The most popular required reading at America's top 10 colleges

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Aristotle - Mini Biography

College students do an incredible amount of reading.

Given the breadth of topics they must cover before graduating, it's interesting to see the trends in required-reading lists.

A recent Quartz post explored some of these lists, citing The Open Syllabus Project, which collected over 1 million curricula over the past 15 years.

Students at America's most prestigious colleges — those in the top 10, according to US News & World Report — must endure the rigors of some very dense subject matter. The topics of the titles cover issues such as philosophy, politics, and war.

These books were found on college syllabuses from Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Stanford, University of Chicago, MIT, Duke, UPenn, and Brown.

Check out the most popular required reading at the top 10 US colleges:

10. "The Politics" — Aristotle

Penguin Classics

In "The Politics" Aristotle addresses the questions that lie at the heart of political science.

How should society be ordered to ensure the happiness of the individual? Which forms of government are best and how should they be maintained?

Penguin Classics

9. "The Communist Manifesto" — Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

Perhaps the most influential political work of all time, this slim volume penned by Marx and Engels in 1848 remains a relevant description of the tensions which continue to define the social classes.

The "Communist Manifesto" goes forward to describe the Communist Party as envisioned by the Communist League, which commissioned the work. Boldly stating that the history of human civilization itself is the history of class struggle, this ambitious text presents an incisive cross-section of society and a manifesto for its transformation.

Empire Books

8. "Democracy in America" — Alexis de Tocqueville

University of Chicago Press

In 1831 Alexis de Tocqueville, a young French aristocrat and ambitious civil servant, set out from post-revolutionary France on a journey across America that would take him 9 months and cover 7,000 miles. The result was "Democracy in America," a subtle and prescient analysis of the life and institutions of 19th-century America.

Penguin Classics

7. "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions" — Thomas Kuhn

Bill Pierce Time Life Pictures/Getty Images via wikipedia

Thomas S. Kuhn wastes little time on demolishing the logical empiricist view of science as an objective progression toward the truth.

Instead he erects from ground up a structure in which science is seen to be heavily influenced by nonrational procedures, and in which new theories are viewed as being more complex than those they usurp but not as standing any closer to the truth.

University of Chicago Press

6. Ethics — Aristotle

mararie via Flickr

The "Ethics" addresses the question of how to live well and originates the concept of cultivating a virtuous character as the basis of his ethical system.

Here Aristotle sets out to examine the nature of happiness, and argues that happiness consists in "activity of the soul in accordance with virtue," including moral virtues, such as courage, generosity and justice, and intellectual virtues, such as knowledge, wisdom and insight.

The "Ethics" also discusses the nature of practical reasoning, the value and the objects of pleasure, the different forms of friendship, and the relationship between individual virtue, society and the State. Aristotle's work has had a profound and lasting influence on all subsequent Western thought about ethical matters.

Penguin Classics

5. The Elements of Style — William Strunk

The Elements of Style Press

"The Elements of Style" is one of the definitive texts on all elements of English language style, usage, and composition. Strunk covers such topics as "elementary Rules of Usage," "Elementary Principles of Composition," "A Few Matters of Form," "Words and Expressions Commonly Misused," and "Words Often Misspelled."

Publisher WLC

4. "The Clash of Civilizations" — Samuel Huntington

Simon and Schuster

The classic study of post-Cold War international relations, more relevant than ever in the post-9/11 world.

Simon & Schuster

3. "The Prince" — Niccolò Machiavelli

Santi di Tito

There have been many political philosophies published throughout the time of literate man, but few have made such an impact in so few words as Niccolo Machiavelli's "The Prince."

This eminently quotable treatise on the nature of rulers is unsettling in that it does not merely discuss the specific political geography of 16th century Europe, a world comprised of kings and nobles who ruled absolutely; it has endured for nearly 500 years because it is an all-encompassing understanding of men in power, and the common traits, motives and struggles which have characterized leaders from Roman emperors to modern-day presidents.

CreateSpace Independent Publishing

2. "Leviathan" — Thomas Hobbes

John Michael Wright - National Portrait Gallery via wikipedia

Written during the turmoil of the English Civil War, "Leviathan" is an ambitious and highly original work of political philosophy. Claiming that man's essential nature is competitive and selfish, Hobbes formulates the case for a powerful sovereign—or "Leviathan"—to enforce peace and the law, substituting security for the anarchic freedom he believed human beings would otherwise experience.

This worldview shocked many of Hobbes's contemporaries, and his work was publicly burnt for sedition and blasphemy when it was first published. But in his rejection of Aristotle's view of man as a naturally social being, and in his painstaking analysis of the ways in which society can and should function, Hobbes opened up a whole new world of political science.

Penguin Classics

1. "The Republic" — Plato

Tetraktys via wikipedia

Written in the form of a dialog in which Socrates questions his students and fellow citizens, "The Republic" concerns itself chiefly with the question, "What is justice?" as well as Plato's theory of ideas and his conception of the philosopher's role in society.

To explore the latter, he invents the allegory of the cave to illustrate his notion that ordinary men are like prisoners in a cave, observing only the shadows of things, while philosophers are those who venture outside the cave and see things as they really are, and whose task it is to return to the cave and tell the truth about what they have seen.

This dynamic metaphor expresses at once the eternal conflict between the world of the senses (the cave) and the world of ideas (the world outside the cave), and the philosopher's role as mediator between the two.

Dover Publications

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SEE ALSO: The summer reading lists at America's most prestigious private schools

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