Digging into Some Books

I don’t get much time for myself these days, which is a pretty common symptom of being the primary breadwinner of the household as well as a dad. But, when I do manage to get a bit of free time by myself, which usually happens when Hannah is asleep and Rebecca is out with her mom or catching up with her friends, I love sitting in my big comfy chair by the fireplace and sifting through a good book.

Many years ago, when I was an undergraduate student, I found, at a garage sale, a lovely set of books known as the Harvard Classics. The Harvard Classics were a series of 50 volumes first published in the early 1900s. Apparently, a contingent of professors at Harvard University were tasked with compiling together, in one concise set of 50 volumes, the greatest literature in the world ranging from philosophy, to the sciences, to politics.

I remember seeing that 50 volume set resting on the lawn outside the garage. The price tag said $25, which I knew to be a steal. The Harvard Classics, if maintained in good condition, can easily go for a few hundred dollars on Ebay back then – maybe more now. Suffice it to say that I leapt in the action, grabbed the 50 volumes clumsily from up off the ground and dropped them into a nearby cardboard box, and promptly paid the man his $25.

I remember getting back to my dorm that night and reading the introductory pages in the first volume of the Harvard Classics. Apparently, the Harvard Classics had been designed to enable the ordinary layperson (i.e. a guy like me) to read and appreciate the world’s greatest literature. All that the layperson had to do was commit to reading 5 to 10 pages per day. In other words, the Harvard Classics were designed to be accessible.

It’s been about seven or eight years since I picked up that 50 volume set from the grass outside the garage. I’m a bit embarrassed to say that, since that day years ago, I’ve only been through five or six of the volumes. I found myself mostly drawn to the Ancient Greek works, like the Iliad the Odyssey. I also have really enjoyed reading Elizabethan drama, namely Shakespeare. I’m currently reading the Prince, which is a 16th-century political treatise, by the Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli.

My goal is to finish the entire set of 50 volumes by the time I turn 40. By then, Hannah will be entering her teenage years. Perhaps she’ll have caught the literary bug by then and I can hand the set down to her. 🙂