John Milton was a 17th-century English poet, intellectual and linguist. Early in his life, he wrote Areopagitica, a much-admired defence of free speech. Milton lived during a tumultuous time in English politics, and could well have been executed before he wrote his classic work, the epic poem Paradise Lost. One of the greatest poems in the English language, it tells the story of Adam and Eve from the Bible. Given when it was written, Paradise Lost is also remarkable for its sympathetic treatment of Satan, the fallen angel who leads the couple astray.
Of the many biographies of Milton, Poet of Revolution: The Making of John Milton is the one recommended by Paul Lay, former editor of History Today, on Five Books.
Books by John Milton
“To question and decide for himself is essential to Milton’s whole sense of what it means to be a free human being…In his astonishing intervention in the Adam and Eve story, Milton considers how it was possible not for ignorant children, but for knowing, thoughtful, complex human beings to do what they did. Specifically, he asks, why was the woman alone when she had her fateful conversation with the serpent, and why did she then do what she did? It’s characteristic of Milton that he works out in the most exquisite and excruciating detail the conversation between the man and the woman when they decided briefly to separate. It wasn’t at all accidental that they were apart; it was a choice that Eve made after her conversation with Adam. And so too it wasn’t mere hunger that led her to eat the fruit. Milton gives a brilliant and painful description that anyone who has been in a relationship for more than five minutes will understand, a description of trying to negotiate your separateness from someone you love and to whom you are committed.” Read more...
The best books on Adam and Eve
Stephen Greenblatt, Literary Scholar
Interviews where books by John Milton were recommended
The best books on Satanism, recommended by La Carmina
Over the centuries, horrible crimes have been committed by Christians accusing others of being followers of the Devil. The label of Satanism was one of the worst imaginable in a religious society. However, from the 17th century onwards, some of the greatest writers began to find in Satan, the fallen angel, a sympathetic character whose opposition to the tyranny of heaven was not entirely unreasonable. Today, modern Satanists embrace the label, pursuing a nontheistic religion that celebrates individualism as well as critical thinking, explains blogger and journalist La Carmina, author of The Little Book of Satanism.
The best books on The Odyssey, recommended by Emily Wilson
The Odyssey has been constantly rewritten by centuries of writers, but like so much of Greek myth, it's always already open to revising its own narrative. Emily Wilson, Professor of Classics at the University of Pennsylvania and the first woman to translate the Odyssey into English, recommends the best books to read after (or alongside) the Ancient Greek epic, and offers sage wisdom about both translating ancient epics and why everyone can learn from the Odyssey today.
The best books on Adam and Eve, recommended by Stephen Greenblatt
Who were Adam and Eve, really? Over many centuries, the origin story has undergone countless transformations. The Pulitzer Prize-winner and Harvard professor Stephen Greenblatt chooses five books that explore the history of Adam and Eve, and tells us why the world isn’t ready to leave the narrative of Eden behind