Being Well-Read: To Cull or Surrender?

From: “Does Anyone Want to Be ‘Well-Read?’” by Roger Ebert at The Sun Times laments:

At the end of the day, some authors will endure and most, including some very good ones, will not.

and writes an impassioned defense of reading:

That’s how I’ve done my reading: Haphazardly, by inclination. I consider myself well read, but there has been no plan.

At NPR, Linda Holmes talks about the two approaches we can take to being well read in “The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We’re All Going to Miss Almost Everything“:

Culling is the choosing you do for yourself. It’s the sorting of what’s worth your time and what’s not worth your time…

Surrender, on the other hand, is the realization that you do not have time for everything that would be worth the time you invested in it if you had the time, and that this fact doesn’t have to threaten your sense that you are well-read.

I don’t think culling or surrendering are mutually exclusive. But as I age, I’m leaning more toward surrender. Linda says:

Culling is easy; it implies a huge amount of control and mastery.

I disagree. I find culling exhausting. Too many decisions to make. So I lean toward surrender, but tend to forget sometimes, especially when I’m in a bookstore. I returned a handful of recent purchases today. I resisted buying more. I don’t need them, don’t have time for them, and if either of those things changes, I can buy them later or, better yet, borrow them from the library. I haven’t read, and won’t read, most of the authors Roger Ebert mentions. I’m OK with that. I came late to the desire to be well-read, and feel I am doing a decent job of catching up.

2 Responses to “Being Well-Read: To Cull or Surrender?”

  1. Jennifer Says:

    Thanks for this post! I’m always feeling as if I am not reading enough (because I am reading on the computer too much) and I loved reading Ebert’s column. It reminded me of much that I have read, and more that I have not — and I smiled at his last lines about reading: “It is naked and unprotected communication. That’s how you get pregnant. May you always be so.”

    I also agree that culling and surrendering are not mutually exclusive — I definitely do both!

    I don’t comment often but I like reading what you are reading and watching (although I do little of the latter). Thanks.

  2. girldetective Says:

    Thanks, Jennifer. I think the two articles resonated with a lot of us. And thanks for commenting. I’m getting walloped by spam lately, and some days I have to delete dozens of spam with no real comments, so each real one is read and appreciated!