Lessons Learned From A Lifetime of Reading

…Or maybe lessons mislearned from a lifetime of reading would be a better title for this article. Anyway, in the course of my day-to-day life as a pasty, unathletic white person, I have read a lot of books. Reading is FUNdamental, as we all know. And the important part about reading is the valuable life-lessons that books can pass on to you. And so, here is what I learned from my lifetime of reading, either rightly or wrongly…


Age 5 — “The Giving Tree”: Don’t ever do anything nice for anyone ever.

Age 7 — “Charlotte’s Web”: Your children will leave you.  Plus, try to be less scared of spiders in real life.

Age 8 — “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler”: …Running away is — a really really good idea?

Age 9 — “Stuart Little”: If you fall in love with anything, a cat will chase it away.

Age 10 — “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing”: Thank God I’m an only child.

Age 11 — “Harriet the Spy”: Lying is okay.  In fact, sometimes people might not even care if you lie, even if they know that you’re lying.

Age 12 — “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”: English people are hilarious and cool. (Note: no matter how many real non-funny English people I meet in my life, I will continue to blindly believe this.)

Age 13 — “The Catcher in the Rye”: Serial-killer-wise, this is a really good book for me to be reading.

Age 14 — “The Lord of the Rings”: Even saving the world can be boring, if you combine it with too much poetry and discussions about people going on walks.

Age 15 — “The Lord of the Flies”: Being smart isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. In fact, it can lead to you getting killed.

Age 16 — “How to Win at Video Games”: No comment.

Age 18 — “Beowulf”: This is what I get for signing up for A.P. English.

Age 19 — “Ulysses”: If people talk too much, then they’re probably lying.

Age 20 — “1984”: Everyone’s an asshole.  Note to self: is this just the lesson of every single book?

Age 21 — “On the Road”: Sometimes, even great books can be ruined by the bongo-playing proto-hipsters who are the fans of said book.

Age 22 — “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”: My sister has terrible taste in books. Never borrow a book on her recommendation ever ever again.

Age 23 — “Cat’s Cradle”: In a similar manner, my roommate also has terrible taste in books. Note to self:  try to recall the serial-killer skills that I learned from “The Catcher in the Rye” and put them to use, via hunting down and killing Kurt Vonnegut.

Age 24 — “Finnegans Wake”: Going to grad school for Literature was a way bad idea.

Age 25 — “White Noise”: Death sucks so bad.

Age 26 — “A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius”: I want to be Dave Eggers, and that’s probably not such a bad ambition in life.

Age 27 — “The Great Gatsby”: Why did it take me so long to read this book? Also, falling in love can be problematic. Girls are not as impressed by bootleg liquor sales as you would hope they would be.

Age 28 — “Lolita”: It’s good to have more than one outlet for your artistic ambitions.  …Plus:  young chicks, hot?

Age 29 — “Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close”: “Twee” works way better for alternative rock singles and Urban Outfitter catalogs than it does for works of literature.

Age 30 — “Freedom”: Oprah Winfrey does not have good taste in books.

Age 31 — “The Giving Tree”: Hmm. Maybe I was too hard on this book the first time around?  TC mark

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  • Anonymous

    “Even saving the world can be boring, if you combine it with too much
    poetry and discussions about people going on walks.”


    Great article!

    • Oliver Miller

      Love you Fagan.  <3

    • http://selfstyled.net Adele

      I disagree with much of what Oliver Miller wrote but this hit the nail on the head. Clap clap.

  • Candacemat

    fuck you i read lolita when i was 8

    • Oliver Miller

      I have been beaten.

    • blazingparakeet

      Maybe you were Lolita when you were 8.

  • readzbookz

    ur so well read. my god. tell me what life is about.

  • http://twitter.com/cooltay105 Tay D.

    Cat’s Cradle is a terrible book? Ouch. Fucking ouch.

    • Sally Jenkins

      there’s a difference between a book that is bad and a book you are not interested in reading. often, in the case that you don’t like what you are reading but for some reason are compelled to continue reading it, you will misinterpret your experience to entail that the book was “bad” where really, it just wasn’t for you. get it.

      • http://twitter.com/cooltay105 Tay D.

        Really? You mean like half of the books I was “forced” to read during my high school career? Thanks for the illuminating the difference. I was so confused. 

  • http://twitter.com/cooltay105 Tay D.

    Also, Vonnegut is already dead, asshole, so you won’t have to figuratively hunt him down. So it goes.

    • Oliver Miller

      I’m willing to still do that.

  • http://twitter.com/t_baugh Travis Baugh

    “Age 22 — “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”: My sister has terrible taste in books. Never borrow a book on her recommendation ever ever again.”


  • readzbookz

    this is like  a lifetime of jazz saying that kind of blue is all there is. 

  • klaus

    So many books.

  • scin

    Like all real heroes, Oliver Miller had a fatal flaw. He refused to believe that he had gonorrhea, whereas the truth was that he did.

    • Oliver Miller


  • Anonymous


  • Lessons Learned from TC

    1. Any subject you are writing about can be condensed down into a short list entitled “5 (literally plug in anything you can possibly imagine here)”

    2. Hipsters are taking over the world, starting with Bushwick and Williamsburg. (Careful! They are silently judging you through your computer right now ((while sipping a PBR and smoking an American Spirit)).)

    3. All writers went to a liberal arts college and studied English or creative writing. There are no exceptions to this. They will also write about it, usually regretfully (but not really.)

    4. If you write about sex, your piece will be published. No exceptions.

    5. Social media is a paradox. It is at once the best and worst thing ever. There is an adjective called “twee” out there, and it is sickeningly cute. Yes, these two totally unrelated points had to be combined into one.*

    *See #1

    • Sally Jenkins

      well, you wouldn’t be forced to be a writer if you could get a real job as, say, an engineer.

    • Guesto

      What’s a hipster? Why are they taking over the world? And how best should I prepare for this impending take over? 

    • blazingparakeet

      PBR and American Spirit jokes are easy shots. Not even a hipster would have made such a passé joke.

      • blazingparakeet

        Also, people who write for a living studied English? WUT.

  • Anonymous

    You forgot: “Age 11 – Bridge to Terabithia – Love hurts.” 

    • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos


  • Sandra

    i don’t believe you

  • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

    I love this!! But Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close is one of my favorite books. I think it’s perfect – I also have 9/11 issues, so I might be biased, but that book moves me. Twee ass bitch over here. 

    • Sally Jenkins

      why, did you die in 9/11?

      • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

        Caught me.

      • Oliver Miller

        Jeez, Steph.  But the book is so bad.  Love you.

    • Sophia

      Agreed. Sentimental people are the best people.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=539592740 Viktoriya Gaponski

    Liked the ending, we do pick up different messages from books as we get older


    Yeah, man. I’ve read all these (minus the ones when you were 8 and 22) and I’m 19 and not studying anything related to lit. You need to get your reading up if you’re going to grad school for literature haha. 

  • luv u jonny franzen


    • I also love Mr. Franzen.

      Remember his beautiful visage featured on the front page of TIME?

      I own twenty-five copies of it and lick each of them before I go to sleep every night.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=201002708 Alyssa Johnston

    You wanted to kill Kurt Vonnegut and be Dave Eggers? GET OUT OF MY INTERNET RIGHT NOW!

    • TO

      I like both of them, but hating Vonnegut is unforgivable.

      • http://www.facebook.com/AlexanderJAllison Alexander J. Allison

        Hating Vonnegut? What is this? I don’t even. WHAT?

        Get out of the internets.

      • blazingparakeet


  • http://www.twitter.com/mexifrida Frida

    Maybe I read too many books when I was younger.
    Their lessons are all mixed up and I it takes too much effort to try to remember any.

  • Muertecaramelo

    I read fucking Steppenwolf when I was 8 because it said “wolf” and I was into werewolves and other not very girly stuff.
    That book really damaged me.

    Obviously, I went and got a grade in Literature, just because…

    • http://profiles.google.com/cowashee Colleen Farrell

      You actually got through it? I had to read it for class when I was 16 and fell asleep everytime.

      • Muertecaramelo

        I did and actually though that was cool and got the Antichrist but never passed page 30. Pity it was a hardcover with some very dark illustration on it.
        I officially quitted existencialism at 11. 

        That proves my parents have never loved me (or cared to see what the fuck I was reading because, and this is an actual quote: “you never made any noise”).

  • Sarah

    ugh I usually like Oliver Miller’s stuff but this was horrible and painful to read

  • Leddasbedda

    Your summary/message learned from white noise was lovely and accurate…but really, who doesn’t like vonnegut?? not even slaughter house five??

  • Good God Man

    What kind of grad school lit major takes pleasure in boiling great works of art down to a single, snide remark? And really? Cat’s Cradle makes you hate Kurt Vonnegut? Did you even read it?

    • Anonymous

      dod you not see the snippets of satire in this piece?

  • Anonymous

    I kinda, like, wanted to die after reading “White Noise”. I really liked it, but, supermarkets man.

  • Anonymous

    Lists like this make high school students think reading literature is a waste of time.
    Uncool man. Uncool.

    • blazingparakeet

       High school students aren’t people. Let them grow into cognizant beings, then hold them accountable for not reading.

    • turningtables

      lol nah.
      Intelligent high school students with vested interests in literature don’t care if some guy on the internet has a few negative opinions of some literature. No biggie tbh.

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