A Classic Canon

What classics should we study?

The great works of literature offer lessons that are universal in scope. Questions that everyone grapples with at some time or other. But which classics?

A classic should be something that has stood the test of time and that has appeal to various cultures around the world. J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series certainly has been popular, but it’s only been out for a decade or so. Works that retain their appeal over centuries are likely to have insight that is less bound by their time and place and be truly universal in scope.

I like to define a classic as a book that you’ve re-read and from which you learn something new each time you open it. But a superior book will engage people from all walks of life—rich or poor, urban or rural, European or Asian or African. Only a truly noteworthy work can do that.

So, on to my list: the Bible, of course, along with Homer, Virgil, and Dante. These are all from classical antiquity or the renaissance and include prose, poetry, and instruction. Most importantly, they all tell stories. Our brains are hard-wired to think in terms of narratives. The great stories these great works greatly tell inspire us all to greatness.

One final author must be on this list: Shakespeare. It’s been said that Shakespeare invented what it means to be human in the modern sense. That may be going too far. But it is true that the Bard of Avon has been translated into almost as many languages across almost as many cultures as the Bible. And his stories shape how we think today.

This list includes authors from three continents writing over the course of 3000 years. They’re not easy to get through. But the insight they offer is worth the effort.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA

Chief Investment Officer

By | 2014-06-24T09:00:16+00:00 June 24th, 2014|Global Market Update|0 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Tengdin is the Chief Investment Officer at Charter Trust Company and author of “The Global Market Update”. The audio version of each post can be heard on radio stations throughout New England every weekday. Mr. Tengdin graduated from Dartmouth College, Magna Cum Laude. He received his Master of Arts from Trinity Divinity School, Magna Cum Laude and received his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1992. Mr. Tengdin has been managing investment portfolios for over 30 years, working for Bank of Boston, State Street Global Advisors, Citibank – Tunisia, and Banknorth Group. Throughout his career, Mr. Tengdin has emphasized helping clients manage their financial risks in difficult environments where they can profit from investing in diverse assets in diverse settings. –
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