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A Snapshot of James Madison’s Reading List

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When it comes to reading and literacy, America is having a hard time. Statistics show that 14% of adults can’t read, and 50% of adults can’t read a book written at an 8th-grade level.

Fortunately for our nation, America’s founders did not fit into the illiterate or ill-read category. Their book lists and library collections show amazing depth, and James Madison’s is no exception.  

Madison had over 1,500 volumes in his personal library. Below is a snapshot of the more recognizable titles. How many have you read?

  1. An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding – David Hume
  2. Epistles to Atticus – Marcus Tullius Cicero
  3. Essays – Sir Francis Bacon
  4. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  5. History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire – Edward Gibbon
  6. Law of Nature and Nations – Hugo Grotius
  7. Lives – Plutarch
  8. Nature of True Virtue – Jonathan Edwards
  9. Tales from Shakespeare – Charles Lamb
  10. The Age of Reason – Thomas Paine
  11. The Commonwealth of Utopia – Sir Thomas More
  12. The First Part of the Institutes of the Laws of England – Edward Coke
  13. The Imitation of Christ – Thomas A. Kempis
  14. The Spirit of Laws – Montesquieu
  15. The Talisman – Sir Walter Scott
  16. Treatises on Government – John Locke
  17. Works on Religious Subjects – Sir Isaac Newton

Image Credit: Liam Quin Public Domain

Annie Holmquist

Annie Holmquist is editor of Intellectual Takeout, an online magazine and sister publication of Chronicles.

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