Reading the classics

Once upon a time, I stopped reading fiction.

“I have limited time,” I said. “Why would I spend that time reading made-up stuff when there is so much REAL stuff out there I could be reading and learning about.”

I did learn a lot – about diseases, storms, human inventions, the practice of medicine, ethical dilemmas in science, etc.

I was becoming a more informed citizen of the world.

But I was missing something, too.


Our human brains crave stories. We read them. We make them up. We weave them around our realities to make sense of our lives.

I was ignoring the context of the human truths fiction can unearth.

I started reading fiction again. I found bits of the stories floating to my mind as I was going about my day. Those books – the good ones, anyway – really do help me to process the world around me.

Some articles that have recently appeared in my social media feeds inspired me to think about this topic again, and to write this post.

First, an opinion piece by Dr. Loretta Jackson-Hayes in The Washington Post: “We don’t need more STEM majors. We need more STEM majors with liberal arts training.”

Then, Punchnel’s blog post by Jamie Leigh “10 Reasons You Should be Reading the Classics.”

I’m taking the challenge to heart. On my to-read list, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “Love in the Time of Cholera” is up next.

I’d like to revisit some Russian writers, too. I read Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky in college, and I’m inspired to return to them after reading in Atul Gawande’s “Being Mortal” that his medical schooling included a seminar in which the students read and discussed Tolstoy as a jumping-off point to examine the emotions and social structures around the process of dying.

What classics have you found relevant to your life recently?


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