Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot.
Historian Will Durant says a person should read books that will do the most to make us educated men. He suggested 100 books that, when read just 7 hours a week, will make a scholar and philosopher out of you in just 4 years. Like the day I read Seth’s blog and was challenged to write a blog a day, I find myself again being challenged by a person of intellect to better my mind, and hopefully, put into practice those learnings to make me a better man. I have obtained a list of books listed as “The World’s 100 Greatest Books” and will weave them into the tapestry that is my regular reading.
Scanning the list of 100, I find that I have already read 5 of them (The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, Moby Dick by Herman Melville, Call of the Wild by Jack London, The Prince by Machiavelli, and The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin). I read these many years ago but can’t say that I read them at a time when my intellect was developed by life’s experiences to such a sufficient state that I was able to grasp the lessons hidden in the pages of these books. That being the case, it is not out of the realm of reason that I will read these again.
Coincidentally, I had started Dracula by Bram Stoker, one of the 100 on the list, prior to deciding to work my way through the classics. This original Dracula story is a bit predictable because the vampire genre is ripe with books these days and, I don’t believe, there is an adult America alive that has not been exposed at some point to the story of Dracula. Still, I am enjoying the book as much for the story as for the style of the author’s rendering with language which is reminiscent of late 1800s England. Did I say coincidence? Well, I don’t believe in coincidences so it seems that, before I decided to read the 100 greatest books, the list had chosen that I read it. The first book on the list, the book I will start after completing Dracula, is the Illiad by Homer, a book that, taken with the Odyssey are considered, by many, to be the greatest books ever written. I must say, I think the list is a little suspect in it’s contents. There are no books from Eastern writers. It focuses solely on writings from the West.
I will not put aside my regular reading, rather will supplement it with the classics. My regular reading covers topics dear to my heart such as Leadership Development which, when put into immediate practice, improves my ability to serve the people with whom I work and to serve those people I encounter in daily life. I will continue to read the autobiographies of great men and women like Winston Churchill and Mother Theresa as these give me the courage to face life issues with aplomb. If Churchill can bring England through the nightmare of the German Blitzkrieg into the light of world peace and Mother Theresa can selflessly serve the poorest of the poor in India, then I can face the challenges in my life that pale in comparison to the obstacles they had to overcome. There are books I will read because I want to let the prose or poetry written by author’s outside of my cultural context such as “Soccer in Sun and Shadow” by Eduardo Galeano because they help expose me to views I cannot get from my own people. There are books I will read solely for the entertainment value such as the Jason Bourne series. I will read books because the beauty of the prose captures my imagination and paints images in colors I would never have imagined on my own. I will read historical fiction such as “When the Emperor Was Divine” by Julie Otsuka so the tragedies beset by man upon man are not lost in the shadows of time.
I will continue to read for as long as I have the ability because books help broaden my too narrow understanding of the world in which I live.