Weekly Tea Discussion: What is “Well-Read”?

Books_Cups_Grass_Tea_Cup

When I looked up the definition of “well-read”, Google gave me this:

Well read

  1. (of a person) knowledgeable and informed as a result of extensive reading.
    “Ada was well read in French and German literature”
    knowledgeable, well informed, well versed, erudite, scholarly, literate, educated, cultured, bookish, studious; dated lettered

That describes most of us, right?

But then through my search I found a website: a list challenge that asks you how many books have you read, from a list of 143. I checked off 54 books so I received a score of 38%. So according to this list I am not considered to be “well-read”.

2015-04-14 07.40.15I know this was a list made up by someone and I shouldn’t really take it seriously This list is seriously flawed and I am not saying this because I got a low score. First, it capped what I consider a low amount of books. Second, whoever compiled this list only chose the popular classics, for example only putting Pride and Prejudice and not Austen’s other works or only putting three of Shakespeare’s plays when he wrote so much more than that. Third, the person who compiled didn’t look it over correctly because they would have noticed that they put The Secret Garden twice on the list and Inferno by Dante is part of The Divine Comedy so both shouldn’t be on the list as separate works. That affects the margin of your score.

But what I really want to discuss today is the impression that I received from the title of the list:

Books to Read to Be Considered Well Read

Contemporary or classic novels, plays, poem and short story anthologies, that any serious reader should read at least ones in his or her life.”

So, only reading the classics makes a person a serious reader? Isn’t a serious reader who, and I can’t think of a better way of saying this, “seriously” reads? And that is what this week’s discussion: what makes a person “well-read”?

I love reading the classics. Sometimes I find the stories well-thought out and more detailed. I prefer reading them compared to the books that are being published today. Some may find them boring but I only find excitement through the pages. But that’s my opinion.I understand that not everyone feels the same way that I do. So why does my reading material praised highly over someone who chooses not to read the classics? I am not saying people shouldn’t at least try to read the classics but that doesn’t mean I classify someone as not “well read” just because of their lack of classics on their reading list.

2015-08-27 23.52.33
Both the same pile of books but one is considered higher than the other.

Let’s say one reader and myself are having both of our reading lists compared. We are both avid readers and our lists consist of 100 books. We both have contemporary and recent books on our list but I have more classics on mine. By comparison, I would be well read compared to the other read, not based on the amount but based on the content. Is this considered snobbery? Why should it really matter how many classics a reader has read? In my book they’re already well-read. Well-rounded describes a person who is fully developed in all aspects. Shouldn’t the same be applied to being well-read. Readers who read all aspects of books most likely know more about the world than a person who pontificates about his or her knowledge on Faulkner.

Author Lisa Kleypas said this:

A well-read woman is a dangerous creature.”

It doesn’t specify which type of books a person’s reads. I think it talks about all books.So I propose we come with up a new definition: well-read means reading to your heart’s content. You allow yourself to broaden your “reading horizon” by traveling to different worlds. You don’t allow yourself to confine yourself to one type of book. You are more than willing to try new things and by reading different types of books, you become a well-rounded person. That’s what should the new definition should be.

If you are an avid reader, don’t let anyone tell you “you are not well-read” based on the type of books you read. In fact, you have probably read can outdo any “well-read”list that is put out there. And that says something.

What do you think? Do you considered yourself to be well-read? How many classic books have you read?

If you’re interested in taking the “well-read”list challenge, you can find it here.

 

6 thoughts on “Weekly Tea Discussion: What is “Well-Read”?

  1. Your comment that “You don’t allow yourself to confine yourself to one type of book” is vital to this discussion… and I would imagine that is why reading a good number of the classics might fulfill the argument on the side of the creator of that list/quiz you took. So, from one perspective, I get that reading the classics should be included in such a list… but if the list was to be realistic and up-to-date, it seems to me that it should either include 100 other, recent books that are ‘classics’ in their own right – or 50 well-chosen books from the classics and 50 from recent books… which would entail more knowledge of the classics than this person (the list maker) seemed to have, as you mentioned that s/he included a limited number of Shakespeare’s, “Inferno” and “The Divine Comedy,” and entered “The Secret Garden twice.” It seems to me that it would take a good deal of thought and time to come up with such a list. It would be fun to do, too, if one had the time. Any takers? 🙂

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