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Great Novels are Handbooks for Personal Development

[A review of “Reading for Personal Development” by Marta Merajver-Kurlat]

The premise of this reflective little book is that reading provides much more than entertainment–books provide keys to some of the questions in our lives. A great book, one that stands the test of time, discusses issues “so profoundly human that we feel they inform the present.” Merajver-Kurlat also says, “Books have an ending, but are not truly finished until readers reinterpret and actualize them.”

I’ve chosen two of the ten books she interpreted in “Reading for Personal Development” to reinterpret for myself and to let other readers glimpse what Merajver-Kurlat’s researched analyses offer us.

I chose is Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World” primarily because some of us find the future more fascinating than the past, maybe because we think we can have a part in improving the future while the past…is past. Huxley warns us of a future under a totalitarian regime. Merajver-Kurlat adds to this prophecy the potential to become a casualty rather than a liberator if we “renounce individuality for the sake of safety amid the flock.”

In my other choice, “The President” by Miguel Angel Asturias, Merajver-Kurlat asks us to bleed over this book to truly comprehend the nature of evil. For those of us who’ve never experienced life under a Latin American dictatorial government, the “unspeakable abominations” written about seem unreal. Yet those who’ve lived through these circumstances must be abler to place themselves in the roles of those who pretend nothing is wrong, or with those who must make themselves invisible to survive. Admitting to the horror would likely be a death warrant. Could it be that those of us who dare to read The President and similar books are the ones able to survive when we have the courage to demand an end to the horrors?

After finishing each chapter, I felt like I needed more of Merajver-Kurlat’s astute insights into each book’s meaning and application for my life–until I reviewed her purpose for writing: to teach me, the reader, to read between the lines.  Once I accepted her challenge to reach my own conclusions, I knew I‘d found the keys to answering my questions—instead of the author’s.

What books have been your handbooks for personal development?

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