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Books

2/04/2014

I followed a link to an article on the "Ten Books People Claim to Have Read but Haven't" (not going to link it, it is a stupid article that jumps to stupid conclusions) and I was surprised to find that I have read eight of the ten books, some more than once. But the list is stupid. Ayn Rand, Moby Dick, Machiavelli, whatever. If people spout off on these, there are enough people who actually HAVE read them to call those people out. However, I would hazard a guess that most of these people haven't read the books that they think the other guy has read. Real simple, my theory is that most Americans have never read Shakespeare. Every other year or so, a new movie comes out that mirrors the plot of one of the Bard's great plays. Everyone talks about how great it is, how special, but no one seems to remember that they should have read it in High School. That doesn't mean that I have read all of Shakespeare, I have never made it all of the way through "A Comedy of Errors" or "Twelfth Night", I'm just not a big fan of the comedies, but I've read most of his stuff and he's had such an effect on modern English that he should be read. I should be honest about this, I was a Liberal Arts student. My degree is in the Liberal Arts, no STEM for me, but that was primarily because I was a terrible student. It's hard to get into a STEM major when you don't do your math homework. I'm not a practice type of guy. I read books instead. I can't memorize things, but I can remember things, which made History and Literature and the non-math sciences pretty easy. That doesn't mean I got good grades, I'm also pretty stubborn, so any class that required me to acknowledge and opinion or theory that ran counter to my own was pretty much an automatic D minus. However, I did read, and read, and read. In addition to all the crap I was made to read for school, I had a list of 500 "Great Books" that I was given in seventh grade that I hammered my way through. (I wish I still had that list. It was broken down by age, like 12-14 year olds should have read...) It was a very old list, so when I was eleven I was supposed to have read Homer and Ovid. I did read Homer in seventh and eighth grade, but I didn't read Terrence and Ovid until college. I also was lucky to have a reader for a father, and back in the day he would go to all of the library book sales and buy tons of old books. So I had a list of books, and I HAD the books, so I read the books. Most of these books are surprisingly accessible, even the ones in translation. (Quick confession. In High School I had a class called "Classics" which was really just Latin 4, and was nothing but translation. Most of the translations we had were selections from histories (Plutarch, Pliny, Josephus, etc...) that I was already familiar with from Gibbon, and that's how you pass Latin without studying declensions.) There are some books that I've never managed to get all the way through, some may surprise you. I cannot force myself to finish "For Whom the Bell Tolls". I try to read it ever third year or so, I pick it up and drop it and I've read everything else Hemingway wrote (Even "A Moveable Feast"). I've been reading Herodotus in fits and starts since I was in college, and it's awesome, but slow going. Pynchon's "V." is a brick wall. There's nothing wrong with not finishing a book if you've started it, not starting one is a different story. There is a caveat (latin again) to that. Current events. Books about current events. The "important" books about these times, "Dow 150000" from 1993 or "The coming war with Japan" from 1986. Skip 'em. Useless. A while ago, on this blog, I spoke about my game of going to the library fiction section and starting at the letter "A" and picking two books per letter, so one week I'd get an Adams and an Amis, the next week or two a Baker and a Bishop. I read a lot of shit books. I haven't done that for a while, I should probably try again.
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