Bookish posts · opinion

What Does it Mean to be Well Read?


A few days ago, I was trying to describe boyfriend to one of my friends, I called him ‘one of the most well-read people I know’. My friend looked at me, a puzzled look on her face. ‘What does that even mean?’ she asked. That comment made me think.

And frankly, I don’t even really know what it means to be well-read. Does it mean that you’ve obtained a lot of knowledge through books? Does it mean that you’ve read all the classics? When I think of someone that is well read, I think of someone that hasn’t only read a lot of influential literary works, but also knows a lot of obscure authors and reads books written and published all around the world.

Looking at the Merriam Webster definition of being well read, it’s considered to be well-informed or deeply versed through reading. A clear, yet very on-the-surface definition that leaves a lot of room for interpretation. It’s funny, because my boyfriend considers me to be well read, and I consider him to be well read. But we both don’t consider ourselves to be well read. I know, that’s a little confusing.

Looking online, there are tons of different lists and articles about becoming well read. But do you really need to read all of those books to be well read? Is there really a universal idea of what it is to be well read? Personally, I don’t think so.

Let’s nail this down. I think that to be well read, you need to read a wide variety of genres. Not limited to, but definitely including, influential literary works. I think it’s important to read both fiction and non-fiction, as well as authors that have a different (cultural) background from you. And lastly, for me, to be well read means to think critically about what you read.

Of course, when we speak of a ‘wide variety’, we can’t define this numerically. The definition of being well read will always be flexible, and that’s what makes it so interesting!

I’m curious: What do you consider ‘well read’? Is your definition different from mine?

22 thoughts on “What Does it Mean to be Well Read?

  1. This post is so interesting and definitely a conversation starter, I would almost say being well-read is a lifestyle, to be making reading widely and critically for entertainment and information a part of your every day life. It’s so cool to think that so many people can be considered well-read, yet still read different things, too, or have different opinions on what they’ve read in common.

    – Annie-Jo


  2. This is so interesting. I’ve always thought of well-read people as people who yearn to learn (that rhymes lol) and just happen to do it through reading. Or people who can just understand a lot of book references 🙂

    Thought provoking post!!


  3. I definitely agree with your definition of ‘well-read’ over the years I’ve read hundreds of books but I wouldn’t consider myself to be well-read at all as I often stick to genres I love, I’ve hardly read any classics as I find them SO hard going and I don’t read any non-fiction (I really need to change that! I’d appreciate recommendations.) To be well-read to me you have to enjoy reading a wide genre of books!

    Jess xx


  4. What an interesting post! I think I have to agree with you, it’s about reading a variety of topics (maybe more so than genre?). I absolutely wouldn’t describe myself as well read. For example, I am expanding my reading into more non-fiction but it remains restricted to topics I already have some knowledge of; topics that I feel comfortable with. I still struggle to forget Classics when it comes to the idea of being well-read, I don’t get on well with Classics or literature with a capital ‘L’ in general and it has also left me feeling inferior and a little bit of a fraud when asserting myself as a bookworm and a lover of reading.


  5. When I think of someone like that I think of your definition plus I always associate it with someone who is always interesting to have a conversation with – a person you can discuss any subject with and have an interesting time doing it.


  6. I definitely agree with your definition, and I would further add than a well-read individual is one who is extremely well-versed and up-tp-date with current events and affairs.
    Fabulous post 🙂

    El @ Exclusory 💕


  7. What a fantastic idea for a post! I have always thought of someone who is well read as being an all rounder with a broad general knowledge. I read books about anything and everything but I wouldn’t consider myself well read either! Such an interesting discussion will be keen to read others comments as I’m sure everyone will have different opinions!

    Melanie |


  8. To be honest, I agree with you. Being well-read to me is having an open mind and reading all sorts of material. With that in mind, I can definitely say that I am not well-read, as I tend just to read fantasy novels… And I haven’t read in a very long time. Reading this post has kind of made me feel a bit guilty though – I should probably start reading again (and not just go back to Harry Potter!)


  9. I had never heard the word “well-read” before. i don’t know if i would define it as reading a variety of genres but just reading a lot. Because you also get to understand what you read… and reading philosophy without understanding does not make you well-read, right? xx corinne


  10. I’ve always kind of interpreted well read to mean having a bit of knowledge on any topic. Like even if you don’t follow sports, you still know a little and can participate in a conversation about sports.


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