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Gift for Life

Graduation season is upon us. Restaurants are slammed with parties. Stores push graduation gifts like it’s Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. The one gift that I received and still benefit from years after I tossed the cap and tassel is The New Lifetime Reading Plan by Clifton Fadiman and John S. Major. The research librarian on campus whom I befriended over my undergraduate years gifted this book to me. The book is a program of guided reading, a survey, to the canonical works of world literature. I graduated from college in mid 1990s, acknowledging that a time might come when a shrinking world, and improvements in various communications media, would make familiarity with all the world’s literary traditions a requirement for a well-rounded, well-read person. Going beyond the syllabi of literature courses, this book suggests works that encompass the world over time. The list is so substantial that the books discussed may take one 50 years to finish. But the point is not to get through them in a hurry—the same reason why I didn’t fully appreciate and enjoy Ulysses in school. The list is rather a mine of literary richness to last a lifetime. It’s a plan designed to fill our minds, slowly, gradually, under no compulsion. As is the case of any list, this one is subjective of the authors, and not inclusive of every major literary work. It’s a good starting point to read authors often neglected by school readings, like Marcel Proust, Natsume Soseki, R.K. Narayan, Samuel Beckett, and Saul Bellow.


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