A few days ago, I was trying to describe boyfriend to one of my friends, I called him ‘one of the most well-read people I know’. My friend looked at me, a puzzled look on her face. ‘What does that even mean?’ she asked. That comment made me think.
And frankly, I don’t even really know what it means to be well-read. Does it mean that you’ve obtained a lot of knowledge through books? Does it mean that you’ve read all the classics? When I think of someone that is well read, I think of someone that hasn’t only read a lot of influential literary works, but also knows a lot of obscure authors and reads books written and published all around the world.
Looking at the Merriam Webster definition of being well read, it’s considered to be well-informed or deeply versed through reading. A clear, yet very on-the-surface definition that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. It’s funny, because my boyfriend considers me to be well read, and I consider him to be well read. But we both don’t consider ourselves to be well read. I know, that’s a little confusing.
Looking online, there are tons of different lists and articles about becoming well read. But do you really need to read all of those books to be well read? Is there really a universal idea of what it is to be well read? Personally, I don’t think so.
Let’s nail this down. I think that to be well read, you need to read a wide variety of genres. Not limited to, but definitely including, influential literary works. I think it’s important to read both fiction and non-fiction, as well as authors that have a different (cultural) background from you. And lastly, for me, to be well read means to think critically about what you read.
Of course, when we speak of a ‘wide variety’, we can’t define this numerically. The definition of being well read will always be flexible, and that’s what makes it so interesting!