I went through college specializing in history and literature. I graduated with a history major. All of my college life I read literature and history, and was evaluating different philosophies and the meaning of life.
As you go through college there are books everyone raves about. They make you read them. Why? Because each has a way of producing a story that is very unique.
Hemingway has his unique approach. F. Scott Fitzgerald has his unique approach. You read these in literature courses and you can learn why they are unique.
To read a good novel like “Huckleberry Finn,” you can appreciate the quality of writing and the story telling. That’s one aspect of literature. What I liked to observe is the philosophy of life represented in literature.
As you go through college, you are trying to formulate your world view and it is good to have all these different points of view: To read Marx is helpful, to read Ayn Rand and “The Fountainhead” and the significance of the individual is helpful. It helps formulate your view of what you think you should be doing with your life, and how to deal with issues in society.
I’ve tried hard to be involved in social issues and have a background on different points of view. This helps me formulate a view on what direction we should be going.
The one that influenced me the most is Voltaire’s “Candide.” The plot revolves around Voltaire’s ridicule of the philosophical theme of the day that “all is for the best in this best of all possible worlds.” This theme was entrenched with theologians, royalty, military and philosophers.
Candide ends the novella by ignoring the philosophy that all turns out for the best by the necessity of God’s will, and rather than expressly emphasizing pessimism, which dominates the plot, he ends with “we must cultivate our garden.”
When I got into my 40s, a lot of people talked about how it’s important to have a hobby. I thought I would like to collect something I’m interested in.
I like to collect books that promoted and brought about change. I’ll take the author then I’ll move with the literature that logically created the change.
At some point, what starts happening is you get the main works by the author, like “Roots,” by Alex Haley, or “The Feminine Mystique,” by Betty Friedan.
In collecting, you have to then decide if you want to fill out your collection with basically everything they wrote. That’s where it turns from an intellectual interest into becoming a collector.
(This interview was edited and condensed by Dennis Burck. If you have a recommendation for “Favorite Things,” please email firstname.lastname@example.org.)