Reading Classics

It’s coming up on a year since I graduated from NYU, and I’ve been thinking a lot about the benefits of college that are hard to reproduce once you leave. The two that I’ve been focussing on are (a) being around a lot of smart, driven people, and (b) learning a lot in a short space of time.

Despite their shortcomings*, I think that books are the best tools for acquiring knowledge. I think that we’re not discerning enough when it comes to choosing those books, but I suspect they’re still miles ahead of the competition — TED Talks, interviews, lectures on YouTube, or even blog posts from knowledgeable experts.

I’ve been thinking of strategies to optimize reading, making it less of a slog. I’ve joined a business book club to figure out if having that discussion and community is the secret to reading more, and I’m interested in seeing how it develops.

DYvPJMQVAAE9CWp.jpg large.jpegAs well as trying to read more books, I’m also trying to read better books. I didn’t take many classes in college that required me to read many classics, and I’ve been thinking of the best way to rectify that shortcoming. A few weeks back, I learned about the “Great Books” program at St. John’s College, which is focussed on reading the great works of Western civilization (you can get the book list on their Wikipedia page and see the schedule of the reading from their webpage).

Over the four years, students chart a course from Homer to Ptolemy to Descartes, through Smith, Kant, and Austin, and on to Du Bois, Woolf, and Faulkner. The list is daunting, both because these books aren’t exactly beach reads, and because of the expectation that you’ll read around 150 such works in four years.

So I’m setting myself a new goal, parallel to “read 100 books in 2018”, which is to have the St. John’s list finished in the four years they allot to students. As part of my tangential goal to blog more in 2018, I’ll also post updates on what I’m reading here. You can read some thoughts on “The Everything Store” here.

And now — on I go to Homer.

* One of the oft-repeated claims about books is that they’re becoming too long, but I think this criticism is generally misguided. Give me a tome over a TED Talk any day.