Great Books of Western Thought: 96%
I had a friend, Catherine White, who one day decided she was going to cook every meal in the New York Times 100 best meals in the world. Every Sunday when her husband and I were in town with her, the two of us were enchanted and enthalled by her cullinary wizardry. Not one to follow the paths well-worn, she would express her creativity by improving upon meals in many ways. In some cases, despite being very financially secured, she would utter pronouncements like, "I used cottage cheese instead of ricotto cheese because it was cheaper." The on-going exquisite cuisine had one caveat: David and I were not to read ahead to see what the next meal was going to be. Needless to say, we became as illiterate as the average high school graduate when it came to reading cookbooks.
In 2002 while flying cross country, the airline's shopping magazine had an offer to buy a book collection that represented the "Greatest 100 books of Western thought." Noticing that I had read some of them, and out of curiosity, I decided to check the ones that I had not read. Surprising myself, I found that four were not checked. I had read 96 out of the 100 on this "great" list.
When I tell people that I read 96 of 100 Great Books of Western Thought, they have usually two very valid responses:
Of the first objection--"no agreement"--my reading claim has career value because I did not set out to check off books from a list like my friendly cook checking off meals. Any list of books that warrants a unified printing as a "100 greatest" will probably be a good representation of great writers and great thinkers.
Of the second objection,--"without experience"--each book had been read in the years and decades prior to the airline flight for the reason of understanding the subject matter better. I did not read the books in a speed dating mode. Rather, most were sought over the years to extend my base of knowledge. At the time of the flight I was in my early 50's. Thus, I did not read out of context nor to notch my literary belt. My learning rule has been, if I cannot summarize the paragraph, that I read and then I re-read until I do understand. I wanted an education, not a college GED from a for-profit diploma mill .
Of those who say reading is no big deal, my response is you don't read enough like the cancerous, starving man who who has no appetite. Most anti-readers disparage readers as eggheads. Yes, readers are eggheads, that is, yoked rather than yokeled. Most anti-readers are victims of the "medium is the message" decline of thinking and logic from TV's.
Sadly, as I pondered the books I had read, I thought of the President appointed by the Supreme Court in 2000 who probably had never read a single one of them. Did he ever find a dictionary that he did not dislike?
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