Reading for Self Education – My Mission to be “Well-Read”

I don’t have an English degree and I didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge. I definitely have a chip on my shoulder about it. But in my head, books are always the answer. And I want to know everything. My cousin has kindly lent me the books from her English degree and I am reading all of them. I’m having fun, and knocking that chip off my shoulder at the same time. I might not be able to afford to go to Uni a second time, but I can definitely be “well-read”.

The trouble is I feel a bit like Educating Rita without Frank, or Leonard Bast without the Schlegel sisters. Why is it important to have a teacher, a mentor? I don’t know what I’m supposed to understand sometimes. I want to talk to other people about the books, but I don’t even know how to have that conversation. Sigh. I’ve not only got a chip on my shoulder, I’m having a pity party.


My brother is a few years younger than me. When he was a teenager he came into my room one day, uncharacteristically subdued and said,

“I’ve just finished Of Mice and Men.” (WARNING – next bit contains spoilers)

Me: “Oh.”

Brother: “I didn’t want it to end that way. I wanted them to get the farm and be happy.”

Me: “Yeah, I think that’s how you are supposed to feel. You got it.”

Brother: “I’m supposed to feel like this?”

Me: “I think so. I think that’s the whole point of the book.”


I basically want someone to tell me, “Yes, you got it.” That’s childish isn’t it? I want reassurance that what I’ve understood is correct. I am embarrassed to write this, but I think I feel lonely. I don’t want to write essays or sit exams, but I want fellow students, I want a teacher. I really, really want to learn.

For now, I’m just going to keep on reading.

2 Comment

  1. Maybe that’s the sign of a good book, that it makes you want to talk about it. And certainly, when you’re spending such effort reading challenging books, of course you’d want someone to keep telling you you’re doing well! I think it’s an awesome project. What did you read recently? I might have read it too. You know, at some point.

    I love the story about your brother and OMAM. Bless!

  2. Caroline says: Reply

    Thank you Nastasya! Of the ones my cousin lent me I’ve read three plays – The Spanish Tragedy, Dancing at Lughnasa, and Doctor Faustus. Also I read Oroonoko by Aphra Behn and Lady Susan. I’ve been choosing the thin ones so far! I’m reading Lolita next which isn’t strictly on the list but Reading Lolita in Tehran is one the list so I want to know what they are reading about in that!

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