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Cultivating Your Craft in the Digital Age: Online Resources

Published on Monday, May 31, 2010 by

so09_net_neutrality_internet_mapWhen I started out writing this blog it was my intent to illustrate how writers can use the online Guttenberg Library.  The Guttenberg Library or Project Guttenberg is a site which offers books free and online. These books can be downloaded to many portable electronic devices as well as PCs.   The over 30,000 books on Project Guttenberg were scanned by thousands of volunteers  the books are found in the public domain based upon US copyright law.

As a writer this huge resource provides a peek into classic literature, history and little known treasures that have stay buried until now.  Several years ago when I became interested in the tenets behind The Secret, and I learned that the philosophies of the Law of Attraction were age old one of the first places I turned for more information was the Guttenberg Library.  Starting with the digitization of the Declaration of Indepence in the early 1970s Project Guttenberg is a demonstration of openness early in the use of computers for the digital presentation of documents and information.

Project Guttenberg maintains several “top 100” lists of resources, such as those most accessed, 100 top e-books, and the 100 top authors. One of the most popular books lately is Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. The most recent top five authors are:

  1. Carroll, Lewis (1394)
  2. Twain, Mark (1374)
  3. Doyle, Arthur Conan, Sir (1334)
  4. Dickens, Charles (1111)
  5. Shakespeare, William (1008)

One thing to keep in mind is that as you review resources on a global scale copyright laws differ across international boundaries, what you can see here you may not be able to see in another country and vice versa.  Another site I found interesting and full of a wealth of resources is that of the online British Library. There is a great deal of information and research to be found on this site.  A search for King Henry VIII reveals this website. A video of King Henry VIII”s Psalter is here.

Google books moved into the digitization of print resources in a big way and with a great deal of controversy.  If you appreciate open content, “openness,” then you will appreciate the initiative undertaken by Google to digitize the world’s knowledge.  The progress of this initiative impeded by legal action on a global scale against Google what they have done will definitely change how we expect to access our resources in the future.

The philosophy behind Google Books is as follows:

This same philosophy lies behind Google Books. We believe a tool that can open up the millions of pages in the world’s books can help remove the barriers between people and information and benefit the publishing community at the same time. Many of the world’s largest publishers have joined our Partner Program so that readers everywhere can discover their books. These partnerships are very successful, and the program continues to grow.

There are two sides to the argument for and against what Google is trying to do..ultimately they argue that their initiative provides a means for authors works to become discovered and does not violate copyright laws, nor is this imitative an attempt usurp authors income.

Another large resource site that I am somewhat familiar with is The Internet Archive. The Internet Archive is a non-profit digital library with the stated mission: “universal access to all knowledge.” It offers permanent storage and access to collections of digitized materials, including websites, music, moving images, and books. The Internet Archive was founded by Brewster Kahle in 1996.

These resources provide the user to access to the books the may provide a basis for a learning curriculum.  The concept of the great books curriculum is nothing new.  According to this wikpedia entry: The Great Books Program is a curriculum that makes use of this list of texts. As much as possible, students rely on primary sources. The emphasis is on open discussion with limited guidance by a professor, facilitator or tutor. Students are also expected to write papers.

Below is a list of great books from that same website.. The links will take you back to the corresponding wikipedia page:

he following is an example list from How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren. (1940, 1972)

  1. Homer: The Iliad, The Odyssey
  2. The Old Testament
  3. Aeschylus: Tragedies
  4. Sophocles: Tragedies
  5. Herodotus: Histories
  6. Euripides: Tragedies
  7. Thucydides: History of the Peloponnesian War
  8. Hippocrates: Medical Writings
  9. Aristophanes: Comedies

10.  Plato: Dialogues

11.  Aristotle: Works

12.  Epicurus: “Letter to Herodotus“, “Letter to Menoecus

13.  Euclid: The Elements

14.  Archimedes: Works

15.  Apollonius: The Conic Sections

16.  Cicero: Works

17.  Lucretius: On the Nature of Things

18.  Virgil: Works

19.  Horace: Works

20.  Livy: The History of Rome

21.  Ovid: Works

22.  Plutarch: Parallel Lives; Moralia

23.  Tacitus: Histories; Annals; Agricola; Germania

24.  Nicomachus of Gerasa: Introduction to Arithmetic

25.  Epictetus: Discourses; Enchiridion

26.  Ptolemy: Almagest

27.  Lucian: Works

28.  Marcus Aurelius: Meditations

29.  Galen: On the Natural Faculties

30.  The New Testament

31.  Plotinus: The Enneads

32.  St. Augustine: “On the Teacher”; Confessions; City of God; On Christian Doctrine

33.  The Song of Roland

34.  The Nibelungenlied

35.  The Saga of Burnt Njál

36.  St. Thomas Aquinas: Summa Theologica

37.  Dante Alighieri: The New Life (La Vita Nuova); “On Monarchy”; The Divine Comedy

38.  Geoffrey Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde; The Canterbury Tales

39.  Leonardo da Vinci: Notebooks

40.  Niccolò Machiavelli: The Prince; Discourses on the First Ten Books of Livy

41.  Desiderius Erasmus: The Praise of Folly

42.  Nicolaus Copernicus: On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres

43.  Thomas More: Utopia

44.  Martin Luther: Table Talk; Three Treatises

45.  François Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel

46.  John Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion

47.  Michel de Montaigne: Essays

48.  William Gilbert: On the Lodestone and Magnetic Bodies

49.  Miguel de Cervantes: Don Quixote

50.  Edmund Spenser: Prothalamion; The Faerie Queene

51.  Francis Bacon: Essays; The Advancement of Learning; Novum Organum; The New Atlantis

52.  William Shakespeare: Poetry and Plays

53.  Galileo Galilei: Starry Messenger; Two New Sciences

54.  Johannes Kepler: The Epitome of Copernican Astronomy; Harmonices Mundi

55.  William Harvey: On the Motion of the Heart and Blood in Animals; On the Circulation of the Blood; On the Generation of Animals

56.  Thomas Hobbes: Leviathan

57.  René Descartes: Rules for the Direction of the Mind; Discourse on Method; Geometry; Meditations on First Philosophy

58.  John Milton: Works

59.  Molière: Comedies

60.  Blaise Pascal: The Provincial Letters; Pensées; Scientific Treatises

61.  Christiaan Huygens: Treatise on Light

62.  Benedict de Spinoza: Ethics

63.  John Locke: A Letter Concerning Toleration; Of Civil Government; Essay Concerning Human Understanding; Some Thoughts Concerning Education

64.  Jean Baptiste Racine: Tragedies

65.  Isaac Newton: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy; Opticks

66.  Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz: Discourse on Metaphysics; New Essays Concerning Human Understanding; “Monadology

67.  Daniel Defoe: Robinson Crusoe

68.  Jonathan Swift: “A Tale of a Tub“; A Journal to Stella; Gulliver’s Travels; “A Modest Proposal

69.  William Congreve: The Way of the World

70.  George Berkeley: Treatise Concerning the Principles of Human Knowledge

71.  Alexander Pope: “Essay on Criticism“; “The Rape of the Lock“; “Essay on Man

72.  Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu: Persian Letters, Spirit of the Laws

73.  Voltaire: Letters on the English, Candide, Philosophical Dictionary

74.  Henry Fielding: Joseph Andrews, Tom Jones

75.  Samuel Johnson: “The Vanity of Human Wishes“, Dictionary, Rasselas, Lives of the Poets

76.  David Hume: A Treatise of Human Nature, Essays Moral and Political, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding

77.  Jean-Jacques Rousseau: Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, On Political Economy, Emile, The Social Contract

78.  Laurence Sterne: Tristram Shandy, A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy

79.  Adam Smith: The Theory of Moral Sentiments, The Wealth of Nations

80.  Immanuel Kant: Critique of Pure Reason, Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Critique of Practical Reason; The Science of Right; Critique of Judgment; Perpetual Peace

81.  Edward Gibbon: The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire; Autobiography

82.  James Boswell: Journal; The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D.

83.  Antoine Laurent Lavoisier: Traité Élémentaire de Chimie (Elements of Chemistry)

84.  Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison: The Federalist Papers

85.  Jeremy Bentham: Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation; Theory of Fictions

86.  Edmund Burke: Reflections on the Revolution in France

87.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: Faust; Poetry and Truth

88.  Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier: Analytical Theory of Heat

89.  Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel: The Phenomenology of Spirit; The Philosophy of Right; Lectures on the Philosophy of History

90.  William Wordsworth: Poems

91.  Samuel Taylor Coleridge: Poems; Biographia Literaria

92.  Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice; Emma

93.  Carl von Clausewitz: On War

94.  Stendhal: The Red and the Black; The Charterhouse of Parma; On Love

95.  Lord Byron: Don Juan

96.  Arthur Schopenhauer: Studies in Pessimism

97.  Michael Faraday: The Chemical History of a Candle; Experimental Researches in Electricity

98.  Charles Lyell: Principles of Geology

99.  Auguste Comte: The Positive Philosophy

  1. Honoré de Balzac: Le Père Goriot; Eugénie Grandet
  2. Ralph Waldo Emerson: Representative Men, Essays, Journal
  3. Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter
  4. Alexis de Tocqueville: Democracy in America
  5. John Stuart Mill: A System of Logic; On Liberty; Representative Government; Utilitarianism; The Subjection of Women; Autobiography
  6. Charles Darwin: The Origin of Species; The Descent of Man; Autobiography
  7. Charles Dickens: Works
  8. Claude Bernard: Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine
  9. Henry David Thoreau: “Civil Disobedience“; Walden
  10. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels: Capital; The Communist Manifesto
  11. George Eliot: Adam Bede; Middlemarch
  12. Herman Melville: Moby-Dick; Billy Budd
  13. Fyodor Dostoevsky: Crime and Punishment; The Idiot; The Brothers Karamazov
  14. Gustave Flaubert: Madame Bovary; Three Stories
  15. Henrik Ibsen: Plays
  16. Leo Tolstoy: War and Peace; Anna Karenina; What is Art?; Twenty-Three Tales
  17. Mark Twain: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; The Mysterious Stranger
  18. William James: The Principles of Psychology; The Varieties of Religious Experience; Pragmatism; Essays in Radical Empiricism
  19. Henry James: The American; The Ambassadors
  20. Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche: Thus Spoke Zarathustra; Beyond Good and Evil; The Genealogy of Morals; The Will to Power; Twilight of the Idols; The Antichrist
  21. Jules Henri Poincaré: Science and Hypothesis; Science and Method
  22. Sigmund Freud: The Interpretation of Dreams; Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis; Civilization and Its Discontents; New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis
  23. George Bernard Shaw: Plays and Prefaces
  24. Max Planck: Origin and Development of the Quantum Theory; Where Is Science Going?; Scientific Autobiography
  25. Henri Bergson: Time and Free Will; Matter and Memory; Creative Evolution; The Two Sources of Morality and Religion
  26. John Dewey: How We Think; Democracy and Education; Experience and Nature; Logic: The Theory of Inquiry
  27. Alfred North Whitehead: An Introduction to Mathematics; Science and the Modern World; The Aims of Education and Other Essays; Adventures of Ideas
  28. George Santayana: The Life of Reason; Skepticism and Animal Faith; Persons and Places
  29. Lenin: The State and Revolution
  30. Marcel Proust: Remembrance of Things Past (the revised translation is In Search of Lost Time)
  31. Bertrand Russell: The Problems of Philosophy; The Analysis of Mind; An Inquiry into Meaning and Truth; Human Knowledge, Its Scope and Limits
  32. Thomas Mann: The Magic Mountain; Joseph and His Brothers
  33. Albert Einstein: The Meaning of Relativity; On the Method of Theoretical Physics; The Evolution of Physics
  34. James Joyce: “The Dead” in Dubliners; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Ulysses
  35. Jacques Maritain: Art and Scholasticism; The Degrees of Knowledge; The Rights of Man and Natural Law; True Humanism
  36. Franz Kafka: The Trial; The Castle
  37. Arnold J. Toynbee: A Study of History; Civilization on Trial
  38. Jean-Paul Sartre: Nausea; No Exit; Being and Nothingness
  39. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn: The First Circle; Cancer Ward

Examples of a great book curriculum exist here on the National Great Book website.

In this presentation I illustrated the sites which provide access to timeless pieces work now digitized and available on the web, access to great books, videos and other artifacts now  readily available on the web. The great books curriculum was presented to illustrate how reviewing these resources, having access to these works and writing about them can improve your writing and understanding of the structure of significant literature.

4 Responses
    • I have been trying to work through my own cobbled together great books program since circumstances beyond my control forced me to leave college years ago. I have been thinking of looking at online resources because I just can’t keep all the books in my house. Glad to see Milton on the list, I mean to add Paradise Lost to my reading list once I finish Tolkien’s translation of Sigurd and Gudrun.

      Thanks for another super informative post.

    • Cathy,
      This post is a nice follow-up to my earlier one on free e-books. I think I did mention Gutenberg but you have gone into the classics online a little deeper. I thank you for this comprehensive list. It is something I will be taking a closer look at very soon. I am always hearing that to improve your writing you need to read the classics!!!

    • great post.

    • hey nice article thanks for your work!

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