I like to think of myself as being very well read, which is basically a lie. Oh, sure, I read a lot, there’s no question there. But the substance that I read is probably a bit lacking.

This was brought home to me this week via one of my assignments from school. I had to watch this commencement address (well, read and annotate the transcript, but I watched it anyway). First there’s a statistic about poetry. Exactly what Mr. McCullough means is confusing, but researching myself, I found a statistic that the National Endowment for the Arts was excited that the number of adults who read poetry in 2017 had INCREASED to 11.7. I don’t read poetry, normally, so I’m part of the problem. But this makes me feel BAD about it.

The rest of the address made me feel inspired. I like reading, I like learning. I’ve lamented that I don’t know enough to run a Time Watch Campaign, and I’m working on being an analyst of some kind, so why not try to become a man of culture by reading a lot of Good Books™ and learning about important people?

Of course, as usual on projects like this, I may have jumped in too deep. The first thing I needed to do was assemble my lists of what books and topics need to be read. So I started googling and dumping results into a spreadsheet. A shout out to The Greatest Books.Org, as they are the ONLY site in my trawling that gave their lists as a CSV, so I could easily C+V it into my sheets. (I mean, they did give me like 4k books for the list or something, so I don’t know if I can really THANK them…(Actually, now that I processed everything, it feels like their list is more of a title dump than a curated collection.))

So to read a bunch of books, you have to have a booklist, right? Well, That’s the kind of thing I do, in spades. I need to have a better system, actually, and it kind of bothers me that I don’t yet, but I’d need to build a real database and not a spreadsheet. My spreadsheet, by the way, is 4700+ items long and growing longer. And that doesn’t even include the list of subjects that I want to read on.

Where do all these books come from?

So what is filling up my lists and subjects? Well, in the commencement address, I was counseled to check out a few things.

  1. American History: I don’t know a lot of history in general. I know the basics of, you know, what you learn in school and things, but nothing real in depth, and nothing real solid. I Did a google on 100 important Americans, found a list of 110, and I’ll pull a book down the list as I find them. No real book list.
  2. American Classics: I did a quick google for 100 American Classics. Scanning down the list, I’ve only read maybe 10 of them? So I folded these into my list
  3. Great books and Masterpieces: This was the big thing. I went to Greatest Books.org, snagged their sheet, and used it as the seed. It didn’t feel super well rounded though, so I found a list by the british newspaper the Guardian and folded
  4. Greek and Roman History: I’ve known of this birthplace of democracy, but I’ve not done more than casual reading.List of authors and people this time, no real book list.
  5. Ideas: I got a list of 100 people with big ideas or something, and I’ll try to find books either by or about them.
  6. Science!:I found a list of 100 influential science ideas and discoveries. This list of subjects gives me a thing to pull on, but I don’t have a solid list
  7. Test of Time: Books that withstand the test of time is a bitt vague. How does that differ from a massterpiece? Idk. But I asked google, and got a reddit thread, and folded all the answers from those random people with a shakey grasp of the concept into my lists.
  8. Medicine: Probably my weakest subject. I found a list of topics, and I’m trying to find books. I seem to be having a better time in snagging interesting titles that get linked in various papers I have to read for school.
  9. Military History: I grabbed a list of 100 important battles, and I’ll try to find books on those as we go.

In addition to all of that, the first D&D books included a section called “Appendix N” which was a list of books Gary Gygax read that prompted him to create D&D. I found a few variations on that list, as well as the list for 5e, and a list that has movies, video games, and no concept of how to be a useful list.

I folded all of this into my master last, which is big and sluggish, and inaccurate. It’s not done growing yet, either! If you have books that I should add to the list, please let me know!

Interactions with the list

Okay, after running down the list, I’ve only read about 4% of it. Which is more than I had thought, but I’ve run the numbers a few times and that’s what it works out to be. Still, that is a long way to go. So my intentions are to use Colorado’s incredible library system to slowly acquire the culture from my list… for free! Some I’ll have to buy, some I already have, and some might just get culled from the list quiet like. But, eventually, I hope to carve my way through the list.

It won’t be in silence, though! Part of this reading is for me to think about what I read, then speak about it intelligently. Or write about it. I’ll move things to different lists, with all sorts of markers attached, and ideally, make this an easier task for a person following behind me.

And speaking of other people, this is a decent platform for Guest Bloggers. So if there is a work that particularly speaks to you, in the tune of over 2000 words, let me know!


What would you want to see in my analysis? What do you want me to avoid? I want this to be a long running thing that is entertaining for you, gentle readers, and ideally, we all can become a bit more cultured together.

Join the Conversation


  1. Where does Book Thief fall? I’m guessing Test of Time category. It’s too young to be a classic but it’s outstanding. For history I think Team of Rivals (Goodwin) and Killer Angels (Shaara) are the best history books I’ve ever read. I’m excited to see how this new interest unfolds and to see what books you’ll recommend.

  2. My unreliable source for Test of Time didn’t list it, but it is on the list via the Greatest Books, as are the other two. I’ve added a column in my sheets for Patron recommended books, tho, so all 3 of them now have a second endorsement

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