What is “Well Read” Anyway?

I was in the middle of taking a quiz to tell you how “well read” you are, and I realized that I, who until recent years read 50+ books a year, was going to score miserably on this quiz. Which is fine, but I started wondering what the heck Well Read means.

Of course, I Googled it, and got a couple of differing definitions. They basically boil down to someone who reads a lot and someone who learns a lot from reading a lot. But I really think that most people use it as shorthand for a person who is smart, regardless of how they got that way, and someone who reads the “right” kind of books.

There are many ways to be/get smart and many don’t have anything to do with reading. You can learn by doing, watching, listening, etc. I think this is just a case of language not catching up fast enough. There isn’t another phrase (that I can think of, but if you know of one, please let me know) that captures the idea of that someone really worked to get their smarts.

The other meaning – that a person has read the “right” books, is annoying. For transparency’s sake, I would like to state that I have not read many of the “right” books, and when I have, I didn’t like many of them. There are those I did like – I’ve read a few Austen novels and enjoyed them – but for many I don’t understand why people hold them in such high regard. I’m honestly not sure why I’m so salty about reading the right novels equalling intelligence, but it started a long time ago and I probably always will be. No one has ever made me feel stupid for not reading the right books, except once in 10th grade. The surprise when people find out that even though I read all the time, I haven’t read The Great Gatsby or 1984 amuses me.

Now, there are books that have no intellectual value and they are *glorious*. Everyone should read some books that have no deeper meaning. But even those can teach you things without you meaning to learn them. Romance novels may teach you what you do/don’t want in a partner or it may show you a different way of being in a family that speaks to you. Sure, it may also give you unrealistic expectations of love, but the point stands.

This is very much a stream of consciousness post, and I’m not sure how much of it is coherent. But anything I post right now is worth celebration, so I’ll take it.

See you Wednesday!

Sarah


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