I wish I had been given reading list like this when I was sixteen. It costs nothing and would have been so helpful. Culture is learned and shared so it would be good if everybody was, if not in the same loop, had least a taste of what the loop is. Every school could hand out such a list and let the pupils get on with it.
I had disastrous education. A true faith school run by Irish RC nuns. How I survived is a mystery so a reading list would have been a starting point. That is the difference between my faith school and Eton, I got belief systems so no science or sex education and a list of prohibited books and they get the chance of balanced education whether the children take it or not. They know it exists and where to find it.
This is what Eton does. It teaches conduct and confidence and it does it well. Eton teaches you to get on with people and remember your friends. They have a shared common knowledge. You can help them and they can help you and it works.
The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art does the same. Remember your colleagues all through your career. Mine the GSM&D did not! This was a mistake because all of us went our separate ways while those from RADA helped each other to get on.
So culture is learned and shared. Eton knows it and the rest of us don't. Knowing their shared reading list at least gives us some insight as to where they are coming from and honestly it is a good list. To be that well read at 16 is an advantage and yet anyone with a will and a list could do this. If I had had that list I should have used it then and I shall use it now.
Great list, some I have missed like Sophie's World.
In case anyone wants the full list but is bothered to by the Times pay wall, here is the full list (though without authors):
The Age of Innocence
Never let me go
The Bonfire of the Vanities
Literature "In translation"
French: L'elegance du herrison
Spanish: La sombra del viento
Russian: The Master and Margarita
Italian: Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno
Portugese: O Crime de Padre Amaro
Japanese: Hard boiled wonderland and the end of the world
Chinese: Wolf Totem
Arabic: Beirut 39
Six Easy Pieces
Rethinking Life and Death
The Case for Religion
The Sea of Faith
History of Art
Michelangelo and the Pope's ceiling
The Story of Art
Blimey! - From Bohemia to BritPop
The Horse's Mouth
The first Crusade: the Call from the East
The realities behind diplomacy
Almost Everyone's Guide to Economics
The Affluent Society
In Defence of Politics
The Power of Place: Geography, Destiny and Globalisation's Rough Landscape
On the Map: A Mind Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Looks
Confronting the Classics: Traditions
Adventures and Innovations
To Infinity and Beyond: A cultural history of the infinite
Algorithmics: The spirit of computing
A Very short Introduction
The Language of Things
PS My father Major James Charles Hugh Miller knew all about a good education having gone to the very best schools himself. Had I been a boy I should have had his type of education and in fact just down the road from me was one of the best independent girls schools in London, The North London Collegiate and yet he sent his daughter to be educated by Roman Catholic 18 year old Irish nuns! I rest my case for independent reading lists!
PS: Missed out Proust! I should add this.