Image - illustration of planet in front of bookshelf laden with books

Past Event

Around the World in 80 Books

Take an illuminating literary voyage around the globe, without any Covid restrictions to hamper your travels, using classic and modern works that are in conversation with one another and with the world around them. David Damrosch explores how our idea of the world has been shaped by 80 exceptional books, following an itinerary from London to Venice, Tehran and points beyond, via authors from Woolf and Dante to Nobel Prize–winners Orhan Pamuk, Wole Soyinka, Mo Yan, and Olga Tokarczuk.

To chart the expansive landscape of world literature today, Damrosch explores how writers live in two very different worlds: the world of their personal experience and the world of books that have enabled great writers to give shape and meaning to their lives. In his literary cartography, Damrosch includes compelling contemporary works as well as perennial classics, hard-bitten crime fiction as well as haunting works of fantasy, and the formative tales that introduce us as children to the world we’re entering. Taken together, these 80 books offer us fresh perspectives on enduring problems, from the social consequences of epidemics to the rising inequality that Thomas More designed Utopia to combat, as well as the patriarchal structures against which many heroines have to struggle—from the work of Murasaki Shikibu a millennium ago to Margaret Atwood today.


MLF: Humanities

This program is part of our Good Lit series, underwritten by the Bernard Osher Foundation.

Bernard Osher Foundation

Damrosch photo by and copyright Derek Lyons.

December 2, 2021

The Commonwealth Club of California
United States

Image - David Damrosch

David Damrosch

Ernest Bernbaum Professor of Comparative Literature, and Chair of Comparative Literature Department, Harvard University; Director, Harvard’s Institute for World Literature; Author, Around the World in 80 Books

Image - George Hammond

George Hammond

Author, Conversations With Socrates


9:30–10:30 a.m. program
(all times PST)