Preserving the Canon: Great Books Programs at America’s Colleges and Universities

The Martin Center found thirty-four academic programs that involve a close study of Great Books of Western thought. Although some of the programs in this report aren’t advertised as Great Books programs, their curricula include an in-depth study of core texts. Uniting all these programs together is a desire for wisdom and understanding, and the belief that engaging with the Great Books can aid in this pursuit.

As a whole, one will find that many of the programs share common characteristics: no textbooks; an emphasis on discussion; courses that are seminar-based instead of lecture-based; “teachers” who don’t lecture but rather act as guides or “tutors.”

We encourage you to explore the information we’ve compiled. In this report, you will find a list of the top 50 common titles (25 fiction, 25 non-fiction) required (or examples of what may be required) or recommended at all of these institutions, as well as individual profiles with additional information on each program of study. This list isn’t exhaustive, other Great Books programs surely exist. These are the programs the Martin Center found and was able to attain a sample reading list from.

We hope this information will act as a useful tool and inspire you and the students you know to crack open a Great Book.

Do you know of another Great Books program? Let us know by sending an email to