It’s very important to be well-educated these days. But if you can’t be well-educated, you can settle for the next best thing which is to appear well-educated. Part of that calls for acting that you know more than what you do. In social circles it can come in handy if you can quote from some book that’s considered to be high-brow.
Well-educated people read a lot and so if you want people to believe that you’re well educated then you have to read certain literary works. It is not enough that you read; you also have to read the right books. Quoting from a philosophical works is the best, but reading those can be tedious. You should just go for the novels that are considered to be intellectual. It is better if you quote Faulkner than Tom Clancy.
To help you get started out, here are some of the books that you should go out and read. The bonus here is that some of these books are good reads. Beware though that some of the titles will also be hard to finish.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Mark Twain’s greatest work is considered by many to be one of the greatest American novels of all time. Twain took a character from an earlier novel and used him to voice out greatest reflections on slavery and human reflection in general. It is not surprising that pretentious people have this on their list of books that should be read and you should include it in yours too.
In the book Huck Finn tries to escape from his alcoholic and abusive father. He teams up with Jim, a fugitive slave. They float down the Mississippi River on a raft and along the way they encounter a whole set of interesting and mostly unsavoury characters. You can talk about reading this book to your friends and explain to them how it made you realize some amazing truths about American history and society, slavery and all that stuff.
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
Kerouac has been identified with the hippie movement and so it is not surprising that a lot of liberal-minded people are in love with his work. The book is based on the travels of Kerouac across the United States. The story is set in a backdrop of drug use, poetry and jazz music. When you are expounding to others how you found the book, you might want to mention how the original manuscript of the novel is one long scroll of tracing paper that was taped together. That’s so edgy.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
This is really a good one. Vonnegut is one of the funniest American novelists of all time, but it doesn’t end there. Besides being funny Vonnegut also offers some stinging observations about humans and human civilization in the guise of science fiction. Slaughterhouse-Five is his most famous work and it is based on his experiences as a prisoner-of-war in Germany during World War Two. He was in Dresden when it was destroyed by the Allies through bombing. The book was taken up by the counter culture revolution as their anti-war book at the height of the protests against the Vietnam War.
If you are just going to read one book by Vonnegut, this should be that one book. You should be able to discuss the author’s views against war and other things. The good news is that there is a high chance that you are going to enjoy reading it or any of Vonnegut’s books for that matter.
Finnegan’s Wake by James Joyce
Reading Finnegan’s Wake is like a good news bad news sort of thing. The bad news is that it’s so incomprehensible that you are not going to finish it. The book is simply impossible to understand and if you can follow its plot simply from reading the book alone without consulting any outside reference, then you should congratulate yourself because you have done an amazing feat. The good news is that no one can really test whether you have read it or not.
You have to see a copy of the book to understand what we mean here. It’s like Joyce set out to write a novel in the most incomprehensible way possible and he largely succeeded. Finnegan’s Wake is so hard to read which makes Ulysses, another modernist work by Joyce look like light reading. A downside though is that you can’t really discuss the message of the book.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
The greatest work by Salinger is all about the angst felt by young people. That’s a timeless topic to build a book on. Young people will always feel isolated, left out and restless. That’s why reading this book and being able to discuss its contents is a great way to build your credibility as a serious reader.
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
War and Peace is one of the longest novels to have ever been written and it is also one of the greatest, so finishing it would gain you two points. War and Peace is a sweeping drama of life in Russia at the time of Napoleon’s invasion. It describes vividly the social life of the Russian upper classes at that period and the Russian campaign which eventually resulted in the fall of Napoleon. Though, some might say that this book is no longer relevant, it does offer some insight on how historical events are not shaped by individuals. You can go on and on about the insights in life that Tolstoy was able to expound in the book. You should also be ready to discuss Tolstoy’s view regarding religion and morality when discussing War and Peace.
Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
This book became relevant again after the movie starring Hugh Jackman and Natalie Portman came up. It can be such a huge plus to your reputation if you can go and discuss the book by Hugo and say that you liked the book better than the movie. It would also be a huge plus if you can say that you’ve seen the musical as well. The book is thick and it might look discouraging to take on, but worry not, because there’s an abridged version which removes most of Hugo’s philosophical ramblings.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Crime and Punishment is a painful tale about a young man who commits murder and robbery in order to prove a philosophical point. He then experiences redemption at the end of the book. This book is dark and brooding even more than the other great works by Dostoyevsky. It would be a great thing if you can go on to expound about Dostoyevsky’s view on morality to your friends.
There are other books that you can read which would make you appear well-educated and even intellectual. There are works that although considered to be light reading, are considered to be light reading for intellectual people. The Harry Potter books would fall under that category. Do not read any of the Twilight books or at least don’t read it where anyone can see you. You should also read physical books and not the eBook versions. It is hard to show to people what you’re reading when you’re using an e-reader or a tablet. Letting people know what you’re reading is a big part of appearing well-educated.