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  • Counter :
  • 778
  • Date :
  • 11/1/2003

1-The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time

Author: Will Durant, John R. Little

From Publishers Weekly
This engaging, accessible book of essays from Pulitzer Prize-winning philosopher and historian Durant, author of the authoritative 11-volume Story of Civilization, should be essential reading for anyone interested in the evolution of thought. Little, the founder and director of The Will Durant Foundation, includes in his slim compendium such works as "The One Hundred 'Best' Books For an Education" and "Twelve Vital Dates in World History." Durant's "The Ten 'Greatest' Thinkers" details minds as enlightening as Confucius and as influential as Darwin, whom Durant says "reduced man to an animal fighting for his transient mastery of the globe." "The Ten 'Greatest' Poets," charts a course from Homer's brilliance to Dante's haunted heart to Whitman's "frank and lusty" originality, in prose peppered with biographical bon mots and excerpts of the world's loveliest poems. Lay folks especially will find this a delightful introduction to Durant's irrepressible style. What else would one expect from Durant, an intellect who, when asked, "Whom in all of history would you most like to have known?" drolly replied, "Madame de Pompadour."

By the time of his death in 1981, it was fashionable for many scholars to deride the works of Will Durant; his faith in human progress and emphasis upon the great achievements of individuals seemed outmoded in circles that stressed pessimism about the fate of humanity and lauded the power of mass movements. So it is refreshing to again encounter historical writing that brims with optimism and pays just tribute to individual minds and ideas that have shaped history and advanced both moral and material progress. Editor Little is a lecturer on philosophy, a documentary filmmaker, and director of the Will Durant Foundation. His compilation of Durant's essays is divided into sections on the greatest thinkers, poets, books, and landmarks of human progress. Even Durant acknowledges that his efforts to rate "top tens" borders on the frivolous, but there is nothing frivolous about Durant's elegant prose and cogent insight into the lives and minds of men as diverse as Confucius, Voltaire, and Darwin. This compact work is a gem that elevates historical writing to the level of superb literature.

About the Author
Will Durant (1885-1981) was awarded the Pulitzer Prize (1968) and the Medal of Freedom (1977). He spent more than fifty years writing his critically acclaimed eleven-volumeThe Story of Civilization (the later volumes written in conjunction with his wife, Ariel). His bookThe Story of Philosophy (1926) is credited as the work that launched Simon & Schuster as a major publishing force and that introduced more people to the subject of philosophy than any other book. Throughout his life, Durant was passionate in his quest to bring philosophy out of the ivory towers of academia and into the lives of laypeople. An early champion of human rights who brought such issues as the brotherhood of man and social reform to public consciousness, Durant, through his writings, continues to entertain and educate readers the world over, inspiring millions of people to lead lives of greater perspective, understanding, and forgiveness.

Book Description

A wise and witty compendium of the greatest thoughts, greatest minds, and greatest books of all time -- listed in accessible and succinct form -- by one of the world's greatest scholars.
From the "Hundred Best Books" to the "Ten Greatest Thinkers" to the "Ten Greatest Poets," here is a concise collection of the world's most significant knowledge. For the better part of a century, Will Durant dwelled upon -- and wrote about -- the most significant eras, individuals, and achievements of human history. His selections have finally been brought together in a single, compact volume. Durant eloquently defends his choices of the greatest minds and ideas, but he also stimulates readers into forming their own opinions, encouraging them to shed their surroundings and biases and enter "The Country of the Mind," a timeless realm where the heroes of our species dwell.
From a thinker who always chose to exalt the positive in the human species,The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time stays true to Durant's optimism. This is a book containing the absolute best of our heritage, passed on for the benefit of future generations. Filled with Durant's renowned wit, knowledge, and unique ability to explain events and ideas in simple and exciting terms, this is a pocket-size liberal arts and humanist curriculum in one volume.

2-The Lessons of History

Author: Durant, Ariel Durant

From Library Journal
This series of 13 essays on the themes and underlying lessons of history was originally written as part of the authors' 11-volume The Story of Civilization (1935-75). The Durants begin by summarizing periods and trends in history. They examine morals and draw conclusions by looking into changes in economics, politics, military customs, and even geographic location. Russ Holcomb reads these essays in a clear, pleasant voice, bringing life and interest to this brief overview of 5000 years of history.
This summary of the history of civilization is jam packed with information and conclusions complete on 3 CDs. Written in 1968, some of the conclusions about where society and the world are going are very dated, especially comments about economics, computers and communication. Read in a no nonsense manner, there are noticeable fluctuations in volume within paragraphs and from disc to disc, made more noticeable by the lack of background hiss. The narrator tends to swallow the ends of sentences. Nevertheless, this summation of The Lessons of History that wraps up The Story of Civilization sheds light on trends and themes of various aspects of society including war, economics, systems of government and technology.
"This production, which features Russ Holcomb as the narrator, is well worth the listen. In fact, the second time around, the essay is even better because the mind's ability to grasp these ideas seems to jump all the way from 50 to 150 watts, much like one of those three-way light bulbs."

Kliatt, September 1994
"Holcomb, a talented reader, makes the discussion by the Durants clear and understandable. His voice makes the text easy to comprehend as each major topic is argued. Students who are familiar with the Story of Civilization series will enjoy this intellectual challenge."

Book Description

In this illuminating and thoughtful book, Will and Ariel Durant have succeeded in distilling for the reader the accumulated store of knowledge and experience from their four decades of work on the ten monumental volumes of The Story of Civilization. The result is a survey of human history, full of dazzling insights into the nature of human experience, the evolution of civilization, the culture of man. With the completion of their life's work they look back and ask what history has to say about the nature, the conduct and the prospects of man, seeking in the great lives, the great ideas, the great events of the past for the meaning of man's long journey through war, conquest and creation -- and for the great themes that can help us to understand our own era.
To the Durants, history is "not merely a warning reminder of man's follies and crimes, but also an encouraging remembrance of generative souls...a spacious country of the mind, wherein a thousand saints, statesmen, inventors, scientists, poets, artists, musicians, lovers, and philosophers still live and speak, teach and carve and sing...."
Designed to accompany the ten-volume set of The Story of Civilization, The Lessons of History is, in its own right, a profound and original work of history and philosophy.

3-Story of Philosophy:

 The Lives and Opinions of the World's Greatest Philosophers
Author: Will Durant

Easily the most engaging writer of Western intellectual history in the English language, Will Durant breathes life into philosophers and their ideas. He is colorful, witty, and above all, informative. Beginning with Socrates and ending with American philosopher John Dewey, Durant summarizes the lives and influence of philosophy's greatest thinkers, painting them with humanity and adding a few of his own wise platitudes. Seventy-some years after its first printing, The Story of Philosophy still stands as one of the best of its kind.

Book Description

A brilliant and concise account of the lives and ideas of the great philosophers -- Plato, Aristotle, Bacon, Spinoza, Voltaire, Kant, Schopenhauer, Spencer, Nietzsche, Bergson, Croce, Russell, Santayana, James and Dewey -- The Story of Philosophy is one of the great books of our time. Few write for the nonspecialist as well as Will Durant, and this book is a splendid example of his eminently readable scholarship. Durant's insight and wit never cease to dazzle; The Story of Philosophy is a key book for any reader who wishes to survey the history and development of philosophical ideas in the Western world.

4- Heroes of History:

 A Brief History of Civilization from Ancient Times to the Dawn of the Modern Age
Author: Will Durant

In this collection of biographical and historical sketches drawn from an unfinished manuscript discovered two decades after his death; Will Durant celebrates historical figures whose examples demonstrate that humans can, "when sufficiently inspired, rise to levels of greatness with the gods themselves."
Durant (1885-1981), the principal author of The Story of Civilization, saw history as a branch of philosophy, and he peppered his stories of great historical actors and events with moral lessons and observed patterns ("One of the most regular sequences in history is that a period of pagan license is followed by an age of puritan restraint and moral discipline"). These brief lectures, touching on leaders and innovators, such as Buddha, Marcus Aurelius, Leonardo de Vinci, and Martin Luther, afford him plenty of opportunity to reflect on the meaning of the past and to offer models for his readers to study and emulate.
Like Durant's other work, this book has an old-fashioned air about it: it is Eurocentric to the core, and it makes almost no mention of women, who surely contributed to the rise of civilizations. Still, fans of Durant's brand of sweeping narrative history will enjoy having these final words from the master. --Gregory McNamee

Book Description

In the tradition of his own bestselling masterpieces The Story of Civilization and The Lessons of History, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Will Durant here traces the lives and ideas of those who have helped to define civilization, from its dawn to the beginning of the modern world.
Four years before his death, Will Durant began work on an abbreviated version of his highly acclaimed eleven-volume series, The Story of Civilization. The project was conceived as a series of audio lectures, but Durant soon realized that the dialogues could be developed into a book that would serve as a wonderfully readable introduction to the subject of history.
Durant completed twenty-one of a proposed twenty-three chapters before his death in 1981, at the age of ninety-six. Those chapters span thousands of years of human history -- from Confucius to Shakespeare, from theRoman Empire to the Reformation, finally ending in the eighteenth century. The manuscript was recently found by Will Durant scholar John Little -- twenty years after Durant finished it -- and its discovery is a major event, not only for lovers of his prose, but for students of history and philosophy the world over.
Heroes of History is a book of life-enhancing wisdom and optimism, complete with Durant's wit, knowledge, and unique ability to explain events and ideas in simple, exciting terms. It is the lessons of our heritage passed on for the edification and benefit of future generations -- a fitting legacy fromAmerica's most beloved historian and philosopher.
Will Durant's popularity asAmerica's favorite teacher of history and philosophy remains undiminished by time. His books are accessible to readers of every kind, and his unique ability to compress complicated ideas and events into a few pages without ever "talking down" to the reader, enhanced by his memorable wit and a razor-sharp judgment about men and their motives, made all of his books huge bestsellers. Heroes of History carries on this tradition of making scholarship and philosophy understandable to the general reader, and making them good reading, as well.
At the dawn of a new millennium and the beginning of a new century, nothing could be more appropriate than this brilliant book that examines the meaning of human civilization and history and draws from the experience of the past the lessons we need to know to put the future into context and live in confidence, rather than fear and ignorance.
Will Durant's work is marked by his own special quality as a writer -- he is tough-minded, optimistic, courageous, and convinced that without knowledge of the past there is no wisdom to guide us to the future. Heroes of History was his last word on the subject, and much of it has been aimed directly at the doubts and fears of people today. It is a major, and unexpected, literary and historical event.

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