An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro

Last week, I started an ambitious new project where I’m reading the Top 125 Books of All-Time.

The list is my attempt to read through a “consensus” Top X Books list, considering how different each of these lists seem to be. So what I did was take six of the most popular ones and consolidated them to see which books these lists had in common.

The lists I used were:

  • The Guardian
  • The Observer
  • The Telegraph
  • Le Monde
  • Modern Library
  • Time Magazine

I learned that 125 books appear on more than one list in this set. So I compiled them here and plan to read them over the next … however many years. I don’t like reading timeframes, so that’s the best you’re going to get.

The first of these Top 125 Reads was An Artist of the Floating World by Kazuo Ishiguro.

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Classics Club Spin #18

You probably know the drill at this point. But for those of you who may not…

What is the Classics Spin? Essentially, folks in the Classics Club choose 20 books from their classics club reading list and post them by the due date (in this case, Aug 1).

Another name for the due date is “spin day,” when a random number between 1-20 is revealed. You’re then required to read the book on your 20-book list (mine is posted below) that corresponds with this number.

You can choose your books randomly, divide them by categories, or whatever. Part of the challenge, though, is to choose at least a few that you know you’re dreading, just in case this is the opportunity to nudge you toward it.

Here’s my list…

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Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations is a series of writings by Roman Emperor and philosopher king Marcus Aurelius (famously portrayed by the incomparable Richard Harris in Gladiator). Essentially his nightly diary, Meditations is an incredibly introspective look into both his personal and political lives. Through his relationships with colleagues, subjects, family, friends, and teachers, we see an honest, humble depiction of the often mythic Aurelius: he was a simple man, a lifelong learner, and a Stoic who just so happened to be the leader of the entire Western world.

These private notes–never meant for publication–are mostly centered on the Stoic philosophy (made famous by Socrates), which sees happiness as the acceptance of every moment as it happens. The goal of a Stoic is to stop being ruled by his/her desire for pleasure and fear of pain. It is about treating others fairly and working together in pursuit of justice.

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment.”

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Acknowledgments: February

Every month I wrangle up some of the more interesting things around the blogosphere and present them to you in a neat and tidy package. But first, a diatribe about Shakespeare as a potential fraud…


In his novel The Tragedy of Arthur, Arthur Phillips had the audacity to challenge the infallibility of Shakespeare. He put the Bard on blast, then aimed the gun at the thousands of automatons critics who willfully, stubbornly, and perhaps even negligently evangelize the following dogma: Shakespeare as an irrefutable deity.

As it is taught, Shakespeare is perfection, he is without fault, blemish, or equal, and as a result, to challenge his greatness is to not understand him, to reveal one’s own incompetence, because, surely, he did not make even a single mistake.

Yet, his body of work–which supposedly captures the entire human experience in less than 40 plays–contains hundreds of strange turns, missteps, and jokes gone awry. As Phillips pointed out in his novel, Shakespeare is far from perfect. Was he brilliant? Of course he was. Was he infallible? No one is.

But for some reason, people have been covering for him for hundreds of years. Phillips points it out like so:

“…you have a weak spot where Will’s not thinking very clearly, and the character rambles on, and Will sticks in a joke that he like about flowers that look like wieners. It plainly doesn’t belong there. Any editor would cut it. It breaks the rhythm and the logic of the scene. And your sweet old Gertrude noticed it and rightly points out the weak spot. Anybody else, we’d say, ‘Whoops. Not buying it, Will.’ If I wrote it, they’d send me home to rework it. Instead, what do you all do? You all talk it out until you make it make sense for him. He wrote it, so it must be right. You six very intelligent people form a committee to offer him your help, and when you’ve done the best you can, consulting old books of other would-be helpers, when you actually come up with some very clever solutions, you marvel at him for composing such a subtle moment.”

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“How Should One Read a Book?” by Virginia Woolf

Woolf ReadI used to think that constant hand wringing over book choices was the exclusive domain of anxiety-ridden bloggers.

  • Am I reading enough classics?
  • Should I be reading something “smarter”?
  • Do I read too many dead white guys?
  • Should I read more non-fiction?
  • Do audiobooks even count?
  • Is 50 books a year enough?!

We all do it. We’re all self-conscious. We all write at least a post a year as a solemn decree to read what we want, when we want, and let the snobs be damned. Then we go back to asking the same questions again and the cycle never ends.

As it turns out, this process has been going on for at least a hundred years, as evidenced by Viriginia Woolf’s read-whatever-you-god-damn-well-please essay, “How Should One Read a Book?” (Available for free right here.)

So today, on what is Woolf’s 136th birthday, let us give Virginia the stage. Let her ease our worries, and clean our guilty slates for a year of reading whatever makes us happy in 2018.

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