Tatler's Guide To Being Conversant: Albert Wan On Literature
What should everyone be reading now and why?
In times of great uncertainty and distress, we sometimes lose sight of who we are as a community, a society and civilisation. It is more important than ever to return to foundational texts. The ones that come to mind at the moment are the Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and any Peanuts comic strip you can find.
How can you tell whether a person is well-read?
If “well-read” means someone who reads to impress others, you can, thankfully, spot that kind of person a mile away, and then steer clear of them. To me, the ones who stand out read not just for their own gain, but to influence the world positively around them. These people tend to be the quietest but also the kindest, strongest, most resilient ones in the room. Get to know them. They make the world a better place and will make you a better person.
What are five books everyone should read?
For the love of humanity, the five books everyone should read are: If This Is a Man by Primo Levi, for remembering the Holocaust in unpretentious prose; Darkness at Noon by Arthur Koestler, for a drama about the brutal death of an innocent prisoner; The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, for the adrenaline of solving a crime to clear one’s own name; Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion, for the serious approach to her terrible subject in non-fiction; and The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa, for giving expression to the most subtle workings of human psychology.
See also: Tatler's Guide To Being Conversant
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