I’ve done a few rants now on this site, and I talk about writing, but one thing I mentioned is that I want to use this space to learn more about reading: I want to challenge myself to read new things, old things, and everything in between to help myself become more literary and self-educated.
There’s been a little hesitation because I hit a bit of a stumbling block out of the gate. On a whim, I selected as my first “literary challenge” the book The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.
The book, about a boorish father ignoring his kids and the relationship among them, is extremely well written. I’ve gotten through 10-15 pages of it, and it’s humorous and thought-provoking. Even with the excessively Russian names, I still have enjoyed it.
But I know my weaknesses.
I’m a man of momentum, especially when starting something new. Like many of us, I need to build up a certain amount of downhill force in my actions before something becomes a habit. And if I want to be more literary, I need to find a few easy ones to help me wade into the deep water, because I know if I throw myself into the literary deep end, I’m just going to flail around for a few minutes and then sink to the bottom.
So what does this have to do with The Brothers Karamazov? According to my Kindle, the book is 870 pages long. Holy crap, that’s a lot. And while the number itself isn’t all that daunting if I like reading, I also want to start by reading a wide variety of texts to get my brain into that frame of mind before tackling a giant tome like this.
So I, for now, am putting The Brothers Karamazov down (or, more accurately, moving it to a “Return to finish” collection on my Kindle home screen). I’m definitely going to come back to it, but part of reading is to go with your interests and how you’re feeling. By listening to myself, I’m going to have a much better chance of getting into this whole literary scene.
So why did I choose Manvotionals instead?
Manvotionals: Timeless Wisdom and Advice on Living the 7 Manly Virtues* is a book by Brett McKay and Kate McKay. It’s a collection of various quotes, speeches, poems, and literary pieces on living a life of true manhood centered around the 7 Manly Virtues:
So, for starters, it’s a book on how to be a better man. I loved the first Art of Manliness book*, and I’m a huge fan of the blog (just start clicking the “random post” button in the sidebar and watch your afternoon go sailing out the window). So for another book by this awesome couple to be available is worthwhile in and of itself.
But the beauty of this is that it fits right in with what I’m trying to accomplish. This book, which is a more manageable starting point of 255 pages, is a crash course in the literary elite:
We’ve included selections from the timeless works of ancient philosophers like Aristotle and Epictetus, virile speeches from Theodore Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, and manly poems from Rudyard Kipling and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
(Note: if you want me to read something, put Teddy Roosevelt in it. The man is my hero.)
Nobody is going to look down at that list of names. That excites me. It’s cut up into chunks and organized by “virtue”, and that helps me ease into it.
In short, it’s literary, it’s manageable, and it’s interesting to me. I’ll come back to Dostoyevsky eventually, when the time is right and when my brain is ready for it. But in the meantime, I’m going to read a literary piece that’s interesting to me, fun to read, and educational to boot.
I’ll close with one of the quotes that is 10 pages into the book:
The superior man is he who develops, in harmonious proportions, his moral, intellectual, and physical nature. This should be the end at which men of all classes should aim, and it is this only which constitutes real greatness. – Douglas Jerrold
*These are Amazon affiliate links. You pay the same price, but I get a small percentage of the sale. If you, for some reason, don’t want me to get a percentage of the sale, that’s cool – just search the book titles on Amazon and they’ll come right up.