I don’t know if the reading odyssey knows this but the britannica blog has been running a series of pieces about the heydey and meaning of the great books phenomenon in the 1950s. Here is the link to the book-length essay that went with the first edition of the GB series that Britannica put out in 1952. There’s also a critical book out by Alex Beam of the Boston Globe about the great books “movement::
My money graf:
We do not think that these books will solve all our problems. We do not think that they are the only books worth reading. We think that these books shed some light on all our basic problems, and that it is folly to do without any light we can get. We think that these books show the origins of many of our most serious difficulties. We think that the spirit they represent and the habit of mind they teach are more necessary today than ever before. We think that the reader who does his best to understand these books will find himself led to read and helped to understand other books. We think that reading and under-standing great books will give him a standard by which to judge all other books.