
  24. The Longest Day – Cornelius Ryan
  25. The Feminine Mystique – Betty Friedan
  26. Roll, Jordan, Roll:  The World the Slaves Made – Eugene D. Genovese
  27. The Distant Mirror:  The Calamitous Fourteenth Century – Barbara Tuchman
  28. All the President’s Men – Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  29. Battle Cry of Freedom:  The Civil War Era – James M. McPherson
  30. A Midwife’s Tale:  The Life of Martha Ballard, Based on Her Diary, 1785-1812 – Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
  31. The End of History and the Last Man – Francis Fukuyama


  1. Agamemnon – Aeschylus
  2. Oedipus the King – Sophocles
  3. Medea – Euripides
  4. The Birds – Aristophanes
  5. Poetics – Aristotle
  6. Everyman
  7. Doctor Faustus – Christopher Marlowe
  8. Richard III – William Shakespeare
  9. A Midsummer Night’s Dream – William Shakespeare
  10. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  11. Tartuffe – Moliere
  12. The Way of the World – William Congreve
  13. She Stoops to Conquer – Oliver Goldsmith
  14. The School for Scandal – Richard Brinsley Sheridan
  15. A Doll’s House – Henrik Ibsen
  16. The Importance of Being Earnest – Oscar Wilde
  17. The Cherry Orchard – Anton Chekhov
  18. Saint Joan – George Bernard Shaw
  19. Murder in the Cathedral – T. S. Elliot
  20. Our Town – Thornton Wilder
  21. Long Day’s Journey Into Nght – Eugene O’Neill
  22. No Exit – Jean Paul Sartre
  23. A Streetcar Named Desire – Tennessee Williams
  24. Death of a Salesman – Arthur Miller
  25. Waiting for Godot – Samuel Beckett
  26. A Man for All Seasons – Robert Bolt
  27. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead – Tom Stoppard
  28. Equus – Peter Shaffer


  1. The Epic of Gilgamesh
  2. The Iliad and the Odyssey – Homer
  3. Greek Lyricists
  4. Odes – Horace
  5. Beowulf
  6. Inferno – Dante Alighieri
  7. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
  8. The Canterbury Tales – Geoffrey Chaucer
  9. Sonnets – William Shakespeare
  10. John Donne
  11. Psalms – King James Bible
  12. Paradise Lost – John Milton
  13. Songs of Innocence and of Experience – William Blake
  14. William Wordsworth
  15. Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  16. John Keats
  17. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
  18. Alfred, Lord Tennyson
  19. Walt Whitman
  20. Emily Dickinson
  21. Christina Rossetti
  22. Gerard Manley Hopkins
  23. William Butler Yeats
  24. Paul Laurence Dunbar
  25. Robert Frost
  26. Carl Sandburg
  27. William Carlos Williams
  28. Ezra Pound
  29. T. S. Eliot
  30. Langston Hughes
  31. W.H. Auden

31 responses to “WEM Reading List

  1. Jillian ♣

    March 19, 2012 at 8:27 pm

    I’m excited to follow your journey here, and really glad you joined the club. Welcome!! 🙂

    Also — it’s so handy to see this list now and know what’s coming up next! I’m planning to read Uncle Tom’s Cabin with the world tomorrow. There’s a readathon. 😀

    • Christina Joy

      March 19, 2012 at 8:50 pm

      Thank you! And thanks for hosting the club!

      I know, I read about the UTC readathon on your blog earlier. We’re always missing the boat. Well, this time we’re on the boat, that’s the problem. I’m posting about it tomorrow.

      • Jillian ♣

        March 19, 2012 at 8:51 pm

        Oh, really? That’s AWESOME! 😀

  2. Elizabeth Johnson

    May 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Just found you – and just got my own copy of WEM! Will be attempting to work through the list along with you all!

    • Christine

      May 31, 2012 at 5:11 pm

      Welcome! We’re happy to have you read along with us. The next novel we’ll be tackling is Madame Bovary.

  3. Elizabeth Johnson

    June 1, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    So, question. I’m late to the party. If I’ve already read the first 8 books on the list “back in the day” should I just skip them for now and start with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which I’ve never read? Or should I go back to the beginning (for instance, I don’t remember anything about DQ other than the windmills) and try to speed-read through it all to catch up?

    • Christina Joy

      June 1, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      I would just jump in with UTC – it will be over a week before we begin Madame Bovary, and since you’ve already read the others I wouldn’t go back, at least not now. You can always jump back and read one later if you find that some reference keeps popping up that you wished you remembered better. In the meantime you can always read our old blog post or Classics in a Minute to trigger your memory 🙂

      Oh, and you’ve read all of the first eight already?!?!?! Wow!!! On your own, or as parts of classes, or both? That’s a seriously impressive reading history.

  4. Elizabeth Johnson

    June 1, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    I read them on my own; I enjoy classic fiction. But that’s about it – there’s only 2 others on the list that I’ve already read 🙂
    Thanks for the input!

  5. BookerTalkertalk

    November 10, 2013 at 5:43 am

    What is the theory behind reading these in the sequence prescribed? Does each novel lead on for the earlier one in theme or style or technique for example?

    • Christina Joy

      November 11, 2013 at 9:15 pm

      I believe Susan Wise Bauer is trying not only to expose readers of her list to literature, but to the greater corpus of knowledge. She approaches all the works chronologically in order to lay a historical foundation, but she has separated the genres to provide the most accessible works (fiction) first, and then move the reader through more difficult sources as the base knowledge continues to grow.


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