Herodotus (II)

Our new car was named Herodotus. It’s pretty cute to hear Thane ask, “Can we ride in Her-od-o-tus??” Now, the inspiration came because Herodotus is theoretically “Tuscan Olive”. Back when I was a kid, we used to call that color “Green”.

So I think I whine here sufficiently about how I have no time for anything, ever. But somehow, I sneak a few things in. One of my sneaky additions is a humanities book club run by some friends of mine. I first argued I didn’t have time. But I thought about the reading list. And I thought about my intellectual starvation. And I decided that I would aspire. I would try.

I recently read a very interesting blog post about intellectual obesity, talking about how the same cultural influences that lead us to eat too much of the wrong food also lead us to the easiest forms of entertainment. As the author says, “Given infinite choice and no fabricated pressures, you will consume the least effort, most enjoyable information.” This resonated with me. After college (actually, after reading the entire Canterbury Tales) I decided I had nothing to prove. I knew I could read the hardest literature and derive pleasure and knowledge from it. So I piled up the fantasy novels and YA literature. And you know, there’s nothing wrong with those. Nothing at all. But after Grey was born, I began to feel the effects of intellectual malnutrition. I subscribed to the Economist, but was still hungry. At the same time, I have so little leisure and reading heavy literature is, well, hard. It really is. I have the skills, but they’re rusty.

So. I have tried. I missed the first book. I read the Odyssey (for the first time!) on my own, and became enraptured with Homer. He’s good! Who knew!!! I read significant parts of Plato’s Republic, and was completely underwhelmed by it. But by golly, I got through all 800 pages of Herodotus’ Persian Wars. I even read many of the appendices. (Note: if you’re reading hard literature in your precious precious slivers of free time… go for the very best version you can find, not the cheapest.)

I must confess that this gives me, in addition to more intellectual grist for my poor starved mental-mill, a tremendous sense of satisfaction. I did a hard thing, not because I had to, but because I chose to. I did something challenging with no external validation or reason. It was a lot like running a race after being a couch potato for years. It felt excellent.

And I’m doing it again. I’m well into Thucydides’ Peloponnesian Wars, which has rather more good speeches and rather fewer digressive stories.

So, for those of you who are curious, here’s our reading list. We’ve been at it for about a year. At this pace, we should get through our curriculum by, oh, 2020 or so. But that’s ok with me.

Humanities Book Club Reading List

Homer, Odyssey & Iliad (Homer is good and quick!)
Plato, Republic (Ugh. Historically important. Needs a teacher. And an editor. You begin to understand why they killed Socrates for being annoying.)
Aesop, Fables (We skipped this one)
Herodotus, Persian Wars (Hard, but I did it!)
Thucydides, Peloponnesian War (Next up)
Aescylus, Oresteia
Virgil, Aenid; Caesar; Conquest of Gaul
Plutarch, Makers of Rome
Lucretius, The Nature of the Universe; Cicero on Duty
Old Testament, Selections*
New Testament*
St. Augustine, Confessions
Two Lives of Charlemagne; Song of Roland*
Memoirs of the Crusades
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight*
Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy (this is the guy I tried to name Thane after, but that was for his De institutione musica)
St Francis, Little Flowers
Chaucer, Canterbury Tales*
Cervantes, Don Quixote
Cellini, Autobiography
Shakespeare, Henry IV*; Hamlet*
Descartes, Meditations
Gibbon, Decline & Fall of the Roman Empire
Hume, Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion
Scott, Ivanhoe*
Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution
Parkman, The Oregon Trail
Newman & Huxley, Selection on Education
Dostoyevsky, Crime & Punishment

*I have already read

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Brenda currently lives in Stoneham MA, but grew up in Mineral WA. She is surrounded by men, with two sons, one husband and two boy cats. She plays trumpet at church, cans farmshare produce and works in software.

7 thoughts on “Herodotus (II)”

  1. I stopped by a Kia dealer today and raised false hopes in the breast of a poor car salesman. I do not volunteer to sit in the backy-back, but I can see that it would be nice. It seems like a fine car.

    As for me, I must drive my stealth purple Saturn for at least one more year. The Johnstone Motto — never trade a car under 200,000 miles probably means 2 more years.

    I got the oil changed today (the knowledgeable gasp). When I got back in the car, the clutch peddle was swinging uselessly. Evidently there is a clip under the dash which had come loose. Nice place to have it happen — they fixed it for me — even though I had rejected their high mileage synthetic oil and the offer to fix the windshield and change the air filter. And they must change their name. Jiffylube, hmm.


    1. Do you find that the cost of repairs on a vehicle with that many miles on it is worth it? I’ve got a 2001 Toyota Camry with 118,000 miles on it; I’ve just paid it off, but the repairs are piling on. Wear and tear stuff, but it almost seems more expensive than getting a new used car.


      1. I’m being reminded how many extra costs there are to a new car: registration is a ton of money, your insurance goes way up, etc. It probably would’ve been worth fixing Brunhilde if we didn’t also need more space.


    2. We have been uncommonly lucky with our cars. There haven’t been major repairs. After I find some wood to knock on, I will say that I haven’t even had to replace the clutch at 161,000 miles. Brenda will tell you that the driving we do has is uncommonly soft on cars. The first stop light we encounter is a flashing light 17 miles away. It takes 23 miles to make it to a red/yellow/green light.

      You can do a heck of a lot of repairs for the cost of a new car. I keep reminding myself of that because I am very bored with my car — and my husband just doesn’t fit in it.


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