A Grand Literary Adventure


The nutters who put on the Lake Pepin 3-Speed tour like to talk about what it is to be a “Gentleman Cyclist©.” They have a sort of decalogue (a tredecalogue, actually) of such a cyclist’s attributes. One of these aphorisms in particular caught my attention.

A Gentleman Cyclist© is well reasoned, well read, and well intentioned.


There are three parts to this rule, but for now, let’s just to focus on the part about being “well read.” The Google Machine tells me that to be “well read” is to be “well informed or deeply versed through reading.”

So, if I’m going to be a Gentleman Cyclist©, I’m going to have to read some books. Which books should I read, then? I can’t very well just walk into a book shop and grab the first vampire romance novel that strikes my fancy, now can I?

Varney the Vampire

Not the sort of book I’m looking for

What I need is for some learned scholarly-type person to assemble a reading list for me. The trouble though, is that academically minded persons nowadays are so full of wishy-washy post-modern malarkey, that they might even tell me that randomly-selected vampire romance novels are just as good as the finest works of literature.

As it turns out, there was an academical person –The President of Harvard, no less!– who designed just the sort of list I’m looking for. Dr. Elliot drew up this list in 1909, so there is a World War or two between him and the post-modern chicanery I’m trying to avoid.


Tea candles for effect. I need to dust.

The collection is called the Harvard Classics, and I found a complete set on ebay for a bargain. (The entire set is also available to download for free.)

I’m slowly working my way through the entire 25,000 pages of it. I made myself a nice spreadsheet to track my progress, but I should have a blog-widget type apparatus working shortly.

At the end of this project, I think I’ll be able to consider myself well-read. I am probably not very well-mannered, and I am certainly not well-intentioned. These are virtues I can cultivate at a later date. For now, I have books to read.

©”Gentleman Cyclist” is copyright 2005 by Jon Sharratt

4 thoughts on “A Grand Literary Adventure

  1. So I downloaded all of the Harvard Classics epub files, intending to put them on my Nook. This line is in content.opf:
    The Harvard Classics eboxed Set
    In every single one of them. I’m manually changing them to:
    The Harvard Classics Volume 14, etc.

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