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What does being well read mean to you?

Cherry Cola
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I think that term is generally heavily oriented towards "the classics," modern day "literary" authors of note (those who win or are short-listed for Pulitzers, etc.), and nonfiction on "serious" topics (e.g. history). So yes, classist/snobbish, somewhat racist/sexist in that the classics especially will be largely Western Civilization White Guys, and biased against genre fiction. I'm definitely in favor of expanding it. But when people say that in films, like in your question, I feel that is what they probably mean. Someone who has read Aristotle, Joyce, Tolstoy, Austen, Hardy, Ian McEwan, Jose Saramago, Sun Tzu, Donna Tartt, Ta-Nehisi Coates...(far from an exhaustive list, nor do you necessarily need to have read someone on it, this is just to provide a sampling)

On the other hand, if you have read everything in science fiction from Asimov to Nnedi Okarafor, even though that's a huge number of books and authors, you won't get the "well read" label. At best you'll get a qualified "well read in science fiction."

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In the movies, it generally means being grounded in the classics and reading 'important' modern books, but I find that rather pretentious.  For me, it's a matter of being well-rounded.  Having read some of the classics, yes, but also at least a sampling of various genres, modern fiction, non-fiction, etc., even reading YA and children's fiction now and then.

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Back in the dark ages, when I was in grad school getting my master's in British lit, being "well read" meant having read the classics (mostly western civilization stuff) but even then, there was a push to expand to world literature. At that time, though, there definitely was a double standard when it came to certain literary genres. You want to read a lot of magical realism? Fine. You want to read a lot of science fiction and/or fantasy? Eh, that's not serious literature. To me, now, what it means is someone who has at least attempted to read a variety of genres and texts from different parts of the world. I don't think of it as some litmus test where if you haven't read book ABC, then you're not well read. Neither is it a question of being able to recognize a specific quotation. 

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