Last week I became convicted. After picking up a wonderful book, The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, I realized that I have been reading the Great Books all wrong, all this time. I'm not even finished reading through TWEM and I've already revolutionized the way I approach deep literature.
I have read many classic and non-fiction books, and I honestly believe that I am better for it. My large vocabulary and ability to comprehend complex and esoteric subjects is largely due to reading every tome I could get my hands on - the older the better.
Unfortunately, I had no system whereby I committed the contents of that great literature to memory, for future use and reference. I'm being totally honest: my memory is one of the worst there is. And the fact that I listen to most of the books I read doesn't improve my retention capacity.
But Bauer has given me the answer: keep a literary journal. It will be a little awkward to carry around a notebook in my back pocket and scribble notes as I listen to the book on CD, but I've already tried this out on C.S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man and it worked splendidly! I was able to see the logical progression of his arguments and retain so much more of what I learned.
Something else Bauer suggests is to read a book several times over, going deeper with each subsequent reading, and this brings me to the revolution part of this whole post.
I'm going back on my new year's resolution.
It pains me to do it, but why keep doing the wrong thing just because you've made it a commitment and goal? I said that I wanted to read 40 classic/nonfiction books by the end of the year. I now realize that this is the wrong way to go about it. I need quality, not quantity. It would be nice to read that much, but I now think that it would be so much better to read each book more than once, take notes and take my time, read articles and critical essays concerning it, and really try to find out what point the author is trying to get across. Then I can write a concise, well-informed blog post about the book.
Do you agree?
So this day marks a difference in how I approach classic literature. It's not a race against time, it's a race against ignorance. I would love to have solid paper versions of every book and turn down page corners, mark up paragraphs, and scribble notes in the margins, but I'll try to do the best with what I've got. Hopefully by the end of the year I will have a much better idea of the best way to read, and get a lot more out of my reading list.
Tata for now,