Periodically while surfing the internet I encounter a page entitled “Books That Changed My Life”, with a list of books that purportedly changed the life of the author. I am always irritated by these pages, because I never see any evidence that the books had actually changed the life of the author. In fact, for most of these pages a more appropriate title would have been “Books that I really, really liked a lot.” Occasionally, it might have been called “Books that influenced my thinking,” but I’m reluctant to refer to that as having changed one’s life.
I suppose I am irritated because I have my own list of books, and each one of them had effected a concrete, specific change in my life. It’s not very long–maybe three books–but even …show more content…
In junior-high school I bought How to Read a Book, read it, was mightily impressed by it, acknowledged to myself that the techniques it described were important and valuable … and then put the book on the shelf and didn’t think about it again.
But in high school, for reasons that I only vaguely remember now, I came to realize that I wasn’t a very effective reader; my reading was scattershot, shallow, and didn’t have a lasting effect on me. As I wrestled with that, I remembered Adler’s book (but nothing of what it had said), and decided to read it again. This time it took; I understood what he was saying and why, and I knew I had to become the kind of reader he was describing.
Perhaps more important: somewhere in the book Adler mentions Great Books discussion groups. I looked into it and found that, during the 50s and early 60s there was a fad bordering on a movement, where groups of average people would actually convene to discuss readings from the classics of Western literature. Imagine! Next, I found out that an organization had been formed to support and propagate these groups, the Great Books Foundation, that it still exists, and that it publishes collections of readings from the Great Books for use by discussion groups