Contented Reader

just point me toward the nearest library

Plutarch’s Lives

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Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans


Many, many different publishers, or you can pick up the Project Gutenberg edition.  I read mine from the Brittanica Great Books collection, which I am fortunate enough to own.

So, I was having a conversation with a colleague yesterday, and I mentioned how much I had enjoyed reading the “Lycurgus” section of this book, Sunday morning.  “Plutarch?”  he said.  “That sounds hard.”

And that’s the curse of the great writers of Greece and Rome, isn’t it?  They sound hard.  It’s something about those names, with the weight of centuries behind them.  A writer like Plutarch has inspired people for longer than there’s been a United States.  For longer than there’s been an England.

But it isn’t really “hard.”  It isn’t just for the elite, either.  In fact, it’s hard to imagine many people who wouldn’t feel their heart pound, as mine did, reading “Lycurgus,” imagining themselves as a Spartan.

Something about Sparta, with its simplicity, its focus, its disdain for luxuries, was exactly what I needed this week.  It inspired me to start eating in a way that promotes weight loss, and working out in a way that promotes muscle development.  I wanted to be strong, like a Spartan, just in case I’m needed to fight in a war.  It inspired me to find the odd but inspiring Nerd Fitness web site, to help me in that goal.  It inspired me to try harder to restrain myself from excess babbling, my own personal failing.  “Laconic,” did you know, is named for Laconia, where Sparta was.  How many times, yesterday, did I say to myself, “What would a Spartan do?”

And that’s what a good book is for.  That’s what I’m looking for, especially, in a Sunday morning book.  Not just entertainment, but also ideas that I’ll use to make my days better.

I haven’t read all of the Lives yet, and I’m in no hurry to do so.  This book is arranged as a series of short biographies of great people, the sort of thing I could dip in and out of my whole life.  This isn’t my first dip into it, and I know it won’t be my last.  But I found myself reading it at exactly the right time.


Written by Contented Reader

September 20, 2011 at 7:21 am

Posted in Reviews


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