FREE Online Discussions for Veterans

In these challenging times, the Great Books Foundation wants to continue our outreach to our proud and loyal service members. So, as part of our Talking Service program, the Foundation is proud to announce an upcoming series of four free online discussions for veterans, their families, and others who are part of their lives. Register for any or all of the discussions, and talk about issues that are important to veterans!

Great Books Chicago 2020


Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we have had to postpone Great Books Chicago 2020. We are planning to reschedule with the same program in spring 2021. Please stay tuned!

The theme for Great Books Chicago 2020 is Exploring Beauty. Participants, led by expert Great Books discussion leaders, will discuss the nature of beauty, the many forms it takes, and how notions of beauty change over time.

Readings, cultural outings, and plenary sessions will all center around this theme. The readings are:

  • Death in Venice Thomas Mann
  • The Bluest Eye Toni Morrison
  • “The Beauties” Anton Chekhov
  • “An Essay in Aesthetics” Roger Fry
  • Selected poems, including:
    • “Appalachian Elegy” (sections 1–6) bell hooks
    • “On Beauty” Kahlil Gibran
    • “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun” William Shakespeare
    • “Euclid alone has looked on Beauty bare” Edna St. Vincent Millay

Past Events

FREE Online Discussion of Metropolis

Now more than ever, we need to get together and enjoy discussing great works of art. Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s towering science fiction landmark, unfolds in a stunningly imagined future in which the populace is divided between the workers, who labor underground, and the rich, who live in a lavish city of splendor.

Intrigued? Join us for an hour on April 8, 2020, at either 1:00 p.m. or 3:00 p.m. central time to discuss Metropolis. Once again, Great Books trainer, filmmaker, and film fan Mike Elsey will be your discussion leader, so you will be in good hands for a thought-provoking session!

Author Alex Kotlowitz and Great Books Foundation President Valentina T. Parissi

Great Books Chicago 2019

This annual weekend we explored the idea that “Something Wicked This Way Comes” through these compelling texts:

  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • “The Grand Inquisitor,” a chapter from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” by Flannery O’Connor
  • The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson

Gary Schoepfel and a cadre of experienced leaders facilitated exciting discussions, and attendees enjoyed a performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Two notable Chicago authors, Alex Kotlowitz and Nina Barrett, spoke about their new books, An American Summer: Love and Death in Chicago and The Leopold and Loeb Files: An Intimate Look at One of America’s Most Infamous Crimes.

The event was a great success and we look forward to more cultural adventures next year!

PBS’s The Great American Read

To accompany PBS’s The Great American Read TV show, Senior Editor Nancy Carr moderated a discussion of four books from the top 100 list. Panelists included Donna Seaman, adult books editor at Booklist; Liesl Olson, director of Chicago studies at the Newberry Library; and Julia Fine, novelist and writing instructor. After a short screening, panelists considered the legacies of Invisible Man, The Great Gatsby, Rebecca, and Little Women and took questions from audience members. Earlier in the year, Great Books also took part in a webinar with PBS station WGBH, helping teachers incorporate the recent MASTERPIECE adaptation of Little Women into their classrooms.


GBF/PBS Free Webinar

On Thursday, May 24, the Great Books Foundation co-presented a free webinar, “Little Women for a New Generation,” with MASTERPIECE on PBS LearningMedia™ and WGBH Education. This interactive session on Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel is designed for teachers of sixth grade and higher.

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Little Women, MASTERPIECE has created a new two-part film adaptation. The webinar featured clips from the adaptation; questions and teaching tips from WGBH education specialist Cyrisse Jaffee; and a brief, interactive Shared Inquiry™ demonstration from GBF Senior Editor Nancy Carr. GBF has also created a free discussion guide for the novel with four sets of suggested questions and note-taking prompts, as well as guidelines for leading Shared Inquiry discussion.

Great Books Chicago 2018

Big Ideas in Popular Culture

This annual weekend event, dedicated to discussion and exploring the city’s cultural resources, drew visitors from across the United States and Canada and took place May 4–6. This year’s theme was popular culture, which featured readings from GBF’s new anthologies Tube TalkDouble Features, and Sound Bites, as well as talks on television, film, and music by Walter J. Podrazik, Gary Schoepfel, and Joseph Coulson. Participants also enjoyed some of Chicago’s pop culture highlights, either seeing Blue Man Group perform, going to a comedy show at Second City, or hearing a jazz quartet at the legendary Green Mill club.

Thanks to all our participants and to Harrison Middleton University for their continued support. Read attendee and HMU tutor Alissa Simon’s blog post about the weekend here.

See you all next year!

Big Ideas in Popular Culture

Book Launch

On Independent Bookstore Day on April 28, the Great Books Foundation celebrated the launch of Big Ideas in Popular Culture, our new trio of anthologies on music, film, and television, at Bookends & Beginnings in Evanston, Illinois.

Devin McKinney, author of “Beatlemania: A Love Story,” and Walter J. Podrazik, author of “Pursuit of the Public Interest in the Vast Wasteland,” read from their selections before engaging in an animated group discussion moderated by former GBF president Joseph Coulson.

Thank you to all who attended this fascinating event, to Harrison Middleton University for their support, and to Nina Barrett, owner of Bookends & Beginnings and our generous host for the launch!