Year of Great Books

What Should We Read First? 

Help us choose how to begin “A Year of Great Books.’

This article is part of A Year of Great Books, a Slate Academy. To learn more, read Laura Miller’s introduction to the series, or visit

Will spends his days writing about technology for Slate and his nights taking care of a 1-year-old. How can he incorporate great literature into his life? And what should he read?

In this special preview of the Slate Academy A Year of Great Books, Laura Miller and Will Oremus pick the candidates for the first selection in this different kind of book club. Members can vote below on which of those books Laura and Will should discuss on the first episode—coming in two months.

Update, Jan. 7, 2015:
The poll is now closed. We will be discussing The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman


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Episode One: The shortlist

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

A novel in the Gothic tradition—the story of an orphaned governess who gets a job in a gloomy house in the British countryside. Adrienne Rich wrote, “I have never lost the sense that it contains, through and beyond the force of its creator’s imagination, some nourishment I needed then and still need today.”


Sentimental Education by Gustave Flaubert

The classic story of a young man from the provinces who falls in love with a married Parisian women during the Revolution of 1848. Flaubert is famous for the perfection of his style and for his penetrating examination of the disillusionment of modern life.

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The story of a young man full of an estranged sense of his own significance, who decides that, to prove his worth to himself, he needs to get away with murder. It’s an intense, dark book that unites psychological and political concerns.

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne

An almost indescribable comic novel—witty, bawdy, and a tremendous amount of fun—it features the most famous blank page in all literature, and other “postmodern” devices that were not rediscovered until the late 20th century. “Nothing odd will do long,” wrote Samuel Johnson. “Tristram Shandy did not last.” He was wrong.

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