Encyclopedia Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World

The following list is one of the most famous book lists around. The set was compiled and published by Encyclopedia Britannica in 1952, and the second edition, which expanded on the original body of work, was released in 1990. A competitor to the Harvard’s Classics set, the Great Books of the Western World (GBWW) comprises well over 100 of the greatest works to influence western thought. The brunt of the work in compiling these works is credited to the editor in chief, Robert Maynard Hutchins, and associate editor, Mortimer J. Adler. Keep in mind, any “classic” list will inevitably omit worthy works. In fact, I would argue, they leave out a majority of the great works. It’s more helpful to think of such a list as merely a selection of great works, much like a menu at a fine restaurant.

“This is more than a set of books, and more than a liberal education. Great Books of the Western World is an act of piety. Here are the sources of our being. Here is our heritage. This is the West. This is its meaning for mankind.”

– Robert Hutchins, Editor in Chief

For those interested in purchasing the GBWW, ebay often has several complete sets available for purchase (as of June 2020) between $300 – $450. (~$6-7 per volume). The complete set is 54 volumes, most of which contain multiple books. The following is a list of each book without categorization into the particular volume it appears in. Additionally, some authors (e.g. Sigmund Freud) have so many of their works represented, that listing all of them here is not helpful. For these works (those authors with more than three works represented), I have simply listed as “works of Author” to reduce the list to a manageable size.

If you’re serious about studying the GBWW set in a methodical way, check out the 10 year reading plan provided for the 1952 edition.

Below are a number of images of the GBWW set, highlighting the authors represented, an example title page, the decorative spines, author biographies, text size comparison, and the Syntopicon (vols. 2 & 3), which provide encyclopedic coverage of the “great ideas” along with references to their mentions throughout the GBWW set.

Where can you buy the Great Books of the Western World? While no longer actively printed, you can find some existing sets out there on Amazon or eBay.

On the ThinkingWest Youtube Channel, we’ve provided an in depth review of the GBWW book set below. Christian Poole covers aesthetics, font size, readability, the GBWW’s origins, what works are included, and how to obtain the GBWW set today.

1952 Edition

The following list includes links to suggested editions that can be purchased by those who do not wish to bother with finding a version published by Britannica. Purchasing any book through these links supports ThinkingWest with a small percentage of the total – at no added cost to the buyer.

  1. The Iliad and the Odyssey, Homer
  2. works of Aeschylus
  3. works of Sophocles
  4. works of Euripides
  5. works of Aristophanes
  6. The History, Herodotus
  7. History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides
  8. The Dialogues (incl. Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Gorgias, The Republic, etc.), Plato
  9. Nicomachean Ethics and other works, Aristotle
  10. works of Hippocrates
  11. On the Natural Faculties, Galen
  12. The Thirteen Books of Euclid’s Elements, Euclid
  13. works of Archimides
  14. On Conic Sections, Apollonius of Perga
  15. Introduction to Arithmetic, Nicomachus of Gerasa
  16. On the Nature of Things, Lucretius
  17. The Discourses, Epictetus
  18. The Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
  19. Eclogues, Georgics, and Aenid, Virgil
  20. Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans, Plutarch
  21. The Annals, and The Histories, P. Cornelius Tacitus
  22. Almagest, Ptolemy
  23. On the Revolutions of Heavenly Spheres, Nicolaus Copernicus
  24. The Harmonies of the World, Johannes Kepler
  25. Epitome of Copernican Astronomy, Johannes Kepler
  26. The Six Enneads, Plotinus
  27. The Confessions, Augustine of Hippo
  28. The City of God, Augustine of Hippo
  29. On Christian Doctrine, Augustine of Hippo
  30. Summa Theologica, Thomas Aquinas
  31. Divine Comedy, Dante Alighieri
  32. The Prince, Machiavelli
  33. Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes
  34. Gargantua and Pantagruel, Francois Rabelais
  35. Essays, Michel Eyquem de Montaigne
  36. works of Shakespeare
  37. On the Loadstone and Magnetic Bodies, William Gilbert
  38. Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences, Galileo Galilei
  39. On the Motion and the Heart and Blood in Animals, William Harvey
  40. On the Circulation of Blood, William Harvey
  41. On the Generation of Animals, William Harvey
  42. The History of Don Quixote of La Mancha, Miguel de Cervantes
  43. The Advancement of Learning, Sir Francis Bacon
  44. Novum Organum, Sir Francis Bacon
  45. New Atlantis, Sir Francis Bacon
  46. works of Rene Descartes
  47. Ethics, Benedict de Spinoza
  48. Paradise Lost, John Milton
  49. Samson Agonistes, John Milton
  50. Areopagitica, John Milton
  51. The Provincial Letters, Blaise Pascal
  52. Pensees, Blaise Pascal
  53. Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, Sir Isaac Newton
  54. Optics, Sir Isaac Newton
  55. Treatise on Light, Christian Huygens
  56. A Letter Concerning Toleration, John Locke
  57. Concerning Civil Government, Second Essay, John Locke
  58. An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke
  59. The Principles of Human Knowledge, George Berkeley
  60. An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, David Hume
  61. Gulliver’s Travels, Johnathan Swift
  62. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, Laurence Sterne
  63. The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling, Henry Fielding
  64. The Spirit of the Laws, Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu
  65. A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, Jean Jacques Rousseau
  66. A Discourse on Political Economy, Jean Jacques Rousseau
  67. The Social Contract, Jean Jacques Rousseau
  68. An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith
  69. The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (Parts I & II), Edward Gibbon
  70. works of Immanuel Kant
  71. The Declaration of Independence
  72. The Articles of Confederation
  73. The Constitution of the United States of America
  74. The Federalist, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay
  75. On Liberty, John Stuart Mill
  76. Considerations on Representative Government, John Stuart Mill
  77. Utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill
  78. The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D., James Boswell
  79. Elements of Chemistry, Antoine Laurent Lavoisier
  80. Analytical Theory of Heat, Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier
  81. Experimental Researches in Electricity, Michael Faraday
  82. The Philosophy of the Right, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
  83. The Philosophy of History, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
  84. Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
  85. Moby Dick, or the Whale, Herman Melville
  86. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, Charles Darwin
  87. The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, Charles Darwin
  88. Capital, Karl Marx
  89. Manifesto of the Communist Party, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
  90. War and Peace, Count Leo Tolstoy
  91. The Brothers Karamazov, Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky
  92. The Principles of Psychology, William James
  93. works of Sigmund Freud

1990 (Second) Edition.

The following works were added to expand the original 54 volume set to 60 volumes.

  1. Institutes of the Christian Religion, John Calvin
  2. The Praise of Folly, Erasmus
  3. works of Moliere
  4. Berenice, Jean Racine
  5. Phedre, Jean Racine
  6. Candide, Voltaire
  7. Rameau’s Nephew, Denis Diderot
  8. Fear and Trembling, Soren Kierkegaard
  9. Beyond Good and Evil, Friedrich Nietzsche
  10. Democracy in America, Alexis de Tocqueville
  11. Cousin Bette, Honore de Balzac
  12. Emma, Jane Austen
  13. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  14. Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens
  15. Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain
  16. works of Henrik Ibsen
  17. Pragmatism, William James
  18. An Introduction to Metaphysics, Henri Bergson
  19. Experience and Education, John Dewey
  20. Science and the Modern World, Alfred North Whitehead
  21. The Problems of Philosophy, Bertrand Russell
  22. What is Metaphysics?, Martin Heidegger
  23. Philosophical Investigations, Ludwig Wittgenstein
  24. The Word of God and the Word of Man, Karl Barth
  25. Science and Hypothesis, Henri Poincare
  26. Scientific Autobiography and Other Papers, Max Planck
  27. An Introduction to Mathematics, Alfred North Whitehead
  28. Relativity: The Special and the General Theory, Albert Einstein
  29. The Expanding Universe, Arthur Eddington
  30. Atomic Theory and the Description of Nature, Niels Bohr
  31. Discussion with Einstein on Epistemology, Niels Bohr
  32. A Mathematician’s Apology, G.H. Hardy
  33. Physics and Philosophy, Werner Heisenberg
  34. What is Life?, Erwin Schrodinger
  35. Genetics and the Origin of Species, Theodosius Dobzhansky
  36. The Nature of Life, C.H. Waddington
  37. The Theory of the Leisure Class, Thorstein Veblen
  38. The Acquisitive Society, R.H. Tawney
  39. The General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money, John Maynard Keynes
  40. The Golden Bough, Sir James George Frazer
  41. Essays in Sociology, Max Weber
  42. The Autumn on the Middle Ages, Johan Huizinga
  43. Structural Anthropology, Claude Levi-Strauss
  44. The Beast in the Jungle, Henry James
  45. Saint Joan, George Bernard Shaw
  46. Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  47. Uncle Vanya, Anton Chekhov
  48. Six Characters in Search of an Author, Luigi Pirandello
  49. Remembrance of Things Past: “Swan in Love”, Marcel Proust
  50. A Lost Lady, Willa Cather
  51. Death in Venice, Thomas Mann
  52. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce
  53. To the Lighthouse, Virginia Woolf
  54. The Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka
  55. The Prussian Officer, D.H. Lawrence
  56. The Waste Land, T.S. Eliot
  57. Mourning Becomes Electra, Eugene O’Neill
  58. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
  59. A Rose for Emily, William Faulkner
  60. Mother Courage and Her Children, Bertolt Brecht
  61. The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, Ernest Hemingway
  62. Animal Farm, George Orwell
  63. Waiting for Godot, Samuel Beckett