A Liberal Learning Book List by James V. Schall, S.J.

James Vincent Schall, S.J. was born on January 20th, 1928 in Pocahontas, Iowa. He is an American Jesuit Roman Catholic priest, professor, writer, and philosopher. He received an M.A. in Philosophy at Gonzaga University (1955), a PhD in Political Philosophy from Georgetown University (1960), ordained a Roman Catholic Priest (1963), and received a second M.A. in Sacred Theology from Santa Clara University (1964).


He has taught at the Gregorian University, Rome, Italy from 1965-1968, and spring 1969-1977. He has also taught at the University of San Francisco in the fall of 1969-1977. His most recent position was professor in the department of government at Georgetown University, Washington, D.C. (retired 2012).

The following book list was taken from his essay, A Student’s Guide to Liberal Learning, published by Inter-collegiate Studies Institute.


  1. What is Liberal Education by Leo Strauss
  2. The Great Books: Enemies of Wisdom by Frederick D. Wilhelmsen
  3. On Fairy-Tales by J.R.R. Tolkien

How Sanity and Wit belong together (by P.G. Wodehouse):

  1. Leave It to Psmith
  2. Blandings Castle and Elsewhere
  3. How Right You are, Jeeves
  4. The Wodehouse Clergy
  5. My Life and Hard Times by James Thurber
  6. The Pocket Book of Ogden Nash

Five books on Thomas Aquinas:

  1. St. Thomas Aquinas by Ralph McInerny
  2. Guide to St. Thomas Aquinas by Josef Pieper
  3. Friar Thomas D’Aquino by James Weisheipl
  4. St. Thomas Aquinas: The Dumb Ox by G.K. Chesterton
  5. The Thoughts of Thomas Aquinas by Brian Davies

Five Classic Texts on Philosophy, Good Men, and Death:

  1. The Apology, Crito, and Phaedo by Plato
  2. The account of the death of Christ in the Gospel of John (Chapters 13-21)
  3. On Duties by Cicero (especially Part III, written just before he was executed)
  4. The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius
  5. Man for All Seasons by Robert Bolt (On Sir Thomas More)

Six Classic Texts Never to Be Left Unread:

  1. Gorgias by Plato
  2. Nichomachean Ethics by Aristotle
  3. Meditations by Marcus Aurelius
  4. The Confessions by Augustine
  5. Pensees by Pascal
  6. Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke
    *Other fundamental texts: The Republic, The City of God, The Summa Theologiae

Seven Books about Universities:

  1. The Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom
  2. Truth on Trial by Robert K. Carlson
  3. Telling the Truth by Lynne Cheney
  4. Escape from Skepticism: Liberal Education as if the Truth Mattered by Christopher Derrick
  5. Illiberal Education by Dinesh D’Souza
  6. The Idea of a University by John Henry Newman
  7. The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams
  8. The Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour (added via essay reference)

Four Books Once Found in Used Book Stores (that James V. Schall found):

  1. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
  2. Great Irish Short Stories Edited by Vivan Mercier
  3. The American Puritans: Their Prose and Poetry by Perry Miller
  4. The Gospel According to Peanuts by Robert Short

Five Books by Joseph Pieper:

  1. Divine Madness: Plato’s Case against Secular Humanism
  2. The Four Cardinal Virtues
  3. In Tune with the World: A Theory of Festivity
  4. Living the Truth (which includes The Truth of All Things and Reality and the Good)
  5. Leisure: The Basis of Culture

Six Books Give to Me as a Gift and Now in My Personal Library:

  1. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury
  2. Poets in a Landscape by Gilbert Highet
  3. Stories and Episodes by Thomas Mann
  4. The Defendant by G.K. Chesterton
  5. The Eighth Day by Thornton Wilder
  6. The Letters of Evelyn Waugh

Five Books by G.K. Chesterton and Two by his friend Hilaire Belloc:

  1. Orthodoxy
  2. What’s Wrong with the World
  3. Charles Dickens
  4. The Everlasting Man
  5. The Autobiography
  6. The Path to Rome
  7. The Four Men
    *The Chesterton Review (published by ISI) is also always worth a look.

Six Memorable Novels, among the Millions:

  1. Emma by Jane Austen
  2. Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset
  3. The Memory of Old Jack by Wendell Berry
  4. Death Comes to the Archbishop by Willa Cather
  5. Lancelot by Walker Percy
  6. The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky

Three Great Books on Love:

  1. The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis
  2. About Love by Josef Pieper
  3. Love in the Western World by Denis de Rougemont

Four Older but Insightful Books on How to Prepare for an Intellectual Life:

  1. The Intellectual Life by A.D. Sertillanges
  2. How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler
  3. The Art of Teaching by Gilbert Highet
  4. The Teacher in America by Jacques Barzun

Schall’s Unlikely List of Books to Keep Sane By:

  1. An Anthology by Joseph Pieper
  2. Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton
  3. Philosophy – An Introduction by J.M. Bochenski
  4. The Whimsical Christian by Dorthy Sayers
  5. A Guide for the Perplexed by E.F. Schumacher
  6. A General Theory of Authority by Yves Simon
  7. The Christian Universe by Eric Mascall
  8. The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor by Flannery O’Connor
  9. Selected Essays by Hilaire Belloc
  10. The Abolition of Man by C.S. Lewis
  11. Crossing the Threshold of Hope by John Paul II
  12. Back to Virtue by Peter Kreeft
  13. Homo Ludens by Johann Huizinga
  14. Conversations with Walker Percy
  15. The Seven Deadly Sins Today by Henry Fairlie
  16. The Road of Science and the Ways to God by Stanley Jaki
  17. Conversations with Eric Voegelin
  18. Rational Man by Henry Veatch
  19. The Hungry Soul by Leon Kass

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