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Back to February Ed Reporter

Education Reporter
NUMBER 277 THE NEWSPAPER OF EDUCATION RIGHTS FEBRUARY 2009

Great Quotations that Shaped the Western World, Carl H. Middleton, Paragon House 2008, 784 pps., $29.95.

"It's a good thing for an uneducated man to read books of quotations," said Winston Churchill, who read them himself — perhaps proving that the man who does so won't remain uneducated for long. In Great Quotations that Shaped the Western World, Carl H. Middleton provides a useful guide to the Western tradition, and a gateway to its great books and thoughts.

There are several books of quotations on the market, but this latest offering is distinguished by its focus on the Western tradition, its more readable size, and the perspective of the compiler, a conservative businessman. Middleton worked on the book with his three sons in mind, hoping that this reference book would acquaint them and other seekers with wise words from Ancient Greece up to the present day.

The first section of the book is chronological, and the second section is topical. Concise descriptions introduce each set of quotations. Middleton also summarizes important terms and events, under entries such as "Congress of Vienna" and "Feminism."

Middleton includes quotations from across the political spectrum, but the high value he places on liberty, democracy, and capitalism differentiates this anthology from others. The editor of Bartlett's 16th edition, for example, selected dozens of quotations from John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt but only three from Ronald Reagan. Editor Justin Kaplan said in his own defense, "I'm not going to disguise the fact that I despise Ronald Reagan."

This liberal bent deprives readers of other anthologies of many great quotes of interest to conservatives — such as this one, from Reagan's first inaugural address, 28 years ago: "In this [economic] crisis, government is not the solution, it's the problem." Or this, from Robert Bork: "The judge's authority derives entirely from the fact that he is applying the law and not his personal values."

Middleton's Great Quotations skips over the trivial pop-culture references that appear in recent editions of Bartlett's (such as "Me want cookie" and "Tennis, anyone?").

Middleton intends the book for a broad audience, especially for students from high school to graduate school. The browser-friendly format and several indices make the 8,000 quotations surprisingly accessible. This treasury of great thoughts and wise words will improve users' writing and add to their knowledge. "But beware of using it on deadline," warns journalist Suzanne Fields — "you can get lost in it for hours!"


 
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