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Greatest Minds and Ideas Of All Time [Audiobook, CD, Unabridged] [Audio CD]

Will Durant
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 2003 Audio Editions
Over the course of a legendary career, Will Durant was often asked about the most significant events in history, the best books, the best ideas, and so on. The Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time draws on Durant's encyclopedic knowledge to present a world history "best of" that hits humanity's high points. Included are "The Ten Greatest Thinkers," "The Ten Greatest Poets," "The Ten Peaks of Human Progress," "Twelve Vital Dates in World History," as well as engaging profiles of pioneers like Darwin, Keats, and Whitman. This audio edition showcases Durant's eloquence, originality, and his ability to compare and contrast an array of historical figures and achievements.

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From Publishers Weekly

This engaging, accessible book of essays from Pulitzer Prize-winning philosopher and historian Durant, author of the authoritative 11-volume Story of Civilization, should be essential reading for anyone interested in the evolution of thought. Little, the founder and director of The Will Durant Foundation, includes in his slim compendium such works as "The One Hundred 'Best' Books For an Education" and "Twelve Vital Dates in World History." Durant's "The Ten 'Greatest' Thinkers" details minds as enlightening as Confucius and as influential as Darwin, whom Durant says "reduced man to an animal fighting for his transient mastery of the globe." "The Ten 'Greatest' Poets," charts a course from Homer's brilliance to Dante's haunted heart to Whitman's "frank and lusty" originality, in prose peppered with biographical bon mots and excerpts of the world's loveliest poems. Lay folks especially will find this a delightful introduction to Durant's irrepressible style. What else would one expect from Durant, an intellect who, when asked, "Whom in all of history would you most like to have known?" drolly replied, "Madame de Pompadour."
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

By the time of his death in 1981, it was fashionable for many scholars to deride the works of Will Durant; his faith in human progress and emphasis upon the great achievements of individuals seemed outmoded in circles that stressed pessimism about the fate of humanity and lauded the power of mass movements. So it is refreshing to again encounter historical writing that brims with optimism and pays just tribute to individual minds and ideas that have shaped history and advanced both moral and material progress. Editor Little is a lecturer on philosophy, a documentary filmmaker, and director of the Will Durant Foundation. His compilation of Durant's essays is divided into sections on the greatest thinkers, poets, books, and landmarks of human progress. Even Durant acknowledges that his efforts to rate "top tens" borders on the frivolous, but there is nothing frivolous about Durant's elegant prose and cogent insight into the lives and minds of men as diverse as Confucius, Voltaire, and Darwin. This compact work is a gem that elevates historical writing to the level of superb literature. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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OF THE MANY IDEALS which in youth gave life a meaning and radiance missing from the chilly perspectives of middle age, one at least has remained with me as bright and satisfying as ever before-the shameless worship of heroes. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exalting the Human April 19 2003
In these modern times of cynicism, worn as a garb of superiority, it has become intellectually fashionable, a pose of small minds, to negate greatness, revealing that our heroes are not heroes at all, but mere historical constructs with feet of clay. Unfortunately, this is a pathological symptom of democracy, where mediocrity must be exalted at all costs, to maintain the notion of equality. Men and women must be viewed as equal under the eyes of the law and society, for this is justice. But we are not equal in health, wealth, intelligence and talent. What Will Durant has shown us unashamedly is "...that at the beginning and summit of every age some heroic genius stands, the voice and index of his time...the guide and pioneer into the future." (10)
This necessary little book presents six essays on the greatest thoughts, minds and books of all time. The reader may disagree occasiionally with his choices, though Durant compellingly argues his choices from his informed view as a recognized historian, philosopher and teacher.
The text is a snap shot of history; an opportunity to see the past and its great historical figures through the eyes of a man who made it his life mission to celebrate what it means to be human. Durant's humanism and enthusiasm is highly infectious - one comes away from his texts with a renewed hope that civilization was once great and can be great again. We have been submerged into the pessimistic, fragmented and distilled perspectives of Modernism far too long. Durant's optimism slices like Excaliber through our fashionable cynicism about the world; he is the intellectual white knight, celebrating the miracle of existence and the endless potential of humanity.
At the moment the world is filled with uncertainty and pessimism, therefore this text is highly recommended, for it might cast a glimmer of hope, and a renewed optimism about the world, the future and us.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Durant's heroes. May 29 2004
After having read Durant's 'The story of Philosophy' I was hooked. This author had made the main ideas that had troubled philosophers accessible to the non-Philosopher; to the average Joe that wanted to know what Philosophy was all about. So when I found out he had written a book about "The greatest minds and ideas of all times" I knew I had to get it.
This book is really short, so you know straight away that he wont be going into too much detail and that the book will have to be really selective about who it discusses. It was unfortunate, to me at least, that Durant had to spend so many pages justifying his selection and thus making the actual discussion of the people and ideas much shorter. Some people received only 2 pages which was a disappointment. It would have been better had Durant instead of justifying himself, written more about those people and ideas which would have justified themselves to the reader.
As he admits readily, many of the greatest poets are his favorites, so I think it would be fair to say that his choice of greatest peoples and ideas are not as objective as one might like them to be, but can such a 'top 10' or 'top 12' list ever be wholly objective?
That said, I would still recommend this book to those wanting to know what Durant thought was important to human civilization over its thousands of years of history.
The selection of book Durant gives is quite good, although personally I prefer Mortimer Adler's, which you can get from the Internet or his book "How to read a book: - Appendix A".
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It's said that good things come in small packages. Sometimes great things do, too. This book may be only 118 pages long, but between these covers you will find reasoned and inspired discussion of some of the people and works who have truly ennobled mankind.
Will Durant, in partnership with his wife Ariel, spent his lifetime celebrating our highest and best achievements as a people. His essays on the greatest thinkers, greatest poets, best books, peaks of human progress and vital dates in world history should not only serve as a compact education, it should also fill you with a sense that for all of humanity's folly and waste, we have actually accomplished much that is worthwhile these past few thousand years. It's also very likely this book will spark within you a desire to know and to learn more about our rich heritage.
My only wish for this book is that compiler John Little had included the dates these works were originally written. The chapter on the best books for an education, for example, while including many timeless classics, also includes some volumes which have been surpassed by later works--including the Durant's own magisterial lifework, the "Story of Civilization." But this a minor quibble over what is on the whole an exceptional work.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Begs the Question Feb. 2 2003
This book was a wonderful overview of Great Moments in Western Civilization, and presented a wonderful reading list and survey of the great minds of our time, and some of the most important ideas captured on paper. However, it is fairly out of date and does not include more contemporary works which merit inclusion in such a compendium. Contemporary gurus such as Robert Kyosaki, Tony Robbins, Stephen Hawkings, John Grey, and Clint Arthur are not included due to their relative youth and modern messages. Highly advised would be going directly to the source, experiencing first hand the groundbreaking works "Rich Dad, Poor Dad" or "Men are from Mars," or Clint's "9 Free Secrets of New Sensual Power" which are all life-changing and life-affirming books. The Greatest Minds and Ideas is just a book report for intellectuals -- Rich Dad, Mars, and 9 Free Secrets are the books to read, savor, and profit from by way of enhanced quality of life & authentic connection with Great Authors.
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