Monday, January 17, 2011

Well Read? So what.

Instead of doing classwork this morning, or volunteering (I'm in grad school-taking two classes this quarter, and I volunteer multiple times a year for multiple causes) I spent the morning pondering this article. To break it down, the author questions what it means to be well read and why it is important.
So, to clarify, is being well read having read a percent of The Best Books Ever list (not a real list)? What percent is well read: 80% of the list? 40% of the list? More importantly, what does it matter?
I consider myself to be well read, but my definition has more to do with the idea of reading the choice titles from every genre. I don't like romance novels or really deep science fiction, but I have read Asimov and Austen.
One would think that my being well read would help in my job at the library. The truth is many of the folks I work with could not be considered "readers" let alone "well read" and they function just fine working the card catalog. Just because I know the book (because I read it) and know where it is on the shelf does not make my job at the library easier-I just feel it improves the patron's experience. But does the patron care that I read that book? Do they care that I thought it was a waste or time or the greatest book ever? Probably not. Would you want the grocery clerk reviewing your purchase of cereal at the check out counter? No, I keep my opinion to myself.
Being well read does help me, but not in ways that you would expect. For example, I get more enjoyment out of the allusions in The Simpsons. I know the reference is from a book. I see the humor in some t shirts, while others scratch their heads.
Has being well read helped my financial situation-nope, in fact it has hurt. Everytime I have to buy a book the library does not own, that is less money I have to invest.
Has being well read made me the life of the party? No, in fact my Charles Darnay jokes are met with blank stares and I would do better watching Dancing with the Stars as conversation topic.

Should I just quit, and spend the many hours I read exercizing instead? Hell, no. Because no matter what being well read has NOT done for me what it has given me is priceless. My reading skills are gold medal. I have the ability to plow through Shakespeare as well as Vampire Academy. Reading has broadened my world. I wish I could reach in my brain, erase Cloud Atlas, and read it again for the first time. I have walked in many people's shoes, and I have empathy and a love of human nature. I can look at a beautiful landscape and think about how Alice Hoffman might describe it.
In the end, being well read makes me a better person.
I want to share this with you. Here is another great article about being well read (from a list). Here is the BBC list. And, in case you find it is important but still don't have time to read, here is a link to an article that will help you fake it.

Now, tell me what you think. Are you well read? Does it matter? Does it matter that you read at all?