What does it mean to be well-read? That’s an interesting question, isn’t it? If asked, how would you answer it? This post is my reaction to BookRiot’s post, How to Be Well-Read. Stop reading this post now, read BookRiot’s post, then return to this one. I know that I’m taking a risk, asking you to go somewhere else, but life is about taking risks.
Now that you’ve read the BookRiot’s post, How to Be Well-Read, what are your thoughts? How would you answer, “What does it mean to be well-read?” Do you think it has something to do with the number of books you read? Or the quality of the books you read?
In the article, How to Be Well-Read, Susie Rodarme raises an interesting point about some people believing that being well-read has to do with the number of books that you read. I would also add that it has to do with the diversity of books read as well. I’m sure that if you asked 50 people what it means to be well-read, the answers would be all over the place.
What Does It Mean to Be Well-Read?: Avil’s Well-Read Definition
When I first read the article, my reaction was that to be well-read, means that you read mostly books that make you think – books that give your brain an intellectual workout, elevating your level of thinking. When you read books that make you think, to become well-read, you have to read them actively and carefully.
Additionally, when you read challenging books, they should shift you from understanding less about a topic to understanding more. If the books don’t do that, then they will not contribute to a well-read mind. The books that have the capacity to shift your level of understanding, must also have practical information that you can apply at work or in life. If you are well-read, you should also be able to explain what you’ve read to others – in clear language, since this will test of your understanding of the information.
Now having said that, a few years ago, I bought the course, Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life from The Great Courses. The content in the course is excellent, and anyone who reads those timeless classics will have a well-fed mind. The books are not easy to read, and that’s the point. But by going through the course, reading the books will be easier to understand. I have read a few of the books, but I have a long way to go to becoming well-read.
How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler Well-Read Definition
Coincidentally, I started to reread How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler and Charles Van Doren, and in it, I was delighted to see that the authors made a distinction between widely read and well-read. You can read widely, and yet not be well read. Quantity does not equate to quality. You can read a lot of books without gaining any knowledge. That will make you widely read and not well read. How to Read a Book gives you insights into what it means to be well-read. In this instance, to become well-read, is to become enlightened.
“To be informed is to know simply that something is the case. To be enlightened is to know, in addition, what it is all about: why it is the case, what its connections are with other facts, in what respects it is the same, in what respects it is different, and so forth…. Enlightenment is achieved only when, in addition to knowing what an author says, you know what he means and why he says it…. Being informed is prerequisite to being enlightened. The point, however, is not to stop at being informed.” How to Read a Book, Charles Van Doren and Mortimer J. Adler
When you achieve enlightenment, you become well-read. So how do you become well-read? You have to become a more demanding reader, reading actively, and to do so, you have to ask yourself four questions when you read.
How to Become Well-Read: 4 Basic Questions a Reader Must Ask When Reading Actively
- What is the book about? What is the theme of the book and how does the author develops the theme?
- What is being said in detail, and how? Find the main ideas, assumptions, and arguments of the author’s message?
- Is the book true, in whole or in part? You have to answer the first two questions before you can tackle the third. You have to know what is being said before you can decide if its true or not. You also have to make up your own mind.
- What of it? You have to ask yourself what is the significance of the information. Did the book Inform you or enlighten you?
As you can see, the questions build on each other. To become well-read means that you have to actually answer the four questions above.
Must Read Books to Read to Be Well-Read
Books That Changed the World: The 50 Most Influential Books in Human History – In this book, you’ll find 49 books that can help you to acquire a well-fed mind (One of the books is the Telephone Directory). While reading the books, it’s worth asking and answering the four questions above.
The Great Books: A Journey Through 2500 Years of the West’s Classic Literature – This is another book that includes summaries of the great books. And reading any of the books included can lead to becoming well-read.
Final Thoughts: What Does It Mean to Be Well-Read?
At the end of the day, it’s about you! What are your thoughts? What does it mean to be well-read? Do you consider yourself to be well-read?
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