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  1. #1
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    Default What does being well read mean today and in the future?

    I mean there is a much larger diversity of books to pick from and people are increasingly going after their own stuff on Amazon. What will the term well read mean in an age when it's less and less likely that people had read the same books?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Addams's Avatar
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    Classics.

    The number of books available doesn't change the fact that pretty much everyone is going one day or an another read some Shakespeare for example.
    Last edited by Addams; 09-30-2013 at 04:27 AM.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Addams View Post
    Classics.

    The number of books available doesn't change the fact that pretty much everyone is going one day or an another read some Shakespeare for example.
    I think you could counter that given the diversity and greater-than-ever-before availability of written media today, the "classics" mean less and less in the grand scheme of things. I would say that if everybody is, at some point, going to end up reading Shakespeare, that would have an inverse effect insofar as being well read goes. I can't tell you how many of my buddies haven't picked up a book since our high school days, yet if we gauge how well read they are strictly based on the classics, they'd be right up there with the most avid of readers.

    Ultimately, I think being well read is a distinction that is much closer related to breadth rather than depth.

    I admit I am a bit biased, as I'm a huge reader of novels and books of all genres and time periods, and I really hate the notion that the "classics" are the only respectable reading material out there.

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    Senior Member Eumenides's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Addams View Post
    Classics.

    The number of books available doesn't change the fact that pretty much everyone is going one day or an another read some Shakespeare for example.
    The educational system will keep alive the classics, certainly. But their cache, I fear, runs the risk of dropping; from personal experience, I think people are less and less impressed by someone who reads Shakespeare and other classics. A democratization of taste - "everything's equally valid" - has led to a lowering of standards, and reverence for the classics. People don't care if you're well read, most likely the books you think make you well read are unknown to those people. If you're caught reading William Gaddis' The Recognitions, how many people do you think will have heard of its role as the 'ur-text of American postwar fiction' to give a damn? You'll most likely be judged for having or not a copy of Games of Thrones in your bag.

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    The educational system will keep alive the classics, certainly
    The question is for how long and how will that change in an enviroment where information is very easily aviable.

    You'll most likely be judged for having or not a copy of Games of Thrones in your bag.
    I never read the books but in all fairness despite being set in a fantasy enviroment there way worst books that could be be as popular.

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    Being perceived as well read is less about having read the canon, however it's defined, and more about erudition with respect to what you've read.

    That said, I think there's an extent to which that's always been the case.
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  7. #7
    From Parts Unknown... clayholio's Avatar
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    Everything is equally valid, in an entertainment sense. That's entirely about what you get out of something, which is subjective. I think that if you're trying to get more out of a piece of writing than only entertainment value, that argument doesn't hold up. It doesn't mean that people can't get some enjoyment out of whatever they read, or that they should only read lofty material.

    For purely anecdotal evidence, I finally read a Harlan Coben novel a few months ago, and was shocked at how little there was to it. There was plenty of people doing plenty of things, but in terms of it adding up to something more meaningful (or making a larger point), there was nothing there. I enjoyed reading the book perfectly fine, but I wouldn't pretend for a second that it was equal in any respect to "Heart of Darkness." If I'd ever had to write any kind of paper on the Coben book as a a student, I probably would have just cried instead.

    I think being "well read" has to do with one's ability to process more difficult (or complex) pieces of literature than a quantity issue (although having a wider base of knowledge to draw on helps). I don't think that really changes over time, and if familiarity with Shakespeare's works is losing prestige, I'm also not sure that there's a huge amount of interest or respect for scholarly work based on "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" or "50 Shades of Gray."

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