Putting the “Great” in the Great Books Discussion Group

Why should you consider joining the Great Books Discussion Group?

"Anyone can pick up classical literature and read it, but truly understanding and absorbing it is another challenge altogether. Great Books facilitates that process. For me, the readings are commonly secondary to the discussions. Often, I read a selection and find myself nonplussed. It's the discussion that fleshes out the meaning and relevance of the reading."

"I believe that the most profound truths about human experience are timeless and that Great Books are those that most deepen and broaden my understanding of life. As we read and discuss them, I enjoy being in conversation not only with brilliant thinkers and writers throughout history, but also with the people in our group who, like me, find striving to comprehend and relate to the works extremely worthwhile."

"Great Books enriches my life by providing the opportunity to hear the opinions and interpretations of others as we traverse meaningful prose and poetry together. The provided discussion questions lead readers into areas they might not have considered and shed additional light on the various works. It has been a pleasure participating in the dynamic of deeper understanding through the program!"

These erudite words from the Great Books Discussion Group at Lake Forest Library are clearly a reflection of their time spent together pondering "the primary ideas that have moved civilization," according to group coordinator Anne Pollock.

Great Books is built on the belief that literacy and critical thinking help form reflective, knowledgeable citizens equipped to participate constructively in a democratic society. It traces its roots back to 1943, when two University of Chicago educators, Robert Maynard Hutchins and Mortimer Adler, launched a series of Great Books "Shared Inquiry seminars." Rather than asking questions and looking for "right" answers, discussion leaders provided direction and guidance to promote thinking, listening, and responding to questions and comments from others.

This approach continues today in Great Books groups across the country, including the group at Lake Forest Library, which started more than 30 years ago.

In celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding of Great Books in 2022, the Lake Forest Library group created a two‑volume anthology entitled "Classic Readings for Discussion." Group members selected readings including classic works of fiction, poetry, drama, and nonfiction, from William Shakespeare and Adam Smith to Katherine Mansfield and Robert Frost. You can find the books on the nonfiction shelves at the Library.

New members are always welcome to join the Great Books Discussion Group! To get started, complete the Great Books form.