Cultivating a Reading List

I've been cultivating a new reading list, looking toward something more than the ability to say "Yeah I've read that" or to offer a witty summary at a cocktail party. I'm after wisdom.

I recently read A Defense of Ardor by Adam Zagajewski and something he said or maybe just insinuated that impressed me was that writing well isn't everything. Writing well gets you the attention of intelligent readers, but then you have to say something that's worth saying.

Sometimes I worry "What do I have that's worth saying?" But then I remember that good ideas bear repeating. You don't have to be original to have something worth saying. You can just restate something true in your own way.

So I'm after those true things that bear repeating, whatever they might be. I'm making a list of where I think I might find them.

That list is centered mostly around Franco Moretti's The Way of the World and The Bourgeois. Practically speaking, this means reading a lot of classic European novels. Goethe, Austen, Defoe, Stendhal, Balzac, Dickens, Eliot, Flaubert, Forster. I'm hoping to learn about identity and ethics, about what it means to be a person in a European/American culture and how one goes the extra (tremendous) step to being a good person. I'm not more sure than anybody else of where wisdom can be found, but I think this literary investigation will be a good start.