This will be another sapling/stub to which I’ll be adding books whenever inspiration strikes. Feel free to chime in with ideas for the list below. It might help to imagine you were homeschooled and then you became autodidactic, and you’re stocking a personal library in order to continue learning and to homeschool your children as well.
I possessed nearly 5000 volumes in my library at Rome, but after reading them over many times, I found that with 150 well-chosen books a man possesses a complete analysis of all human knowledge, or at least all that is either useful or desirable to be acquainted with. I devoted three years of my life to reading and studying these 150 volumes, till I knew them nearly by heart; so that since I have been in prison, a very slight effort of memory has enabled me to recall their contents as readily as though the pages were open before me. I could recite you the whole of Thucydides, Xenophon, Plutarch, Titus Livius, Tacitus, Strada, Jornandès, Danta, Montaigne, Shakespeare, Spinoza, Machiavel, and Bossuet. Observe, I merely quote the most important names and writers.
-The Abbé Faria
The Count of Monte Cristo (p. 176), by Alexandre Dumas
I mentioned already that I only get to read another 2500 books or so in my expected lifetime. However, I’ve picked up a recent habit of rereading introductory textbooks and some old favorites because I’m beginning to realize some limits to my long-term memory. And this isn’t even to mention the extra material that seems to fall between the cracks in a first reading. Maybe I’ll write a full post on the benefits of rereading books.
In any case, the Abbe’s words have always stuck with me. I have a mind to try his experiment today, to see whether such a small number can encompass all necessary knowledge in the information age.
To begin with, it would be necessary to know precisely which subjects are necessary for a decent education. I intend to procrastinate on the question.
The Western Canon
(It would be all too easy to pick 150 from just this subject)
- The Bible
- Summa Theologica
Calculus I-III (Carroll would probably be fine)
Partial differential equations (without which a person cannot grok the physical sciences)
Statistics (including the scientific method)
Typing (although a program works far better)
Introduction to hardware
Computer organization (up to programming in C)