Read something written before Gutenberg. Every day.

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I’ve been telling the members of Planet Perry for a LONG TIME: “Got a new problem? Read an old book.”

Ancient works, written pre-Gutenberg, had to be meticulously copied by hand.

No copy/paste.

No automated, mass-production processes.

Just hundreds of hours of scrutinous, pain-staking work.

Works like that only survived because they inspired the kind of dedication and care necessary for successful preservation.

Because they contain timeless truths.

Principles, not techniques.

Things that will be just as true in a thousand years as they were a thousand years ago.


Rather than just telling you to go find and read pre-Gutenberg literature, I’m going to take it a step further…

Here’s a list of pre-Gutenberg texts. Timeless classics that deserve a spot on your shelf and space in your brain, along with the link to buy each on Amazon.

This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but it’ll get you started.

The Confessions of St. Augustine: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Bible: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The New Testament: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Old Testament: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Apocrypha of the Bible: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Book of Proverbs: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Republic by Plato: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

Beowulf: Hardcopy | Audiobook

On the Brevity of Life by Seneca: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

Apology by Plato: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Histories of Herodotus: Hardcopy | Kindle: Volume 1 Volume 2 | Audiobook

Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

Tao Te Ching: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

Histories of Cornelius Tacitus: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas: Hardcopy | Kindle

Analects of Confucius: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

Lives of Plutarch: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook: Volume 1 Volume 2

The Art of War by Sun Tzu: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The works of Aristotle: Hardcopy | Kindle

The works of Hippocrates: Hardcopy | Kindle

I Ching: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Enneads of Plotinus: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

What is "80" and what is "20" for your business right now? Take my 2-minute quiz and I'll show you where you'll get the highest compound interest on your time and money!

Elements by Euclid: Hardcopy | Kindle

The Lives of the Caesars by Suetonius: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

Geography by Ptolemy: Hardcopy

The Iliad by Homer: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Odyssey by Homer: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Odes of Horace: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Kama Sutra: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Quran: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

Canon of Medicine by Avicenna: Hardcopy | Kindle

The Canterbury Tales Chaucer: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Bhagavad Gita: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Upanishads: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Aeneid of Virgil: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Arabian Nights: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

The Divine Comedy by Dante: Hardcopy | Kindle | Audiobook

Talmud: Hardcopy | Kindle

Midrash: Hardcopy | Kindle

Guide for the Perplexed by Maimonides: Hardcopy | Kindle

Proslogion by Anselm: Hardcopy | Kindle

Democracy in America (this book is from the 1830s, not pre-Gutenberg, but it is so good that it deserves to be on the list anyway): Hardcopy

Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 1 (Volume 1): Hardcopy

The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 2 (Volume 2): Hardcopy

The Faith of the Early Fathers, Vol. 3 (Volume 3): Hardcopy

Faith of the Early Fathers, Three-Volume Set: Hardcopy

Carpe diem,


P.S.: From the comments – Sunny Hills’ college reading list of classic literature. Sunny is one of the great alchemists and thinkers in Planet Perry and this reading list is one reason why. Retro Vinyl and Polaroid Cameras are hot – why not ancient knowledge as well? You can’t propel the New Renaissance without appreciating what was great about the first Renaissance.

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About the Author

Perry Marshall has launched two revolutions in sales and marketing. In Pay-Per-Click advertising, he pioneered best practices and wrote the world's best selling book on Google advertising. And he's driven the 80/20 Principle deeper than any other author, creating a new movement in business.

He is referenced across the Internet and by Harvard Business Review, The New York Times, INC and Forbes Magazine.

17 Comments on “Read something written before Gutenberg. Every day.”

  1. Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages is a fantastic guide to real works of literature. (His characterisation of our time as an “Age of Chaos” is bang on, too, IMHO.)

  2. I don’t know what many of these writings teach, but with such a comprehensive list, it’s interesting to note that while many religiously inclusive people maintain that there is truth to be found in many different prophets, Jesus Christ, is exclusive when he unabashedly proclaims ” I am THE way, THE truth, and THE LIFE. NO man cometh to the father but my Me. –John 14:6

  3. The Republic by Plato is on of the best books ever written – and it’s almost scaring to see how Plato explains our own time and world. You can think whatever you like about democracy, but that it has now degenerated into tyranny – that Plato predicts – can not be denied. So read och re-read The Republic and get a better understanding of humans and society and our current times.

  4. Just read your article Escape from the Institutional Straightjacket. Great insights, thanks. I think the two best books I have ever found that explain what America is are John Taylor Gatto’s The Underground History of American Education, which you reference, and Liberty: The God That Failed by Christopher Ferrara which I mentioned in a previous post. I have never found any other book that comes close to those two.

  5. Another thought: The idea behind your pre-Gutenberg list is very important. Before the period 1400 -1800 (Renaissance, Reformation, Enlightenment) all Catholic and Orthodox thought in the Western Middle Ages and in Byzantium was based on the Christian-Classic Synthesis of Christian, Greek and Roman learning. During the period mentioned above, this Synthesis was systematically dismantled and replaced by the English Ideology of the Enlightenment – Issac Newton, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Adam Smith, David Hume, Charles Darwin (1800’s), etc. The English Ideology replaced the medieval worldview of Christianity with a mechanical, Godless, purposeless, scientific dead universe. It is this Godless, mechanistic worldview that now dominates all of our thinking and institutions. As Albert Einstein said, “you cannot solve a problem at the level of thinking that created it.” Thus it is important to study the pre-Gutenberg worldview in order to find the solutions to our present problems, the great majority of which were created by The English Ideology.
    For more on this see Liberty: The God That Failed by Christopher Ferrara, and also Barren Metal: Capitalism as Struggle Between Labor and Usury by E. Michael Jones. For a short article on The English Ideology, do a Google search for The English Ideology and Wired Magazine by Mark Stahlman.

  6. Your list is very good but leaves out the great Christian Fathers of the Church who developed Christian doctrine – Saint Athanasius, St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Maximus the Confessor, St. Gregory Palamas, etc. Without them, Western Civilization would not be what it is. Because they were Orthodox theologians who wrote in Greek, not Latin, and because they were members of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire, the Western world has largely ignored them.. The usual list of Western classics jumps from Augustine in the fourth and early fifth century straight to Thomas Aquinas in the 13th, completely bypassing the great theologians listed above. This is because education in the Middle Ages was controlled by the Catholics, who mistakenly and for political reasons considered the Orthodox to be heretics. After Protestantism began in the 16th century, the Protestants were so opposed to all that had gone before them (meaning Catholicism), that they never discovered the Orthodox writers, and most of the Western world still hasn’t. To this day, the world of Western Civilization does not really know where it came from. It came from Byzantium, which welded Greek learning, Roman state structure, and Christianity into one great whole which became the foundation for all our present institutions. Yes, Greece and Rome were important, but it was only when their cultures were Christianized in Byzantium that the true foundations for Western Civilization were laid.

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