10 Great Books is fully booked for 2021. Join our Community Education mailing list to be notified when 10 Great Books 2022 goes on sale.

Professor Russell Goulbourne
Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Russell Goulbourne will host the series in 2021.

10 Great Books returns for 2021

Each month, from February to November, expert presenters give their take on a book that has shaped the way we see the world. In this online series, you’ll have the chance to ask questions and share your views as we discuss and dissect the legacies of these important works. Guided by our host, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Russell Goulbourne, we will explore how each book can be understood as a reflection of its context, and a mirror for our own.

This series is for lovers of literature itching to dive back into old favourites and be surprised by new discoveries. No prior study of literature is required, just a love of books and reading. Now entering its eighth year, 10 Great Books has a passionate following. Join the series in 2021 to become part of our community of booklovers.

Illustration of a stack of books

Online program features

In 2021, 10 Great Books will be offered entirely online for the first time ever. Subscribers will gain exclusive access to our series platform from 15 February to 31 December 2021. The platform will feature:

  • Written introductions to each text from our academic presenters, to help guide your reading
  • Further reading suggestions to delve deeper into the context of each book
  • And a monthly discussion forum, where you can share comments and questions with other subscribers.

Throughout the year, subscribers will gain insights into each text from our expert presenters through:

  • 40-minute video presentations on each book, released in the third week of each month, totalling over six hours of content
  • And a monthly live Q&A session hosted on Zoom where you can join the discussion and pick the brains of our expert presenters. Q&A sessions will also be recorded.

Book list and program schedule for 2021

In 2021, we will traverse three millennia with 10 diverse books that will be our window into important critical debates surrounding gender, economics, ageing, revolution, race and so much more.

Click on the titles below for book, presenter and live online Q&A details:

  • February: Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy for Serious People, 1895

    This blistering satire of Victorian social hypocrisy, considered Wilde’s greatest theatrical achievement, was playing in London even as Wilde was arrested on charges of gross indecency.

    Presented by Dr Sarah Balkin, Senior Lecturer in the School of Culture and Communication. Sarah works across theatre and literary studies, with particular expertise in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century theatre, literature, genre, melodrama and comedy.

    Lecture release date: Friday, 19 February

    Live Q&A date: 6.30pm-7.15pm AEDT Tuesday, 23 February

  • March: Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 1952

    In this mid-century masterpiece, a nameless protagonist re-enacts the diaspora of African Americans from South to North in an allegorical novel that is by turns comic and nightmarish.

    Presented by Associate Professor Sana Nakata, Associate Dean, Indigenous in the Faculty of Arts. Trained as a lawyer and political theorist, Sana’s research is centred around developing an approach for thinking politically about childhood in ways that improve the capacity of adult decision-makers to act in their interests.

    Lecture release date: Friday, 19 March

    Live Q&A date: 6.30pm-7.15pm AEDT Tuesday, 23 March

  • April: Bernhard Schlink, The Reader, 1995

    Penned by a German law professor and judge, this three-part novel set in post-war Germany follows a relationship between a young man and an older woman as they are both swept up in the unbearable legacy of the Holocaust.

    Presented by Professor Alison Lewis, Professor of German in the School of Languages and Linguistics. Alison has published widely in the areas of Modern German Literature and German Studies, mainly on gender, literature and politics, the German Democratic Republic, German unification and the history of the East German secret police.

    Lecture release date: Friday, 23 April 

    Live Q&A date: 6.30pm-7.15pm AEST Tuesday, 27 April

  • May: Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, 1405

    France’s first professional woman of letters writes a passionate defence of her sex by imagining a city built by and for women – scholars, inventors, and warriors – and thus provides an extraordinary insight into the position of women in medieval culture.

    Presented by Professor Anne Dunlop, Herald Chair of Fine Arts in the School of Culture and Communication. Anne works on Italian and European art in the later Middle Ages and early modern period, including on links between Italy and Asia in the Mongol period.

    Lecture release date: Friday, 21 May

    Live Q&A date: 6.30pm-7.15pm AEST Tuesday, 25 May

  • June: P.D. James, The Children of Men, 1992

    Set in the year 2021, this suspenseful dystopian novel imagines a world in which humankind has become infertile, England is ruled by a despot, and a small band of dissenters may hold the key to the survival of the human race.

    Presented by Professor Margaret Cameron, Head of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies in the Faculty of Arts. Margaret’s primary areas of research expertise are in the history of philosophy, especially the ancient, medieval and early modern periods.

    Lecture release date: Friday, 18 June

    Live Q&A date: 6.30pm-7.15pm AEST Tuesday, 22 June

  • July: Cicero, On Old Age (Cato Maior de Senectute), 44 BCE

    Cicero, one of the great orators of ancient Rome, defends old age against its apparent disadvantages, arguing that the wisdom one gains with age more than compensates for any loss of vigour.

    Presented by Professor Tim Parkin, who joined the Classics and Archaeology department at the University of Melbourne in 2018 as the inaugural Elizabeth and James Tatoulis Chair in Classics. Tim's teaching covers both Greek and Roman history and classical languages.

    Lecture release date: Friday, 23 July

    Live Q&A date: 6.30pm-7.15pm AEST Tuesday, 27 July

  • August: Yu Hua, China in Ten Words, 2010

    This essay collection from one of China’s most acclaimed modern writers offers insightful reflections on modern China through 10 words: People, leader, reading, writing, Lu Xun, disparity, revolution, grassroots, copycat, and bamboozle.

    Presented by Professor Anne McLaren, Professor in Chinese Studies in the Asia Institute, whose main research interest is Chinese popular culture from the late imperial to the contemporary period, with a focus on the oral and ritual traditions of Chinese women, Chinese performance arts, and traditional popular fiction.

    Lecture release date: Friday, 20 August

    Live Q&A date: 6.30pm-7.15pm AEST Tuesday, 24  August

  • September: Jessica Anderson, Tirra Lirra by the River, 1978

    This Miles Franklin-winning Australian novel is a moving account of one woman’s remarkable life, as she reflects on a life defined by escapes (first from her marriage, then from Australia) before a return to her childhood home.

    Presented by Anna Funder, the author of Stasiland, which won the 2004 Samuel Johnson Prize, and the internationally bestselling novel All That I Am, which won the Miles Franklin, among many other prizes. Both books are published in over 25 countries. She is also an alum of the University of Melbourne (BA (Hons), LLB (Hons), MA (Creative Writing)).

    Lecture release date: Friday, 24 September

    Live Q&A date: 6.30pm-7.15pm AEST Tuesday, 28 September

  • October: Joan Robinson, Economic Philosophy, 1962

    Overlooked for the Nobel Prize during her lifetime, Joan Robinson's perspective on the evolution of economic thought and its relation to political and moral philosophy was ahead of its time: unfashionable when first published, but tremendously influential in the decades since.

    Presented by Associate Professor Dan Halliday, from the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies. Dan’s work focuses on topics in political philosophy, particularly on markets and other aspects of economic justice.

    Lecture release date: Friday, 22 October

    Live Q&A date: 6.30pm-7.15pm AEDT Tuesday, 26 October

  • November: Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary, 1856

    To mark the bicentenary of Flaubert’s birth, we conclude the series by delving into his scandalous novel Madame Bovary, the beloved story of a young woman driven to dangerous choices by the banality and emptiness of married life in provincial France.

    Presented by Professor Russell Goulbourne, series host and Dean of the Faculty of Arts. A noted French literature scholar, Russell has published and taught extensively on major figures in French intellectual culture of the 17th and 18th centuries including Voltaire, Diderot and Rousseau. His research interests include the history of the book and textual editing, and reception of classical antiquity in early modern France.

    Lecture release date: Friday, 19 November

    Live Q&A date: 6.30pm-7.15pm AEDT Tuesday, 23 November

Tickets - SOLD OUT

10 Great Books is now fully booked for 2021.

Join our Community Education mailing list to be receive updates on future programs.

For information regarding accessibility, and for ticketing terms and conditions please visit our Frequently asked questions web page.

Purchasing the books

Each year, we partner with Readings to create an online booklist where you can easily purchase our set texts.

Visit the Readings online booklist to shop the books.

Please note: Joan Robinson's Economic Philosophy is being rereleased by Routledge Classics in March 2021 and is available to preorder until then.


Ellie Clay, Engagement and Partnerships Coordinator
Email: ellie.clay@unimelb.edu.au
Phone: +61 3 8344 2543