Go straight to the:

  • Guides, helping you explore a subject
  • Listings, the raw data of The Guide
  • Chronology, a timeline of the Classics
  • Calendar, a day-by-day chronicle of births and deaths
  • Archives, where texts are stored
  • The Store, Thing you can buy to help a scholar out
  • The 300, about how to support The Guide


So what's The Guide all about? Who's it for?

Let's talk about you for a minute.

Maybe you didn't get to go to college. Or maybe you spent those precious years studying something merely useful, like engineering, or education. Or maybe you did delve into the humanities, but with too narrow a focus, and too much pressure to attain those elusive grades.

Whatever the case, if you're like me, you always find yourself wanting to know...more.

So, I have a few questions for you:
  • When someone mentions "Homer," do you picture a blind poet, or TV's dumbest dad?
  • Can you tell even ONE of the Canterbury Tales in your own words? (There are 24.)
  • Which Shakespeare plays are must-see? (And which should be avoided at all costs? Ssssshhh!)
  • When it comes to Gables, can you tell Anne of Green from The House with the Seven?
  • Do you know much about "Modern Japanese Novels" (for 500, Alex)?

If this sort of thing stumps you, read on.

I'm James Baquet, creator of Baquet's Guide to the World's Classics.

Most of us know that there are things that we should have read, and we would have--if only we had had the time.

Well, I'm here to tell you that just knowing about these works can be ennobling.

Yes, if you have time, by all means read them (and I'll help guide you toward the best of the best).

But if you don't have the time to read, say, the 528 pages of The Canterbury Tales, or the 240 pages of The House of the Seven Gables, why not read Baquet's Guide?

(About that name: I have long admired the independent scholars who slaved away at a project and slapped their names on their legacies: Webster's Dictionary, Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, Roget's Thesaurus, Peewee's Big Adventure... So as I step boldly into my seventh decade, I thought, "What the hey?")

Now, I'll be covering not just literature (novels, poetry, drama), but also philosophy, theology, history, biography, science, and mathematics. In addition, I've thrown in selected artists and musicians from the Western tradition, and even some noted filmmakers.

Yes, this will be encyclopedic, but not an encyclopedia. (We already have Wikipedia for that.) This will be pithier, puncher, more bullet-y, and the essays (which will take some time--after all, I'm covering nearly 1,300 individual authors, artists, composers, and filmmakers, plus around 60 works by that well-known guy, "Anonymous") will be opinionated, scrappy, and sometimes downright capricious.

Think of those old BBC series (like Kenneth Clark's misspelled Civilisation) with the subtitle "A Personal View." That's it. This is my guide, dang it.

Now, let me come clean: I haven't read but a fraction of the works I'll be discussing. So "How dare I?" you may well ask.

I have done what I'm encouraging you to do. I have looked at all of these works (as opposed to actually reading every one of them cover-to-cover), dipped into them, read background on them. And of course, where possible, read them whole, and even studied a few.

But I believe (and I'm not alone) that "cultural literacy" is a matter of knowing about the products of a culture, not necessarily having sat down and spent a whole season of our all-too-short lives with them.

So I'm doing the heavy lifting, digging up the dirt on these people (did you know that the mother of screwball-comedy director Preston Sturges had an affair with the occultist Aleister Crowley, and is listed as a co-author of his magnum opus, Magick?), finding the quirks that make them all-too-human (do you know about Tycho Brahe's nose?) as well as the genius that makes their works, well, classics.

Along the way we'll have some fun, learn some stuff worth knowing, and plug in to culture--largely the culture of the West, but Indian, Chinese, and Japanese cultures in large doses too, as well as nibbles here and there of less-large but still rich matrices.

Over the next few months I'll be building out the site, and then adding the essays over the next thirteen to fifteen years.

So join me, won't you?

And please consider becoming a supporter (there's gonna be a newsletter and everything!)

More soon,
James Baquet
Angeles City, The Philippines
August 24, 2016

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