March 09, 2016


It’s well known among historians that our venerated 26th president, Theodore Roosevelt, was probably the most well-read president, and perhaps one of the most well-read men in all of history. He would read a book before breakfast every day, and depending on his schedule, another two or three in the evening (he was a speed reader extraordinaire). By his own estimates he read tens of thousands of books over the course of his lifetime.
What may not be known to the average reader is how much of a book advocate he really was. Rebecca has already outlined some of his book-loving tendencies, but in doing some research for a different writing project, I stumbled upon a few pages of his autobiography that are just too good to not share with our Riot Readers. My own thoughts are in italics:
1. “The room for choice is so limitless that to my mind it seems absurd to try to make catalogues which shall be supposed to appeal to all the best thinkers. This is why I have no sympathy whatever with writing lists of the One Hundred Best Books, or the Five-Foot Library. It is all right for a man to amuse himself by composing alist of a hundred very good books… But there is no such thing as a hundred books that are best for all men, or for the majority of men, or for one man at all times.”
Brilliant! Here we are as readers, ever debating the merits of this list and that list, and we never stop to realize that we can all just end the fighting and enjoy what we enjoy. No list of books will ever satisfy everyone, so why not just make a list of Lots of Very Good Books That Most People Will Enjoy But Not Everyone Has To.
2. “A book must be interesting to the particular reader at that particular time.”
Ah! Sweet freedom! Newsflash: if a book isn’t all that interesting to you, DON’T READ IT.
3. “Personally, the books by which I have profited infinitely more than by any others have been those in which profit was a by-product of the pleasure; that is, I read them because I enjoyed them, because I liked reading them, and the profit came in as part of the enjoyment.”
Similar to the above, your reading should be a pleasurable experience. Granted, there’s some merit to slogging your way through certain books, but don’t make it a habit.

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