Some aren’t great at all, but we love them anyway. In today’s On the Square, R. R. Reno considers the books that are not great, maybe not even good, but nonetheless of tremendous personal importance:
Some books are great: Middlemarch by George Eliot, for example, or Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. They’re historically important, influential, and seminal. But the monuments of Western culture are not the same as personal touchstones. It’s not just the intrinsic value of certain books—their “greatness”—that makes them existentially arresting; it’s also the time and place when they happen to fall into our hands.
That’s why mediocre books, or at least merely good books, can be important for us if we read them at the right time and in the right place.
Middlemarch is, of course, the greatest book ever written, both in its perfection and in its ability to move its readers. So if you haven’t read it, there is no time like the present to buy a copy and then perhaps buy more copies for all your friends so that you can start a book club where all you do is read Middlemarch. If you and your friends all have Kindles, it’s just a dollar! Even if you have twenty friends, that’s a pretty good deal. Once your book club is done you can all watch the miniseries and criticize the casting together. It’ll be great.
Also, you can discuss such important and eternal questions as: Will Ladislaw? Really? Him?