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Common sense isn't.


The Five-Foot Shelf of Books


Fifteen Minutes a Day

The Reading Guide

[Introduction] [January] [February] [March] [April] [May] [June] [July] [August] [September] [October] [November] [December]

Also check out:
An older perspective on words in books.
An MIT Museum article on Charles Eliot.



When shepherds pipe on oaten straws,
And merry larks are ploughmen's clocks,
When turtles tread, and rooks, and daws,
And maidens bleach their summer smocks.
SHAKESPEARE (Vol. 40, p. 265)

1 Thrilling Play by Tutor of Shakespeare
For the best blank verse in English, read "Dr. Faustus," the masterpiece of Marlowe, who gave Shakespeare lessons in playwriting. This genius knew the secret of gripping drama.
(Marlowe died June 1, 1593.)
Read from Marlowe's DR. FAUSTUS Vol. 19, pp. 241-250

2 "Back to Nature" in the Seventeenth Century
A "Back to Nature" movement in the seventeenth century was headed by Rousseau, who believed that civilization was degrading. To save money for his work, he entrusted each of his children to the tender mercies of a foundling house.
(Jean Jacques Rousseau born June 2, 1712.)
Read from Rousseau's A SAVOYARD VICAR Vol. 34, pp. 239-249

3 Pulse Aids Epochal Discoveries
Galileo, by holding his pulse while watching a swinging cathedral lamp, evolved a theory that made clocks possible. Harvey, by feeling his pulse, educed that arteries carry blood.
(Dr. William Harvey died June 3, 1657.)
Read from MOTION OF THE HEART AND BLOOD Vol. 38, pp. 75-86

4 'Neath the Iron Hand of Spain
Spain sent the Duke of Alva to subdue the Netherlands. In quelling disorder he killed the people's hero, Count Egmont. From this story Goethe made a famous play.
(Egmont sentenced to death June 4, 1658.)
Read from Goethe's EGMONT Vol. 19, pp. 253-259

5 The Rent of Land from Human Food
Even to-day rent is paid in terms of human food. It sounds primitive, but it happens right at your door - here in the United States, in compliance with a law as old as man.
(Adam Smith born June 5, 1723.)
Read from Adam Smith's WEALTH OF NATIONS Vol. 10, pp. 149-157


JUNE Reading Guide

6 A Shrill Cry in the Night!
A crew faced the hazardous prospect of rounding the bleak Cape Horn in midwinter. Imagine the terror when a sudden scream pierced the misery-laden air. What was it? A man overboard or a lost soul?
(R. H. Dana on watch, night of June 6, 1836.)
Read from Dana's TWO YEARS BEFORE THE MAST Vol. 23, pp. 285-295

7 "There's Rosemary - that's for Remembrance!"
Do you know the rest of Ophelia's famous line? "Hamlet" is the most popular play in the entire world. It has been quoted so often that reading it is like meeting an old friend.
(Edwin Booth, famed Shakespearian actor, died June 7, 1893.)
Read from HAMLET Vol. 46, pp. 176-183

8 Eloquence Wins Over Prejudice
The plain, homely appearance of Woolman impressed unfavorably the orthodox Quakers in London whom he was sent to meet. They told him his coming was not necessary. But Woolman spoke with such simplicity and sincerity that even those most opposed became his friends.
(John Woolman arrives in London for Friends' meeting, June 8, 1772.)
Read from WOOLMAN'S JOURNAL Vol. 1, pp. 302-312

9 Enchanting Songs of David
The songs of David pleased King Saul, but when David became too popular with the people, the king feared for his throne and banished him.
Read from THE PSALMS Vol. 44, pp. 168-179

10 Horrible Prophecy Fulfilled
King Œdipus of Thebes as a babe was abandoned on Mount Cithæron to die. Years after he was thought dead he returns to Thebes and unknowingly slays his father, marries his mother - and thus fulfills the word of the oracle.
Read from Sophocles' ŒDIPUS, KING OF THEBES Vol. 8, pp. 209-223

11 He Sang of His Beautiful Elizabeth
To commemorate his marriage to the beautiful Elizabeth, Spenser wrote one of the most enchanting nuptial hymns.
(Edmund Spenser married Elizabeth Boyle, June 11, 1594.)
Read: Spenser's THE EPITHALAMIUM Vol. 40, pp. 234-245


JUNE Reading Guide

12 Vishnu Holds Up a Battle
Two armies of ancient India were about to engage in a momentous battle. Arjuna, heroic leader of the Pandu hosts, foreseeing great slaughter, hesitates. He implores the divine Vishnu to intervene. The conversation of the warrior and the god is a gem of Hindu literature.
Read from THE BHAGAVAD-GITA Vol. 45, pp. 785-798

13 Athens Flouts Aristides
Athenians gave Aristides the title of "The Just." Later they wanted to banish him. One voter wanted Aristides banished merely because he was weary of hearing him called "The Just."
Read from Plutarch's ARISTIDES Vol. 12, pp. 85-94

14 A Philosopher Prefers Prison Cell
Socrates unceasingly strove for beauty, truth, and perfection. Sentenced to death on a false charge, he refused to escape from the death cell, even when opportunity was offered.
Read: Plato's CRITO Vol. 2, pp. 31-43

15 Strikers Storm the Tower of London
Led by Wat Tyler in 1381, great troops of villagers and rustics marched on London - laid siege to the Tower - sacked the apartments of the King and murdered his ministers. Froissart gives first-hand information of this rebellion.
(Wat Tyler's Rebellion suppressed June 15, 1381.)
Read from Froissart's WAT TYLER'S REBELLION Vol. 35, pp. 60-72

16 Spirits at the Top of the World
The inaccessible mountain tops were ever venerated as the haunts of all mysteries. Manfred, hero of Byron's play, seeks upon the high Alps the aid of spirits, specters, and goblins. What unearthly adventures await him!
(Byron publishes "Manfred," June 16, 1817.)
Read from Byron's MANFRED Vol. 18. pp. 415-428

17 Risked His Scalp in Prayer
John Eliot put his life at the mercy of the redmen to get them to listen to his preachings. He wrote vividly about his settlements of Christian Indians. Now villages and Indians have disappeared. Only his story remains.
(John Eliot holds Indian prayer meeting June 17, 1670.)
Read: Eliot's BRIEF NARRATIVE Vol. 43, pp. 138-146


JUNE Reading Guide

18 Cinderella Lives To-day
Cinderella inspires all alike - the artist's brush, the author's pen, the child's fancy. To-day she is a living, vital character to be seen on stage and screen. No one ever forgets her lightning change.
Read from GRIMM'S TALES Vol. 17, pp. 98-104

19 Freaks of the Dog Fad in England
A writer of Elizabethan times said that no other country had as many dogs as England. Once Henry VII ordered all mastiffs to be hung because they "durst presume to fight against the lion," England's regal beast.
Read: Holinshed's OUR ENGLISH DOGS . Vol. 35, pp. 350-356

20 No Salt for These Birds
Galapagos Islands are the home of fearless birds, to which horses, cows, and men are only roosting places. Darwin saw the South Pacific when few travelers knew that wonderland.
Read from Darwin's VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE Vol. 29, pp. 403-413

21 Would You Converse with Royalty?
Why gossip with lesser persons when you might be talking to queens and kings? Just how we may get to talk to queens and kings, Ruskin delightfully points out and escorts us to the very doors of the audience chamber.
Read from Ruskin's SESAME Vol. 28, pp. 99-110

22 Pliny Tells Ghost Stories
Pliny, who lived in the first century after Christ, tells of a ghost who dragged his jangling chains through a house in Athens and so terrified the inmates that they fled panic-stricken. But the ghost met his equal.
Read from Pliny's LETTERS Vol. 9, pp. 311-314

23 Greek Scholar at Three
John Stuart Mill - one of the greatest intellects in England - tells how his father educated him. At the early age of three years he began the study of Greek, and at twelve started writing a book of his own.
(James Mill, father of John Stuart Mill, died June 23, 1836.)
Read from Mill's AUTOBIOGRAPHY Vol. 25, pp. 9-20


JUNE Reading Guide

24 Had No Right Hand
A handsome young man was seen to eat only with his left hand, which was contrary to the customs of Arabia. The youth, when urged, told why he used only his left hand, and revealed a story of love and adventure and the lover's need for gold - all happening in ancient Cairo.
Read from THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS Vol. 16, pp. 120-133

25 Advice to Virgins from a Wise Man
"Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, Old Time is still a-flying; And this same flower that smiles today, to-morrow will be dying?" Herrick was only a humble country minister with a wealth of wisdom and a keen appreciation of life, which he expressed in lyrics of wonderful beauty and melody.
Read: HERRICK'S POEMS Vol. 40, pp. 334-340

26 In the Lair of the Green-Eyed Monster
At the bottom of the ocean was the home of the monster who had desolated the king's halls. Beowulf, bravest of warriors, descended beneath the waves to fight the beast. The king's men, waiting above, saw the waves become colored with blood. Hero or monster - who had won?
Read from BEOWULF Vol. 49, pp. 45-50

27 Do You Take Poison Daily?
There is a human trait most poisonous to a man's blood. Man seeks to avoid it because he knows that it lies like a curse upon him. Just what is the poisonous human failing? Who are most subject to it? Bacon tells you in one of his best essays.
(Francis Bacon enrolled at Cambridge University, June 27, 1576.)
Read from BACON'S ESSAYS Vol. 3 pp. 22-26

28 Pages from the Pampas Book of Etiquette
A very definite etiquette is followed by a stranger on the vast plains of South America. "Ave Maria" is the common salutation. If the stranger is on horseback, he does not alight until invited to do so by his host. Once in the house, the stranger must converse a while before asking shelter for the night.
Read from Darwin's VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE Vol. 29, pp. 51-60


JUNE Reading Guide

29 "Is That a Dagger I See Before Me?"
Macbeth, spurred on by the ambitious and crafty Lady Macbeth, committed murder to secure the crown of Scotland. But he paid dearly for his gain. Ghostly guests appeared at his banquet and threatened him with dire threats.
(Shakespeare's Globe Theatre burned June 29, 1613.)
Read from Shakespeare's MACBETH Vol. 46, pp. 357-365

30 Rather King Than Majority
"Democracy" has not always been the choice of oppressed people. The tyranny of the majority is a recognized evil as harmful as the misrule of a king. And rather than exchange a lesser evil for a greater, a rule by king has often been preferred to a republic.
Read: Mill's ON LIBERTY Vol. 25, pp. 195-203

Socrates refuses escape from prison
Escape from prison is offered Socrates, but his conscientious principles regarding man's relations to the laws caused him to refuse this opportunity and face the death decreed by his judges. (See Reading Assignment for June 14.)


[Introduction] [January] [February] [March] [April] [May] [June] [July] [August] [September] [October] [November] [December]

Also check out:
An older perspective on words in books.
An MIT Museum article on Charles Eliot.

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Quote of the moment
I am absolutely opposed to the death penalty. My predecessor abolished it in Tibet. Today I find it unbelievable that it persists in large countries like China and India. They still kill people in the name of justice in the country of Mahatma Gandhi! In the very land where the Buddha taught!

The death penalty is pure violence, a barbaric and useless violence. Dangerous even, because it can only lead to other acts of violence - as all violence does. The supreme punishment ought to be a life sentence, and one without brutality.

~ The Path to Tranquility, August 14, 14th Dalai Lama ~

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