What Does Being "well-read" Look Like to You?

Dismantling Elitism in Reading Spaces

Mary Cathryn Lord


Mary Catheryn standing in front of the Classics section holding Little Women


Whether it is a goal some of us may strive to achieve, or a compliment we secretly hope to receive, what does it actually mean to be “well-read”? In the United States alone, more than 300,000 new books are published each year, and over 40 million books already have registered ISBNs.


With such an overwhelming number of titles and genres to choose from, what does it really mean to be "well-read"? 


For many years I believed to be deemed well-read I must immerse myself in the classics, parse dense philosophical texts, or have spent years reading from a list of seminal works of literature. Oh, but reading the dense texts alone is not enough– you must prove your knowledge, recite the passages, and partake in the academic banter.

While classic works of literature have survived our collective criticism because of some sort of deemed greatness, they are not the sole key to being marked as a well-read person. Societal commentary and pertinent philosophies can also be found scattered in all genres; some of the most profound conversations I’ve witnessed were about contemporary romance novels and mystery/thrillers.

The thoughtfulness and passion of the reader is what makes someone “well-read”, not necessarily the books they choose. 


The truth is, every corner of a bookstore has immense value. The conversations sparked in these reading spaces are undoubtedly, and to my great enjoyment, some of the most engaging, political, and personal. As someone who loves books and reading, I believe being “well-read” is not about the quantity or prestige of the books you’ve read, but rather about the joy and value you find in reading them.

It’s about exploring new perspectives, finding the topics that excite you, and engaging in meaningful conversations about the books and authors you find interesting. Whether you enjoy the classics or the contemporary, as long as you genuinely enjoy what you read and find value in it, you can consider yourself well-read in our book. 


Perhaps the question to ask is not whether someone is well-read, but if they read well. Do you genuinely enjoy what you read? Do you find value in the books you choose to spend your time reading and talking about? Tell me all about it, no matter the genre or publish date!


Those are the conversations I want to be a part of.