Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation


Product Details

$24.95  $23.20
Princeton University Press
Publish Date
5.6 X 8.6 X 1.1 inches | 0.9 pounds

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About the Author

Roosevelt Montás is senior lecturer at Columbia University's Center for American Studies and director of its Freedom and Citizenship Program, which introduces low-income high school students to the Western political tradition through the study of foundational texts. From 2008 to 2018, he was director of Columbia's Center for the Core Curriculum. He lives in New York City. Twitter @rooseveltmontas


"[An] important book."---Matthew Bianco, Circe Institute
"Rescuing Socrates is a fascinating and illuminating read that foregrounds the value of the liberal arts, in particular for students from low-income and other disenfranchised backgrounds. Montás exposes the lie that the great works are unsuitable for or irrelevant to people from such backgrounds, and in fact demonstrates the exact opposite: exposure to these texts is most essential for the most disenfranchised."---Finnian Murphy, AC Review of Books
"Rescuing Socrates is a warm, appealing narrative of how it feels to be 'thrust into a conversation' with fellow students about life's most 'serious and unsettling questions.'"---Martha Bayles, Wall Street Journal
"[A] combination memoir and call to arms. . . . Despite those who claim that these are merely works by dead, possibly irrelevant white men, Montás argues that the Great Books approach has a fundamentally democratizing impulse."---John McWhorter, New York Times
"Thanks to Montás . . . Socrates had a good 2021."---George F. Will, Washington Post
"[An] earnest defense of the humanities, which is also a personal testament to the power of a liberal education."---Thomas Chatterton Williams, The Atlantic
"One can only hope that Rescuing Socrates rescues others as well."---Naomi Schaefer Riley, Commentary
"Montás undertakes his defense of the great books with simplicity and humility. . . . In the face of public conversations marked by fear, anger, and hostility, Montás chooses the path of vulnerability. In that, he shows the wisdom of a person who has navigated real conflict, away from the seminar table."---Zena Hitz, Commonweal Magazine
"This is an important, and timely, book about why the western canon still matters and about how great books can change lives, especially impoverished black and brown ones."---Lindsay Johns, Times Literary Supplement
"A heartbreakingly honest immigrant tale of displacement, loss, wrenching readjustment and self-discovery, this book also offers a gripping account of how participation in the great conversation over justice, ethics, citizenship and the nature of the good life can subvert hierarchies of privilege, redeem lost souls, open minds and transform lives."---Steve Mintz, Inside Higher Ed
"Rescuing Socrates is a valuable and thoughtful book both sociologically and educationally, making a contribution to the ongoing debate over the past, present, and future of liberal-arts education in the United States."---M. D. Aeschliman, National Review
"[Montás] weaves a compelling personal narrative together with a forceful argument that reading classic texts, even those originating in predominantly white, Eurocentric cultures, is an important opportunity for underserved students of color to transform themselves and transform the inequitable social structures within which they are embedded"---Brian Rosenberg, Chronicle of Higher Education
"Montás returns the humanities to its revolutionary home, reminding us that we are, after all, talking about such radical and subversive thinkers as Augustine, Plato, Freud, and Gandhi. He teaches us, presumably like he teaches his Core Curriculum students, what those thinkers were after--and what reading them makes possible."---Jonathan Tran, Christian Century ​
"[An] insightful work. . . . Few colleges and universities still require study of Great Books as part of their curricula, but Montás makes a compelling case for the life-changing results of such pedagogy; he notes how, as an émigré from the Dominican Republic, he benefited from the breadth and depth of these approaches."-- "Library Journal"
"That's why the perspective of Roosevelt Montás, author of Rescuing Socrates: How the Great Books Changed My Life and Why They Matter for a New Generation, is so badly needed. . . . In this part memoir, part call to action, Montás argues that reading great literature and philosophy can make working-class people's lives more meaningful and that everyone should have the opportunity to read great books."---Liza Featherstone, Jacobin
"By taking us through his reading and rereading of books over the course of a life, Montás can articulate what is rarely articulated well about great books education."---Jonathan Marks, Washington Examiner
"The strength of Montás' argument lies in his acknowledgement of the power and responsibility of undergraduate education."---Grace Phan Jones, American Purpose
"A timely and much-needed book. . . . If administrators and education advocates take the message of Rescuing Socrates to heart, then our students, our schools, and our nation might yet see a brighter future."---Matthew Levey, City Journal
"Montás convincingly makes the argument that the classics enrich any life pursuit. By doing so, his story should appeal to anyone who cares about education. There is something here to illuminate and inspire."---Nathaniel Grossman, Fordham Institute
"Rescuing Socrates turns out to be a magnificent exercise in rescuing us."---Douglas V. Henry, Law & Liberty
"Here is the very model of intellectual dialogue: Freud speaking to Montás and Montás considering thoughtfully and speaking back--a demonstration of the fact that the value of liberal arts education is to be found in the experience itself rather than in bean-counter terms such as 'learning outcomes' or starting salaries."---Matthew Stewart, James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal
"Montás' defense of the great books is both disarming and brave."---Benjamin Storey and Jenna Storey, American Purpose
"Montás's inspiring defense of the humanities is as galvanizing as his own story. . . . Even if one is not fond of a liberal arts and humanistic education, he may still want to read Roosevelt Montás for the sheer humanity of his book."---Paul Krause, Merion West
"Eminently quotable and engagingly written, Rescuing Socrates is a rich resource for those who care about liberal education."---Eric Adler, Front Porch Republic
"Rescuing Socrates is the best defence of a liberal education I have read. . . . Montás writes so movingly, and with such erudition, that he himself is the best advertisement for the liberal education he champions."---Daniel James Sharp, Areo Magazine
"A robust and unapologetic argument that liberal education, centered around the great books, should be the foundation of every university education. . . . Rescuing Socrates makes a strong case for liberal education at a time when it needs ardent defenders."---Nathaniel Peters, Law & Liberty ​​​​​​​
"An impassioned argument for the essential value of the humanities in education."---David Luhrssen, Shepherd Express
"Whereas many today see an irreversible crisis in higher education, Montás sees fertile ground for renewal."---Luis Parrales, Public Discourse
"A beautiful, powerful, personal argument on behalf of great books programs."---William Deresiewicz, Liberties