Literacy.

There’s been one of those list-things floating around Facebook again. You know the ones: how many of these movies have you seen, answer these 25 questions about yourself and pass it on, describe your most recent grocery list (ok, I made that one up). The one that caught my eye recently is called something like, “Have you read these books?”

Books. Ah, I love ’em. So I was interested to see what this book thing was all about. Here’s the text that precedes the list:

Have you read more than 6 of these books? The BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed here. Instructions: Copy this into your NOTES.  Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read an excerpt.

Game on, I thought. I’m sure I’ve got this list covered. Ok, the instructions are a bit complicated: bold this, italicize that….but I can handle it. On to the list (here’s a sampling. If you want to see more, poke around FB. I’m sure you can find it):

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
34  Emma -Jane Austen
35 Persuasion – Jane Austen
36 The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe – CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh – A.A. Milne
41 Animal Farm – George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

I’m feeling pretty good about this list — I’ve got the six the BBC mentioned in only this chunk of the list. (I didn’t italicize anything, but please know that I’ve tried to read The Kite Runner about a dozen times and can’t get through the first chapter. There are others in this selection that I’ve tossed aside too — life is too short to waste it on a bad book.) I’m not going to quibble about the BBC’s inclusions — that’s not what this post is about. I could wonder aloud about whether my kids’ versions of Winnie the Pooh or Alice in Wonderland are what the BBC had in mind, or what The DaVinci Code is doing sandwiched between Animal Farm and One Hundred Years of Solitude. (Not to disparage Mr. Brown, but really??) But that’s not what I started to think about.

It was this: the implication that the more you’ve read from this list the smarter, more literate, better looking (whatever) you are got me thinking about how I might improve on this list. I’m thinking I could delete selections like Dune, or Bridget Jones’s Diary, and add my own. What do you think?

17. The essay instructions for your first-choice College Application.
25. Love letters from your current Signficant Other (aka future husband/wife).
28. The Human Resources information from your first job.
30. The lease agreement from your first apartment.
31. The fine print on the coupons from your first car payment book.
36. Every word on every line on your first speeding ticket in your new car.
42. The “compatibility assessment” (or whatever it’s called) from the pre-cana requirement at your parish church.
43. Your wedding license.
44. What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
46. Mortgage documents.
48. Instructions for crib assembly.
49. Instructions for infant seat installation.
50. Instructions for the Medela Breast Pump.
51. Instructions for Discharge from the Maternity Floor.
52. Mixing directions for Similac.
53. Laundry instructions for onesies.
60. Your child’s letter to Santa.
67. Your children’s report cards.
69. Orthodontist’s bills.
73. Your child’s Facebook page.
74. Your child’s Twitter stream.
76. Your child’s name on the athletic/academic commendations.
80. 5
th, 10th, 15th Anniversary cards
81. 21
st, 30th, 40th Birthday cards
88. The annual report from your favorite charities.
92. Insurance policies.

For sure I’ve left things out. The thing about this list, though, is that nothing here is beach reading. Seems to me, it’s mostly all required reading — and this kind of required reading list grows and changes all the time. You may not love fine print, or legalese, or that C grade on your child’s math report….but we read them.

And really, I’d rather read more from our Homeowner’s Insurance than Lolita or Madame Bovary (I’ve read one of those, not both) any day.

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14 Responses to “Literacy.”

  1. MKJ Says:

    I’ve read a number books on the BBC list though not as many as you (but Sirius is giving you a run for your money). I’ve started and not finished even more.

    I’ve read almost all of the items in the list you made up. Although I’m not sure I was paying close attention when I read my wedding license. BUT, I will not read an insurance policy except for the title. For example, I know I have CAR insurance and insurance for my HOME but I do not know what happens in the event that “blah blah blah” happens or what $$$ deductible…. or time limits or ….. (eyes crossing just thinking about it).

    I would just rather be surprised when tragedy strikes.

    Same goes for health insurance.

    Stop drooling lawyers.

  2. maryellen Says:

    I am a (retired) lawyer and cannot bear to read the fine print-and to think that I once authored some of that stuff!

  3. Cecelia Winesap Says:

    Ugh. I only have four on that list.
    Cecelia Winesap recently posted..Peaceful Evening Gone Wrong

    Alyson says:

    And yet, me thinks you live a full and entertaining life, BBC list or not.

  4. Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points Says:

    I would do MUCH better with your list than the BBC list.

    Plus, frankly, the BBC list is boring.

    How come “literate” so often has to translate to: so dry as to be incomprehensible but, like fiber cereal, is somehow magically good for you.

    And I was a lit major once upon a time.
    Lori @ In Pursuit of Martha Points recently posted..Fa La La La Frak Frak Frak

    Alyson says:

    “Lit Major” has a ring of cool about it….and then you can feel good about that BBC list. “Ling Major” doesn’t sound cool — sound like maybe I hung around the Pandas at the Natl Zoo too much — and the BBC list only inspires Post Traumatic Stress issues related to Russian literature that I was supposed to read for my Russian minor.
    Amazing how the past continues to haunt….

  5. Melanie Says:

    After going through your list, I feel like the most literate person around since I read most of those — though I have read a bunch from that BBC list (due to required reading for this English Lit. major in college). I haven’t read my son’s FB page yet but then he’s only 5 and barely knows what FB is. I have read his blog however – which was created for family & friends to keep track of his amazingly busy life – but I doubt that that counts since I’m the one writing it. :-))

    Once again, great post!
    Melanie recently posted..Ill Get To It Next Tuesday

    Alyson says:

    I think there should be a Children’s Book must-read list. Not for kids – I mean a list of the required Parent-read-to-child book list. Horton Hears a Who (Hoo?) and all that kind of thing….

  6. Beanie Says:

    I’m totally rocking your list right now! However, Memoirs of a Geisha was fantastic. And Hitch hikers is laugh out loud funny. Happy Friday.
    Beanie recently posted..The life of Kiwi

    Alyson says:

    In addition to feeling smug about how much of the BBC list I can own, there’s so much to make me feel as if I’ve been living under a rock. Must get to Geisha and Galaxy….

  7. MKJ Says:

    The Justs are big Hitch Hiker’s fans. We’ve read it & we have the podcasts on my son’s Ipod so we can listen to it over and over and over and over again.

    The book is full of the best advice in the world starting with… “Don’t Panic”. Also, it is true that a small towel comes in handy more often than you would think.

    Alyson says:

    HitchHiker is one that I never could get through….but I may have been too young and immature to appreciate the lessons. I think he’s spot on with the small towel rule…

  8. Sandra Says:

    I also saw that list on Facebook, and could only cross off 11 that I’d read, and I always thought of myself as pretty literate (even though I’m quite certain I’m spelling the word ‘literate’ wrong right now, but am too lazy to verify its correct spelling). I agree, “What To Expect When your Expecting” should have been on there, and the consecutive ones in the series. And maybe some Sophie Kinsella…well, a girl can’t be smart all the time…
    Sandra recently posted..I feel so betrayed!

    Alyson says:

    Love the Shopaholic books…right with you! And, only the Literate would notice if they misspelled it…..

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