The other day I read this intriguing post over at the blog 101 Books. It poses the complex question: What does it mean to be well read? Instead of leaving my answer in the form of a comment, I’ve decided to write a full post about it- there’s just too much to say on the topic!
I know that some people are very particular about the books they read. For example, they only read classics, or famous works, or books by award-winning authors. Sometimes they only read books of a certain genre, and view all other books as foolish in their minds. Whatever their specific criteria for reading is, the fact remains that they are severely limiting the different kinds of books they allow themselves to read. These people would most likely consider being “well read” to be having read a large number of books in their category of choice.
But here’s the problem with that: there’s no variety. If someone told you that you could only eat apples for the rest of your life- no other food, only apples- you would most likely be terribly upset. Why? Because no matter how much you love apples you will eventually grow tired of eating them for every meal. I think that it’s a similar situation with reading. There are so many different kinds of books, just like there are countless kinds of food. By limiting yourself to one specific kind you are definitely missing out on some amazing alternatives. But you’ll never know, will you? No, because you trap yourself in your own tiny corner of the book world.
Personally, I think that being well read means that you have read different kinds of books. I don’t think there’s an exact number or quantity that can be mandated, considering the vast number of books in existence. Have you read books from different genres, different time periods, about different topics, places, and cultures? Then congratulations! By my standards, you should consider yourself well read.
What is your personal definition of what being “well read” means? Let me know in the comments section below, and definitely check out the original post at 101 Books! (linked in the first paragraph)