If you’re looking for a great book to read this summer but paralyzed by the number of options before you, perhaps the best place to start is with the Great Books. The classics. The books “that multiple generations and multiple cultures have all agreed are worth reading,” as Fred Sanders puts it.
Yet the classics can be intimidating—both for their distance from us in language and custom and for their often formidable length (it took me over a year to get through Augustine’s dense City of God). As I’m reading through the classics, sometimes I wish I had a brilliant literature professor to guide me, drawing out things I don’t readily see.
Thankfully, TGC has launched something similar with the help of notable literature scholar Leland Ryken, emeritus professor of English at Wheaton College. We’ve repackaged Ryken’s Christian Guides to the Classics as a series of courses to help you read select works of classic literature through a Christian lens. This material was formerly available for purchase, but we’re delighted to make it freely available.
These 11 courses—tackling works by Shakespeare, Milton, Dickens, Tolstoy, and more—are designed for individuals as a supplement to their personal reading, for small groups reading through a book together, or for students assigned to read and engage with a classic.
Peruse the list below and maybe you’ll be inspired to make a Great Book the next great book you read.
11 Courses on the Classics
Augustine’s Confessions: Discover a significant and moving Christian autobiography.
Leo Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych: Encounter Tolstoy’s powerful work of Christian fiction.
The Devotional Poetry of Donne, Herbert, and Milton: Analyze select devotional poems by three 17th-century English poets.
Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations: Discover one of the most popular novels of the 19th century.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet: Go deeper with Shakespeare’s iconic play.
Homer’s The Odyssey: Discover this major ancient Greek epic by legendary poet Homer.
John Milton’s Paradise Lost: Discover how Milton’s epic recounting of the fall reminds us of our hope of redemption.
John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress: Discover one of the greatest works of Christian literature.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter: See the signature book of American literature with new eyes.
Shakespeare’s Macbeth: Plumb the depths of a masterful tragedy presupposed by a Christian understanding of reality.
Albert Camus’s The Stranger: Explore the influential 20th-century novel.
Other Great Resources About Books
25 Great Novelists Who Affirm Faith (curated by Terry Glaspey)
8 Works of Fiction Every Christian Should Read (curated by Karen Swallow Prior)
50 Short Books Packed with Wisdom (curated by me)