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Book Club

Our book club theme this semester is the beautiful and the ugly, with special emphasis on the importance of experiencing and learning about beautiful things in education.

Most readings for the book club will be posted online a week or two before the meeting. You’ll be able to access the reading in this space and on the events page. For two readings this semester, Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and Jane Austen’s Persuasion, the Jefferson Center will provide copies of the books to students who request them and who commit to coming to the book club meeting. Write to to request a copy.

Book clubs typically meet on Mondays from 5:30-7:00 in Waggener 212. On Thursday, February 5, book club will meet at lunch in Batts 5.108. Also, the Persuasion book club will take places on Tuesday, March 26, at our usual 5:30 PM time in Waggener 212.

Spring 2024 Schedule
  • Monday, January 22: Nathaniel Hawthorne, “The Artist of the Beautiful” and “The Birthmark”
  • Monday, January 29: Plato’s Rival Lovers (special event; continued from last fall)
  • Thursday, February 8: John Keats, selected poems
    • This book club will meet at 12:30 in Batts 5.108. Lunch will be served if you RSVP to
  • Monday, February 19: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, excerpt on taste from Emile
  • Monday, February 26: Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, excerpt from Lectures on Aesthetics
  • Monday, March 4: Tom Stoppard, Arcadia
  • Tuesday, March 26: Jane Austen, Persuasion
  • Monday, April 8: Selections from the Bible on beauty and virtue
  • Monday, April 22: Flannery O’Connor, “Parker’s Back”
  • Monday, April 29: Friedrich Nietzsche, excerpt from The Birth of Tragedy
Fall 2023


For further details on these events, please see Upcoming Events. PDFs of the readings are posted on the Events page about two weeks in advance of each book club meeting. 

For readings from past book clubs listed by date, click here and browse for the selection you would like.

You may also find our collection of archived readings online.

Past Events

1001 Nights, (Selections)
Al-Ghazali, The Incoherence of the Philosophers (excerpts)
Aristotle on Friendship
Aristotle, Physics
The Arthashastra: Law, Governance, and Society in Ancient India
Augustine, City of God (excerpt)
Jane Austen, Persuasion
Jane Austin, Sense and Sensibility
Francis Bacon, Great Instauration
Essays of Francis Bacon
Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron (excerpt)
Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy (excerpt)
Albert Camus, "The Retreat of Helen"
Cervantes, Don Quixote
Essays of Winston Churchill
Living Ethically, selections from Confucius
Dante, Purgatorio (excerpt)
Dostoyevski, The Brothers Karamazov (The Grand Inquisitor and other selections)
Essays and Letters of Albert Einstein
Euclid, Elements (Selections)
Franklin's Autobiography, parts 1 and 2
Edward Gibbon, History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
Heraclitus, Fragments
Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy
Thomas Jefferson (Selections)
The Sermon on the Mount
Kafka, Before the Law
Søren Kierkegaard, Sickness Unto Death (excerpt)
Thomas Kuhn, Structure of Scientific Revolutions
Abraham Lincoln (Selections)
Niccolo Machiavelli, Discourses (excerpt)
Herman Melville, "The Lightning-Rod Man"
John Milton, Paradise Lost (excerpts)
Essai (selections), Michel de Montaigne
What is happiness? (Selections from the Stoics and Montaigne)
Nietzsche, Birth of Tragedy
Nietzsche, "The Problem of Socrates"
Plato, Phaedo (excerpt)
Marcel Proust, Remembrance of Things Past (selections)
Ayn Rand, Anthem
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Letter to D'Alembert
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "The Levite of Ephraim"
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, "Preface to Narcisse"
Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Reveries
William Shakespeare, Midsummer Night's Dream, American Shakespeare Center performance followed by discussion
William Shakespeare, Coriolanus
William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
William Shakespeare, Tempest (following Actors from the London Stage performances)
Adam Smith, Theory of Moral Sentiments, selections
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn The Gulag Archipelago (excerpts)
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, A World Split Apart
John Steinbeck, East of Eden (excerpt)
Leo Strauss, "What is Liberal Education?"
Jonathan Swift, "Battle of the Books"
Ibn Tufayl, Hayy Ibn Yacqzan
Mark Twain, "The Diaries of Adam and Eve"
Voltaire, Candide
Kurt Vonnegut, Harrison Bergeron
David Foster Wallace, Everything and More
Xenophon, Apology

Movie Night: All the King's Men
Movie Night: Blade Runner
Movie Night: Casablanca
Movie Night, Chariots of Fire
Movie Night: Crimes and Misdemeanors
Movie Night: Bernardo Bertolucci's Il Conformista
Movie Night: Metropolitan
Movie Night: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Movie Night: O Brother, Where Art Thou?
Movie Night: Pleasantville
Movie Night: Spartacus
Movie Night: The Counterfeit Traitor
Movie Night: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
Movie Night: The Seventh Seal
Movie Night: Tristan and Isolde
Movie Night: Barcelona


Fall 2022

  • Monday, August 29: Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Self-Reliance" and "Heroism"
  • Monday, September 12: Plato, Laches, first half
  • Monday, September 26: Plato, Laches, second half 
  • Monday, October 10: The Epic of Gilgamesh
  • Monday, October 24: Niccolo Machiavelli , The Life of Castruccio Castracani 
  • Monday, November 7: Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Discourse on the Virtue Most Necessary for a Hero 
  • Monday, November 28: Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Chapters 1-15 
  • Monday, December 5: Herman Melville, Billy Budd, Chapters 16-30 

Spring 2023 Schedule

  • Thursday, January 19: Aristophanes's Congresswomen
  • Thursday, January 26: Mark Twain, "The Diaries of Adam and Eve"
  • Thursday, February 9: MOVIE NIGHT: Much Ado About Nothing (NB: This meeting will take places in Batts 5.108, and we'll order pizza for the discussion afterwards)
  • Thursday, February 23: Niccolo Machiavelli, La Mandragola
  • Thursday, March 9: Franz Kafka, "Before the Law" (excerpt from The Trial)
  • Thursday, March 23: Jane Austen, Lady Susan
  • Monday, April 3 (day change!): Moliere, Le Misanthrope
  • Thursday, April 20: Jonathan Swift, The Battle of the Books