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The Whole Five Feet: What the Great Books Taught Me About Life, Death, and Pretty Much Everything Else

por Christopher Beha

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2841395,101 (3.61)14
This unique memoir of reading the classics to find strength and wisdom "makes an elegant case for literature as an everyday companion" (The New York Times Book Review).   While undergoing a series of personal and family crises, Christopher R. Beha discovered that his grandmother had used the Harvard Classics--the renowned "five foot shelf" of great world literature compiled in the early twentieth century by Charles William Eliot--to educate herself during the Great Depression. He decided to follow her example and turn to this series of great books for answers--and recounts the experience here in a smart, big-hearted, and inspirational mix of memoir and intellectual excursion that "deftly illustrates how books can save one's life" (Helen Schulman).   "As he grapples with the death of his beloved grandmother, a debilitating bout with Lyme disease and other major and minor calamities, Beha finds that writers as diverse as Wordsworth, Pascal, Kant and Mill had been there before, and that the results of their struggles to find meaning in life could inform his own." --The Seattle Times   "An important book [and] a sheer blast to read." --Heidi Julavits… (mais)
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Mostrando 1-5 de 13 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
I didn't really feel like this was a chronicle of his journey as much as it was a summary of the books he read. If I had wanted to read that I would have either read the books myself or read the Cliff Notes version of the book. ( )
  WellReadSoutherner | Apr 6, 2022 |
I can't write a review because Beha writes so beautifully and poignantly on his reflections of the books he's read and how they inform his life, that my attempting to do the same would be ridiculous. I'll be coming back to this book, I hope. ( )
  booksofmoerman | Dec 22, 2017 |
Beha has had much illness in his young life. Beha has had much loss in his young life.

When he lost his job and moved him, he decided to challenge himself to read the entire set of Harvard Classics, a collection of books selected to enhance the education of the common man at a time when few people finished high school and fewer still attended college.

It was a good project for Beha. As you might anticipate, he loved some of the books and loathed others. Still he pressed on. And completed them all.

I love to read books about personal challenges. This is an inspiring and worthy challenge, I think. ( )
  debnance | Feb 16, 2014 |
A memoir by a young man who quit his office job and moved back in with his parents after recovering from cancer, and rediscovered his grandmother's complete collection of Harvard Classics. He set a goal for himself: in one year he will have completed all 51 volumes. Separated by months, Beha relates what he read, how the information or writing affected him and offers instances to how the author relates today, sometimes thousands of years later.
Throughout the book Beha and his family endure serious medical issues, one after another to the point of, "No, not another disease!" For about 100 pages his beloved aunt is dying of cancer in their home, and the universe seems to doing its best to take Beha out. He also dwells on his Catholic upbringing way too much for someone who insists that he has given up religion. But then he returns to his reading and it's clear that this is where he finds comfort, in the words of Marcus Aurelius, Emerson, Cervantes and Kant. His regard for the Harvard Classics made me look through to see if I happened to have any. Dang, just one. ( )
  mstrust | Jun 13, 2013 |
Beha struck me as a memoirist who missed opportunity after opportunity in this memoir. He alluded to several interesting periods of his life, but he chose instead to share the random, the odd and the banal. For instance, I would have enjoyed much more on how the books he was reading resonated with his loss of faith (and the suffering said loss has obviously caused him) rather than the recounting of his trip to the sperm bank with his mom. I came away discontent, cranky, and only a little more knowledgeable about the Harvard Classics. I'd like to read his grandmother's biography, though. Maybe he'll write that next. ( )
  satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
Mostrando 1-5 de 13 (seguinte | mostrar todos)
A wealthy young man shacked up with Plato and Goethe sounds like a gimmick, and a tired one at that. But life intruded rudely on Beha’s sabbatical, and he rose to the occasion by writing an unexpected narrative that deftly reconciles lofty thoughts with earthly pain.
 
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This unique memoir of reading the classics to find strength and wisdom "makes an elegant case for literature as an everyday companion" (The New York Times Book Review).   While undergoing a series of personal and family crises, Christopher R. Beha discovered that his grandmother had used the Harvard Classics--the renowned "five foot shelf" of great world literature compiled in the early twentieth century by Charles William Eliot--to educate herself during the Great Depression. He decided to follow her example and turn to this series of great books for answers--and recounts the experience here in a smart, big-hearted, and inspirational mix of memoir and intellectual excursion that "deftly illustrates how books can save one's life" (Helen Schulman).   "As he grapples with the death of his beloved grandmother, a debilitating bout with Lyme disease and other major and minor calamities, Beha finds that writers as diverse as Wordsworth, Pascal, Kant and Mill had been there before, and that the results of their struggles to find meaning in life could inform his own." --The Seattle Times   "An important book [and] a sheer blast to read." --Heidi Julavits

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