These books and writings about our civilization are recommended reading by The Great Books Reading Foundation.
The list is derived from The New York Public Library Desk Reference, 3rd ed., 1998.


Henry Adams The Education of Henry Adams. 1907
Aeschylus Agamemnon. 458 B.C.
Aristotle Politics. "On Happiness" (excerpt from Nicomachean Ethics). "On Tragedy" 4th Century B.C.
Saint Augustine The City of God. 413-26
Bible Genesis. Exodus. Job. Ecclesiastes. The Gospel of Mark
Edmund Burke Reflections on the Revolution in France. 1790
Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales. c. 1387 
Anton Chekhov Rothschild's Fiddle. 1894. Uncle Vanya. 1896
Karl von Clausewitz "What Is War?" (excerpt from On War). 1833
Joseph Conrad "Heart of Darkness" (story in Typhoon and Youth). 1902
Alighieri Dante "The Inferno" (canticle in the Divine Comedy) c. 1310-1320
Charles Darwin "The Moral Sense of Man and The Lower Animals" (excerpts from On the Origin of Species (1859) and The Descent of Man(1871)
John Dewey "The Virtues" (excerpt from Ethics) 1908. "Habits and Will" (excerpt from Human Nature and Conduct) 1922
Denis Diderot Rameau's Nephew. 1805
Fyodor Dostoevsky Notes from the Underground. 1864
Euripides Medea. Iphigenia at Aulis. 5th century B.C.
Gustave Flaubert "A Simple Heart" (short story) c. 1850
Sigmund Freud "On Dreams" (excerpt from The Interpretation of Dreams) 1900
Edward Gibbon The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 1776, 1781, 1787-88
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Faust, Part I. 1808
Nikolai Gogol "The Overcoat" (first part of novel Dead Souls) 1842
Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, James Madison The Federalist. 1787-88
Herodotus "The Persian War" (excerpt from History) 5th century B.C.
Thomas Hobbes Origin of Government. c. 1690
Homer The Iliad. 8th or 7th century B.C.
David Hume "Of Personal Identity" (excerpt from A Treatise on Human Nature) 1739-40. "Of Justice and Injustice" (excerpt from Essays, Moral and Political) 1739-40
Henry James The Beast in the Jungle. 1903
Franz Kafka The Metamorphosis. 1915
Immanuel Kant Conscience. c. 1781. "First Principles of Morals" (excerpt from Fundamental Principles of the Metaphysics of Ethics). 1785
Soren Kierkegaard "The Knight of Faith" (excerpt from Fear and Trembling). 1843
John Locke "Of Civil Government" (excerpt from the Second of his Two Treatises of Government). 1690
Niccolo Machiavelli The Prince. 1513
Maimonides "On Evil" (excerpt from Guide for the Perplexed) 12th century
Karl Marx "Alienated Labour" (excerpt from Das Kapital). 1867
Herman Melville Billy Budd, Sailor. 1924
John Stuart Mill On Liberty. 1859 Utilitarianism. 1863
Moliere The Misanthrope. 1666
Michel Montaigne "Of Experience" 1578 (Book III, Chapter 13 of Essays.
Baron de Montesquieu "Principles of Government" (excerpt from The Spirit of the Laws) 1748
Friedrich Nietzsche Thus Spoke Zarathustra. 1883-92
Plato The Republic. Symposium. The Crito. The Apology. 4th century B.C.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau The Social Contract. 1762
Arthur Schopenhauer "The Indestructability of Our Inner Nature" (excerpt from The World as Will and Representation) 1818
William Shakespeare Hamlet. 1600-01. Othello. 1604. King Lear. 1606. Anthony and Cleopatra. 1607-08. The Tempest. 1611
George Bernard Shaw Caesar and Cleopatra. 1899
Georg Simmel "Individual Freedom" (excerpt from The Philosophy of Money) 1900
Adam Smith Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations. 1776
Sophocles Antigone. Oedipus the King. 5th century B.C.
Jonathan Swift Gulliver's Travels. 1726
Henry David Thoreau Civil Disobedience. 1849
Thuycidides History of the Peloponnesian War. 5th century B.C.
Alexis de Tocqueville "The Power of the Majority" (excerpt from Democracy in America). 1835, 1840
Leo Tolstoy The Death of Ivan Ilych. 1886
Max Weber The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism. 1920