I am one of the lucky ones. I grew up with my mother reading to me constantly, and since I always saw my parents reading, I had good examples (ah, the power of modeling
). Reading was an innate love for me.
What if you found reading later in life? Is it possible to become well read without that solid foundation? Or what if you got lost in mundane life tasks and put reading by the wayside for a while? Can you still be well read?
In my opinion, as an avid reader, someone who holds a degree in English literature, and a former reading teacher, the answer is yes. It's never too late to start reading regularly, and it doesn't take much to catch up, so to speak. Thankfully, there is a pool of amazing books from which to choose.
After the break, you'll find my tips on how to become well read.
Yes, anything. Part of being well read is reading a vast variety of written material. So don't be ashamed by your trashy beach novel (the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich is a guilty pleasure of mine) and yes, your Better Homes and Gardens magazine does count! Just read -- there is no room for snobbery when it comes to enjoying reading.
Read some classics.
It is only people who make up these very subjective lists, but they have some worth in highlighting books that someone thinks are great, and that in itself is important, because becoming well read is a cooperative and social venture (we'll get to that).
- Read some of the top 100 novels of the 20th century. May I suggest you start with a few of my favorites: The Great Gatsby, As I Lay Dying, and The Catcher in the Rye.
- Also read some of the best novels of the 19th century. So many of my favorites are on this list: the number one Pride and Prejudice, the lesser known The Death of Ivan Ilyich, the groundbreaking Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the much-better-than-the musical Les Miserables.
- Read Shakespeare. I know you really don't want to, and I didn't either. In fact, I think Romeo and Juliet is nearly unreadable. So try a comedy or a tragedy instead. Macbeth is brilliant, Othello is a powerful surprise, and Much Ado about Nothing is my favorite comedy.
Read best sellers.
Some of my all-time favorite books have come from best seller lists: The Girl with a Pearl Earring, The Red Tent, The Double-Bind, and Here on Earth. The Sparrow, Handmaid's Tale, Einstein's Dreams... I could go on. You've got to figure that if a lot of people are reading them, then some of them will have value to you as well.
Read book club picks.
These are people who love to read books and love to talk about books, so you know they are going to choose books that will stimulate your mind and all of the wonderful benefits that come with reading. Start with these lists:
Make reading a social venture.
There is nothing most unsatisfying than reading a good book and having no one to talk to about it. If you can't devote time to an organized platform like a book club, try an online community. Even call up your best friend to dish about the new novel you couldn't put down, because by talking about something you've read, you gain a whole new understanding and appreciation for it. Discussing books will amplify your passion for them.
- Join a book club, or start one.
- Use Goodreads. This is an online community of readers, but you create your own circle of friends by inviting them to share. You can keep up with what your friends are reading and see their reviews and you can keep a running list of books you've read, are reading, and would like to read.
So what does it take to be well read? An unabashed love for reading and discussing the written word, whatever it may be. Reading is thinking; the books it takes to get you there are your own path.