Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Whole Five Feet by Christopher Beha

Published:  2009 by Grove Press
Source:  Purchased

  I seem to be drawn to these "project" memoirs, where someone takes on some grand goal over the course of a year and then writes about it.  Some of them have been more interesting than others (A.J. Jacobs is the best, in my opinion), but at the very least I find it admirable that one has the discipline to carry out such undertakings.
  I am especially impressed with Christopher Beha's quest to read over the course of one year the entire Harvard Classics, a selection of great books of literature intended to fit on a five-foot shelf.  While a challenge in itself, it is compounded by the illness and death of a close family member and Beha's own health emergency which, as a cancer survivor, he does not take lightly.  Heavy on Greek and Latin works, and with a seemingly appropriate volume on medical-themed texts, the Classics provide Beha a respite from all that was going on in his life and in a way gave him some comfort:

Reading these words that others had set down while they suffered and before they were gone made things easier for me.

  This is a serious memoir, and also encouraging.  Not all of us have the time to undertake an entire collection of great books, but Christopher Beha does make a good case for reading them.

  I read this book for the What's in a Name Challenge 4, for the category "Book with a size in its title".


  1. Oh, this does sound rather interesting, and though I probably could never complete it myself, it gives me warm feelings to know that someone out there actually did and reported back on it. I am going to have to read this one, and I thank you for sharing your great review!

  2. nice! sounds very intriguing!
    re: the fates will find their way, I wasn't crazy about it but I can see why it will/would be popular. I liked the parts where the narrator is imagining Nora's life but the rest of the whiny-white-boy-angst thing didn't do much for me. i thought it was beautifully written but that I've read this before and it felt sort of tired most of the time. So you're not alone!


What do you think? Good or bad, I'd love to hear from you (but be nice - I'm sensitive!)