Dear parent, student, or teacher,

The Essentials Schedule for Old Western Culture is a selection from the full Old Western Culture reading list (see the full list in one place). There are two primary reasons you might want to do the Essentials Schedule:

  1. You want to cover the material at a faster pace. A common example would be the desire to fit four years of Old Western Culture into two or three last years of high school, or a full year into a summer schedule.
  2. You want to spend more time on fewer books, following a more relaxed “less is more” principle, leaving more time for discussion, contemplation, and enjoyment.

This schedule is not a “light” reading load. Even if you are doing this schedule to spend more time in each book, it is still a lot of reading. Even this abridged list would be considered an “honors” course in any private or public school. This list is also adaptable. This is my suggestion of the highlights from a list which is already a “great books” list of highlights. Feel free to disagree, and do a different selection.

I recommend watching all the lectures, as the lectures which cover the books or reading selections you are skipping will give an overview, allowing you to keep the big picture of Old Western Culture. This is a great way to go through Old Western Culture. In fact, Wes Callihan does something similar in his own online classes, following a slower, but more in-depth pace.

Another reason to follow this schedule is that the slower pace is more conducive to loving the material. I always emphasize to parents that it is far more important that students love the material than that they get through it! Leisure is one tool in helping students love these books, though the greatest tool for the task is loving these books yourself. So whenever possible, watch the lectures and read the books with your students. The Essentials Schedule can also be used as a “parent’s schedule,” for parents wanting to go through Old Western Culture but lacking the time to do the full reading list.

Enjoy, and feel free to reach out to us with any questions as you embark on this journey through the great books!

Daniel Foucachon

INSTRUCTIONS: Follow the normal schedule which accompanies each unit for overall structure, simply skipping the readings assignments that aren’t listed below. Use your own books, or purchase our Readers.

The Greeks

The Epics

Drama and Lyric

The Histories

The Philosophers

The Romans

The Aeneid

The Historians

Early Christianity

Nicene Christianity


Early Medievals

Defense of the Faith

The Medieval Mind

The Reformation

Early Moderns

Note: the poetry selections for Early Moderns are generally short. 

Rise of England

Poetry and Politics

The Enlightenment

The Novels

A little video introduction to this page: