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Dead White Guys: A Father, His Daughter and the Great Books of the Western World

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  199 ratings  ·  44 reviews
Dead White Guys is a timely defense of the great books, arriving in the middle of a national debate about the fate of these books in high schools and universities around the country. Burriesci shows how the great books can enrich our lives as individuals, as citizens, and in our careers.

Extending the argument first made by Anna Quindlen on the act of reading itself, How
Kindle Edition, 266 pages
Published June 9th 2015 by Viva Editions (first published May 12th 2015)
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Jul 10, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: netgalley
When I was in my early twenties, I wouldn't even pick up a paperback if it said, "New York Times Bestseller" on the cover. I always had a respect, love and admiration for the classics, and believed in looking towards the trusted and time-tested masters of whatever field I studied. Though my reading is now, thankfully, a lot more eclectic, my blood pressure still rose when I read how most English majors these days can get their degree without ever reading Shakespeare.

When I first came across
David Huff
Apr 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Don't let the unusual title freak you out --- this is a book with a creative premise. Matt Burriesci, who has a love for the "Great Books", and a recently born daughter, Violet, whom he loves even more, is worried that the Great Books won't be taught much, if any, as she moves through her school years. So this book, Dead White Guys, is a book-length love letter to his daughter, Violet --- which she's not to read until she turns 18 -- to introduce her to the Great Books.

An in-depth study this is

Disclaimer: ARC via Netgalley.

If this book is anything to go by, Matt Burriesci and his wife are people I would love to met and know.

Yes, this is one of those books.

If you are the product of a college education within the last say 30 years or so, you know that there has been a huge, almost never ending debate, about canon. What should be taught and what should be dropped to make room for the newly discovered important things. On one hand, this is a good thing. Undoubtedly there are writers
This book is full of contradictions -- it's like the author is trying to give lots of advice to his daughter and readers, but hasn't quite figured out his own worldview yet.

He seems to believe in some Christian values, but is not a practicing Christian? He has a chapter on much of the "golden rule" stuff Jesus said, but nothing about the demands he made of his followers, or all the sadness and anger and grief that filled his life and gave his teachings meaning -- nothing about why he died and
Paula Dennan
Aug 06, 2015 rated it it was ok
Dead White Guys: A Father, His Daughter and the Great Books of the Western World* is part memoir, part life advice and part defence of the literary canon.

The idea is that Burriesci’s daughter, Violet, will read the book when she is older and can gain a greater understanding of the world’s politics, philosophies and traditions while, hopefully, learning from the mistakes of her father.

I thought this would be an interesting companion text to the ongoing discussions about reading more books
May 08, 2015 rated it liked it
Matthew Burresci’s Dead White Guys: A Father, His Daughter and the Great Books of the Western World is a blend of memoir and epistle. Burresci shares the wisdom he had learned from Plato, Aristotle, John Locke, Niccolò Machievelli, Michel de Montaigne, Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and others and stories about his life with his young daughter. The premise is that Violet is to read this book when she turns 18. Burresci hopes that Violet might avoid some of the mistakes he made, as well as understand why ...more
Ron Jones
Jan 16, 2018 rated it it was ok
I just can’t finish it...... not giving me anything worth spending my time on.
Feb 18, 2016 rated it liked it
(2.5) Dead White Guys takes the form of a letter from the author to his daughter. It comes with instructions that she should read it in 2028, when she’s 18 years old. With all the talk about diversity in texts, he fears that books by “dead white guys” will gather dust and go unread by future generations. No one will read them or teach them, but—he insists—they are important! Our Western society as we know it was founded on the principles and ideas from these books, so we can’t let them fade into ...more
Kenia Sedler
Apr 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Incredible journey through the wisdom from some of Western civilization's most prominent teachers. I'll definitely be referencing this as I come to read each literary work discussed in each chapter of this book.
Dec 21, 2017 rated it did not like it
To be blunt: what an AWFUL book! The author divulges enough details about himself and his temperament for me to know that, to put it as nicely as possible, he is, we'll say, not the sort of guy I would want to hang out with. He makes incorrect assessments about America (we're a Christian nation whether we like it or not? umm, no!), he spends more than a third of the book discussing ancient Greco-Roman philosophers (would we call them white guys?) when from the title I would have expected more ...more
Rebecca Ray
Feb 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
A Father, who becomes interested in the "Great Books" of the Western World, decides to write a book for his daughter to read at the age of 18 defending the great books. He attempts to show why she should read them and what he has learned from the books. He spans from Plato to Marx in his consideration, but tends to cherrypick certain books and has over representations from a few authors in the Western Canon without any representation from other great authors. He also often has historical facts ...more
Donn Headley
Jul 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: philosophy
Burriesci's book arises from an admirable premise: urging his young daughter, and the younger generation and the rest of us, to read the great books from the Greek, Roman, Christian, Enlightenment, Modern and other traditions, for the Truth, Goodness, and Beauty they transmit. So much of the ideas and writings of the last few centuries and especially the current one are full of tripe, gutter-language and banality. They are too often not worth anyone's time, especially one who is seeking answers ...more
Rachel Martin
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Dead White Guys is one white guy's letter to his daughter in which he summarises much of the Western canon, linking each figure/writer's (Plato, Jesus, Locke, Smith etc) ideas to life lessons his daughter may need in the future. The premise of the book is interesting - while the ideas of many canonical writers are now not taught or discussed, their thinking continues to impact much of Western society. Burriesci does acknowledge that the shift away from their ideas is partly because modern ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I am not an American. This was written by an American for an American. The Great books of the Western World were selected by white American guys. So I can accept the thinking that they were thinking about what Americans needed to learn.
I, the not American, learned so much. Whilst there were the odd things that I did not agree with, my not agreement doesn't change the fact that this was an exceptionally good book. Many of the very American sections were still applicable to so many other places
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An excellent survey and overview of the key lessons from great thinkers and great literature of western civilization, specifically Socrates, Plato, Aristophanes, Aristotle, Plutarch, St. Matthew on Jesus, St Luke, Augustine, Machiavelli, Montaigne, Shakespeare, John Locke, Rousseau, Edward Gibbon, American founding fathers, the Constitution, Adam Smith, Marx and Engels. The author writes this survey to his daughter. He is a very knowledgeable classicist and historian. Whether or not you have had ...more
Jun 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
LOVED this book. Should be required reading for college students in a facilitated class. The author succinctly summarized the wisdom of "dead white guys": Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Lycurgus, Alexander, and even Machiavelli,, and applied their thoughts to lessons for modern life in this book that is essentially a letter to his young daughter, to be read when she turns 18. The great questions are: How are we to behave in an immoral world? How do we know the truth? What is justice? Why do ...more
Aug 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
So I joined a book club that is working their way through the Great Books of the Western World. I didn’t even know this existed until recently. I was overwhelmed by the reading list at first, but this book changed my mind and has made me excited to take on the challenge. This book was the perfect introduction for me. I am already planning on rereading it. I enjoyed the authors sincerity and heart as he shared what he learned from reading with his daughter. I appreciated his perspective and ...more
Michelleandderek Nakagawa
I'm not sure what I expected this book to be, but it wasn't exactly this super intellectual work. Not that I am opposed to books of this sort.
Part political, historical, economical, and philosophical, this was quite an interesting book to write for one's daughter. As I was listening to it, I couldn't help but wonder if she actually would appreciate it at the age of 18 or if it would be completely over her head or just beyond her young experience. For me, it was a nice study in all the fields
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
I thought this book was lovely. A love letter from a father to his daughter and a sweeping review of the Western canon. And somehow it works. It's very much the authors' take on these works and I am sure some would disagree with how he responds to the material. But I felt his analysis was pretty competent as well as being very personal. I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt it would help anyone get a better grounding on our greatest cultural milestones.
Pauline Mountain
Aug 09, 2018 rated it liked it
Burriesci takes a deep look at the reading of what used to be called the Western Canon and extracts meaning from the intersection of classical philosophy and his own life. What surprised me was how many of these same books I've read. I agreed with some of his interpretation, I disagreed with others, but it's a necessary part of the conversation about society and our lives in it.
Travis Niemeyer
Jul 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Thought provoking take on some of the West’s greatest thinkers

I really enjoyed this book and the unique structure (i.e. writing to his daughter). I didn’t always agree with the author but somehow I think he would be alright with, or even celebrate, that.

This book has inspired me to go back and look at some of the Western classics and form my own opinions and takeaways.
Stanley Turner
May 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting read. i enjoyed reading this book although it took me a little longer that most books of this length. The works included are some of the most important works in the Western Literary Tradition. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the Great Books...
Sep 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Revisiting History with Present Perspective

We can move forward better when we know more. Loved Burriesvi's ability to consider where we came from and question where we're going, while focusing on our next generation.
Justin Hill
Nov 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: gave-up
Had potential but lost my interest.
Justin Reimink
Jun 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A good read for anyone.

I cannot recommend this book enough. It delivers the meat of many of the greatest discussions and does so in a fun and heartwarming manner.
Jun 05, 2019 rated it it was ok
Well-intentioned, but both simplistic and unsure of what it is trying to say
Dec 31, 2017 rated it did not like it
Apart from a few, very short memoir-like paragraphs scattered throughout the book, and the mention of his daughter’s name maybe 30 times, this is basically a history textbook.
Mike Crews
May 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Not quite what I expected...

This book began rather interesting, but the closer the author got to the modern world, the more “progressive” his views became.
Apr 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I will honestly say the title did not appeal to me at the time this book was released. I acquired it through bookbub for $1.99, with the thought 'for a cup of coffee, let's see what this is about."

I simply loved this. I intended to put this up for staff rec's but is not available to order. And I sort of get this. In a world where news, real or fake, is instant; where being famous is a goal, despite what aspects of character are sacrificed, examining the teachings of 'dead white guys' not so up
Apr 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Really liked this. In the form of a letter to his daughter, Burriesci gave an overview of some of the Great Books of the Western World. Yes, they were all "dead white guys" but they are still the foundation of our Western thought and civilization. In a way, the book reminded me of Sophie's World, giving an intro to the philosophy that has shaped our thinking.
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Matt Burriesci is the author of Nonprofit (New Issues Press, 2015) and Dead White Guys: A Father, his Daughter, and the Great Books of the Western World (Viva Editions, June 2015). His stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines. He began his career at the Tony Award Winning Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier, and later served as Executive Director for both the Association of ...more
“So urgent on the vulgar is the necessity of believing, that the fall of any system of mythology will most probably be succeeded by the introduction of some other mode of superstition. Christian” 0 likes
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