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A Day's Read

Reading great literature can be an exhilarating enterprise. Unfortunately, it requires a resource in short supply: spare time.
A Day's Read is rated 4.1 out of 5 by 23.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from This was a mixed bag for me. The reader of this review need to know two things about me. 1) I love to read; I do not read fast; and I did poorly in my college lit class because I am poor at analyzing literature. 2) I’m conservative religiously, politically, and educationally. I liked the course because I found all three professors were pretty good and the very thing I am not good at–analysis. Even in the case of the only two items in the whole course I have read–Hersey’s Hiroshima, and Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray, both read many years ago, I found the analysis helpful. I disliked the first 1/3 of the course by professor Weinstein, who I found to be the best at analysis and posed some of the most thought provoking questions. The other two did well too, but he stood out to me. So, why didn’t I like it? It seemed to me professor Weinstein was/is fixated on sex. Each of the other two added a couple more stories about love, so it seemed to me a fairly hefty portion of the “reads” concentrated on love, sex, adultery, frustrated love, immature love, misdirected love, homosexual love, divorce, young love, and more. I’m not against love! But I confess I found myself wondering how I would feel if my children or grandchildren took a class from Professor Weinstein. To me, many of today’s college students have almost no grounding in morals and I wondered what lessons about love, fidelity, marriage, and family they would come away with from his course. This concern was heightened by the kind of language he used to describe some of these pieces. Sexual scenes, descriptions, encounters, musings, questions, and passages, were described as “exquisite,” “powerful,” “sensitive,” and other positive language I’ve not forgotten. Professor Allen used similar language in her treatment. I came away thinking my posterity would be curious to read such things, but are they prepared to deal with the complexities Weinstein wove into his narrative, when most of them probably don’t yet have the character to succeed in marriage and raising a family. For example, one story was about a married woman who only became really sexually aroused and entered into her sexual maturity in an adulterous relationship. He made her sexual “growth” sound pretty attractive and meaningful. But, his approach is consistent with an academician, to deal with these issues as if they were “things” to be looked at from every angle, without much of a moral or ethical basis from which to judge. And I wondered where some of the stories are which deal with more straightforward matters of character and ethics? Perhaps they are not complex enough for college teachers. A great insight I got from Gilbert Highet’s wonderful book about teaching, The Immortal Profession, is that university teachers often have a hard time making basics interesting and engaging for underclassmen because they, the teachers, have already passed through those things and so they move on to other higher and deeper things that interest them, forgetting about the freshman who has not had this experience and needs a great introduction to the fundamentals. I wonder whose having students read stories about character, morality, ethics, and fidelity in a relationship, at the universities where these three professors teach literature?
Date published: 2021-10-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lots of great reads I have been working my way through the book list- a perfect time during lockdown to try books and authors I never would have otherwise picked up. Most are excellent, some are hard to get through. Many are in the public domain so can be downloaded for free. I have been able to pick up others at my local used book store. The instructors add further insight into the authors, plots and characters. It is like being back in college again with no tests or essays due. Wonderful.
Date published: 2020-09-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful nighttime listening Every night before settling to down for the night I listen to the wonderful “Great Reads”. My favorite so far is “The Lover”. I fall asleep to thoughts sometimes that coincide with mine and other nights very different and thought provoking. All the courses are wonderful and a much better use of time than TV or gambling games on my IPad.
Date published: 2019-08-29
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Boring.... I found the narration dry and boring. Perhaps I had expected something else such as more reading of the actual book.
Date published: 2018-08-12
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Only for diletantes For pseudo intellectuals that is for a limited audience--i disliked it.
Date published: 2018-04-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from New Insight into Reading This course is the 6th I have done in the Great Course series but the most rewarding. The courses I have done have been mostly about Literature and Philosophy. The former has lead into the latter. The “ A Days Read” course I found valuable in expressing what I get out of reading and suggesting new directions I can take to further enhance my appreciation. In my past my reading has mostly been novels written in English or translated from a few other European languages such as French or Spanish. This series suggests a number of very interesting short novels from a wider field. It also suggests novels in different forms such as Comic book from Iran and Haiku from Japan. The Professors also suggest how I can look at stories I have read many times in new ways such as The Strange Case Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, one I particularly enjoy. I didn’t realise when I started the course what a commitment it entailed. Most of the books I find the need to read them rather than just listening to the course. Some of the books certainly take more than a day to read.
Date published: 2016-10-08
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Interesting change of pace I don't often read fiction, and generally generally stick to classics I haven't read before when I do, but with an English minor and a teaching career in English, I have read at least something by many of the authors represented. However, I have actually read only a few of the selections and I am totally unaware of some of the authors. I took this course simply to expand my horizons a little and to take a break from the diet of history that I currently fill my reading time with. As a result, I am reading most of the selections, and my other activities have made going through this course an extended process. I am only about half-way through it. That said, I have found this course delightfully enlightening, despite the fact that some of the selections are well out of my comfort zone and consequently have been difficult for me to wade through. I haven't gotten to the third lecturer yet, but the first two, especially Prof. Allen, have provided very interesting commentary and insight into the writers and their works. Even the discussions of Faulkner and Hemingway, whose other works I have read and in some cases were exposed to in college, were informative, and I learned something from each. In fact, I once taught "Old Man and the Sea" to high school students, and even in that case, I learned something from the discussion. The course is doing exactly what I wanted it to do for me. I would definitely recommend this course and would encourage anyone taking it to read or re-read the selections before you listen to the lectures.
Date published: 2016-01-22
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Best if you read the works too Generally a good overview of short works of literature--mostly novellas and short novels, and most will take more than a day to read. The idea is to make literature more appealing to people who find most of the literary canon daunting because of length. I think Professor Voth's course A Skeptic's Guide to Great Literature does a better job of this, and I also think his section of this course is more interesting because he ranges outside the Western literary canon. By and large, the course entertained me as I was driving about, and it introduced me to some works I haven't yet read. So it was worthwhile. You'll get more out of it, of course, if you actually read the works discussed.
Date published: 2015-08-23
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Great books such as "Don Quixote," "War and Peace," and "Bleak House" constitute a grand reading list that many of us, with our busy lives, can't easily manage. But there's another strategy for reading the great books that is truly manageable; one that allows you to get all the power of brilliant authors in a single day. Join three literary scholars and award-winning professors as they introduce you to dozens of short masterpieces that you can finish—and engage with—in a day or less with A Day’s Read. Together, all three offer you their unique scholarly perspectives on short books from across time and around the world.


Dr. Grant L. Voth

No idea of any single culture will ever capture the entire human sense of god, or creation, or the hero; and to get a more complete human picture, we have to look at the myths of many cultures.


Monterey Peninsula College
Dr. Grant L. Voth, is Professor Emeritus at Monterey Peninsula College. After earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy and Greek, he received his Master of Arts degree in English Education from St. Thomas College and his doctorate in English from Purdue University. Professor Voth was the Monterey Peninsula Students' Association Teacher of the Year and the recipient of the first Allen Griffin Award for Excellence in Teaching in Monterey County. Professor Voth is the author of more than 30 articles and books on subjects ranging from Shakespeare to Edward Gibbon to modern American fiction, including the official study guides for 26 of the plays in the BBC Television Shakespeare project. He created a series of mediated courses in literature and interdisciplinary studies, one of which won a Special Merit Award from the Western Educational Society for Telecommunication. Professor Voth's other Great Courses include A Day's Read, The History of World Literature, Myth in Human History, and The Skeptic's Guide to the Great Books.

By This Professor

Great Mythologies of the World
Arnold Weinstein

Literature is not information-driven. Instead, it offers us a unique opportunity to see, even to experience, the subjectivity of others. This adds to our own stock.


Brown University

Dr. Arnold Weinstein is the Edna and Richard Salomon Distinguished Professor at Brown University, where he has been teaching for over 35 years. He earned his undergraduate degree in Romance Languages from Princeton University and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Harvard University. Among his many academic honors, research grants, and fellowships is the Younger Humanist Award from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a Fulbright Senior Lecturer Award as a visiting professor at Stockholm University, Brown University's award as best teacher in the humanities, Professeur InvitÈ in American Literature at the Ecole Normale SupÈrieure in Paris, and a Fellowship for University Professors from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Professor Weinstein is the author of many books, including Fictions of the Self: 1550-1800 (1981); Nobody's Home: Speech, Self, and Place in American Fiction from Hawthorne to DeLillo (1993); and A Scream Goes Through The House: What Literature Teaches Us About Life (2003). Northern Arts: The Breakthrough of Scandinavian Literature and Art from Ibsen to Bergman (Princeton University Press, 2008), was named one of the 25 Best Books of 2009 by The Atlantic. Professor Weinstein chaired the Advisory Council on Comparative Literature at Princeton University, is the sponsor of Swedish Studies at Brown, and is actively involved in the American Comparative Literature Association.

By This Professor

Emily Allen

The novel is a long prose work of fiction, which has indepth characterization, intricate plotting, and a finely drawn, which is to say realistic, fictional world.


Purdue University

Professor Emily Allen is Associate Professor of English at Purdue University, where her primary scholarly area is 19th-century British literature, particularly the novel. She also teaches in the comparative literature, women's studies, and theory and cultural studies programs. Professor Allen received her bachelor's degree with honors from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 1986 and her master's degree, also with honors, as well as her doctoral degree from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1990 and 1996. She held an Isaac Walton Killam Postdoctoral Fellowship at Dalhousie University before arriving at Purdue in 1997. She has been an Associate Professor there since 2003 and Director of the Liberal Arts Honors Program since 2008. Professor Allen has received numerous awards for her teaching at Perdue, including the Charles B. Murphy Outstanding Undergraduate Teaching Award (English, 2001-2002), the university's highest honor. Her other teaching awards include the Teaching for Tomorrow Fellowship Award (2002-2003) and more than a dozen departmental awards for teaching excellence. She has received several grants for teaching innovation, and she has been a fellow at Purdue's Center for Instructional Excellence. In 2002, she was voted into the Teaching Academy at Purdue University, and in 2008 her name was inscribed in the university's Book of Great Teachers. A booklover by nature and a literary historian by training, Professor Allen spends much of her time thinking about the cultural landscape of Victorian Britain. Her published work focuses mainly on pleasure-the private pleasures of reading and the more public pleasures of theatrical entertainment. She is the author of Theater Figures: The Production of the Nineteenth-Century British Novel and articles on 18th- and 19th-century topics, from the history of melodrama to the design of Victorian wedding cakes. Her next books will include Royal Wedding: Class, Crowds, and Nation in Victorian England, a cultural study of royal pageantry and excess, and Byron and the Constitution of the British Novel, an account of the influence of radical romantic poetry-and romantic poetry's most scandalous figure-on the development of the bourgeois Victorian novel, which she is writing with her colleague and husband, Professor Dino Franco Felluga. Professor Allen was a founding member and the first executive secretary of the North American Victorian Studies Association, which now draws members from all over the globe and is the largest group of Victorianists in the world. She lives in a Victorian house in Lafayette, Indiana, with her husband, their two small sons, two large cats, and a white rabbit.

A Day's Read


Kafka, “A Country Doctor”

01: Kafka, “A Country Doctor”

Why are short literary works just as insightful—and just as great—as their more gargantuan counterparts? This introductory lecture not only answers this provocative question but uses Franz Kafka’s surreal five-page story, “A Country Doctor,” to illustrate just how engaging and dynamic a day’s read can be.

34 min
Prévost, Manon Lescaut

02: Prévost, Manon Lescaut

It’s long been considered a classic of French literature. It’s regarded as a masterpiece of the pre-Romantic era. Its use of the first-person narrative to tell the story of a frustrated relationship is provocative. Here, join Professor Weinstein as he takes you deep inside the pages of Manon Lescaut.

31 min
Flaubert, “A Simple Heart”

03: Flaubert, “A Simple Heart”

See Gustave Flaubert’s surgical precision as a realist writer at work in “A Simple Heart,” which is often overlooked over the author’s larger novels such as Madame Bovary and The Sentimental Education. How can such a short novella as this convey, in brilliant prose, the entirety of a human life?

32 min
Faulkner, “Pantaloon in Black”

04: Faulkner, “Pantaloon in Black”

Professor Weinstein helps you make sense of a powerful vignette taken from William Faulkner’s novel Go Down Moses. In doing so, he reveals how this day’s read—which deals with grief, dignity, and racial tensions—may well be Faulkner’s finest achievement of depicting African American life in fiction.

31 min
Borges, Short Story Selections

05: Borges, Short Story Selections

Get a wide-angle view of Jorge Luis Borges’s fascinating, mind-bending body of work with this examination of two widely acclaimed stories: “The Garden of Forking Paths” and “Emma Zunz.” You’ll come to see how these elegant and sometimes enigmatic metaphysical tales radically challenge our notions of time, space, and identity.

31 min
Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

06: Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Discover fresh insights into Hemingway’s short novel The Old Man and the Sea. In this lecture, you’ll focus on what this brisk masterpiece has to say about growing old and the simple brutality of the animal kingdom—while also looking at the work as an unconventional type of love story.

32 min
O’Connor, Short Story Selections

07: O’Connor, Short Story Selections

Experience Flannery O’Connor at the height of her powers by comparing two stories that display the strange, often violent workings of Christian grace: “The River,” with its focus on the collision between the sacred and the secular; and “Judgment Day,” which ponders the final fate of our bodies and souls.

32 min
Lagerkvist, The Sybil

08: Lagerkvist, The Sybil

Spiritual malaise, lost innocence, startling links between paganism and Christianity—three provocative subjects that are at the center of The Sybil, a Swedish novel by Nobel laureate Pär Lagerkvist. Get a solid introduction to an unorthodox day-long read that sheds new light on familiar aspects of our world.

32 min
Vesaas, The Ice Palace

09: Vesaas, The Ice Palace

Tarjei Vesaas isn’t a household name when it comes to literary genius—but Professor Weinstein makes a solid case for why he should be. Your portal into Vesaas’s writing: The Ice Palace, a masterful tale about the strange bond between two 11-year-old girls navigating a world fraught with dangers.

31 min
Calvino, Invisible Cities

10: Calvino, Invisible Cities

What exactly are cities? How do they evolve—if they do? Can you take the measure of a city or its people? Can someone possess a city? These questions are at the heart of Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities, a postmodern read that illuminates everything from imagination to desire to history.

32 min
Duras, The Lover

11: Duras, The Lover

Perhaps the most famous French woman writer of the 20th century, Marguerite Duras is best known for her break with traditional narrative styles. See her skills at work in this piercing examination of her novel The Lover, with its disorienting time frame and provocative exploration of sexuality.

32 min
Coetzee, Disgrace

12: Coetzee, Disgrace

Can a short literary work chart an individual’s moral and spiritual evolution in a matter of pages? Professor Weinstein makes the case for the affirmative in his engaging lecture on J. M. Coetzee’s Disgrace, in which the reader is forced to confront deep truths about racial and gender tensions in South Africa.

33 min
Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

13: Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Join Professor Allen as she becomes your guide through 12 more short reads—starting with Jean Rhys’s classic Wide Sargasso Sea. Here, she takes you beyond the novel’s much touted connection with characters from Jane Eyre and demonstrates how the novel stands on its own as a commentary on English imperialism.

29 min
Austen, Lady Susan

14: Austen, Lady Susan

Jane Austen writing an “improper” novel? Find out why her overlooked Lady Susan, which depicts the exploits of England’s worst coquette, is worth experiencing; how its presence fits in the larger context of the 18th-century novel’s development; and why it can be considered Austen’s literary “road not taken.”

30 min
Balzac, The Girl with the Golden Eyes

15: Balzac, The Girl with the Golden Eyes

A merciless critique of the Parisian upper crust in the mid-18th century, The Girl with the Golden Eyes is Balzac at his finest. After gaining background on the author’s style and subject matter, delve into reasons this particular work—more than any of his others—makes for a masterful day’s read.

33 min
Meredith, Modern Love

16: Meredith, Modern Love

Learn how George Meredith’s verse novel Modern Love, an unflinching tale of infidelity and despair, challenged the basic tenets of Victorian literature and attempted to remake the genre of the novel. You’ll also examine how it demonstrates the ways poetry can go to places darker and more realistic than prose fiction.

30 min
Huysmans, Against the Grain

17: Huysmans, Against the Grain

Against the Grain, with its lack of plot and single character, sounds like a novella that only a literature professor could love. But Professor Allen demonstrates just how wonderful and approachable this tale of Parisian decadence is—and offers you several tactics for enjoying this strange, “dangerous” work.

32 min
Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

18: Stevenson, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Learn new ways to read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in this lecture that takes you through each of the book’s 10 brief chapters. In the process, you’ll find out just why this day’s read and its tortured central character make for such a compelling—and even transformative—literary adventure.

31 min
Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

19: Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

Turn now to The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde’s controversial story of art, excess, and temptation. How are readers supposed to make sense of this apparent morality tale? What effect does Oscar Wilde’s real-life obscenity trial have on our reading? What about the book’s delightful stylistic perfection?

31 min
James, The Beast in the Jungle

20: James, The Beast in the Jungle

The Beast in the Jungle is a watershed moment in the novella’s history—one that stretches the possibilities of the form and explores new stylistic ways to depict the turmoil of human consciousness. Read between the lines of Henry James’s masterpiece in search of the true meaning of its central character’s secret.

29 min
Joyce, “The Dead”

21: Joyce, “The Dead”

Here, Professor Allen lays out the distinct narrative technique of “The Dead,” talks you through some of the key episodes in this beautiful short story, and guides you to a greater appreciation of the story’s moving closer. The result: a new, fresh way to read James Joyce’s classic modernist tale.

31 min
Proust, The Lemoine Affair

22: Proust, The Lemoine Affair

Experience Marcel Proust—best known for his massive and dense In Search of Lost Time—at his lightest and frothiest with his pastiche, The Lemoine Affair. It’s a chance for you to marvel at Proust’s ability to mime the styles of the giants of French literature, including Balzac, Flaubert, and Saint-Simon.

29 min
Woolf, “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street”

23: Woolf, “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street”

Before Virginia Woolf’s unforgettable novel Mrs. Dalloway, there was the short story that started it all: “Mrs. Dalloway in Bond Street.” Come to see this day’s read as a stand-alone example of Woolf’s innovative way of representing human thought and experience through the power of the written word.

31 min
McEwan, On Chesil Beach

24: McEwan, On Chesil Beach

Professor Allen concludes her selection of short reads with On Chesil Beach, a 21st-century novel that probes the sexual and cultural mores of early 1960s England. Ian McEwan’s tragicomic work offers writing of extraordinary craft, beauty, and, most important, insight into the ways we can fail to communicate with one another.

28 min
Cather, Alexander’s Bridge

25: Cather, Alexander’s Bridge

Professor Voth’s first selection of powerful and unforgettable day-long reads is Willa Cather’s often-overlooked first novel, Alexander’s Bridge. In this emotional story of a bridge engineer and his divided self, Cather crafts a gripping story about the loss of authentic identity and the inexorable (and sometimes fatal) pull of success.

30 min
Lu Xun, Short Story Selections

26: Lu Xun, Short Story Selections

Continue pondering issues of identity in two short stories by the Chinese writer Lu Xun. “Diary of a Madman” centers on a paranoid who believes that everyone is plotting to eat him, while “Upstairs in a Wineshop” is an intriguing tale about a subtly tense meeting between two old school friends.

30 min
Chopin, The Awakening

27: Chopin, The Awakening

Explore some of the different ways to approach and read Kate Chopin’s feminist novel The Awakening. Here, Professor Voth guides you through this powerful, provocative, and in some ways, controversial story of Edna Pontellier’s search for selfhood amid sharp tensions between her individualism, her gender, and her society.

29 min
Melville, Billy Budd

28: Melville, Billy Budd

Billy Budd, which at first seems like a straightforward story of a sailor’s adventures, is anything but simple. In this engaging lecture, examine some of the questions and debates over the tale’s events, readers’ love-hate relationship with Captain Vere, and how Melville’s story is actually a story about reading.

30 min
McCullers, Ballad of the Sad Café

29: McCullers, Ballad of the Sad Café

Why is this novel considered a “ballad,” and why has its narrative voice attracted such attention? How do Carson McCullers’s grotesque figures illustrate the book’s ideas about love? What are we to make of the work’s epilogue, told in the present tense? Find out in this lecture on Ballad of the Sad Café.

30 min
Chekhov, Short Story Selections

30: Chekhov, Short Story Selections

Dive into the pleasures and insights of two Anton Chekhov tales that throw startling light on the lives of women: “The Party” and “The Lady with the Dog.” Professor Voth shows how, in just one day, you can experience realist writing by one of Russia’s—and Western civilization’s—literary treasures.

29 min
Hersey, Hiroshima

31: Hersey, Hiroshima

Begin looking at day-long reads that use literary techniques to describe history. Your first work: John Hersey’s Hiroshima, a “nonfiction novel” that uses reportage and accounts of six survivors to create a stirring mosaic of life during and after the dropping of the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945.

30 min
Satrapi, Persepolis

32: Satrapi, Persepolis

Discover the literary merits of graphic novels with this lecture on Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, the author’s stark, black-and-white recounting of life during Iran’s Islamic Revolution and the subsequent Iran-Iraq War. You’ll delve into the interaction between public and private history, and the ways that our personal and national narratives are created.

30 min
Jataka Story Selections

33: Jataka Story Selections

Examine a collection of 547 stories about events in the life of the Buddha, a work known as the Jataka, which dates back to the 4th century C.E. Professor Voth focuses on two tales—featuring a rich Brahmin family and a bull ox—to illustrate how this work still speaks to us even today.

30 min
Munro, Short Story Selections

34: Munro, Short Story Selections

Why is Alice Munro considered one of the greatest living short story writers? Find out in this engrossing look at two of her masterpieces, “Walker Brothers Cowboy” and “The Peace of Utrecht”—both of which illustrate the richness and mystery to be found in even the most banal-seeming circumstances.

31 min
Basho, The Narrow Road of the Interior

35: Basho, The Narrow Road of the Interior

Investigate a genre new to this course: the travel narrative. Matsuo Basho’s The Narrow Road of the Interior is both a travelogue and a book of haiku in which poetry and prose work together to help Basho relive the experiences of his literary predecessors and transform his own poetry as well.

30 min
Sijie, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

36: Sijie, Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress

End the course with Dai Sijie’s Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, about two teenagers’ dramatic experiences during Mao’s Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976. In particular, analyze the novel’s shocking ending and what it really suggests about the power of literature in the face of totalitarianism.

29 min