Let’s Talk “Well Read”

On our facebook fan page, I’ve been having a conversation with several of you.  That convo prompted this poll, which as of the time of this writing stood at this:

To see thoughts from our conversation, note the comments below, and feel free to join in!


  1. I’m going to move the conversation from Facebook to this venue in the following posts…

  2. Jo: I think a person to be labelled ‘well-read’ would have to enjoy many different types of books… or at least to have read many different types… everything from ‘best sellers’ (which are not always good books, in my opinion) to Shakespeare or philosophy… as well as different genres, non-fiction, fiction… to have read classics and understand many references made in current books to other books or even historical references.

    I don’t believe a person who has read numerous romance novels to be ‘well-read’

  3. Me, @Jo: So you’re suggesting “the best works from the largest variety of authors” versus “the best works from the best authors” (recognizing that there is a hugely subjective component to “best”)?

  4. Jo, @Jack: Recognising that ‘best’ is highly suggestive… I am not actually stating that.. what I am saying is that a person who has read from many different categories and from many different authors could be considered ‘well read’… you cannot know if an author has written anything of ‘worth’ until you have read a variety of authors in any given genre… but a person who only reads one author or only reads one type of genre, is not someone who I would consider to be ‘well read’ … without comparative reading, they have not enough experience to formulate a valid judgement on what they do read.
    It is a good policy to attempt to read ‘acclaimed’ books, if for no other reason than to understand what all the fuss is about with a given book and it may have some influence on further reading material… read widely and critically can be a good maxim for someone who is well read

  5. Leng: I think a person who is well read has read important books in a variety of genres (and ideally, in multiple languages!). By ‘important’ I mean those books that have made genuine contributions to thought, to identity, to collective consciousness. So in the case of fiction, books that provide narratives that help us understand ourselves or others better.

    Another thought – you can read a person like you read a book. A well read person might be someone who is known and understood.

  6. Sipola: I’m well read in fiction however there is a lot of reference and biographical books i hav never read yet wish i did… one book that i think is essential for all to read yet everyone thinks they have already but no they have not! its peter pan!! my favourite book presently i had thought i knew the story and i did but i never read its original only the disney version!!! it is by far the best read ive had in so long!!! so enjoyable!!!

  7. Jack, @Sipola: Interesting… so is non-fiction vital to being well-read? Or can someone be well-read just by reading an outstanding amount of high-quality and diverse fiction?

  8. Jessica, @ALL: I definitely concur with Jo! While I have my favorite genres, I enjoy reading from various genres from time to time, feeling like they give me a greater perspective and understanding of things previously outside of my world, or at least outside of my consideration. I love it when, having read an idea a couple of times and still struggling with it, I come across another book that unexpectedly mentions the same idea, and all of a sudden the light bulb goes off, and it just clicks! Helping me to see different sides of the same equation!

    The best professor I ever had was also my worst. She should not have been an undergrad prof at all, more of a graduate prof, and she really wasn’t able to clearly relate the subject to her students. However, as a result of her being on a completely different plane, I was forced (if I wanted to pass the class) to completely throw away any prior conceptions that I had, and concentrate solely on how she viewed things. She taught me how to see various perspectives without giving up on my own. I feel like my favorite books help me to do the same thing. As a result, I suppose I also feel that someone that is well-read has also had many of those same types of experiences, even if they were with completely different books.

    I think when we read a book, we generally make a judgment whether we thought it was good, bad, influential, etc. I have know people that I consider to be rather extremist in their views, and they read quite a lot. However, they only read whatever it is that supports their cause, only what they consider to be “good” ahead of time. While they may consider themselves well-read, I do not. They may be well-read within that one genre, though. In a sense, I think it is similar to asking someone who only eats at McDonald’s if they consider themselves to be a food critic. Even if they answer yes, how can we believe that answer if they simply haven’t had the experience of various tastes to compare? Although, to that extent, then I suppose anyone who thinks they are well-read, may very well be since isn’t it not really about what others believe about you, rather what you believe about yourself?

    And when Leng said “By ‘important’ I mean those books that have made genuine contributions to thought, to identity, to collective consciousness”, initially I agreed with her statement. Then I thought how absolutely subjective that statement even is. Who is to say what has made a genuine contribution to someone’s thoughts or identity? I think some of most well-known geniuses of our time have probably been more highly influenced by books that are not the standard “genuine contribution” books that everyone seems to gravitate towards. Those geniuses that think outside of the box with their selections, in fact, often then create the books many of us consider to be “genuine contributions”.

    And, haha! Leng, I had the same thought you did with regards to a well-read person potentially being someone that is well-understood! 😉

    And isn’t it important to be IN the real world to experience people and life to better understand the books we read and therefore be more well-read? Otherwise, if we close ourselves off into a box, then we fail to understand and connect with how books apply to our world.

    Soooooooo many different directions to go in with this topic! 😀

  9. being well read in my opinion does not only mean by reading. it means to me talking, watching news etc. just like being well rounded.

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